Atlantis episode 5 review: White Lies

Review Dave Adamson 26 Oct 2013 - 21:00

Atlantis' talented cast continues to be stymied by underwhelming dialogue and storytelling. Here's Dave's review of White Lies...

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 White Lies

First up, let's recap the action of this week's Atlantis.

Whilst a mysterious stranger breaks into the palace and attacks Ariadne, Hercules is betting on beetles. The intruder passes a note to Ariadne, before being injured and caught, setting Ariadne on her own mission, whilst he suffers at the hands of Pasiphae and her dark ways. Thankfully, Ariadne has a plan that involves duping Jason into escorting her handmaiden and it is soon discovered that the poor, mysterious stranger was delivering a note to say that Ariadne’s brother, Therus, the betrayer of his Kingdom, is actually very much alive and well, seeking justice for the lies that have been told about him.

Ariadne’s brother is seeking his sister and Pasiphae isn’t happy because she was the one that set him up, casting aspersions on his integrity, leading all and sundry to believe he was a traitor and had plotted to kill Minos, his own father and the King of Atlantis. It turns out that it was actually an entirely different story, with Pasiphae plotting the killing and needing a scapegoat when Therus discovered the truth.

It was a story of intrigue, the shifting nature of power, the love of family, the betrayal of trust, and the essence of heroism. In short, it had everything that makes Greek mythology - actually, mythology of any kind - still relevant today.

The episode boasted a meaty performance from Sarah Parish as she demonstrates how dangerous and duplicitous Pasiphae can be, whilst giving Aiysha Hart the chance to show the strong woman that Ariadne needs to be. There were also the next stumbling steps in the romance between Ariadne and Jason, as Jack Donnelly clumsily expressed his feelings and Ariadne clumsily hid hers. Finally, far too long was spent on a story about a beetle, probably just to give Mark Addy and Robert Emms something to do.

White Lies is a great story on paper - a tapestry of intrigue and deceit that needs unpicking in order to see how it all fits together should have made gripping television and had the potential to be a wonderful story arc. In execution, however, it plodded, was dull, and too much time was spent on the beetle story.

Jack Donnelly's performance was unfortunately wooden, Darwin Shaw’s Therus wasn’t much better and it doesn’t help that the dialogue and storytelling feel wooden, too. Parish, Juliet Stevenson, Alexander Siddig and even Mark Addy, do what they can to bring the talent, but it’s a struggle even for their skills.

The confrontation between The Oracle and Pasiphae should have been a true meeting of powers - Stevenson and Parish deliver their lines with gusto, but it just felt underwhelming. There wasn't a spark there, despite Parish being on form and Stevenson being characteristically good; the dialogue and characterisation let them down.

In the end, the reason for Therus’ exile is revealed with Pasiphae’s part in proceedings brought into stark contrast for the already-suspicious Ariadne. Therus may hope he can return, Ariadne may promise to keep in touch, Jason may desire Ariadne and Pasiphae may desire power; but, it’s really, really difficult to care.

Read Dave's review of the previous episode, Twist of Fate, here.

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I nearly fell asleep watching this episode.

I thought it was fun and I honestly think this show keeps on getting better and better

This is episode 5, right?

To be Fair while I haven't been overly impressed with Atlantis so far, I am taking these 'Reviews' with a Pinch of Salt. Den Of Geek's Original Review of Episode 1 of Merlin said "Merlin, it’s all over the place ... Colin Morgan seems a genuinely talented actor, who’ll do well, once people have forgotten Merlin, I’m sure".

By Episode 5 of Merlin, Den of Geek was still being negative ..."The BBC's Saturday night fantasy adventure isn't getting any better, sadly ... Five episodes in I’ve pretty much given up on the idea that a magical flame will engulf this show".

But by the Final episode of Merlin... Den of Geek's Review was packed full of praise: "Merlin's fantastic journey concludes in an eventful, and fitting finale ... Merlin had big shoes to fill, it was the series that ran when Doctor Who wasn't on our screen, it filled those shoes admirably. Each episode has been an achievement in storytelling. By the end of the series, a new legend is being written, there are plenty of stories to be told and, who knows, films, TV specials and miniseries are all potential options for what has been a fantastic journey."

My point is, well it's still early days and the show has much room with a second series to improve. Jack Donnelly certainly needs to loosen up a bit. Hopefully though the writers will take all the feedback on board and iron out the problems the same way they did with Merlin. We should give them the benefit of the doubt. If this was axed, I don't feel the BBC would attempt another Fantasy... We'd be stuck with another Game show, maybe Don't Scare the Hare 2!

I'm afraid I am missing the point of calling this show Atlantis, even. Wasn't Atlantis a mythically technologically advanced society? I see none of that in this show. Might
as well be set in ANY ancient Greek city. Didn't need Atlantis to tell these
stories. We currently have no tech and no magic. We are not really finding out
anything about why Jason's so special and no info on his Dad. They
plucked a kid out of the future to return to the ancient world with no mention
or play on that fact since episode 1. It's fun to watch, but nowhere near
living up to its potential.

I keep comparing this to Merlin, and lets face it, it was meant to replace Merlin...or at least the Merlin timeslot. But it keeps falling short in every way. Part of me doesn't want to compare it to Merlin cause it'll never measure up. I wants to enjoy this show as much as I enjoyed Merlin...but i just don't. It's a crying shame

I hope you're being ironic?

I really want to enjoy Atlantis but it just doesn't work. I think there's a lot of similarities between this and The Golden Compass movie from a few years back. They both cast the wrong lead actor and even the addition of some bigger names can't save them. The Golden Compass was great on paper but just didn't transfer to the screen, the idea of an Atlantis show seems fun but it lost something along the way. The Golden Compass was supposed to be a trilogy right? Why on earth did the BBC pour more money into another series of Atlantis?

No i enjoy it and my little brother enjoys it and thats all i really want out of a saturday evening show.

agreeing with you on this one, It was never conceived to be particularrly breaking the limits of storytelling its just meant o be good old fashioned fun the same as Merlin which as has been said got better and better :)

The viewing figures have also been strong considering its up against Xfactor, hence the second series. It's clear that nobody is enjoying it as much as Merlin. But considering the same people that improved that brilliant show are behind Atlantis we can only hope it gets better. It is far better than what I fear would probably be on BBC One during that time slot should Atlantis be axed.

Thank You and yes who knows what we would get if it were'nt for atlantis I'm guessing something truly awful game show-y thing starring washed up celebrities. I think Merlin was a slow build up show and I think Atlantis is probably doing the same thing

I agree the wrong lead for Jason has been cast. It's not that Jack Donnelly can't act, and he doesn't annoy me but he just seems so wooden and drained of all emotion. Considering the amount of animated comedy scenes included his face never appears to change. This makes him difficult to relate to, especially when he's supposed to be carrying this great secret (like Merlin). To be fair the writers are part to blame, they obviously haven't forgotten Jason was plucked from the future but they need to include more references to this fact in every episode. The way he has just fitted in to this ancient world without almost a single complaint is really disappointing from a story telling point of view.

That's very school mastery of you. Are you demanding that everyone share your opinion?

The Golden Compass failed because it was a joint US production and the American Taliban set out to wreck it. If you are read the books (do!) you'll know just how much it lost trying to appease them, and that still wasn't enough. The final two books would have been impossible for them to swallow, and they had shown their power when down-thumbing the first film. I am not sure about the lead actress. Lyra really isn't a sweet little girl. She's tough, vain, crafty and an accomplished liar. These may not be characteristics admired in Hollywood heroines, but it's how she comes over in the book. I thought Dakota Fanning portrayed that very well. She's an excellent actress, as Dustbin Baby proved.


Atlantis was a mythical greek city-state,mentioned by a famous greek author. It was apparently successful, but not much different from other greek cities apart from one thing... it was destroyed by the sea, and is now termed the "lost city".

We do have magic, we have a portal to ancient greece (through the sea), we have a queen who curses people, we have a working oracle.

I do agree with you, jasons character build-up was non existent.

An alternative explanation might be that Merlin had a pretty shoddy 1st series, but improved over the run.

I don't see why the show being in its early days somehow precludes critical reviews. Surely the proper response would be to review it critically and call a poor first season for what it is - if the show improves, THEN give it good reviews. Don't give a bad episode a good review just because there's a chance that some future episode might be of better quality.

..The reason he asked is because this Review was incorrectly titled Episode 4 when it appeared last night, it has now been corrected to Episode 5.

Dear oh dear. When we're justifying this rubbish because we're worried about getting something even more rubbish, something is seriously wrong with the BBC. I'd have to disagree with you - it's not early days. Atlantis has had plenty of time to get to grips with things, but it is stagnant - the characters are boring, the stories are even more boring (and ripped off from Merlin - remember Gwen's ner-do-well brother accused of a crime he didn't commit?). Five episodes in and I've seen nothing new or interesting. I'd also argue against this being fantasy. It isn't. It's a lame soap opera with some fantasy trimmings. It's enough for me - I'm not watching any more of this.

I watched the show on Saturday and I can honestly say I can't remember a thing that happened in it.

I don't know. The show sucks both in conception and execution.

It's such an embarrassing mishmash of eras and decontextualised mythology with a lead who seems to have taken the fact he's from a parallel universe in his stride with barely a bit of culture shock or even a desire to go home.

Some of the actors are extraordinary but even Sarah Parish can't give the plodding, boring, one-dimensional scripts life. This episode actually had a plot, which the last few haven't really (run around a labyrinth, run around the forest, run around a bull pit, run around Atlantis) so it was an improvement but Jason and Ariadne's "epic love despite the fact we've barely spoken to each other and show no desire to" is kind of laughable and poorly-depicted by the actors involved.
Also, if you're only at episode 5 of season 1 and the best you can do with your supporting cast is give them a dung beetle subplot then you've possibly created the wrong characters.

Having said that, I keep watching it. I have no idea why. Maybe Johnny Capps have powers of hypnosis I'm unaware of.

I think a problem that a lot of us are having with Atlantis is that it is basically just Merlin. Merlin is my favourite TV show and I thought it was fantastic especially in series 4 and 5. There were some bad storylines but at least they were picked up by the 'bromance' between Merlin and Arthur so I think if Atlantis wants to overcome its weak storylines (this is my opinion so don't criticise me for it) it needs to include more witty banter that we all loved in Merlin.

If I hadn't watched Merlin I might have enjoyed Atlantis because it would feel fresh to me but because its storylines are so similar to Merlin's it just feels a bit stale. I am seeing parallels everywhere e.g. Medusa will end up being a traitor in Atlantis and then will end up living in a cave underground when she is found out just like Morgana. I think the most obvious similarity is Jason is unsure about what he's meant to do in his life and visits the Oracle for guidance just like Merlin was unsure about his destiny and visited the Dragon. And of course some of the sets are the same but as with most shows if a forest is needed there's a good chance the Forest of Dean will be used.

Also I don't think the acting is as good in Atlantis as it was in Merlin. I'm not saying it's bad because most of us couldn't act that well. Obviously in Merlin we had John Hurt who was great and who knows how the BBC afforded him and in Atlantis Sarah Parish is very good and plays her part very well. Jemima Rooper is also great but I think the weak dialogue lets her down a bit. The 3 leads aren't as strong as I thought they would be, I've seen them do better in other things, and I'm afraid aren't as good as Colin Morgan's excellent portrayal of Merlin was.

On the plus side, though some characters seem a bit wooden (Jason and Ariadne) there are some that we do connect to (like Medusa) and some we just love to hate (Pasiphae).

I think I'm going to stop watching Atlantis now because I can't help but compare it to Merlin and I don't want to spend every Saturday going 'this is basically the same storyline as series whatever episode whatever of Merlin'. But if you enjoy Atlantis good on you and who knows if in 5 years time (if it does last 5 years) when Atlantis ends we'll all be complaining as we did with Merlin when it ended.

Please tell me you didn't just say stories about greek mythology were ripped off of stories about Athurian legend...

Atlantis is Merlin without the monsters and Merlin without the monsters isn't Merlin.

Uh ... no I didn't say that. Being framed for murder isn't exactly exclusive to Greek myth is it? This is the second time I've seen a plot that follows a similar theme to Merlin. Atlantis writers are using the same themes and stories - it doesn't matter what time frame/mythology they're using.

This show massages and fondles balls.

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