Saturday, 5 October 2013

Review: Atlantis 1.2: A Girl By Any Other Name

I'm trying desperately to imagine Mark Addy as the great hero who completed the 12 Trials. The hero who held up the sky as well as Atlas did, who used a fine mixture of strength and cunning to capture Cerberus, the three-headed hell-hound at the gates of Hades. It's a task almost as difficult as trying to place my feels about Atlantis, which continues to fail to justify its existence beyond mere visual chewing gum for a Saturday evening. Greek Mythology is brutal and gory, more suited to HBO dramas than the family audience that Atlantis is so desperately trying to appeal to.
Hercules and Medusa. From the BBC
     This week's plot was a little more original, mixing and matching the tale of the Gorgons and of the Dionysian cults native to Crete (where this series seems to place Atlantis.) Being the perfect little hero that he is, Jason agrees to help an old man find his daughter, who they discover has been inducted into the man-hating cult of Dionysus. Travelling through what looks suspiciously like Albion, the three protagonists sneak in with the help of Medusa (pre-transformation), who then helps them escape with the guy's daughter. Because Jason forgot that women are allowed to have free will, she decides to kill herself rather than leave the environment in which she feels valued and loved. Jason goes back and lies to the Old Man and he dies happy.
     Atlantis is very, very fond of Historical name-dropping, which is a bit like having historical guest stars except that they never actually have to live up to their famous appearance. What exactly is the point of having Medusa in this episode? Seriously, this episode could have been done with any other random girl in her place. With the name Medusa being the only thing that actually makes this episode sound interesting, you'd expect to see a Gorgon or two around, but no such luck. It's probably a good thing, really, considering that in the mainstream myth, Medusa becomes a Gorgon when she's cursed by Athena for being sexually assaulted in her temple.
     This episode put some more focus on Hercules, whose role as plucky comic relief for the vast majority, almost frustratingly so. As off-putting as Merlin's formulaic nature was (and you're gonna keep hearing me comparing this show to Merlin), it at least managed to establish its core characterisations very quickly. The characters in Atlantis are hollow archetypes with no backstories or identifiable traits which are realistic in context. Give me a Hercules who's bitter about not being remembered as the valiant hero he was, a Pythagoras who's slightly mentally unhinged. Give me a Jason who's actually close to either his mythological namesake or the "fish out of water" guy we've been told to expect instead of a boring all-powerful never-has-any-problems standard bland protagonist.
I'm probably wrong to expect something more feminist from
the writer who made Alisha deep-throat a drinks bottle.
From the BBC
     And as I said before, the switching between the dry dustiness of the Morroccan deserts and the lush forests of South Wales present some of the most jarring scenery that I've ever seen - especially when I recognise the same damn areas that were used over and over again in Merlin. My suspension of disblief has been stretched enough by ancient Greeks using Modern English, and my temperment stretched by all of the female characters being servants, mad or blindly in love with our empty-minded protagonist. A series can very well look great, but that means diddly squat if I'm not invested in the characters.
     The series is just flashing warning signs at me constantly, and I don't know whether to take them on board and give up on it or to ignore them and see just where it goes. As it stands, I have very little investment in its bland archetypical characters, nor any of the gradiose mysteries which require vast re-writes of understood mythology in order to incorporate our out-of-place characters. Prophecies and grand plans tend to work best when they actually promise something, or suggest something that the present would contradict. As it stands, it's just grand posturing and the show really needs to start showing me actual characters and dilemmas instead of the vapid run-arounds that it's shown thus far.


NEXT WEEK: Doctor Bashir gets all arsey and decides to throw our protagonist to the Bulls. He and I agree that The Boy Must Die.

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