Within minutes of the episode start we are plunged into a web of mayhem and intrigue. There’s a new high for Aramis – a hat doff at knife point – and Tom Burke’s voice is getting plummier. He despatches one liners in the style of a man flirting with fruit. It all bodes well, with only an unintentionally funny village exposidiot dampening proceedings, depending on your tolerance for ‘Are you yokel?’ peasantries. Such cliches are fortunately brief in their duration.
As Louis XIII’s mum – Mary de Medici – tried to nick his throne, the King is more petulant that usual. Ryan Gage has been excellent value so far, and here he gets to expand on the role, going further with the child-like qualities such as his simpering flee from conflict. Tara Fitzgerald plays two versions of de Medici – the one who is obviously acting, but suckers in her son and the real one, who…
The middle act, however, initially sags under a weight of unnecessary dialogue. Aramis gets some nice moments, but for all the talk of love there’s nothing new here, and the scenes could be improved with various kinds of editing. The emotions of the characters work well in the story, but occasionally their expressions are overdone. Likewise, some of the punchlines fall flat (including one where Athos pats Porthos on the shoulder as if to say ‘Nevermind mate, they can’t all be zingers’).
All the talk of love is almost justified, however, when D’Artagnan, on a stake-out, is completely oblivious to Constance’s less than subtle hints. Then she gets to do her ‘If-Steven-Moffat-wrote-this-the-internet-would-have-melted-with-anger-by-now’ Fifth Musketeer routine by acting as a wet-nurse to gain access to the stolen baby (which has miraculously survived being put in a wicker rucksack and travelling to Paris on horseback with nary a scratch). If these scenes had been shorter, however, the ending would have had time to be a little more gut-punching.
Peter Capaldi’s Cardinal – despite anachronistic Red Riding Hood references – is back in Mr Wolfe mode, tidying up with ruthless applomb after the Musketeers solve his problems.
This is not an episode burdened by mysteries – the clues are there and are tidied up quickly and efficiently – but Aramis’ solution does involve a lot of cruelty to be kind. Such is the pacing though that ‘The Exiles’ races on to the next scene leaving less of an impact than it might have done.
It still works, though. Much like the build-up to one death, even though you know what’s coming the momentum is enough to carry you along.
So, no great subtleties, but then I doubt anyone is watching The Musketeers for fresh nuance.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 2 March 2014 on BBC One.
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