This review contains spoilers.
1.4 Twist of Fate
Three men and a baby…
Yes, this week Jason brings about yet more social change by rescuing an abandoned baby, despite tradition suggesting that the baby should be left to die.
So Jason heroically changes nappies, valiantly shops for food and then asks Medusa, the only woman he really knows, for help, which she quite happily gives (probably because, for Jemima Rooper, it means some dialogue and the chance to show how great she is as an actor.)
Meanwhile, King Laius of Thebes turns up to drive a wedge between Ariadne and Pasiphae (at least, he would if the writers had carried forward the initial tentative steps), whilst his wife Jocasta looks ashen and mournful.
Continuing his rather seedy quest to steal the heart of Medusa, Hercules dotes over the child before our heroes must save the child from death at the hands of King Minos’ army, led by Laius’ advisor, Tiresias.
It turns out that the baby is the son of Laius and Jocasta and, whilst Laius wants the child dead, she wants the child to be saved… which is incredibly helpful given that Pythagoras calls the baby Oedipus.
This week’s Atlantis skips the mystical mythology for a story of family and honour. It’s a much more grounded tale which shouldn’t rely on leaps of faith and logic, but it still manages to stagger in a few places – the reveal of the child’s identity is clumsily handled, some of the dialogue is ham-fisted and the ever present humour derails the more dramatic aspects of the story.
It’s almost as if Alexander Siddig, Sarah Parish and Donald Sumpter, as Tiresias, are in a different programme, giving the feel of I, Claudius meeting a toned down version of the House politics of Game of Thrones. In the final third, when mother meets son, Addy delivers the type of performance that made him captivating in Game of Thrones, whilst Sumpter (despite some exposition) delivers his lines with the tempered tones that made him chilling in Being Human. They play these scenes with such conviction that it’s not hard not to be drawn in by this whole sequence; only for it to be ruined by what follows and how it leads into the clumsy dialogue of the finale.
If the palace of Minos is one half of the story, the other features the heroic and comic antics of our three heroes which never really feel heroic or comic! There’s a wonderful exchange between Pythagoras and Hercules as they wait for Jason, and a tender moment between Medusa and Hercules, but these are cast aside with silly humour (which, this week, includes scenes of toilet humour) and barely credible action sequences – a slow guard chase, Hercules smashing through a door then locking it behind him, and more of the athletics from Jason.
With a story that doesn’t rely on magic, the fourth episode of Atlantis does do a better job than the first three instalments. It still may not be consistently well-scripted, relying on humour that feels forced and unnecessary, but it does have some touching moments and a smattering of dramatic flare that, it can only be hoped, is capitalised upon in what is to come.
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