This review contains spoilers.
1.3 The Boy Must Die
This week, Hercules, Jason and Pythagoras have offended Poseidon’s favourite servant and they must face their fate which, if the last two weeks are anything go by, will include a turgid script and inconsequential scenes building to a limp climax.
Their fate actually involves learning to bull fight – or, just leap over bulls in a way that would make Spelbound cringe – and surviving the attack of the bull. Only if the rag-tag group of our three heroes and a bunch of slaves survive will they be set free. The odds are against them as this group of thrown-together misfits can’t get on for reasons that are never really explained.
A moment of heroics from Jason brings his team together as he continues to be an agent of social change – saving an old man gets him into trouble, but his easy going “charm” soon sees him able to overcome the odds, convince a betrayer that he’s worth saving and convince Medusa to risk her life to save him from a bewitching by the Queen.
The finale sees our heroes realise that the only way to defeat the bull and be set free is to leap over it in acrobatic fashion and we end with a hint of almost-political danger from Pasiphae and yet another joke at Hercules’ expense.
Whilst Jack Donnelly flashes his pecs and very little else, and Robert Emms is given little of substance to do, it’s the support cast who set the screen alight, with convincing deliveries that raise a script that, whilst not fantastic, is an improvement over episodes one and two.
This isn’t to say that Atlantis is reaching the heady heights of essential viewing, it’s just not as mundane as what we’ve seen up to this point.
Jemima Rooper’s contribution is a smile and a wave before she sneaks through dark corridors to retrieve a voodoo doll. She does this in silence, with others talking about her to remind us of who she is. She’s not the only familiar face as Ciaran Griffiths, of Shameless and The Bill, joins as straight-talking thief, Osiris, whose honour leads to his early exit. Most often seen as a ‘wide boy’ or ‘chav’, Griffiths actually puts in a decent performance, showing that, even with limited character development, he’s a competent, if somewhat underrated, actor.
As for the rest of the cast, it’s business as usual for Mark Addy’s Hercules as his clumsy oaf is the butt of all jokes and is now besotted with the much younger Medusa. He has lines that would probably be funny if they were in the bits of a Carry On film that weren’t innuendo or catchphrases, but he does deliver them with humour. Alexander Siddig brings a degree of Shakespearean grace to his role as King Minos, whilst Sarah Parish finally has something to do as it’s revealed that Pasiphae dabbles in witchcraft and wants to bring the downfall of the hated Jason.
Death and intrigue underpin a slow moving story that is a massive step above the first two episodes. There’s still a bit too much pointless humour, mostly in and around Hercules’ performance, and underwhelming action sequences – the whole bull-fighting scene is absent of any real sense of danger. That said, the darker side of Pasiphae does offer a sense of intrigue as she tries to guide Ariadne to do her bidding whilst not overstepping her position in the royal court.
Three weeks in and this is better; better, but it’s still not great.
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