Atlantis Touched By The Gods

BBC1 December 2013
Written by Howard Overman / Directed by Jeremy Webb

The biggest problem with the same production team’s Merlin was their inability to develop the narrative quickly enough. All too often drastic scenarios were reversed and the status quo restored and while this may be preferable when it comes to overseas sales it does render the end product rather dry and repetitive. To be fair, Merlin did advance across five series but it was very sluggish. Atlantis has the advantage of being a far broader scenario with a huge swathe of established and imagined mythology to mine and no legend (apart from it sinking which you’d presume won’t happen till the final episode!) in particular to stick to. The first season has already played fast and loose with different strands of myth to some effect and has also established a more natural rapport between its leading characters. There have been flashes of storytelling genius but rather too much sloth. This two part finale seems to be an attempt to re-calibrate the show and while sometimes choosing the obvious it makes for a dependable though not quite surprising end.
She wondered if her curry was just a little too hot.

Circe’s bargain with Jason kick-starts the action with our hero fated to kill Pasiphe. Pleasingly this is dealt with in the opening bit and as we knew he would, he finds it impossible to plunge his sword into her sleeping form. Why might this be? Surely it’s not...Well if you’ve watched a lot of this kind of series you’ll know where matters are headed before they set off which is not to say the journey isn’t enjoyable enough. The script manages to shoehorn some comedy into this serious plot- something Merlin could never manage- which increasingly gives it the feel of old fashioned Saturday morning cinema serials. Bizarrely while there seems to be a lack of jeopardy in a series of perfunctory chases and sword fights, people are killed and the consequences of part one’s extended hide and seek is that Ariadne is sentenced to death for harbouring Jason overnight after his plan fails. “I got no sleep” he tells his friends whereas in fact we see him wake up. There isn’t a very convincing romance going on between the two if we’re honest; in fact the bromance between Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras is far more believable.
Part 2 is much better and includes the dramatic(ish) reveal that Pasiphae is Jason’s mother and Tychon, the leader of a bunch of helpful and extraordinarily stealthy lepers. is his Dad. Only they don’t tell him. The only reason this works is because of Sarah Parish who delivers a subtle reaction as powerful as when she is normally plotting and scheming. Pasiphae has become the most intriguing character in the series and the writers have an opportunity now to really develop her role beyond that of simply a regular villain. A couple of supporting characters are killed off and there is a sense of matters shifting while Juliet Stevenson’s Oracle delivers more delightfully vague predictions for future series.
A second season has been green lit and Atlantis just about merits it but needs to offer more interesting storylines, make more effective use of its special effects (some excellent creatures were in and out in moments) and decide what the series is really about. And, please, no more tournaments of any kind! Atlantis has a strong cast- Mark Addy and Robert Emms have been standouts all the way through- and quite a grab bag of ideas to choose from but this first season lacked momentum and a sense of place. The ratings have been promising but there is a sense the show has yet to grab a lot of attention because of its content and that will be essential if it is not to sink before it’s time. 
Hercules wished he'd bought his lunch from M&S instead of Asda.

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