Thursday, July 30, 2015

Atlantis, Season 2, Episode 12: The Queen Must Die

Icarus sneaks into the curfew-ed city to meet Pythagoras, dodging guards (while the possibility of Icarus betraying Pythagoras is possible.)

They’re helping Jason, now good again, sneak into the arena they just rescued him from (much to Hercules’s disgust – Jason’s good at throwing their help back!) to rescue his fellow gladiator, Diocles.

Icarus told this to Goran who, in turn, tells it to Pasiphae who has become far more distracted by Jason than ruling the city (this would imply she’s a distracted ruler, but she was always a pretty awful ruler). Of course Cilix wants Jason killed and Medea doesn’t.

They arrange an ambush while Jason & co kill some guards to free Diocles who, in turn, wants to free everyone else. Only to have most of them slaughtered by an archer ambush. Thankfully for our heroes, Goran has most of his guards charge in after killing the extras so Jason & co can escape – and Pythagoras can contemplate who betrayed them.

After killing a bazillion guards, Jason is nearly killed but saved by Medea, her magic and her inability to realise he’s just not that into her.

Goran saw this and reports to Pasiphae that her niece is playing on Jason’s side (and that she has some nifty magic powers which would have been really fecking useful over the series). Pasiphae has trouble accepting that her evil, traitorous niece is an evil traitor.

Jason & co meet up with Diocles and a surprising number of surviving gladiators. They return to Ariadne and bow to her – but she declares Jason the real heir, as the son of King Aeson (he was a king? Did I miss that?) and she decides her family has no just claim. Jason just happily clams that title and the loyalty and kneeling of all of his followers (hey, remember when Jason was a man from the 21st century?)

Ariadne also asks Jason to marry her, renewing their promise. And no waiting time – she wants a wedding right now in the forest. Jason says yes (of course) and they make some pretty nifty  (this is a politically wise match now Jason has belatedly pulled kingship out of some orifice) preparations to have a rather good and pretty ceremony in the forest with Hercules officiating.

Icarus tends his dad and finally admits that he’s turned traitor for daddy’s sake. Daedalus is not impressed and kicks his treacherous son out for being terribad and also several kinds of stupid.

Pasiphae confronts her own treacherous relative and realise that the woo-woo bond between her and Jason is super strong (because there’s certainly no character reason for them to be connected). After feigning sympathy for a while she then threatens her with brutal death if she meets Jason again – while also trying to turn up the parental guilt to maximum (everyone else shunned Medea, only Pasiphae raised her).

She sneaks out anyway and Goran learns that trying to follow the witch is a not a great plan. She kills more guards and leaves the city. Pushed by Cilix, Pasiphae orders Medea killed. Realising the way the wind is blowing, Cilix begins plotting against Pasiphae.

Medea goes to Jason, newly awoken from his marriage bed (albeit surprisingly clothed). She’s going home but leaves Jason with a belated excuse (I don’t want to be evil like auntie despite never showing any problem before!), some knowledge (Pasiphae, on the winter solstice, is going to a special temple where only god touch can enter) and something to get rid of her magic (despite the fact Jason very easily nearly killed her before except for his mummy issues. Is it a potion of Mummy Issues Banishment?). She tries to claim affection between them and he tells her of his new marriage.

Medea leaves and Jason tries to convince everyone that trusting Medea is a super good idea, because if the sworn enemy who hasn’t tried to kill you several times can’t be trusted, who can? No-one else is a fan of this plan. Jason isn’t a fan of basic common sense.

Hercules also notices Pythagoras is having issues about Icarus and tries to draw Pythagoras out – implying he thinks Pythagoras is in love.

Goran doesn’t want Pasiphae to go to Hecate’s temple but she doesn’t think she really has much choice in the matter.

To the temple (which could be a lot smaller. I mean only the god-touched can enter – how many of them can there even be?). Pasiphae drinks from the water that Jason has already tainted with his potion and Jason confronts her. When she tries to use her nifty magic, it fails.

But Jason STILL doesn’t kill her – instead capturing her and taking her alive. Good gods man stab her already! He manages to get her past the whole army and into his camp. Cilix responds to this by merrily plotting against Pasiphae, trying to recruit Goran. See, you use untrustworthy arseholes as minions and they turn on you

In camp, Ariadne forces Pasiphae to drink more potion while Pasiphae tries to convince her that Jason loves Medea (ye gods please don’t listen to her). Pasiphae realises Jason intends to kill her and begs and pleads, invoking motherhood, the gods, his guilt and anything else she can. Jason leaves – and it is Pythagoras and Hercules who take her away to kill her


In the name of the gods they let her pray first (please don’t let the witch chant, please don’t do this).

Hercules finally stabs her! It’s dramatic, well acted and about damn time. Pasiphae is dead. Um… not to be callous to the drama but would someone mind awfully beheading her and burning the body?

Now they have to plot how to take over the city, especially with Cilix now trying to take control (how does Cilix have any kind of power? What loyalty would he have earned? Jason and Ariadne – ARIADNE – can’t invoke the people and Melos? AAAARGH the politics of this show make no sense). Clearly Cilix needs stabbing too (actually I approve of stabbing strategy) which means he needs luring out by using a spy he thinks he can trust

Pythagoras nominates Icarus – who he realises must be a traitor.

Pythagoras meets with Icarus and they talk (after a brief moment when it looks like Pythagoras may stab him). Pythagoras confirms that Pasiphae is dead and that Jason intends to offer a totally-genuine-honest-and-not-a-trap peace deal to Cilix.

Tearfully, Pythagoras tells Jason they’ve laid their trap.

Icarus passes everything to Goran and Cilix – and Goran is honourable enough he actually agrees to release Daedalus. Goran, being so honourable (and naive) is super-duper shocked that Cilix intends to become king and plans to ambush them at the peace meeting as well.

Of course, Daedalus is not exactly happy with his traitor son.

To the peace table where Cilix’s ambushers are ambushed and slaughtered just as Cilix intends them to kill Jason and Ariadne. Cilix demands the normal soldiers attack but Goran’s pesky (and long silent) conscience suddenly decides to perk up. Cilix decides to creep to Ariadne, claiming how useful and needed he will be

Just stab him

Jason does. And then so does Goran. Is it Ariadne’s turn next? Amusingly, seconds after stabbing Cilix, Goran says he’s seen too many men die (did you just close your eyes? Though it’s true, Jason & co kill a dozen guards every week). Goran and the army support King Jason – in exchange for no punishment against his men. Jason agrees. Now he just needs the gods’ blessings.

Jason does have a brief moment of not trusting Goran – but this is the man who trusted Medea so that doesn’t last.

Back to Atlantis where Melas offers a very late and very lacking apology. That said, everyone swears loyalty and is duly forgiven. The blessing will go ahead, everyone will completely forget the whole blasphemy, oracle killing thing because it’s not longer useful to the plot.

Ariadne and Jason are all couply but she’s all doubtful because of what Pasiphae said – presumably about Medea. Nooooo do not do this. No-one can be this damn stupid?

Hercules sets to drinking while Pythagoras goes to find Icarus and tell him the good news in a broken monotone. They confront Icarus’s betrayal and how Pythagoras used it. Pythagoras points out the lives Icarus was throwing away, including his own – adding that “I mean nothing to you,” getting the dramatic” you mean everything to me”. Which, along with their tearful reactions, takes them beyond friends – especially when Icarus tries to kiss him. Pythagoras says he understands, but will never forgive him – and leaves.

Alas Ariadne does believe him – and confides in Hercules that she thinks Jason did sleep with Medea and has the woo-woo bond and she’s all tearful and sad and needs her head dunking in a pond until she comes to her senses.

Of course one of Medea’s dragon/bird things retrieves Pasiphae’s corpse. Aaaaargh I told you! Burn the body! Damn it! She’s brought back to the Temple of Hecate – and blinks. Which could just be terrible camera work, I admit.

The dragon bird returns to the city with Pasiphae – now very much alive – who demands Goran’s obedience. Goran refuses – and she kills him with magic. The soldiers’ very quickly changing loyalty swings back again. Who manage to swing the guards as well. Worst Royal Guards Ever.

Jason and Ariadne go for the blessing of the gods and as Oracle 2 chants, Pasiphae’s guards attack, killing her loyalists and charging into the temple. Yes the same people who staged a coup over blasphemy just invaded a temple.

At least Melos is pissed by this and Pasiphae and he decide to have a stare off (rather than her use magic to help her men). She stabs Melos who tells Oracle 2 to run – which means Jason et al are on the run again. Y’know this wrath of the gods everyone is afraid of doesn’t seem to do a whole lot – but nor does their fear really.

Pasiphae is back in command because of course she is. Honestly the politics of this city is bizarre and simplistic. Naturally she wants Jason & co found and stabbed and they’ve gone to hide because, after 2 seasons to the contrary, we’re now pretending Atlantis’s walls are difficult to get past.

Faced with death, Ariadne, of course, needs to ask about Jason and Medea. Jason reassures her. I get friction burns on my rolling eyeballs.

The city is, again, torn into chaos and Icarus decides he has to go help Pythagoras. Daedalus decides to help him. Using wings – which, I guess, is true to legend (and, honestly, I have to give maximum points to “don’t fly close to the sun, the wax will melt.” “it’s night time”. That mused me) but not especially useful in the circumstances unless the wings come with bombs.

Oh, it does. Ok I take it back. He bombs the guards trying to break into the house where they’re hiding (and bombs most of the rest of the guards around Atlantis. Y’know if Jason does retake this city their near neighbours will easily invade).

Icarus is shot down and Pythagoras runs to him. Icarus is still alive and Pythagoras kisses him before they flee out into the forest where Oracle #2 tells them they can defeat Pasiphae by destroying the source of her power – they need to find the Golden Fleece in Kolkis, helped by Medea.

No-one is a fan of this plan. Ariadne insists on coming with. And the oracle has a vision of the ship, the Argo, Medea and Jason.

This season is now over, and with it so is the show. And after this season I can’t say that I am sad about it

The season began interestingly enough – but as Ariadne’s hold on her throne became shakier and she eventually lost it, the whole season fell apart. A story of Ariadne holding her city would be interesting which is why the season started well. But that wasn’t the story the writers wanted to tell – but they had no real way to get from where they were to where they wanted to be – with them in the Forest under the run. So we had a very clumsy and rushed storyline that was underdeveloped and made little sense

This was achieved by both torturing the plot through a series of non-sensical events and the characters reacting with the combined intelligence of algae. Ariadne may take the prize for the utter inept attempt to keep her throne in the face of a completely nonsensical, weak plot. But Melas, Jason, the Oracle and just about everyone else all compete to be more ludicrous so the plot can actually work – because it’s the only way it can. Ariadne can only be pushed out of the city by having the intelligence of cottage cheese. Melas can only be manipulated as easily as he is because the incense in those temples clearly has some side effects.

The same applies to the setting - the army is almost ludicrously easily co-opted. Blasphemy is either completely ignored one moment and powerful enough to topple a queen the next. Pasiphae goes from being helpless before Jason’s sword one moment and able to break necks with a word the next. Goran’s moral development is just a flat line of obedience to suddenly finding some moral outrage from somewhere.

And Medea? This whole woo-woo connection is grossly unexplained and undeveloped but desperately needed to be pushed because ONLY woo-woo could possibly justify this whole clumsy, undeveloped, barely explained plot twist

This applies to Jason as well – he went evil for two episodes. For reasons. Irrelevant reasons because it didn’t last long enough to have any real impact on his character. This whole “touched by the gods” thing is sorely lacking in anything approaching development – it’s become a grand, magical fixit for whatever plot shenanigans the writers want to have. Jason and Medea together? God touched. Pasiphae alone? God touched. Jason going evil? God touched.

Now to Ariadne – the show’s most prominent non-evil woman and POC. In the last season she wasn’t very active so I was very excited to see her taking command this season. Being queen, ruling, making difficult political choices… and then someone extracted every last ounce of intelligence from her head and turned her into a pure damsel

She lost her throne without any real effort to secure it and was thrown in prison – where her actions amounted to heroically watching someone else suffer. She is there to be rescued and saved – and then angst about Jason, him going evil, their relationship, him and Medea. After being rescued she seems to spend far more time upset about Jason than her city and the people she planned to rule

To top it off, Ariadne just gives up her throne. Maybe there was more foreshadowing of Jason being king that I missed between the snark – but Ariadne doesn’t have one second of depicted conflict over just handing the throne over to Jason. Suddenly we all go from fighting to put Ariadne on the throne to fighting to put Jason on throne. On top of that, Ariadne kind of loses interest and wants to run to the woods and eat bark. Ok, this could have been an interesting plot line if we had even a remote amount of development in Ariadne’s dissatisfaction in royal life, how she didn’t want the responsibility, the pomp, the ceremony or anything else. If she had shown any displeasure in being queen BEYOND how it stopped her marrying Jason (because all about him all the time) then I could believe it – but we didn’t go there

Speaking of underused women – Medusa. Medusa was an awesome conflicted character who really sold her conflict. She was a strong, determined woman who tried her best and boke but tried to make it right. We needed more of her, more of her conflict and her struggle – more to give her sacrifice meaning. Her sacrifice itself wasn’t an inherently bad thing because of the whole epic tragedy of the character – but she needed more than that and there needed to be more coming from it – her sacrificing herself for the city, to save the people would have been epic. Her sacrificing herself, ultimately, for a single person jailbreak is considerably less so.

Some actual development of female characters would have gone a long way to making Medea make sense.

Then there’s Pythagoras. An actual gay or bisexual man with Icarus! Yes a main character, one of the three main characters is revealed to be LGBT! This is something to celebrate! Now we can have many episodes of their love, their development, their relationship and… oh wait

Because actually revealing Pythagoras is gay or bi waited until half way through the very last episode of the very last season.

This is something we’ve seen before – a show will go on without much more than a hint (if that) that LGBT characters exist – then a brief moment just before the end of the season (or the end of the entire show even) we will have a the belated, dramatic revelation that a main character is LGBT! Rejoice, inclusion – and cancelled. Witches of East End, Bedlam, Sanctuary all played the same game – throw in their LGBT inclusion at the very last moment when there was both absolutely no time left to develop that into actual characterisation or storylines. It’s an afterthought – almost a retcon and it’s a particularly crafty form of limited inclusion. After all, you can claim that a major character – even a protagonist – was LGBT! Isn’t that awesome inclusion? But that inclusion is only revealed – only portrayed – in brief seconds before the show ends; it’s adding seasoning to the plate after you’ve almost finished the meal.

The contrast is quite clear in Atlantis when we examine the three main characters and their romance: Jason and Hercules’s romances have completely defined the series. Jason and Ariadne is the backbone of the entire show (quickly replacing finding out about his father). Hercules’s utterly tragic relationship with Medusa drives a lot of storylines, is powerful, maintained and ends up being one of the major elements and driving forces and sources of conflict in the second season. Pythagoras and Icarus? Icarus isn’t even introduced until episode 9 of the second season and either of them being attracted to men, let alone an actual romance, doesn’t appear until the very last episode – well over half way through at that (that kiss was less than 10 minutes before the episode ended).