The Musketeers An Ordinary Man

First shown BBC1 09 Jan 2015 written by Peter McKenna, directed by John Strickland
The King’s wish to spend a night having fun as an ordinary citizen leads to him being kidnapped by slave traders in this lively second episode of the season.  While many series would use this familiar storyline to indulge in some fish out of water stuff Peter McKenna gets down to business right away. After getting drunk at a tavern Louis and D`Artagnan are bundled into the hands of criminals intent on selling slaves to Spanish galleons. Probably not the best idea for a King's day out then!

"Well I can play the drums a bit." The Beatles recruit Ringo.

Ryan Gage is always an interesting actor and here he enjoys a larger role than usual as the preening monarch is soon stripped of his position and dignity. That the traders are unaware of the provenance of their prisoner makes his huffing and puffing all the more fun but both actor and writer are careful to show how danger is ever present. His reliance on D`Artagnan reveals some humility but the way he switches back afterwards is quite chilling. Meanwhile the scenario allows Rochefort to cement his position in court. The new villain remains a perfectly nuanced character with Marc Warren underplaying his furtive plotting while the writers find ways to make his narrative inventive yet not so ridiculous that he keeps losing face. Here he manages to persuade the Queen, fretting over the possible loss of her husband, sign a document that offers her protection from her family who run Spain. We’ll no doubt be seeing that document again later in the series.
It is an emerging facet of this season that people are despatched with swift and unexpected speed. This means the viewer can sense the peril more acutely than in the first series and seems more in keeping with the time slot. In fact we even get to see some blood this week as following one of Rochefort’s summary murders the body leaves a trail of red on the immaculately polished palace floor as it’s dragged away. As ever the action is well staged and edited to maximum effect.
Making the show edgier allows a platform for the heroism that always defines the Musketeers legend. Having been the newbie attempting to become a fully- fledged Musketeer in the first season D`Artagnan’s feats sometimes seemed a little over done. Now he has become the hero of the piece, as is traditional and it is impressive the way that Luke Pasqualino has risen to this challenge. An alumni of Skins, last year he sometimes seemed too modern an actor to really thrive in this environment but this time round has matured as much as a performer as D`Artganan has a character resulting in him deserving his centre stage position. Last week’s impressive stunts are matched this week by his best acting performance to date in the role, particularly towards the end. Let’s hope though that this prominence does not mean the other three are shoved too much into the background. Already Aramis’ mooning around the Dauphin is becoming a little untenable though only he would romance one of the baby’s nurses just to gain access to his son.

"Don't you know who this is? It's Luke from seasons three and four of Channel 4's Skins. Oh and I'm the King."

Milady is back this episode too, Maimie McCoy lighting up the screen again in this more flexible of roles. If the coincidence of her running the traders’ gang is a little unlikely her return to court by the end should mean an extra frisson to proceedings. It is a good balance to see more of the political shenanigans too if only to paint a broader background; Rochefort’s testy conversations with the wily Spanish ambassador are becoming a highlight of the show.
The Friday evening slot may not be playing as well as the BBC might have hoped – partly because a lot of the series potential audience might be out- which is a shame because these first two episodes show a series that, far from being the sort of show you might see as a cousin of something like Atlantis is every bit the equal of the more lauded likes of Peaky Blinders or Ripper Street.

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