The Musketeers S1 Ep8: The Challenge

Lightweight

D’Artagnan has the opportunity to earn his commission as a Musketeer and exact revenge on the man responsible for destroying his farm. Meanwhile Porthos considers life beyond the regiment.

Potentially the greatest Musketeer

It’s been a long while since an episode has centred on D’Artagnan (episode two, Sleight of Hand, in fact), but this one moves the aspiring Musketeer’s personal story on significantly.

D'Artagnan versus Vinnie Jones. This cannot possibly end well (Image: BBC)

D’Artagnan gets the chance to earn his commission as a Musketeer (Image: BBC)

The Musketeers arrest a brawling regional intendant, Martin Labarge (Vinnie Jones, playing himself as usual). In addition to killing two Musketeers, he is also responsible for destroying D’Artagnan’s family farm.

After Musketeers and Red Guards come to blows over Labarge, the King takes up Captain Treville‘s claim that any of his Musketeers could thrash any of the Red Guards and sets up a challenge between champions of the two regiments. While Cardinal Richelieu nominates Labarge as his champion, Treville sets a 30 livre entry fee for his men. Porthos and Aramis raise their fees by seeking female patronage, but the former falls for candle-maker’s widow Alice Clerbeaux and finds himself considering a life beyond soldiery.

Athos mentors D’Artagnan, helping him realise that an inability to control his emotions is his biggest weakness. Treville selects himself to represent the Musketeers but, after Labarge plays dirty and injures him, he allows D’Artagnan to take his place. Unaffected by Labarge’s taunting, he runs him through with his sword. The king recognises his loyalty to his captain by granting D’Artagnan his commission. A Musketeer at last.

Doomed love and a growing threat

It’s not all good news for D’Artagnan this week, though. At Richelieu’s behest, Constance’s husband starts spying on him and uncovers their affair, forcing his wife to end it and breaking his heart in the process. And Porthos, who initially only seduces Alice for the money, finds himself in love but concludes that he cannot give up being a soldier, even for the love of a woman who cannot be a soldier’s wife.

He has always done so informally, but here Athos really does take D’Artagnan under his wing, telling him that the two are more alike than he realises – well, there is the separate matter of Milady, but what exactly is Athos hinting at here? – and commenting to Treville that he has the potential to be the best of them all.

There’s also much more of a sense of both Richelieu and Milady playing a more active role as the season builds towards its finale in two weeks’ time. Peter Capaldi’s Richelieu benefits from some sparkling lines here, such as his summation of Labarge:

No control, no pity, no remorse. No more humanity than a jackal. You’re exactly what I need.

And Milady’s threat remains mysterious but is finally starting to feel substantial, as she warns Athos to leave her alone, pays D’Artagnan’s entry fee without explanation and tells the Cardinal that the latest Musketeer is the key to destroying the regiment. But how? And, equally importantly, why?

The villain of the week, though, is a strictly by-the-numbers cardboard cutout of a bad guy. Labarge is a hulking bully with whom our hero has a score to settle, and that’s about as deep as it gets. Sadly this overshadows the more intriguing Machiavellian elements of the longer-term plot and cheapens the importance of D’Artagnan’s commission. A lightweight filler episode – the flimsiness of the Porthos subplot doesn’t help – which will probably feel a little more heavyweight with hindsight, but only a little.

Rating: 6/10

The Musketeers season 1 reviews

1.1 Friends and Enemies

1.2 Sleight of Hand

1.3 Commodities

1.4 The Good Soldier

1.5 The Homecoming

1.6 The Exiles

1.7 A Rebellious Woman

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2 Comments on The Musketeers S1 Ep8: The Challenge

  1. A bit harsh, I think. This episode was more than filler with development in many areas, Vin Dismal not withstanding! I’ve really grown to love this show, for all it’s faults, and am very glad it’s been recommissioned for a second run. Do you know if Capaldi is still on board?

    • Capaldi’s off the table – not surprisingly, the schedule for Who simply wouldn’t allow him the time to be involved in a meaningful way.

      I thought this was okay, but I always get bored by these David vs Goliath style episodes because they always follow the same pattern. Establish big, bad guy as both big and bad. Give our hero a personal stake. Big, bad guy beats up good guy. Good guy comes back to triumph against all the odds. All’s well that ends well.

      There’s definitely good developmental stuff going on here – it’s been a long time since we really fleshed out D’Artagnan beyond the will they/won’t they with Constance, but the Porthos B-plot had filler written all over it for me.

      Still very much enjoying the show though. A mediocre episode or two hasn’t changed that. Looking forward to the finale!

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