20/10/2013

Atlantis Episodes 2 - 4


Unusually for a modern series the second episode `A Girl by any Other Name` is better than the first and contains a lot more menace and atmosphere. The creatures in the woods are particularly well realised and rather menacing even for those of us who’ve seen more creatures lurking in woods than we’ve had hot dinners. The episode is punctuated by scares and plot turns that seem fresh enough to keep the viewer involved. The one big issue with the series at this point is the ease with which Jason has settled in to his historical life. He may well complain that he doesn’t know his place in this world but in fact he seems all too acquainted with it. Whereas everything should be strange, new and a bit off putting he is strolling about like he’s lived here for years. Where are the gags about smartphones, the Internet, The Beatles and washing machines? Where is the dialogue to illustrate his life as a cultural castaway? Starting off in the present day seemed a bold gambit but it already appears pointless. One throwaway line from the Oracle is supposed to cover the anomaly but really that’s not enough especially when there’s a whole line of humour to be mined from it; think how Life on Mars did it for example. At least Jack Donnelly is more sure footed in his acting this week though he still struggles to impose his status as the lead in the series with the likes of Juliet Stevenson, Mark Addy, Robert Emms and Jemima Rooper about. 

In ` A Boy of no Consequence` Jason and his mates stand up for an old man being bullied by a rich noble and  end up having to jump over bulls to prove the Gods want them saved. Though the premise is flimsy it does generate a reasonably tightly delivered result. Bull jumping is a sport the writers presumably either chose or invented to avoid showing bullfighting on prime time television though there may still be some viewers uncomfortable with the use of a real bull. The sequences in the ring are well edited to suggest real danger and the leaping itself is done in pop video style with slow motion and heroic music. There are some decently scripted differences amongst the other members of the six person team that must all do the jump though it still stretches credibility to imagine that either Hercules or Pythagoras would achieve the feat so comparatively easily.
 
Elsewhere there’s more than a hint of Merlin as Queen Pasiphae creates a voodoo doll of Jason to ensure he meets his end in the ring so that her step-daughter can marry the noble rather than carry on fancying Jason. The scene where Medusa sneaks about and manages to steal the doll is rather unconvincing but Sarah Parrish is excellent as the manipulative Pasiphae managing to be threatening but charming at the same time.

`A Twist of Fate` is as uneventful as its title is generic. It’s one of those marking time episodes that most series seem to indulge in. It also highlights the awkward way storylines are set up with a mix of either coincidence or what people interpret as the wishes of the Gods. Both approaches push logic onto the back burner. The episode struggles to get going as Jason and co find a baby in the forest when out hunting. Their success in stopping those sacrifices appears not to have generated any revenue then. There are many scenes of them cooing over the baby until visiting King Laius turns out to be his father and wants the baby dead for some ridiculous reason. Cue much chasing about.
There is a late attempt to add something deeper when the baby’s name is revealed as Oedipus but the writer doesn’t seem to know what to do with this.

The only high spots are some light exchanges between Hercules and Pythagoras plus a nicely judged guest role for Donald Sumpter, another Game of Thrones refugee.  It is altogether possible this is the season’s dud but it nonetheless underlines how there is little in all four of the opening episodes to suggest a series that can endure for very long.


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