“What’s the vital thing to remember in a duel?”
(Porthos slaps d’Artagnan on the back of the head)
“Not getting killed.”
– Episode 2: Sleight of Hand
As of January 19th there’s a new BBC show that has taken my heart by storm: The Musketeers.
Set in France in 1630 it follows young d’Artagnan and the trio of established musketeers in a re-invention of Dumas’ story. While the creators took some artistic license with the material, the characters stay the same.
There’s d’Artagnan, of course, the hot-headed youth from Gascony, eager to prove himself as a swordsman, and a man in general.
There’s Athos, grumpy and melancholy binding element to his companions, if there can be such a thing, but badass anyway. They tweaked him a little and made him far more human than in all other adaptions I’ve seen so far, and he’s awfully sympathetic (he even might be my favourite). His first scene in the whole series is so establishing and cool, it’s hard not to like him.
Then there’s Aramis, prettyboy and ladies’ man, played by the very same actor as Lancelot of Merlin fame. I always liked Aramis, and he doesn’t bother with being a proto-dandy here, he’s just the guy who gets around, without causing that much bad blood (so far).
And last but certainly not least there’s a very, very badass, awesome, lovable version of Porthos. If Athos is brain and Aramis is beauty, Porthos surely is brawn, but without being dumb (and he’s pierced. Big plus.). They gave him other flaws, as they did with all the characters. They are beautifully balanced as I’ve seen so far, and that’s not a thing I say often about show characters.
Even Constance, who never struck me as a very interesting character before, is pretty great. She actually has character traits beyond being the love interest for d’Artagnan. I also love the portrait of Louis XIII as a bored man-child, desperate for actual love and guidance. Oh, and Peter Capaldi rocks as Richelieu. I only knew him from Fortysomething where he played a complete idiot. What can I say, he took me by surprise.
Enough fawning over characters. The music is great, too! The score was written by Murray Gold, who also worked for Doctor Who, and combines a modern-day action OST with baroque elements.
Overall, it’s quite noticeable that the series was written for a modern audience, with a modern pace and modern action scenes. The first thing that sprung to mind (during the intro at the latest) was “It’s just like Guy Richie’s Sherlock Holmes, but with musketeers”. This also transitions to the costume work done on the show: It’s supposed to look good for an audience in 2014, not necessarily for one in 1630. This means gritty, dark leather, wide cloaks, a lot of detail work which I love, and ridiculous collars for Queen Anne. The clothes are completely credible, though. I’d wear one of those musketeer outfits to uni every day. Also, other than the queen’s, the women’s costumes seem manageable, too. One job they really did well was the aging of fabrics and leather, which came out beautifully.
If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend The Musketeers to everyone who likes a good costume drama and a bit of action. It also has some quite hilarious scenes, and of course, costume and scenery porn.