Atlantis episode 9 review: Pandora's Box

Review Dave Adamson 30 Nov 2013 - 21:10

A talented cast rises above some uneven material in this week's Atlantis, which tells the story of Pandora's Box...

This review contains spoilers.

1.9 Pandora's Box

Remember when Medusa didn’t want to speak to Hercules because of the whole love potion incident, and was only just beginning to warm to him after these events? Well, it appears Atlantis' writers don’t.

As ever, let's start with a recap of the action: tonight’s episode began with Hercules snatching Medusa away to his bed, before he was bashed about the head and kidnapped. A task was issued by an old associate and off he went to recover Pandora’s Box from Hades.

With Medusa in the hands of Kyros, Hercules had no choice but to take up the errand, taking his young associates, Jason and Pythagoras, with him.

In order to get into Hades, Jason and Hercules had to put themselves into a coma by sacrificing hair and drinking potions. To be honest, they could have watched a couple of episodes of Atlantis for the same effect.

As our heroes boarded the boat across the river, Pythagoras (having been left to watch the bodies) chased down a crow, leaving his post and ending up being knocked out, which allowed a fire to start, suddenly giving us a Final Destination element of jeopardy.

Having successfully crossed the river, Cyrus came to the rescue, guiding Jason and Hercules to Tartarus whilst Pythagoras hunted for the bodies of his friends, who had been taken to be buried by the incredibly efficient corpse-bearers.

Though Hades may be a place of few fellows, there was something quite dangerous protecting the box, in the form of a half man-half scorpion that warned Jason not to open the box, just after Jason stabs it. The container in question, being Pandora’s Box, meant something to Jason (he’s from “the present day”, remember) and the creature refused to let them leave. Thankfully, Jason and Hercules had a way out as they blow the horn, if only Pythagoras could find the bodies in time to carry out his bit of the spell.

With the box in Atlantis, there was a big debate over what to do with it. Jason didn't want it opened and had a plan, whilst Hercules just wanted to save Medusa. A duplicitous plan was put into place to trick Kryos, except instead, Medusa opened the box and her destiny was fulfilled.

Anton Lesser and Julian Glover were this week’s character actors, as Kyros and Eunapias. Their roles were minor, with Ciaran Griffiths making a welcome return as Cyrus. Griffiths gets the lion's share of the 'guest star' screen time, whilst Glover and Lesser are ill-served by the script. All three put in committed performances, which does - as has been the case in previous weeks - lift the quality of the show a peg or two, making the occasionally ripe dialogue sparkle.

As for the regulars, Robert Emms gets to fight, Jemima Rooper turned in a wonderful performance in her final minutes, whilst Juliet Stevenson bristled with emotion during her cameo appearance, warning Jason of his future once more.

As with a few of the episodes that preceded it, this week’s Atlantis is a good story marred by unevenly paced storytelling. The hunt for the bodies lacked any sense of drama, instead opting for farce as Pythagoras moves from one situation to the next; running from place to place is the trope du jour.

The final five minutes were really quite emotional, allowing Jack Donnelly to finally deliver lines that don’t come across as wooden.  “Curse the Gods,” indeed!  It’s a grim ending, coming from a grim place.

A grim place is an apt description of Hades. With plenty of fog, little lighting and a generally oppressive atmosphere, the Hades set is actually pretty effective, in a theatrical way.  It certainly does give a sense of doom and claustrophobia, thought it does make it difficult to see what is happening.

The interesting parts of this episode come after the box is opened and Medusa and Hercules’ relationship is lost. With Jason challenging the Gods, Hercules broken by the loss of Medusa and The Oracle warning of Jason’s destiny, the last stretch of series one could be dark indeed. 

Read Dave's review of the previous episode, The Furies, here.

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A talented cast... and Jack Donnelly...

Ahhgghhh, why am I still watching this show? It's so unbelievably terrible. And I knew the creators of Merlin hated women but this is whole new levels of misogyny.

Half the time I'm comatose with boredom (did we really need it to take a full five minutes of screen time for them to sllloooowwlly cross the River Styx) and the other half I'm furious (Medusa and Hercules romping around in love after what he did to her? Really? The men happily carry the box for hours with only a vague desire to open it but the woman finds it so irresistible she digs it up from under the floor after a minute?).

But at least I can add "Hades" to my list of "environments for the cast to run around for half the episode".

Which, and please correct me if I'm wrong, now makes it:

1. Labyrinth
2. Forest
3. Arena
4. Atlantis
5. Forest
6. Atlantis
7. The Arena
8. The desert and
9. Hades
although Pythagoras running down that strip of set over and over probably means I should add Atlantis to this list for this episode too.

So what gets my goat is that week in, week out, Jason never, ever, ever, seems to show signs of being from ' the real world/modern world'. No confusion, no social faux-pas, nothing.
I mean, in Buck Rogers, Farscape, 'An Aemrican Knight in King Arthur's court', etc, we get it. But here? He could just be from the next village over. He's not even trying to get back. It's as if that whole start to the series was tacked on for no good reason other than to give the audience some sort of back story to Jason beyond 'You have a destiny!'.

I watch it because it's better than X-Shite on t'other channel, but its Doctor Who not.

How did the creators of merlin hate women?

The CGI on this show is pretty impressive, shame everything else is sh*te. The money spent on this is wasted. I URGE, actually no, I BEG everyone to stop watching this utter crap, then maybe they might reconsider filming a second series and use the money for something else worth watching.

LOL I know right, the guy is a f*cking tree

This is a great show. Entertaining, face paced and fun. They should have drawn the drama out letting Hercules have more memorable times with Medusa. That certainly is a flaw. I like how the show oscillates between dark drama and farce. You lot sound like a bunch of cynical old fans. The review here ill serves what has been a consistently good show, only occasionally dropping the ball. More entertaining overall, than Doctor Who.

Almost every woman was an insipid love interest, silly or an evil cackling witch. And while male characters who made mistakes were redeemed, female characters were instantly labelled "evil" and condemned. And that's assuming they were even given screentime. Which they mostly weren't. If possible, their treatment of Medusa, killing off Korrinna for plot service, overuse of the whole "scheming evil witch of a stepmother" trope and Ariadne's total lack of personality make this show worse. I didn't think that was possible.

I see you haven't taken your own advice.

The myths don't have much time for women, wherever they come from. Arthurian legend is bereft of admirable and effective women, and heavily stocked with fickle adulteresses and evil witches, and the classics are even worse. Which is only to be expected of a culture which thought that (a) women had no souls and (b) the sperm contained the fully formed homunculus which was simply delivered to the womb for incubation. Real love was between man and man - what existed between man and woman was really just a degrading bestial distraction.

Come on he's not all that wooden. Anyway he's cute.

I have now, this was the last episode for me. Ive only stuck around to see if it gets better - but no, ive had it with this pile of insufferable sh*te.

You work for the "Daily Mail" dont you? ... : /

Totally agree, it boggles my mind what the writers were thinking not to have mentioned Jason's modern day origins at all this entire season. Absolute confusion and frustration how this can be missed out...

I think he'd be decent if the script was. Some actors can rise above dodgy material, and some, however good they can act with a decent script just cannot deliver bad lines convincingly. At least half the blame must go to the writers for writing a wooden character.

This has got to be my favourite episode. Pythagoras was brilliant

I completely agree: Jack Donnelly is not a terrible actor, he's just... serviceable - and without a good script he doesn't really stand a chance.

The writers are the one at fault here. Jason should be an engaging young character the viewers will use as an anchor yet it's not happening. The writers should have probably made him be a young lad from the 21st century getting thrown in a completely different era imo, oh wait...

I think the writer(s) did a great job managing the pacing and building off the climax... until the actual climax. It all fell flat from the moment Medusa opened the box, I wanted some crazy baroque Suspiria-ish moment goddammit!

Also, all those Medusa/Hercules gave me nausea.

And yet Xena managed to portray the myths and the culture that created them without being either sexist or misogynist by perpetually deconstructing and subverting them. And I'm assuming that "tone" of show is what they were going for. There's a difference between televisually bringing us a culture that mythologised women in that way and actually *being* the culture that does.

It's dreck like this the BBC commissions and canceled a show like Outcasts that had some potential.

Most accurate description of the Atlantis cast. Man does that guy need some acting classes :P!

The writers managed okay with Merlin and they seem to do remotely okay with the rest of the cast. Plus it isn't just his lines it is his facial expressions (or lack of) and tone of voice. His reaction to pretty much everything is the same.

Actually made sense in Merlin because that was how culture was in the time it was set (the same can't be said for Greek mythology). Also I really didn't think it was that bad in Merlin. Uther didn't really forgive anyone for sorcery and only took the word of those higher up in culture (regardless of gender/sex).

Bother Morgana went completely crazy she was forgiven a load of times by Merlin (actually even after she went crazy by Merlin), Gwen and Arthur/Uther etc... Arthur took Gwen back despite still thinking she cheated on him.

I mean Merlin wasn't perfect in its representations of woman, but I certainly don't think it is as bad as most shows out there (take DW or Atlantis for example).

Don't be so insulting, trees can act far better than Jack.

There is a copse of trees just over my back garden fence that does nightly performances of The Taming of the Shrew. They are very good. Better than the cast of Atlantis anyway.....

I think this has always been a Greek tragedy in the making (how it could not be, given its story origins?), and by trying to make it lighter with jokey dialogue, the writers have just made it feel awkward instead. If they went full-blooded drama and keep the viewing time "later", then this could turn into a cracking series.

That said: lovely Hades sfx, and yes, good ending, complete with lightning and thunder.

Ahhh, you meanie! The cast as a whole bring a lot to it. It's just a shame they get to retread such cliche territory, that it's difficult to see a way to do it differently from what we've seen so many times before.

That's actually about how I'm feeling about Dr Who after the jokey-romp that was the Anniversary Special. But - I will probably still watch the Xmas Special (recorded), and Series 8 next year, if only to see if it does improve...

He did finally get to do more than just hang around the others and add the occasional wise comment.

The motivation behind the quests each week is so thin. Merchant captures Hercules with a small stick but thinks he is the man to go into Hades and get Pandora's box?

The heroes evaluate their options

Plan A Rescue Medusa, city isn't that big, the merchant and henchmen must be known to someone probably could take them in a fight with a small jug, maybe just get a fake box with a small mouse or something in.

Plan B With no idea how, travel to the underworld home to a lot of evil things, navigate around it and find a box and bring it back in the space of 2 days.

The heroes bizarrely think Plan B is the much better option and after completing the Herculean task (see what I did there), think you know what, actually let's just go with plan A. Apparently boxes kept in the bad part of town in hell actually turn out to be just a little bit evil. Who knew?

From not being able to hold a sword at the start Jason can now take arrows out of the air, nobody seems surprised by this apart from the old man.

Medusa may be compelled to open the box because she is cursed but the whole scene lacked anything for me. (Personally I think she pulls off the head of snakes look really well).

And now Jason who shouldn't have got the box has gone from laying is life down for anyone he meets in the streets to being happy to let all Atlantis burn (apparently true love for Ariadne is a very fickle thing).

Apparently that's the God's fault. I can't help thinking the Gods are going "What did we?" (Pretty much nothing at all, all series as it goes) but apparently the oracles pep talks about destiny and "oh sorry did I not mention that before?" advice are the work of the Gods and Jason who must conveniently be a strong believer decides for the normal very little reason that's his next fight.

Hehehehe I know. But it was a very funny and accurate comment even if I do say so myself.

I have said it before, that Atlantis makes Neighbours the soap opera look like Shakspeare

Simon Grierson just pointed out that he watches it because its not as bad as the Z Factor on Itv and because its there, and its no where near as good as Doctor Who.

So for the second season of this Crap fest I sugggest this tag line for all the sheeple that are still watching -

"Atlantis......Its not as crap as the X Factor and but its not as good as Doctor Who."

I know what you mean. I have been saying that for years. However Outcasts was just very dull to watch. Its not the fault of the BBC for trying. I just wish they would put more effort into finding decent new different program ideas and writers.

If you go back to the Saturday night schedule of three or four years ago, it will look exactly them same as this coming Saturday, except Merlin would have been on instead. Its just dire.

They are trumpeting a new drama this week about the great train robbery. And what is that if its not yet another crime based drama like Sherlock, Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders, Luthor and so on, and on...and on....and on....and on.....

I feel like the BBC is stuck in a Time Loop.

Yeah and he got to actually save the day plus it does sorta show he has a life apart from those two if the villagers know him . hopefully we will see more character development

I wouldn't say consistently good but it is certainly getting better

*The cast nearly as a whole bring a lot and then there is Jack Donnelly.
To be honest the script is no excuse for Jack. Everyone else has 2D cheesey characters with pretty rubbish storylines and they do okay. I mean look at the queen, her character is like some sort of stereotypical evil step mother yet her performance is about 50 million times better than Jack's (although that isn't hard considering Jack doesn't really give a performance).

I've heard a lot of people say the same thing 'yeah Atlantis is crap, but not as crap as X-factor'. Do these people not have cable? Or some paint to watch dry?

Not to mention he finds out it's Pandora's box while in Hades and is warned to never open it and that it's irresistible... and he knows exactly *why* it should never be opened... but still takes it back to Atlantis despite having already decided NOT to open it.

As for:
Oracle: "you have to kill Medusa",
Jason: "no, I won't",
Oracle: "it's your destiny"
Jason: "oh, ok then, guess I have no choice".

Seriously? How about, why? For what reason? What will happen? What is this vague "destiny"? Because so far the only curse in Medusa's life has been Jason. If he hadn't stayed in Atlantis she wouldn't be cursed. Or be forced into a gross romantic subplot with a fat aging rapist.

As for his true love for "Ariadne"? Who?

wow, u must really hate TV and Men. and also u think xena wasent misoganyst, if xena didt wear that sexy outfit nobody would have watched it. in most TV if theres a Female protagonist there a young sexy female. your argument i half right, yes theres not as much women, and no its not deleiberate, and medusa is in mytilogy they cant change that.

yeah its wierd, he so OK with the existnce of gods, the underworld,slaves,mythical beast, like WTF ?

What pisses me of is that we all know hes the son of posiden, JUST GET ON WITH IT AND JUST SAY, AND YES plesease for the finale let him reveal hes from the modern day. When pythagoris is danger he should have treid to save him.

also one little slight niggle,, JASON IS FROM THE FUTURE FOR GODS SAKE, he never aknolowges this, When pythagoris was nearly being killed he should have saved him to keep history entact, tonight episde is were we get a hint at his modern day connection, he know medusa would change, mabye next week hell reveal more.

True, its like Jason has adjusted to this too quickly, the only evidence of it is his knowledge of a lot of people, especislly his knowledge of what medusa has become he knew what to do cause he read the stories.

I do hope that somehow he does get back to the modern world as there is something there he needs to save atlantis. Maybe the amulet wasnt the only thing? Or some knowledge that may only he told in that world....yeah we need to see if he will return home eventually...

Good episode but i think they changed medusa too soon......

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