Atlantis episode 9 review: Pandora’s Box

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.

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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.

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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. 

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