[Review] - Atlantis, Series 1 Episode 10, "The Price of Hope"

Courtesy of the BBC
In response to this week's episode, I ask Howard Overman and the producers of Atlantis a simple question: what the hell?

Seriously, what the hell? How is it that you were convinced that this lat pair of episodes constituted good television? That any of this rushed mash of material should have gotten past a peer edit? That somehow burning through source material and potential story points, by weighing the episodes down with guest stars that have nothing to do, and by generally being impatient with your own storytelling would make for an enjoyable 40 minutes (or 80, if viewed together)? Did you really think that was what would happen? Can you be surprised that these were cluttered, uneven, poorly paced and generally bad episodes that brought a rising show right back down to the disjointed and cumbersome thing that struggled in its first few weeks? Because if you can be surprised by those thing, if you are take aback and left aghast at the response to them, then maybe you're not as good at your job as you thought.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that cringed every time they resort to a poop joked.

When I started these reviews, I thought a recap of the myths that inspired the episodes would be a good idea. I had no idea that the episodes would become so overladen with mythic elements, elements that are disconnected and unexplored as to make a recap next to unnecessary, that they could take up the bulk of the review.

The trio began this episode still reeling from the transformation of Medusa into her snakey variation, and not sitting on their backsides about it neither. Retrieving Pandora's Box from the Oracle (one wonders why, other than as an excuse to have two more utterly aggravating conversations with her, they gave it to her in the first place), Pythagoras takes Jason to see the brilliant if a touch mad Daedalus. Daedalus is the mythical father of Icarus, who got name checked, as did his wings. He was also the designer and builder of the labyrinth for Minos, so his inclusion in the series was a nice touch of continuity. Here, he was treated as the Emmett Brown of Atlantis, his workshop filled with half finished inventions. Robert Lindsay was enjoyable in a role he was clearly having fun with, but like last week's complete wasting of Julian Glover, he didn't actually get anything to do. If the intention is to reoccur him, then fine, but Daedalus is too prominent a mythical figure, and Lindsay too good an actor to waste on one scene.

Next, we had the Scythians, who were not mythical, but a historic group of indeterminate peoples whom the Greeks and Romans had dealings with (they are generally considered a Black Sea race, occupying that vast unknown to the north of the sea in much the same way that the Amazons occupied the vast unknown of the south bank). This, I felt, was the strongest part of the episode, when the three mains were being hunted for sport. The tension was appropriate, and the humour (which the writers can't seem to evolve past silliness) was organic. Hercules clothes-lining the two raiders was a particularly strong scene, as it shows his evolving selflessness, and his uniquely blunt way of handling desperate situations.

Next in the myth category, we were introduced to Nora-Jane Noone as Atalanta, who gets a fairly straight forward adaptation here. Abandoned when she was an infant, protected by the grace of Artemis, for whom she becomes a priestess. Atalanta is unique in Greek mythology, in that she is the sole completely human female to be the hero of her own myths. She also has a connection to Jason, having served on the Argo along side him and Hercules, remaining loyal to him throughout the entire voyage.As a replacement for Medusa, the writers couldn't have picked a better contender, but while an entire episode should have been devoted to her introduction (as Medusa had), here she gets two scenes then scuttles off. I'd very much like to see Noone return to the role, in an expanded or at least more deeply explored capacity.

The truth of the matter is, the plot of these last two episodes should have made up the bulk of the entire second series. They are that cluttered, and that wasteful. This season should have focused on establishing Circe as the villain, and playing out the promise Jason has made to kill Pasiphae, who along with the rest of the royal household, are completely absent yet again. Since this plot was introduced, it has been completely ignored, which is not how you make a television series with arc elements. It simply isn't. You don't bounce between multiple, stunted stories. You focus, you knuckle down and you make certain that what you are making is worth watching. Medusa's story should have been tragic, should have had emotional heft to it, and should have taken a long time to play out (if only for the sake of the actress, who now gets to languish in a dead-end role).

Myths are epic, that is their purpose. They tell human stories in big, gods filled ways, so that they are memorable. Adapting myths should not be like knocking out a police procedural, they should be epic as well, in their scope and intent. Every step of the trio's journey over the last two episodes deserved to be explored in as much detail as possible. Build up Hercules and Medusa's relationship to a level where her tear soaked declaration of love actually seems plausible. Make the journey to the Underworld have some real danger to it. Make it difficult and treacherous, not "wacky." have their time in the Underworld be meaningful. Have the Box be more than just another MacGuffin, and have the corruption it causes be more widespread. Have Medusa's transformation be more impactful rather than a soulless cliffhanger. Have the trio's search for information concerning her whereabouts seem difficult rather than instantaneous (Jason Watkins as Crios was yet another completely wasted role on a actor deserving better). Have their journey take time, and have them face dangers on the way.

This is a story that should have been told over ten hours, not 80 minutes. And because it wasn't, because the writers were either too impatient to let the story unfold in it's own time, or were simply incapable of seeing the potential there, I have little faith in the series moving forward. If this is the way they have decided to structure their series, what does that say about the future? They've already been wildly inconsistent with the elements they've introduced and never returned to (Jason's partial future memories failed him again, not recognising the story of Icarus), and seem more interested in telling as much story poorly, rather than a good story slowly. This isn't a show finding it's legs anymore, this is a show that has purposefully cut it's own legs out from underneath it.
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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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