This review contains spoilers.
1.6 The Song of the Sirens
The episode starts with plenty of flesh on show… belonging to Hercules, as he wrestles The Destroyer and, despite a valiant effort, is defeated by the man mountain.
Hercules, it seems, is still smitten on Medusa, much to the concern of Jason and Pythagoras. They fear it is a foolish dream and that his heart may be broken, through no fault of the oblivious girl. As they share these fears, they are unaware that it is they who are breaking Hercules heart, as he overhears every word.
The Oracle calls upon Jason, as her dreams foretell a danger that is approaching, a woman lurking in darkness. Meanwhile, Hercules seeks freedom from his feelings, taking the advice of a trader who sends him to seek out someone who may help him get what he wants… her name is Circe and she’s more than happy to trade what Hercules really loves for the love of Medusa.
The Song of Sirens unleashed, Medusa falls, unwittingly, in love with Hercules and the pair spend time together, sharing stories and little else. It’s a chaste affair, but soon Medusa falls ill and Hercules must save his love.
Circe has other ideas and plans to lure Jason to a meeting that will set him on a dangerous path, casting Hercules as a literal pig and proving that friendship is the strongest bond of all.
For five episodes, it’s been a struggle to really connect with Hercules, with Mark Addy reduced to well-acted, shallow and oafish behaviour. Episode six brings us a comparatively towering performance, full of drama and emotion that flesh out his character. To make this even better, we have a much more convincing performance from Robert Emms and Jack Donnelly that, for the first time, actually gives the impression that Hercules, Pythagoras and Jason are friends and care for each other.
The scenes between Medusa and Hercules are beautiful and a testament to the acting skill of Jemima Rooper and Mark Addy. They manage to make the unconventional pairing touching and delightful to watch, with Hercules’ distress that he may lose his beloved nearly heartbreaking.
Lucy Cohu is brilliant as Circe, bringing real fire to the role. You may recognise her, just, from the role of Alice Carter in Torchwood: Children of Earth, or from Ripper Street. She is simply stunning, even with the disfiguring make-up, and, with Circe’s deal with Jason still to come to a head, she’ll hopefully return and we’ll see Circe confront either Pasiphae or The Oracle.
The episode doesn’t throw away any of what has made Atlantis an uneven series so far. There’s a bit of humour, but not too much and it’s doesn’t feel forced; there’s action, in the form of wrestling, a confrontation with a Harpie and Circe wielding her power, and it doesn’t feel out of place or pointless.
Almost half way through the series, this is the best Atlantis has been. It’s a simple enough tale of universal truths – friendship, love and hope – that is effectively told and well acted. It doesn’t sag, doesn’t slip into farce and doesn’t become pantomime. It’s a strong outing for a series that has, up to now, been incredibly variable and a tad underwhelming.
Perhaps this is the start of something new…
Read Dave’s review of the previous episode, White Lies, here.
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