Monday, December 30, 2013

Atlantis, Season 1, Episode 13: Touched by the Gods: Part Two

Ariadne is due to be executed for the terrible crime of having less sense than cabbage (and for harbouring an assassin. She is actually guilty of both crimes). The execution method is the Brazen bull – to be put inside a bronze statue of a bull and then have a fire lit under it. Sounds very wasteful – and messy. Who has to clean that bull afterwards? I reckon you’re going to need more than a bottle of fairy liquid, especially if it’s not Teflon lined.

Jason, showing that he an Ariadne are matched in their lacking-the-sense-of-cabbage decides he’ll turn himself in and then Ariadne will be spared… because that’s totally how it works and he won’t just be executed as well. Pythagoras, thankfully, has slightly more mental acumen than a brassica and points this out, further adding that with Ariadne dead, Pasiphae’s road to the throne is clear. That’s ok, then Jason can die alongside her – even the cabbage-brained Hercules questions why being slow-cooked together is better than being roasted alone. Fight to stop it, yes, risk their lives, yes – but not being roasted to death in some ridiculous act of self-sacrifice. Why Hercules, that was a damn fine speech (they devolve into fun banter about Hercules admitting he likes Jason).

In the prison the priest of Poseidon tries to comfort Ariadne while she laments that she’s been a fool (yes) and given the queen all she wants (also yes) and the people will suffer under Pasiphae (probably, but given your record to date I can’t say your reign would be a happy, fun one) and it’s all her fault (true).

Pasiphae is also praying in the temple and the Oracle confronts her – Ariadne is the princess of Atlantis, a goddess on Earth, Pasiphae is getting above herself and the gods will be Displeased. The Oracle further threatens her with VAGUE PRONOUNCEMENTS (I still think this woman is a fraud, someone who could see the future would be a little more specific). However the warnings about someone being “touched by the gods” like Pasiphae herself panics her

But Pasiphae hasn’t thought of everything – and Ramos goes to Jason & co to help them. He serves the king who probably wouldn’t want his daughter to be slow roasted (at least not without proper seasoning). Jason goes to his other ally, the Oracle who is impressed at his drive and direction. He thanks her for all the help she’s given (like… like… um… like… actually I got nothing). Perhaps realising this she gives him some vague information about a place with a vague comment about “among the dead” which she declines to explain. How helpful.

Ariadne is lead to her pyre. A crowd has gathered – and Hercules staggers drunkenly among them, breaking to the front – as the guards throw him back he drops his amphora and it spills liquid onto the wood. As Ariadne is dragged weeping and struggling to the bull, Jason fires a burning arrow at the liquid Hercules spilled (he’s acquired archery skills from… somewhere) which flares into flame. Everyone jumps back, gasping. The crowd panics and scatters

Seriously guys, the bonfire is on fire. I think your shock is dubious.

As the crowd runs screaming in every direction at the sheer horror of a burning bonfire actually being on fire, Ramos takes custody of Ariadne and hands her off to Jason, killing two guards who try to intervene.

He’s wounded but joins Jason, Ariadne, Hercules and Pythagoras in escaping through what look like sewers – smelly underground tunnels anyway. They reach a metal gate which Hercules (as Pythagoras points out) can’t possibly fit through. Hercules scoffs and bends them with his bare hands (see, if we had more strength moments like this Hercules would be a much better character). Ramos’s wound is apparently mortal – and when they hear people following he tells the others to go on while he stays to hold them off

Heptarian arrives with a squad of troops and talks of traitors in the palace – Ramos agrees: Heptarian and Pasiphae chief among them. Disliking this zing, Heptarian sends in his guard squadron to attack one at a time in proper bad guy fashion. When Ramos is unable to stand, Heptarian finishes him off, just in case we forgot what a big bad guy he is.

Our heroes flee the city and Ariadne changes into something more suitable (with the comic trio turning their backs almost entirely) and she and Jason are all twee. Which makes Hercules kind of sad, thinking about Medusa.

They head to the old silver mines the Oracle mentioned – tracked and pursued by Pasiphae, Heptarian and their minions.

Meanwhile the priest of Poseidon uses the secret passage to check in on the king and confirms that Pasiphae’s servant is, indeed, poisoning his majesty. He informs the Oracle (very simply. He should have totally been more vague and cryptic with her) and she announces they need to save the king, which rather surprises the priest because the Oracle has never been a big fan of the king; but better the king than Pasiphae. He’s also concerned about sending Jason to the mines – but the Oracle is sure Jason will be safe there – with his father.

At the mine, Jason & co run into a large number of men in robes who peacefully greet them. The Oracle saying they would be safe “among the dead” apparently meant the living dead – the men in robes are lepers, driven out of the city. The chief leper recognises Jason’s necklace (from his father) and lets them stay in the mines. They settle in, Jason talking with the chief while Hercules goes from “ewww lepers” to “these guys are awesome” because they give him food.

Meanwhile in the city, the priest clears out Pasiphae’s minion by threatening divine vengeance and gives Minos an antidote (to any particular poison or are we just guessing?)

At the mines, Pasiphae and Heptarian have arrived – Pasiphae wants Ariadne alive (to be slow cooked) and everyone else dead. Chief leper quickly shows them the back way out while the other lepers decide to delay the soldiers. Whut? Why? Why are these lepers suicidally loyal to Jason’s cause? Don’t introduce a colony of people living with (then) a chronic disease just to have them nobly sacrifice themselves for the hero – it’s tasteless.

The lepers fight the soldiers with swords and smoke bombs – several dying but one of them managing to stab Heptarian. Jason & co escape, with the chief returning to help his people. Running from the guards in the woods, the group is separated – first Pythagoras and Hercules losing Jason and Ariadne, then Jason staying to fend off the guards while Ariadne runs (one catches her but she manages to stab him by pretending to be hurt and helpless). Not that it helps. Another guard catches Ariadne and her screams distract Jason enough that he is hit on the head and stunned. A guard moves in for the kill – but Pasiphae stops them. She wants to slit his throat herself.

But she is stopped by the head leper. She recognises him – she was the one who cursed him with leprosy – and calls him Aeson. Pasiphae asks who the boy, Jason, is and he says “he is our son.” Jason is touched by the gods because she is. She is shocked and becomes emotional, she had thought her son was dead, but Aeson had only hidden him when Pasiphae and Minos usurped the throne. She asks him why he didn’t tell Jason who his mother was – but Aeson doesn’t want to see Jason corrupted by Pasiphae’s endless quest for power, didn’t want him to live a life where he couldn’t even trust his own wife (since Pasiphae has betrayed two husbands, that’s a point) – and this way he wouldn’t challenge Pasiphae which is pretty dangerous. Pasiphae seems to agree with this reasoning because she lets Jason live so long as he remains ignorant.

Pasiphae leaves and Jason and Aesion join up with Hercules and Pythagoras and camp for the night (watched by a wounded Heptarian). When Jason wakes up he’s too weak to return to Atlantis and Aesion tries to convince him to leave Ariadne to her fate – but the discussion is interrupted by Heptarian trying to cut Jason’s head off. They have a classic hero battle (you know the one – the bad guy seems to have the upper hand until the last minute when Jason stabs him, this time making it count). Aesion seems a little shocked by the whole thing – I know, I’m shocked by this product of the 21st century west being a master swordsman as well.

They head back to Atlantis, Aesion leaving them before they get too close.

In Atlantis, Pasiphae is all victorious and preparing to have Ariadne executed, again – when Minos arrives all hearty and hale. Oops. Minos isn’t a big fan of his daughter being put in a pressure cooker and, while they hesitate, the guards are loyal to the king, not Pasiphae.

When the gang arrive in Atlantis, the priest, Melos greets them with the good news and a note from Ariadne. Jason hurries to the temple to meet her and finds not only her – but Minos as well, who wants to reward him for saving Ariadne’s life. Jason refuses (despite him being almost starving a couple of episodes ago – and how many times have Hercules’s debts got them in trouble? Such “nobility” looks foolish next to the poverty they live in, and further belies how hollow that poverty actually is) and Minos reminds Jason that he may be a hero but he’s also a peasant and there will be no nookie between the princess and the peasant, thank you very much.

Pasiphae goes to see the Oracle for a conversation which is totally pointless because the Oracle NEVER EVER SAYS ANYTHING USEFUL. Honestly, those phone lines that charge you half your credit card a minute for psychic predictions are more useful to consult than this Oracle. After some dramatic angst from Pasiphae and doom laden predictions from the Oracle we close with Jason joking with his friends and Pasiphae watching them soulfully.

I am faintly amused that the grand finale kind of happens without Jason really having much effect. He sort of rescues Ariadne – except it’s Ramos who really rescues her. The lepers are the one who save her, Aesion saves Jason – it’s even one of the lepers that wound Heptarian. And, ultimately, Ariadne is saved by the Oracle and Melos (shame you guys didn’t think to check on the king’s sudden illness a little sooner) more than Jason himself. Jason gets a great big “You Tried!” star.

So we have the big reveal of Jason’s father which was kind of anticlimactic – because I was kind of expecting Jason to be a demigod and his father or mother to be one of the Olympians – after all, this would explain how the 21st century westerner who has never held a sword before became one of the best warriors in all Atlantis, defeating soldiers who had been practicing with the sword and fighting all of their lives. I’m not sold on this idea of “touched by the gods” explaining his super powers, especially since the whole thing seems woefully undefined.

Speaking of that whole 21st century westerner thing – why does Jason speak ancient Greek? Or, failing that, why do the Atlanteans speak English? How did Jason not only learn how to fight but fit into Atlantean culture without a ripple – remembering this was a man who apparently had sufficient resources to procure a submarine for his little daddy-finding trip and then he faces no culture shock living somewhere without running water, coffee, sewerage systems, toilet paper, temperature controls, modern fabrics, electricity – or the gazillion and one other things he should be severely missing at this point.

And this epic quest to find his father? By episode 3 he’s completely forgot it. His very reason for being in Atlantis is pushed aside so we can have bland episode-of-the-week nonsenses while Pasiphae plots away in the background. Also, I am not even slightly invested in Jason and Ariadne, Jason is the very epitome of a hero protagonist – he has little in the way of personality or originality – and even then Ariadne makes him seems positively fascinating and nuanced in comparison. I see no chemistry between them because we’ve hardly even seen them together and I have not the slightest clue why Jason and Ariadne are so invested in each other.

The one character I was interested in was Medusa – but despite a strong start she became more and more of a background character, then Hercules’s love interest (with very little shown from Medusa’s point of view or why she liked Hercules) and then shipped off with her inevitable terrible fate.

At that, Medusa was the most active woman in the show. Ariadne spends most of the series pining in a corner, reacting to other people and generally being a love interest (and when she does act, it’s some of the most painful Spunky Agency). Pasiphae is active – but a classic evil stepmother. Any other vaguely active woman is usually evil, acting at the direction of others or, at very least, only around for an episode.

Which pretty much sums up the POC on the show as well. We have Minos (half the series in bed, the rest in the background being ineffectual) and Ariadne (see above) and then bit characters who come on for an episode… none of them are recurring and death is not beyond question. And this being a Hellenic culture we have absolutely no GBLT people at all, because everyone knows Ancient Greece was the straightest of straight societies, right guys?

Atlantis generally has uninteresting characters, not very engaging plots and a not that interesting world. The one redeeming hope I had was the Greek Mythology but it’s so underused – we get the odd name, but it’s just that, name sourcing. We have some hints in their stories and twists of the myths which are kind of fun shout outs, but it’s so lacking compared to what it could be. All in all, it’s not a keeper for me.