BBC's The Musketeers - Hugo Speers and Santiago Cabrera with the Red Guard.
What is this - the Musketeers working together with the Red Guard? But at least they're wearing better uniforms.BBC

BBC's new series The Musketeers drew 7.4 million viewers for its debut last Sunday, and while the first episode has seen so-so reviews from viewers and reviewers alike, the second episode gets straight into the action and is a considerable improvement.

D'artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) is still fresh as a new recruit with the Musketeers and now living as a lodger in the home of Constance Bonacieux and her husband (you know, that girl who secretly fancies him, unlike in the book where D'artagnan falls in love with her).

The scene opens with D'artagnan being arrested by the Red Guard for duelling illegally in the snow. His Musketeer friends take the "All for one and one for all" motto and turn it on its head, fleeing the scene and doing nothing to help him.

Just as you're wondering whether Adrian Hodges has completely ruined Alexandre Dumas' beloved work, you discover a fitting intrigue at work – the Musketeers have planned for D'artagnan to be arrested so that he can befriend the notorious prisoner Vadim (Jason Flemyng) in prison, whom they suspect of a plot.

It turns out Vadim is planning to assassinate the King and Queen of France and he breaks out of prison during a visit by Queen Anne, holding her hostage until his gang arrives to help him get away.

D'artagnan escapes with Vadim and succeeds in gaining his trust immediately, despite the fact he is a Musketeer, as is usually the case in this sort of TV serial plot, and passes information about the plot onto the Musketeers.

The English accents are still copious and atrociously out of place, giving one the strong impression of Tudor England when put together with the costumes and gorgeous historic 1600s-friendly sets.

Yet, the myriad levels of intrigue at work at once are a delight and just what I'm looking for in a TV series about the famed royal bodyguards.

Aramis (Santiago Cabrera) rescues Queen Anne (Alexandra Dowling) in The Musketeers
Aramis should know that it's probably not a good idea to start a fling with the Queen of France...BBC

On one hand, trouble is brewing as the Queen and Aramis nurture a growing flirtation after he saves her during the prison breakout (Alexandra Dowling improves upon my previous impression of her, showing that she can have a naughty side).

On the other, the Cardinal sends Milady to find out what Vadim is doing as he is genuinely worried – clearly there's not allowed to be another villain in town besides him – and she attempts to use D'artagnan's attraction to her in order to learn about Vadim's plot.

It is also interesting to see the Cardinal and Captain Treville actually on the same side for once, as they unsuccessfully try to convince King Louis XIII to stay away from mass at the Notre Dame to avoid an assassination attempt.

Whatever else King Louis XIII is, he is not particularly bright. His blind faith in the Cardinal's Red Guards and the Musketeers' ability to keep him safe is very much in the spirit of the book, I am relieved to note.

My only regret with "Sleight of Hand" is that there was not much opportunity for Peter Capaldi to shine as the dastardly Cardinal this time, and some of the reasons for Milady's secret manoeuvring in the background still escape me.

If handled well, the various plot lines of Constance and D'artagnan, Milady and D'artagnan as well as Aramis and the Queen could well lead to some very interesting viewing as the episodes develop, although I sincerely hope that the BBC remembers that Milady is meant to try to get rid of D'artagnan, not fall in love with him...

The cast of The Musketeers could all still do with an accent coach specialising in period French accents, but otherwise there's nothing wrong with the acting or the locations.

I still live in hope for the tabards to make an appearance at some point, as well as the crossing of swords and a public declaration of the Musketeers' famous motto, but we'll wait and see. Hopefully there will also be more detail revealed about the personal lives of Porthos, Athos and Captain Treville.

Overall, a much improved episode from the previous one and I believe there is hope for this series.