The Musketeers - The Homecoming

BBC1 23/02/14
Written by James Dormer / Directed by Saul Metzstein

It is Porthos’ turn in the spotlight this week. He finds himself accused of something he claims he is innocent of but is sentenced to…hang on isn’t this the same plot as D’Artagnan went through? Anyway rather than have him moulder in a cell he is due to be hanged immediately only to be rescued on his way to the gallows not by the other Musketeers but by masked vigilantes who reside in Paris’ Court of Miracles or the Crime Quarter as a modern city would call it. If you enter this area you’ll be greeted by hundreds of shady looking ragged residents banging pots and pans, sort of like a carnival without the fun. For an episode that starts so predictably there is an appealing series of developments leading to a strong climax.

"There are definitely less viewers out there. Let's kill Mr Selfridge"

One advantage is the presence of Saul Metzstein as director; having worked on the big screen he knows how to evoke the locales he’s depicting so we have the contrast between the opulence of the royal palace, the dirty, crowded Court of Miracles and the tidy spacious abode of Emile De Mauvoisin whose son Porthos purportedly kills. The director is also adapt at making combat scenes look natural rather than choreographed. Writer James Dormer prefers sparse and to the point dialogue though it takes some work to convince us that Porthos really did grow up in such a place. Once again of course none of the other Musketeers know anything about his past which makes you wonder what they do talk about off duty. Perhaps they just discuss the Duelling Premier League results.
The episode benefits from a plot that tries to keep us guessing as to the murderer’s true identity with the fingers pointing in a few directions. There are also some interesting guest turns from Anton Lesser as De Mauvoison and Ashley Walters as Charon Porthos’ old friend and rival for the affections of the oddly named Flea another in an increasing line of strong Parisian women. Both De Mauvoison and Charon have hidden motives as the plot widens to encompass city planning and ambitious financial schemes plus good old barrels of dynamite which seem to be the weapon of choice for antagonists in this city. Perhaps the authorities need to look more closely at the purchase of dynamite! Hovering in the back ground is Cardinal Richelieu anxious to raze this part of the city to the ground.
Placed at the centre of matters, Howard Charles acquits himself well despite a slightly underwritten story arc while the guesting Ashley Walters adds a contemporary edge to Charon’s activities. As you might expect though it is Anton Lesser who steals the show; as De Mauvoison’s story is unveiled he maintains a nobility and honour that adds gravitas to the role. He’s an actor who understands the importance of stillness and holds our attention completely.
At this halfway point we’ve now had an introduction and episode centred on each of the Musketeers. The second half of the season needs to move into mission and problems they have to sort out rather than unearthing any more secrets from their pasts if it is to avoid repetition. It remains a hugely watchable, fun show that is unfortunate to be pitched in the middle of the busiest night of the week for new shows and has contents that would be better suited to 8 rather than 9pm. 

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