Monday, December 2, 2013

Atlantis, Season 1, Episode 9: Pandora's Box

Medusa lurking around a market at night when she is captured… by Hercules. They lay together and she talks about how she loves him so! But she has heard stories of his drunkenness, his gambling, his debts and his womanising – initially he denies it in typical high humour, but she asks for the truth and he admits it all – but it’s all in the past because he’s never felt this way about a woman before. Then something smacks Hercules on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. Medusa screams

I don’t recall their relationship quite having reached this point yet.

He wakes up tied up with a sword at his back and explaining to Kyros, one of those aforementioned creditors, that he totally had his money, honest, but he got robbed. Kyros will forgive his debt – but he wants Hercules to go to Hades to retrieve a box, unopened. Hercules hears “Hades” and considers it just another way to die – and isn’t moved when Kyros mentions all his supposed heroics. So Kyros pulls out his leverage – Medusa. Hercules is knocked out again, after receiving a time limit to arrive with the box.

Jason and Pythagoras awake to horrendous mouldy bread and head out to the market – to find Hercules passed out in front of the door – not too surprising considering it’s Hercules. Then they notice he’s tied and gagged – not unconscious and drunk. They remove his gag and his first words are that they’ve taken Medusa.

Pythagoras also thinks the quest is suicide and that rescuing Medusa seems more sensible, but Hercules rules that out since Kyros had graphic threats for if they tried that. So that leaves them another option – the Hierophant Eunapius, servant of Persephone, wife of Hades who is said to have been told many secrets.

They find the Hierophant who, after establishing that they don’t just want to go to Hades (easy) but want to come back (considerably harder). Hercules draws his sword to threaten the man and they are surrounded by archers. Eunapius tells them to leave and when Jason refuses, he says a simple “kill him” – and then Jason deflects and arrow with his sword before spinning back and holding Eunapis at sword point

Ok, at what point is everyone going to realise that Jason is displaying some serious demigod power? The man couldn’t hold a sword in episode 1 now he can deflect arrows? After more ominous posturing, Eunapis agrees to reveal the secret to them (or he could just send them on a wild goose chase and have them shot as soon as they seem them returning – or have them drink poison. Much simpler).

Eunapis is not as crafty as I and seems to give them an honest ritual. Hercules and Jason will descend to the underworld while Pythagoras watches over their unconscious, near-dead bodies. When they want to leave, they blow a nifty horn and lots of crows will show up to tell Pythagoras they want to get out and he will wake them with his blood, which sounds both messy and highly unhygienic

They enter the foggy underworld and approach a river with the ferryman holding out a hand for his coins All very ominous.

And in the real world things go badly wrong. Pythagoras hears a bird – and climbs onto the roof to check if it’s a crow and they want to return so soon. It isn’t – but he falls, knocking himself out. The open window, dried herbs and swags of random cloth all combine in the house to start a fire. Pythagoras, you had one job!

In the underworld, Hercules and Jason are surrounded by a crowd until a man rushes to drive the others off. He is Cyrus, who they last saw when leaping over bulls very unconvincingly; hearing their quest to go to Campe’s lair in Tatarus he offers to guide them – presumably because being dead is pretty boring (I didn’t say “dead boring” give me that) and because Jason is just that special. They explain to Jason what Tartarus is – super duper nasty dark afterlife at the bottom of a very ominous looking pit. They make torches (and spark fire laughably easily) and head down to lots of ominous music. Did I mention ominous? Because it’s very ominous indeed.

Back to Pythagoras – and a kind woman wakes him up to ask if he jumped to escape the flames – he rushes up to the deserted building and finds the bodies are missing. The woman tells him that, alas, Hercules and Jason weren’t so lucky and the corpse bearers have taken them to be buried. She also wants to know about Hercules’s debt – yes he owes everyone.

This involves running back and forth across the city because there’s more than one corpsebearer in town.

Back in the Underworld, our heroes find the entrance to Tartarus – and Hercules may indeed have super strength if he’s able to lift that massive stone slab on his own. Cyrus gives them ominous warnings about what the tormented souls down there would do (bad things). They travel through many rough hewn tunnels until things start moving around ominously behind them (ok, I’ll stop with the ominous now). They come across a room filled with sleeping people and Cyrus warns them not to wake them up.

They arrive at Campe’s lair. The box is on a pedestal and looks quite small and unassuming – as Jason reaches for it, he hears something above him. Campe – a hideous woman with the lower body of a giant scorpion. A scorpion centaur. She bats Hercules and Cyrus around with her tail (rather than stinging them for… reasons) while Jason dodges expertly. He grabs the box and throws it to Hercules before stabbing Campe in the back apparently crippling her (well, that was anticlimactic). She warns them not to open the box – the box that once belonged to Pandora which contains all the evils of the world (and apparently hasn’t been opened yet in this reality). Mortal man will also feel compelled to open it because mortal man is just that contrary. She screams and wakes all those slumbering souls, determined to keep Jason & co and the box in Tartarus forever.

They run through the tunnels but with no way out, Cyrus tells them to blow the horn. They will return to the land of the living, though Cyrus will be trapped. Jason blows the horn.

Meanwhile Pythagoras has found the corpsebearer who found Hercules and Jason – but their bodies have already been taken to be buried – on the OTHER side of the city. He sets off running as the crows start calling to him. Pythagoras finds the graves – and has to dig them up (efficient burial service they had) while the crows call.

In the underworld, the three run for the trapdoor since the horn didn’t work, but the trap door cannot be opened. Jason frantically blows the horn.

While the gravediggers of Atlantis may be incredibly fast, they merely bury their dead a few shallow inches below the surface and Pythagoras quickly unearths both of their faces. He cuts himself and drips his blood onto the lips of the corpses. In the underworld they have time to say Cyrus’s name before returning to life.

Back at the house both Pythagoras and Hercules are intrigued by the box and want to open it – though Jason warns them against it. And on that note, Jason refuses to give the box to Kyros; they have to have a replica made. Hercules isn’t happy with the risk to Medusa, but Jason is adamant.

They find a carpenter who sets about quickly making a copy of the box before the midnight deadline (that’s a damn fast carpenter, since it’s intricately carved). Jason promises Hercules he won’t let any harm come to Medusa – which he accepts.

They take the box to Kyros and he produces Medusa. They hand him the box – and he opens it. Inside is a snake (this is Jason’s distraction). He drops the box in shock and they run, chased by Kyros’s goons.

They run, Medusa running ahead while the three men fight the goons (well Jason fights most of them, Hercules holds one at bay and Pythagoras sneaks up behind them and smacks them with a pottery jar). Jason kills Kyros and tells him, as he dies, that having been to Hades he knows an eternity of suffering awaits Kyros. Well, that’s rather dark of Jason. The three realise that Medusa is at the house, alone, with Pandora’s box… They run back as fast as they can

Medusa hears the box whispering to her, even from its hiding place under the floorboards. She finds the hidden box… and opens it.

The three arrive to find the box and Medusa gone. They go outside and find themselves surrounded by stone people. Pythagoras and Hercules wonder where the statues are from – but Jason says “they’re not statues, she’s turned.” Hercules hears her scream and runs off, ignoring Jason’s shout. Jason warns Pythagoras not to look at Medusa and picks up a shiny, reflective shield.

Medusa runs, heavily cloaked and hooded. She begs Hercules to stay away, not to look. He tries to reassure her – but Jason arrives and hands him the shield – telling him only to look at her reflection. In the mirror she shows him her face – and her hair now made of snakes. She has to flee the city so the guards do not kill her – Hercules wants to follow but she tells him not to, to act as if she’s dead. Hercules refuses – he will spend the rest of his life trying to lift this curse. He looks away – and Medusa leaves

Jason takes Pandora’s Box to the Oracle to keep safe. As she leaves he grabs her and asks if she knew what was going to happen – she responds that they both knew what would happen to Medusa; but not how or when. He says there has to be a way, she says there isn’t and snaps that he was warned! He was warned the box was evil and when he protests that she doesn’t deserve this fate she scoffs that no, she doesn’t – nor does Jason, nor does she. Fate isn’t something you “deserve”.  But she lets slip that Medusa’s fate must happen so Jason can meet his destiny. She becomes cryptic – but finally tells him that one day Jason will have to kill Medusa. And if he doesn’t, Atlantis will be destroyed and thousands will die.

Jason says if that’s what it takes to avoid this fate that has been chosen for him then so be it – “curse you and curse the gods”. He leaves and looks to the skies declaring “do your worst.”

Ouch, I have read too much Greek Mythology not to cringe whenever someone says “curse the gods.”

I do love the Greek mythology shout outs and they were thick and heavy this episode! We knew it was going to happen to Medusa – but when and how was always in question. I will give them a pass for Campe. I imagine the writers told the CGI guys “right, beautiful woman’s head and torso, dragon body, scorpion tale, snakes on the feet and 50 heads around the waist” and then everyone decided the Ancient Greeks had some really good drugs and went with a scorpion centaur.

I had hoped Medusa would become the strong, capable character she promised to be – but it never really happened. She became a love interest and a damsel. Maybe she’ll be more interesting as a monster but that’s a sad statement in and of itself – a woman on this show has to become a Gorgon to be effective.

Is this the start of meta? Is this the show actually, possibly, maybe finally getting good? It’s a long time in coming but maybe!