Sunday 13 October 2013

ATLANTIS, 1.3 – 'A Boy of No Consequence'

Sunday 13 October 2013

written by Howard Overman | directed by Justin Molotnikov

It's week three and Jason's (Jack Donnelly) still a tedious drip, Pythagoras (Robert Emms) shows no sign of any personality, and Hercules (Mark Addy) continues to be the only person on the show with a pulse. At least they've made an effort to add some femininity to this curiously male-oriented show, by turning Medusa (Jemima Rooper) into a version of Gwen from Merlin. There's also a new villain in Heptarian (Oliver Walker), bad boy nephew of Queen Pasiphae (Sarah Parish) and suitor of Ariadne (Aiysha Hart), who makes a mortal enemy of Jason over an old man's broken cart. It's that kind of show.

I'm actually bit creeped out that Heptarian is the Queen's nephew, who's being lined up to marry her stepdaughter Ariadne. It's not incest, but it's... well, a little odd. This was also the second episode in three weeks to vilify bulls, after the premiere's use of the Minotaur. This week, Jason, Pythagoras and Hercules were "called to the bulls" by King Minos (Alexander Siddig) as a punishment for their insolence, and so the whole episode was like a version of Gladiator or Spartacus without enough of a human face. There was just a lot of leaping over an enormous bull, often with dodgy greenscreen of the actors flying through mid-air. The sequences were executed fairly well in most respects, but the episode wasn't as dramatic as it might have been with gladiatorial bouts.

The inclusion of magic from Pasiphae (using a voodoo doll to cripple Jason during his bull-leaping), lent the episode even more of a Merlin vibe, but unfortunately Atlantis isn't showing too much promise when it comes to the characters. They're all very clichéd and bland. Addy is working wonders with what he's given, like a pro, but it's otherwise hard to care about anyone, and consequently anything happening. I've actually been reading some Greek myths this week, and was struck my how imagination and cool many of them are. Atlantis has a rich well to draw from, but nothing it's coming up with comes close. They should have just adapted the original myths with this show's budget, as it would be far more compelling.

Overall, while it's a visual tonic for the eyes on a dark October evening, and still smart counter-programming for X Factor on ITV, Atlantis doesn't seem to have hit on anything very special. I'm also frustrated Jason being from modern times isn't more integral, or at least used to inform how his character views the world. It may become more relevant to the storyline later (when The Oracle's riddles become less obscure), but you should at least feel that Jason's a 21st-century guy trying to cope with extraordinary circumstances. Instead, he's acclimated too well, too quickly, and only occasionally pleads ignorance about various customs. It's a big let-down how Jason's being written right now, and begs the question why did they bother involving time-travel? He could just as easily be an out-of-towner with amnesia.

Overall, "A Boy of No Consequence" was the best episode of a weak opening trio, but it didn't repair the deeper issues I have with the main characters and basic premise. The thing is, sometimes you learn to accept flaws and fool yourself into believing something is more acceptable than it really is... but we really deserve a lot better than Atlantis, so don't let it off the hook just yet.

12 October 2013 | BBC1