Monday, October 14, 2013

Atlantis, Season 1, Episode 3: The Boy Must Die

The whole gang is together at the market – and both Pythagoras and Jason question Hercules’s belief that he and Medusa are destined to be together (with another crack about Hercules’s weight) also doubting that she will grow to love him since he is a “lazy, womanising drunk”. Part of which he proves by not rushing to help an old man whose cart wheel breaks, unlike Jason and Pythagoras.

Snooty Lord Arsehole (also known as Heptarian) also doesn’t rush to help – in fact he’s quite put out at this old man having an accident that inconvenienced him and hits the old man for the temerity of not being able to magically repair his cart with a wave of his hands. Naturally, Big Damn Hero Jason steps in.

Hitting snooty nobles is a bad idea, and lands the three of them in prison and Jason quickly informed that Heptarian has the protection of Poseidon, is the queen’s nephew, is rich, is powerful and is not to be trifled with. Jason, having lived under a rock somewhere where wealth and power aren’t a shield, is shocked and appalled that rich people can do bad things with impunity. He’s also devastated to learn that there is no Easter Bunny and that Father Christmas was actually his dad.

Time to be dragged before King Minos so Jason can make more Significant Eye Contact with Ariadne and a show trial in which being executed seems inevitable, not helped by Jason deciding to yell “he’s lying!” at the king. Since they insulted Poseidon’s servants, it’s Poseidon who gets to be all wrathful – and they’re called before the bulls.

Ariadne and her mother, Pasiphae indulge in some awkward exposition, her mother reminding Ariadne that she’s betrothed to Heptarian even though she doesn’t love him, with added side reminders of Ariadne totally being into Jason and how Pasiphae isn’t her real mother.

Later Pasiphae meets with Heptarian and it’s apparent they are plotting something and she chose him to be Ariadne’s suitor. She is concerned about Ariadne’s affection for Jason.

I have 6 innuendo-laden interpretations of what being “called before the bulls” could mean, alas it actually means jumping over a charging, angry bull. And Pallos is a man who will teach them how to do it – and their whole team needs to succeed.

It doesn’t help that 2 members of their team have to be restrained from killing each other. Also have another clown scene of Hercules being foolish and greedy. On to the practice field where Hercules is humiliated again – and Jason leaps the model bull perfectly (of course) before talking to Pythagoras about the evil queen’s witchy eyes. Evil Queen is disturbed by Jason’s bull leaping abilities and decides she needs to take more direct action. To that end, she has one of Jason’s team-mates, Elpis, steal some of his hair and deliver it to her. An Evil Queen stepmother who is a witch! My gods how novel!

Jason’s team is still bickering, particularly Shabaka a Nubian prince and Gallus, a Greek thief who are throwing classism and xenophobia/racism at each other while Jason tries to convince them all to work together.

When confronting the bull, Jason again tries to get his team to work together, drawing the bull away from Hercules. Jason tries to leap the bull and falls awkwardly to the sand – and Elpis then distracts the bull away from the prone Jason, joined by Cyrus and Shabaka, giving Hercules and Pythagoras chance to check on Jason. Pythagoras gets him to safety – and finds Jason uninjured. It was all a ruse to make the whole group work as a team.

Really? He doesn’t even know the names of these people (I just looked them up so I didn’t have to use vague descriptions) but he’s confident that these complete, utter strangers (who hate each other) will risk themselves and work as a team when they see him injured?

At dinner everyone is all best friends now, joining the sport of mocking Hercules. Elpis holds herself aside and Jason joins her to draw her out – she feels guilty about the hair stealing thing but she keeps quiet. But later Cyrus confronts her – he saw her steal Jason’s hair. She won’t tell anything and leaves when Pallos arrives – Cyrus tells Pellos what he saw.

Pallos responds by killing him to keep it secret – and dumping Cyrus’s body in with the bull so it will look like an accident. He tells the others that Cyrus rose early to feed the bull and was gored accidentally. Pythagoras is suspicious – Cyrus was too lazy to feed the bull at dawn and Elpis runs off in tears. Jason joins her and she tells him how Cyrus looked out for her and she tells Jason everything. Pythagoras and Hercules fill in the rest – witch craft, evil queen, Ariadne making eyes at him.

Speaking of, at dinner Heptarian tries desperately to woo Ariadne who is Not Amused with his Shenanigans.

In the prison the gang unite to find a plan to save them – and come up with using Medusa, who works in the palace, to steal back Jason’s hair. And to get the message out, that means Hercules talking to one of his old flames, a servant at the prison to pass on the message

On the day of the official ceremony/sacrifice/blood sport, Medusa frantically searches for Jason’s hair while the team prepares to face the bull. Pallos has a last word for Elpis – she will go free so long as she doesn’t risk her life to save the others.

Pasiphae returning to her room causes problems for Medusa, but also gives us more tension between Pasiphae and Ariadne who really really doesn’t like her betrothed, Heptarian. Pasiphae goes to her hidden spell casting room, followed by Medusa, while Jason & co walk out into the arena filled with a vast crowd of spectators.

As the bull is unleashed, Pasiphae stabs the leg of her Jason poppet and Jason staggers, clutching his leg. The others distract the bull and Shabaka successfully jumps over it. So does Hercules, albeit much less gracefully. As the bull turns to Jason, Pallos glares at Elpis – but she ignores him and distracts the bull, making her own successful leap.

Medusa sets a fire to distract Pasiphae and while she goes to put it out, she steals the poppet and Jason’s hair. In the arena, Jason leaps back up to his feet, letting Pythagoras go and make his leap. Tghen we have the big tense “can Jason do it?” moment which, obviously, he can – because a) he’s the protagonist and b) if Hercules, Pythagoras and Elpis, all shorter, weaker, less agile than Jason can do it, then Jason certainly can. This arena floor has freaking spring boards on it – or all Atlanteans are secretly Olympic high jumpers.

To my immense surprise, Jason makes the jump. I am shocked. Shocked!

Everyone rejoices (ignoring the bull, no really – I think it goes to sleep or something rather than pound them all during the group hug or then lined up with their back to it to listen to Minos’s speech), including Ariadne (but not Heptarian).

At the palace Pasiphae tries to make nice with Ariadne but she hits her with this episode’s one and only awesome line:

“As Queen you cannot always follow your heart.”“Then you’re well suited to the role.”

Direct hit there Ariadne.

Shabaka and Elpis return home.

Well that was… a whole lot of nothing. Spring board arenas, kumbaya strangers who bury their animosity after a 5 minute speech and a simple gesture, a woman who decides to give up certain freedom for the sake of strangers – it’s all so very twee and very ridiculous. The plot was shaky at best from the very beginning, made little sense and added little to anything of the world or meta except to establish that Pasiphae is so tired and stereotyped she’d be rejected from a Grimm’s Fairytales book.

Ariadne and Jason are infatuated despite exchanging one line of dialogue. Her betrothed is evil. Her step mother is an evil witch. Jason is super special leader of men because people follow him for no damn good reason except for the fact he’s the special protagonist of specialness.

We have our first Black character, he’s not especially awful – but he’s still the foreign Nubian with multiple wives (we do get several Black characters in crowd scenes. There’s a trope for that). And we didn’t get nearly enough Medusa

There is a potential class lesson in the rich, powerful noble being able to abuse people with impunity but it fails – Jason, our only real world character, is shocked to the point of childlike naivety over the ability of the rich to fix the system in their favour. This makes for zero class commentary, because it’s supposed to be alien to our experience and a sign of how very different Atlantis is to Earth.

All in all… dull, more than a little silly and not nearly funny enough to run with the cheese and revel in it. I think even the writers have recognised their lack of anything of substance in the show and have resorted to stripping Jason of his shirt.

About the only reason why this show is getting a 2 and not a 1.5 or lower is because it's bland pap that isn't particularly offensive even if it is dreadfully dull. It's unseasoned boiled rice, not poison or licorice (nasty stuff) but that's all it has going for it - and if it remains bland I'm going to drop it further because 3 episodes of tired bland is the limit of my tolerance.

The writers for Merlin wrote this? Are they drunk or did someone remove all of their talent?