[Review] - Atlantis, Series 1 Episode 2, "A Girl By Any Other Name"

Courtesy of Urban Myth Films
Second episode in, and the heroes of Atlantis have settled into a new role as heroes for hire. It also appears that the show has settled into the way the week to week is going to work. Hercules will bumble something, Jason will be called upon to be valiant, and Pythagoras will be the straight man between them. All the while, mythology will be twisted in new and interesting ways. And now they've got a girl! And she'll eventually be a horrible demon thing!

This second episode was an improvement over the first, having found a better pace and a more organic way to lead into the storyline. There are still elements that aren't working, or haven't been integrated in a cohesive way, and there is at least one character that hasn't proven their purpose yet, but it is still early days. Hopefully, these things will even out in the next couple weeks.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that thought Crete was looking more like Cumbria than the Mediterranean.

Moving forward, these reviews will start with a brief overview of the original myths that inspired the particular episodes. For instance, last week's Earth Bull was pretty much a straight up adaptation of the Minotaur section of the Theseus myth. This week didn't follow a classic storyline, but did use elements from several myths. Most predominately, it introduced the followers of Dionysus, the Maenads. These traditionally raving mad women famously ripped the sullen Orpheus limb from limb after his return from the underworld. Their madness was described as an ecstasy that overcame them after refusing to perform the rites for, as Tyrion Lannister would put it, the God of Tits and Wine. Here, they were much more reserved, though no less violent, but only to protect their own privacy. Induction into the cult took on more of a guise of brainwashing.

Also introduced were blood thirty satyrs, who mythically were followers of Dionysus, also called (and referred to in the episode as both) Bacchus. In a pleasant touch of research, the satyrs were presented as pointy eared, covered in hair and lacking the usual goats legs. The Greek descriptions of the permanently aroused sprites more closely resembled apes, with the goat legs being added by confused Romans. The major deviation here is that they are treated as pack hunting animals rather than jovial rapists.

Also introduced to the cast is Medusa, she of Gorgon and Perseus fame. She's pre-snake here, which holds up with Ovid's version of the myth. Medusa, unlike her immortal "sisters" was born human, and was only cursed by Athena with her reptilian appearance and ability to turn men into stone after being seduced by Poseidon (early Greeks had her monsterous from birth). As the episode suggests, Medusa's fate remains her own, and considering that Jason has supplanted one classic hero already, there remains the chance that her character will develop into a larger threat as the series progresses, and that it will be Jason who is forced to take her head. After, I assume, a romantic subplot plays out. The curse may have already been laid, by the chief Maenad on behalf of Dionysus.

Medusa's introduction makes all the more obvious the pointlessness of Pythagoras as a character. I struggle to remember anything he contributed to the plot in this episode, beside a few witty rejoinders, which remains consistant with what he added to the procedings last week (very little). Medusa adds a fourth man to the three man team, but already shows more character and stamina then the straggly mathematician. Everything he contributes to the group is already covered by the others. He's a coward, which Hercules is proving himself to be at most every turn, so they don't need another of those. He's a fish out of water when it comes to these sorts of situations, which is literally Jason's entire hook. He's the brains of the outfit, but in this episode, Medusa proves herself clever and willie several times. Jason and Hercules' friendship seems to stabilising, thus cutting out the need for a middleman to bridge the two of them. I feel that, unless they prove his worth shortly, that the show would be better in the long run to dispatch the character (it'll also save them having to come up with triangle jokes, of which there are none).

The show is still experiencing the inconsistencies I noted last week in terms of Jason, and his unusual situation. He recognised the name Medusa, and knows what fate awaits her. He and the Oracle discuss this for a time. Yet, the rest of the time he shows little ill adjustment to the world he's now in, certainly not anything more stressful or unexpected than the native Hercules. I doubt the writers would have included the time travel aspect without the intention of using it to greater effect in the long run, but as a viewer, I'm constantly asking myself why he isn't struggling more with what has happened, or attempting to make use of future knowledge to improve his situation. He's taking far too much in stride, and dramatically under reacting to his situation. I feel that they could have saved themselves this inconsistency if they had just started the series with him washing up on the shore of Atlantis with no memory of who he was, and skipped the modern world subplot entirely. If he's going to be from the future, he should act like it.

The most frustrating element of the show is the Oracle, and that's down to me hating this particular kind of storytelling. The dragon on Merlin was guilty of the same sin, the sin of the writers teasing without revealing in a way that isn't mysterious, but just obfuscating ignorance. It's a cheap way to drag out the central mystery, when it could be just as easy to eliminate the "all seeing" character and have the hero piece things together for themselves. Which at least would be an organic way to gain the information. Otherwise, you're just shouting at the telly for the secret keeper to spill the beans already.

Otherwise, this was a pretty enjoyable episode. Mark Addy continues to be the standout, with the scene where he tries to explain how the Frankincense was stolen a standout of comedic timing. The writers have struck the right balance between cowardice and nobility, with booze, broads and coin being his primary motivators (again, that's the writers showing their research). Obviously, his coming to rely on friends and grow into his destiny as a hero will be an ongoing character path for him, and Addy will be impressive at it, there is little doubt. For now it's enough to watch his dodge clients and be terrible as describing how events played out.

Next week the heroes face punishment for their actions, either something new they've screwed up, or a delayed reaction to their slaying of the Minotaur. Either way, there will be bulls. 
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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