[This is a review of The Musketeers season 1, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week's exciting premiere of The Musketeers set our players in motion, establishing a strong balance of action, drama, romance, and suspense with a promise of more to come. 'Sleight of Hand' is a bit more procedural, but continues the upward momentum we all expect from a well-crafted BBC series.
The chameleon-like actor Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class) is superb in his guest role, as the troubled former cook to King Louie and Queen Anne. The episode's title says it all, for this is a story of deception and trickery - but for what purpose?
In terms of character development, most of our heroes and villains remained true to their purpose, revealing little about what motivates them. d'Artagnan is still the brash headstrong young man who wants to prove himself to his betters, but as Athos clearly states, he's still "raw." There is no denying the would-be Musketeer's courage, as he daringly puts himself in harm's way to prevent Vadim's plot from coming to fruition.
Vadim plays the part of a terrorist well, tricking the audience into believing he's some kind of freedom fighter, as opposed to the petty criminal he reveals himself to be. Writer/executive producer Adrian Hodges (My Week with Marilyn) crafts his performers well, making Vadim menacing and sympathetic all at the same time. Watching Flemyng and Pasqualino (d'Artagnan) try to one-up each other throughout the episode made for an even more pleasurable viewing experience, as both men are gifted actors.
The mysteriously beautiful Milady continues to hold a commanding presence whenever she enters a scene; her brief interaction with d'Artagnan was one of the better moments from 'Sleight of Hand'. The young man is clearly smitten by the lovely assassin, but has no knowledge of her connection to Athos. Hopefully, we will not have to wait until the finale to discover why she and Athos are enemies (her rue to keep the Queen's diamond pendant at the end of the episode was a nice touch). Cardinal Richelieu may hold all of the political power, but Milady appears to be the smartest and deadliest foe in France.
While Porthos and Athos took a backseat this week, Aramis' romantic encounter with Queen Anne could cause the boys trouble down the road. The handsome Musketeer claims to be a romantic, but perhaps he should listen to Porthos when he advises him to set his sights lower. Surely the brave Aramis will not listen to his brother in arms, which will make for some good drama down the road.
'Sleight of Hand' was on the more formulaic side of the television spectrum, but with a strong cast, and quick-witted writing from Mr. Hodges, The Musketeers remains to be a series worth tuning into week after week. Keeps watching to see what happens next.
The Musketeers continues with 'Commodities' next Sunday @9pm on BBC America.