The Musketeers - The Good Soldier

BBC1 09/02/14
written by Adrian Hodges
directed by Richard Clark

The Duke of Savoy – married to the king’s sister- arrives to sign a treaty but the Musketeers have a personal stake in a massacre that happened five years ago involving Savoy- and possibly Captain Treville.

There’s an unwritten tv series out there somewhere set amongst the espionage of the seventeenth century. Without modern accoutrements it would be far more difficult to write than something like Spooks but this episode demonstrates the rewards of such diligence. Adrian Hodges weaves an absorbing tale centred on a massacre of a dozen musketeers that occurred five years earlier and to which Aramis was a witness. Another survivor Marsac has arrived to try and kill the Duke whom he blames for what happened but it soon transpires that someone inside the Musketeers’ circle provided information as to the party’s location and a lie as to their intent. If the result occasionally teeters on the brink of melodrama, Hodges has thought through his story to make it intriguing to the end. The series’ already familiar signature speed stops things from getting bogged down while the writer leaves us guessing till the last possible moment as to Treville’s complicity. 
"Your majesty, I'd like some time off to go and find Gallifrey"  "Shut up Billy Connolly"

With this sort of plot there’s a lot of court protocol and diplomatic stuff but it sits easily thanks to the action that punctuates it and also what is at stake on a personal level. Aramis’ involvement is what ignites the story. It seems the team are focussing on one of the Musketeers each week and you can forgive the similarity of a plot that revolves around events in the past because it gives the group a history.
Some of the cast who have hitherto been left in the background a bit get to shine here, Santiago Carbrera’s usually unruffled Aramis shows his passion for the truth while the hitherto procedural Captain Treville is unchained for the first time giving Hugo Speer something to get his teeth into. It’s Peter Capaldi’s best episode so far as Richelieu snakes his way around the situation with a threatening look here and a cutting aside there. Both Vincent Regan and JJ Field (channelling Tom Hiddleston’s Loki) gives strong performance as the arrogant Savoy and Marsac respectively.
As ever the show looks fantastic, shot outdoors through a haze of sun and mist whilst there’s a suitable grimy pallor for the scenes in the underground prison. Director Richard Clark gets us right into the middle of fight scenes and uses the lavish location more than previous episodes have done. The only slight niggle is that
D'Artagnan seems to have become part of the Musketeers very quickly when there is surely fun and action to be had as he tries to win his spurs. It is occasionally mentioned but then we see in this episode for example he takes his place guarding the King.  I wonder what all the other musketeers do? 
It’s hard to see why the ratings are slipping, though the redoubtable Mr Selfridge may have something to do with it. In fact is there any other programme that has so much to compete with as Channel 4 started Babylon this week while BBC2 has new Dragon’s Den.  This is another assured, exciting episode of the sort you wouldn’t expect so soon in a series’ run. In fact the only disappointment is that we have to wait two weeks for episode 5.

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