The musketeers might be known for their stylish headwear and their faithful horses, but who else has those exact same qualities? That’s right. Cowboys. That might be a tenuous link, but in this week’s Musketeers episode, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon The Magnificent Seven. In a dusty, abnormally sunny village in the French countryside, Athos must face his past and responsibilities, face down the evil men trying to steal the land, and somehow turn the local villagers into a fighting force to defend their homes.
We started off with Athos kidnapped and tied to a chair, with most of the shots blurry and out of focus, except for focussing on Athos’ eyes in extreme close-up – but there wasn’t much skulduggery going on, just some desperate tenants of Athos’ land who’d kidnapped him while he was drunk. They were being threatened by the evil baron next door (played with haughty, scene-stealing relish by Miles Anderson). You could tell he was evil, because he had people whipped, kidnapped women to be gang raped and liked a bit of duplicitous wordplay.
Going back to Athos’ past again meant retreading some of the issues from the first season, but this episode did raise some important points. Like how by running away to join the musketeers, he’d abandoned the people who relied on him for protection, whether that was the people who lived on his lands or his brother’s betrothed. The Musketeers is still all about highlighting those systemic prejudices that affect people not in a position of power, which is great and gives the show an air of realism and consequence – we might not ever fear for our boys’ lives, but there’s a sense that people around them are affected by their decisions and indecisions.
“The Return” was a lot of fun, even if the fight scenes did get a bit repetitive (exactly how many times can you show people running from trees, up to a barricade, and running away again?). It was a chance for Tom Burke to show off his acting chops, for Hugo Speer’s Treville to prove that being stripped of rank doesn’t mean you’re not still a leader, and for Aramis to show that all of his sulking over the previous four episodes was just down to being in the city. Once out of Paris, he could forget all about his secret lovechild and start making jokes again (did the writer not get the memo that this season, Aramis is the stupid, sulking teenager?).