TV Ramblings 15 – The Musketeers (2014)

This is a new and exciting BBC series based on Alex Dumas‘ novel The Three Musketeers. I understand that it is far from a faithful book adaptation, as several fans of the book pointed out in their comments on various forums and articles. For some reason I did not expect it would stick to the book, so I’m not bothered by the many artistic licenses the show takes in its course.

What I do care about with far greater passion is how realistic the time period feels. Here I have to applaud the producers. The clothing, the buildings, the general lack of cleanliness and hygiene, the heavy drinking, and gambling culture make this series a wonderful window into the 17th century (with few artistic licenses, but we can overlook that). The world of the Musketeers is not a pretty sight, and I cringe on a regular basis, but the general state of neglect holds a fascination of its own. Maybe I could describe it as an oncoming train-wreck; I just know a character will do something to gross me out or make my moral conscience cringe yet I can’t look away. All I’m going to say is I’m glad to live in the 21st century.

There are redeeming qualities to the general lack of hygiene, of course, or I wouldn’t bother watching the show. For one there’s lots of fascinating fights and daring rescues, mysteries to be solved, intrigue, a brotherhood bond between the titular men, and even budding romances with other female characters.

Speaking of the female cast – why do they need to be dressed in those tight corsets in such a manner that they appear almost half-naked? It happened several times although I don’t have photographic evidence at hand. I’m sure the fashion of the day features obligatory undergarments. They did not wash corsets, as far as I know, because only the rich could afford more than one, so having a thin chemise underneath would be far more practical. Of course, these people were afraid of water and soap, but really…the men are covered up to their necks and swathed in wool and leather while the women run around with bared arms and generously displayed bosoms. I’m sure someone would catch pneumonia this way, especially in bad weather. Maybe I’m more used to the modest Victorian and Regency fashions and feel uncomfortable now?

The men certainly rock the fashion boat – there’re lots of layers adding a bit of flair and drama to the scenes. The coats, capes, and hats give us the required musketeer flamboyance while keeping the atmosphere suitably dark with the far more muted and darker colours than we’re used to see in the screen adaptations of the book. I’m also a fan of the facial hair; I’m sure I’ve mentioned my weakness for a nice beard before. 😀

I’m partial to Aramis, I must admit. There’s this mischievous spark in his eye, the lazy grin, and unmistakable chemistry with the female sex that just gets me. I don’t particularly care for his philandering, but being a skilled medic makes him very attractive. We find out that he hides a lot of sadness beneath his happy-go-lucky attitude and that he can be really driven to discover the truth, whether it suits the authorities or not, so one can only admire him. I believe he’s the one the closest to D’Artagnan.

I’m not drawn to the more tragic figures like Athos – it’s clear he still loves his lady despite the wrongs she’s done and I’d never compete with such devotion. He is a complicated, haunted man with a very deep sense of duty and honour. I can easily see him in the role of a leader because he’s got this driving need to make things right even if it pains him.

Porthos is still a mystery despite the few crumbs of his back story we’re given. There’s been some debate about his racial background – his mother is a former black slave – but I think the producers did not commit any crime by casting him as half-black. It is historically accurate in any case, and he appears more Spanish than African, so why the outcry?

Now, Milady de Winter; I hate this woman with a passion. I know she’s not a black and white person but a complex villainess, I still don’t find it in me to feel sorry for her. I know she feels pain and betrayal beneath the cold, calculating, and vengeful mask, yet she can’t find the good in her life to turn things around. I’m also ticked off by her playing around with the youngest of our heroes – D’Artagnan. He really doesn’t deserve to fall for her only to be used in her schemes. He’s got a far better chemistry with the wife of a dressmaker and friend to the musketeers, Constance. She’s also his landlady and the sparks are just flying between the two. They are adorable, really. Too bad she’s already married.

I really like Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and their new friend D’Artagnan. They are the soul of the series and also the ones to break your heart. They have so many problems, buried pain in the past, and hang-ups of their own that the villains almost don’t need to bother to make their lives more complicated. Then again, Cardinal Richelieu or one of his larger schemes usually is at fault somehow. I believe they could make him more of a central point of the episodes because he gives them something extra that other villains most certainly lack. He’s poised, calculating, good with thinking on his feet, and he always finds a way to turn things to his advantage.

So, what is the consensus on the series? It’s definitely watchable, even entertaining, but I can see why some people would be bored or just uninterested in it. It has some kinks to work out, yet generally the episodes featuring one of the women or main villains are really good. I don’t care much for the young king and his fashion, but he’s a major player, so we’re bound to see more of him. Let’s hope he makes it worth it.

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