The second season of BBC America’s The Musketeers debuted on Saturday, January 17 with an episode titled “Keep Your Friends Close.” If you didn’t follow the first season, you should have — but it’s not too late to catch up, as the season was comprised of only 10 episodes that are readily available on a variety of platforms. I’m glad (I was going to write “ecstatic” but I’m not actually in ecstasy about it) the second season of The Musketeers has finally arrived. As that first season was nearing its end, I thought it was unlikely a second season would be produced — for two reasons. First, this series reminds me a great deal of the period-based adventure dramas I watched in syndicated re-runs when I was in elementary school — which means those shows were already “old” when I watched them during those childhood afternoons. Sure, there is more sexual innuendo and graphic violence in The Musketeers than there was in old re-runs of The Lone Ranger and Zorro, but there is nevertheless a similarity in plot, pacing, and character development. In other words, I worried that this series was too “old fashioned” for a contemporary audience in the desired demographic of 35 years and younger. Of course, as a contemporary melodrama, The Musketeers has its share of sex and violence that targets a contemporary audience. However, the characters often exhibit honest emotional responses to the various sexual entanglements and violent outcomes they engage in — so this series still tends to buck that traditional TV trend. Second, one of the highlights of the first season is Peter Capaldi’s performance as Cardinal Richelieu, which was filmed before Capaldi was given the role of The Doctor in Doctor Who. “Surely,” I thought, “there is no way Capaldi is going to work on both series” (though with each series only producing 10 episodes per season, I saw no reason why he could not commit himself to the work). Fortunately, the BBC has continued The Musketeers into a second season. Unfortunately, the second season opens with Cardinal Richelieu’s funeral — and my immediate reaction was, “I don’t remember him dying at the end of the first season!” He didn’t. Instead, we learn that the Cardinal died of a heart attack between seasons. Ah well, time to move on. After all, Capaldi has. As I watched “Keep Your Friends Close,” I again had the sense of watching a contemporary version of a classic television series — but the sense wasn’t quite as pronounced as it had been during the first season, and that’s okay. This new season introduces us to Comte de Rochefort — a character that appeared in the first two volumes of Alexandre Dumas’s D’Artagnan Romances (i.e., The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After). However, the character’s role in the current TV series appears to be heading in a different direction than Dumas took the character in the novels. It’s clear that Rochefort is to be a major villain in the television melodrama rather than the minor villain he was in the first novel. Rochefort’s appearance is obviously the foundation upon which this season’s political intrigue is to be built. However, he is going to be involved in the story’s sexual intrigue this season as well, as it is strongly implied in this episode that Rochefort had a sexual relationship with Anne before she married Louis XIII and became the Queen of France — which is a role that I do not recall Rochefort having in Dumas’s novels. However, my friend Dory Hoffman should be taking over as the regular reviewer of The Musketeers at some point during this second season, and she is able to discuss Dumas’s works far better than I, so perhaps she will elaborate on the differences between the TV series and the novels regarding Rochefort and other elements in the D’Artagnan Romances. My first and only reading of The Three Musketeers was when I was 16 or 17 after I found a paperback edition in a used bookstore. During the first season of the current series, I re-discovered that old paperback in my library and I decided to re-read it to see how plot elements in the show matched up with the novel. Unfortunately, I soon realized that the volume I read when I was a teenager was an abridged version of the novel. I have never actually read the entire book by Dumas, so all of the sexual intrigue in the first season was new to me. I had gone on for years believing the entire story was about swashbuckling adventure and melodramatic political machinations. Subsequently, I have been pleased to learn of all the sexual transgressions the characters engage in. For instance, last season displayed the love-hate entanglement that involved Athos, his estranged wife Milady de Winter, and D’Artagnan (who was seduced by Milady before D’Artagnan met Athos). Of course, this relationship with Athos and Milady was just one of two triangles in which D’Artagnan entangled himself. After his dangerous liaison with Milady, D’Artagnan fell in love with Constance Bonacieux, a woman who is unhappily married to a fabric merchant who may love her deeply or who may simply love the idea that Constance is his wife. Of those five characters, only four appeared in “Keep Your Friends Close.” However, the preview for next week’s episode indicates that all five have returned for the second season. Thus, we will have even more dagger eyes and carnal complications to look forward to this year — plus, D’Artagnan has added yet another paramour to his geometrical relationships (but more on that in a bit). Last season also presented Aramis in a couple of sexual intrigues — neither of which seem to have been taken directly from the novels. The first was a love triangle that involved Aramis, Cardinal Richelieu, and Adèle Bessette that ended tragically for the young woman. The second was a sexual liaison that seems to be a conflation of two separate elements from Dumas’s canon: Queen Anne’s affair with the Duke of Buckingham from The Three Musketeers and Aramis’s own affair with the Duchesse de Longueville from Twenty Years After. Here, rather than the queen having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham, she has an affair with D’Artagnan. Thus, Queen Anne appears to be a stand in for the Duchesse de Longueville (with the implication now being that it is Aramis’s relationship with the queen that has resulted in him fathering a son with a noblewoman). In this case, though, his son is the Dauphin de Viennois (the heir to the French throne). However, the newborn infant does not seem to be Louis XIV, as the year is incorrect. Instead, given Queen Anne’s history of pregnancies, it would seem that Aramis is the father of a boy who will end up being recorded in history as “stillborn child, April 1631.” If that’s what the writers and producers have in mind, then it would appear the baby boy’s lineage will soon be discovered and that he is “not long for this world.” Despite the show’s sexual intrigue, which seems similar to standard soap opera fare, its execution often acknowledges the emotional complexity that such affairs actually involve in real life. For instance, the first season ended with Constance refusing her love for D’Artagnan to stay with her husband, Bonacieux, after he attempted suicide in response to his wife’s love for the newly commissioned Musketeer. That resolution seemed too standard, but it was believable enough within the context of the season’s conclusion when renewal for a second season was not assured. However, Constance has now provided D’Artagnan with an honest appraisal of her situation in France in the early 17th Century. Unfortunately, this honest appraisal came after a clichéd story development that involved D’Artagnan kissing yet another woman — Lucie de Foix. As D’Artagnan and Lucie kissed, I knew the path a predictable plot would take (the writers would have Constance positioned somewhere where she would see this kiss), and I was desperately hoping the show wouldn’t go down that clichéd path—but it did. However, that trite topos was quickly rescued by this exchange: Constance: If I left my husband, my family would cut me off and my friends would cross the street to avoid me. I’d be nothing more than your whore. D’Artagnan: Scandals soon pass, Constance. Constance: For men, perhaps. D’Artagnan: We’d have married as soon as we could. Constance: Bonacieux might live for years yet. Your children would be bastards, and if you died in battle, what then? I’d have nothing, not even a soldier’s pension. I’d die on the streets, a beggar or prostitute. I have no wealth, no position. You never even tried to understand what you were asking of me. D’Artagnan: I know what you want. It is not a boring life and a joyless marriage. You need love and adventure, and you know I can give you both. Constance: I’m a woman, D’Artagnan. A woman in a world built for men. If I lost you, I’d lose everything. I can’t take that chance. D’Artagnan: You know, I have known you as many things, Constance, but never as a coward. Unfortunately, Constance’s honest appraisal is a valid one for the early 17th Century — and it’s not considerably invalid for the early 21st Century either. Despite a few technical flaws — such as the appearance of asphalt in 1630s Spain in one scene set at a castle moat, and a character who “died” after the musket ball obviously only grazed him across the top of his right shoulder — I highly recommend this series. So watch it if you are not already doing so. Let’s give the BBC reason to renew it for a third season! Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses The Musketeers 2.03 “The Good Traitor” - Psycho Drive-In February 7, 2015 […] main plot of “The Good Traitor” (episode 2.03) is similar to the plot of “Keep Your Friends Close” (episode 2.01). In the earlier episode, Spain was holding French General De Foix and his daughter […] Log in to Reply The Musketeers 2.08 “The Prodigal Son” - Psycho Drive-In March 14, 2015 […] indicates, that subplot is resolved. The identity of Porthos’s father became an issue in the first episode of the season, “Keep Your Friends Close,” when General de Foix (whom the musketeers rescued from a Spanish prison) recognized Porthos as the […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.