This review contains spoilers.
3.2 The Hunger
After a very encouraging, if not slightly overstuffed opener, we’re now onto the story proper as the reintroductions and in the case of the villains, introductions, have all been done. What I wanted from The Hunger was something to take the promise of that opener and really throw the Musketeers against the wall, preferably so hard that we start to get what the showrunners promised, a sense of real peril and danger to our heroes. That wasn’t to be, but that’s not to say that the instalment was a disappointment as this was a really effective ensemble episode for the Musketeers with a few nice character moments thrown in for good measure.
The Hunger’s principle job was very simple: further establish the new threat from Everett’s Feron and McNulty’s Grimaud. The plot had it all in that regard. Persecution of the weak and disaffected. Tick. Needless but-make-the-bad-guys-feel-good murder. Tick. Manipulation of the law and disregard for the King. Tick. Throw into this a much better week for Stokoe’s Captain Marcheaux whose presence last week suffered due to the sheer amount going on and it was all there for the taking. However a little like last week, it reached high, but just didn’t quite make it.
First the very good – it’s Feron’s and Grimaud’s show when it comes to menace and these two are starting to bookend nicely. Feron the string puller with Grimaud the enforcer. What’s nice to see is that this is no organ grinder and monkey relationship – Grimaud is very much his own man even though he takes orders from Feron. It’ll be interesting to understand just how their relationship works as there’s a sense that there’s a hidden debt to pay or repay. Everett was less over the top than last week, and was the better for it. His use of drugs to ease his pain and his self-admitted love of losing control is suitably in stark contrast to Grimaud’s focus and discipline, however Everett plays it with just the right amount of edge that leaves you unsure whether he’s any less or more dangerous when the drugs kick in. Grimaud’s unfortunately become a little more vocal rather than the straight-cut man of violence and action of last week. I suppose it was inevitable in some way as we need to be spoon-fed his motivations and feelings – but I had hoped that his actions would speak far louder (and that writers would have a little more faith in their audience).
It was very much the machinations of these two that’s the basis for the story – but then we get distracted. Not for the first time, The Musketeers tries valiantly to tack on more important issues to a sufficiently good enough plot and it just doesn’t quite get there. As this was an episode seemingly trying to flesh out Feron’s and Grimaud’s credentials as villains it was surprising that the bigger issue of migrant persecution was floating around to the point where it felt intrusive. Don’t get me wrong, themes of persecution and injustice are hefty issues but in The Hunger (yep, clue was in the title wasn’t it), they felt extraneous to the story. There were points, especially at the end that I felt Tim Curry was going to appear and say, ‘Migrant persecution, was just a red herring!’ (love that film…). It’s understandable that they needed someone for the Musketeers to protect and take up the fight, but when looking back on the episode, the time spent with the refugees seems wasted when more could have been done to focus on the villains. After all – this is it for The Musketeers, every episode brings us one closer to the end and it’ll be the villains that will bring the drama and intensity. Unnecessarily diverting attention could make for an unsatisfactory finish. I will say this, Thallissa Teixeira’s Sylvie was damn good and added some much needed life (which reminds me, when did Porthos become so miserable – remember when he was the ‘joker’ of the crowd?). I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of her.
What I did like was that this seemed very much an ensemble hour for the Musketeers. Each had their turn in the spotlight and each shone. We get much more sense of them as a group rather than individuals which is very much what they should be representing, their famous motto – after all – should be the guiding light on that one. Also for a relatively non-event episode it had a really nice pace to it as it seemed to rattle through the hour. This is important as we do need to remember that this is a show about adventure, thrills and romance and as long as that’s what’s served up then in my mind the show’s doing pretty well. I don’t think The Hunger proves me wrong on that account.