The Musketeers: 1.03 - Commodities
Picking up the pace after last weeks episode and swapping action for characterisation, the third episode gives us double crossing, ghosts from the past and the harsh reality of the nature of freedom.
The Musketeers are required to intercept and escort swaggering explorer/trader/conman Emile Bonnaire (played with aplomb and relish by Battlestar Galatica's James Callis) to Paris for his own safety, as his business partner and the Spanish are after him. When the company are ambushed by the Spanish they find themselves at Athos' ancestral home, where flashbacks soon reveal his mysterious love is Milady De Winter (a superb performance from Maimie McCoy), a spy, assassin and Richelieu's creature.
One of the strengths of this series is the number of well written female characters who are all shown to be equal, if not stronger than the men. From the steel of Milady De Winter to the intelligence of the Queen and the personal strength of Constance Bonacieux, the female characters are as important as the male characters, and aren't patronised or ridiculed.
In what is becoming a pattern, the overall story is used to weave in further character development. From Athos the revelation that Milady De Winter is his estranged wife whom he had hung for the murder of his brother and who he thought had died.
More fundamental to the story is the revelation first that Porthos is descended from the family of slaves and has worked his way up to be a Musketeer and a free man, and the truth that Bonnaires commodity is slave labour from Africa. This turns the story from being another caper to a profound piece about the impact of slavery, the nature of freedom and a superb confrontation between Porthos and Bonnaire, where Bonnaire elaborates on the nature of the beast, ' The real world isn't driven by romantic notions of freedom, it is driven by commerce'. A harsh reality that is as relevant now as it was then.
This gives the argument more depth as the characters are painted in shades of grey, rather than black and white.
Which is true of the Musketeers as well, who after finding out Richielieu is investing in Bonnaires business, arrange to spirit Bonnaire to freedom. Only for it to be a trap engineered by the Musketeers and his former business partner, delivering him into the hands of the Spanish. This is also an act of treason, which looks set to store up trouble for the Musketeers in future.
With character development that is differentiates between the Musketeers, a strong story, and seeds that will blossom as the series goes on, this was another good instalment of a programme that is getting more confident in itself as the narrative unfolds.