Atlantis series 2 episode 1 review: A New Dawn: Part One

Atlantis makes a welcome return with an action-packed start to a more grown-up second series...

This review contains spoilers.

2.1 A New Dawn Part One

Atlantis series 2 is, it seems, a rebirth for the series, with actors Mark Addy (Hercules) and Jack Donnelly (Jason) suggesting in interviews that writer Howard Overman and producers Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps have created an improvement on the first.

This time around, the show’s creators seem to be taking advantage of the storytelling opportunities offered by Atlantis 8.30pm timeslot, after the mis-step in the first season that saw a programme being broadcast at close to the watershed without any of the maturity that an audience would expect at that time. While A New Dawn Part One wasn’t full of nudity, violence and gore, it’s certainly dramatically darker than series one

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Starting with King Midas’ funeral and Pasiphae attacking, Ariadne darkly states that “this means war”, setting up a series that will hopefully see two strong female characters – polar opposites on the ethical spectrum – going head to head in a battle for Atlantis.

On Ariadne’s side, we have Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras, still fighting the good fight and deployed to retrieve The Palladium, an artefact that will, when removed from Atlantis, lead to the fall of the city. We are also introduced to Lord Sarpadon, a man whose past isn’t entirely explained, into the court of the Queen, as counsel to Ariadne. It quickly becomes apparent that his loyalties are somewhat divided. We also welcome the mysterious Medea (Amy Manson), an intriguing new addition to the group.

As soldiers flee and buildings shake, the heroes set out to retrieve The Palladium, now in the possession of Pasiphae, after a revelation of the future from The Oracle – a future that involves The Argo, blood on Ariadne’s hands and a hint at the fate of Atlantis. 

With Pasiphae’s troops preparing to storm Atlantis, knowing that the city is ripe for the taking, the trio becomes trapped inside a cave thanks to Pasiphae’s dark magic… a cave that houses The Cyclops.

As a reintroduction to Atlantis, this episode does a good job of setting up the characters and the world, but also presenting a new Atlantis of intrigue and betrayal. There’s still the humour, mostly involving Hercules, though it’s less awkward and intrusive than previously. Also still present is the athleticism of Jason, though there’s no sign of his formerly trademark back flips in fight scenes. Indeed, the fight scenes, of which there are many, are well executed while still being relatively gore free.

With Ariadne in power, Aiysha Hart portrays the Queen with a sense of detachment, though not coldness, whereas Sarah Parish continues to steal the show as the frosty Pasiphae. The trailer at the end of this episodes suggests that these two characters will cross paths during series 2 and that’s promises to be something worth waiting for.

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Robert Emms is, once again, great as Pythagoras, especially when he explains why he’s with both Jason and Hercules and his reluctance to indulge in violence. Mark Addy gets the silly moments, as well as more lightly philosophical musing and a show of strength, which had almost been forgotten previously. Donnelly in particular seems much more comfortable in his portrayal of Jason, less wooden and much more engaging.

Series 2 kicks off with an episode that is filled with action, where politics and mysticism are mixed with incident and adventure. It’s an easy episode to watch, with plenty of potential if the series continues in the same vein. It doesn’t require an encylopaedic knowledge of its mythology and goes for entertainment over education, bringing it closer in tone to the BBC’s Merlin.

A New Dawn, Part One certainly ends on a strong cliff-hanger – with the heroes and Atlantis in danger – and sets up the potential for a great series 2 after a rocky series 1.

Read Dave’s review of the series one finale, Touched By The Gods Part Two, here.

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