Troy: Fall Of A City Episode 3 Review: Siege

The BBC's new Troy drama devotes some rare time to the actual siege in its latest episode. Spoilers ahead...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers.

Troy: Fall Of A City Episode 3

We’re a year in to the Siege of Troy now, Priam’s fabulous moustache is somewhat greyer, and both siegers and besieged are in desperate need of food. Stories about the Trojan War tend to focus on the beginning stages (the Judgment of Paris, the abduction of Helen, the sacrifice of Iphigenia), the battle parts, or the final stages and then the return home of the survivors afterwards. This means that the lengthy period of time during which the both sides are stuck in a stalemate in one place is rarely depicted in a really meaningful way. It’s refreshing, then, to see here a story about Troy under siege; the siege is at the heart of the myth, but rarely placed at the heart of the story-telling.

At the opening of the episode, Paris and Helen get married, and quite a lot is made of this throughout. Menelaus refuses to accept this marriage, which is unsurprising, as in ancient Greece, women did not have the right to divorce their husbands. Men could send their wives back to their fathers and divorce them, but women had no such right. So technically Menelaus is correct, Helen is still his wife (as much as viewers are probably more likely to take Paris’ and Helen’s side on that one). The wedding tells us something about how Paris and Helen, and indeed the Trojans more generally, view their relationship, but is a slightly odd choice in the middle of the war, as the Greeks will never accept it.

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The real benefit of a setting like a siege is that you can spend plenty of time having characters sit down and talk to each other – because they have nothing else to do – and that allows the audience to get to know them better, something this series desperately needs. And indeed, in this episode, we do start to get to know some of these characters better. Although we are still told rather than shown that Andromache treats Helen like an enemy, her struggles to have a baby humanise her a bit, and their later conversation tells us a lot more about both characters than we’ve had a chance to hear before now. Priam credits Greek strategy entirely to Odysseus, which tells us something about how sharp both men are. Paris is working hard to redeem himself by joining in manual labour and using his knowledge of the local hills to open up a supply line. We also learn a lot more about Hector, partly from his talk with Paris about marriage, but even more from his actions after he is basically told to murder his brother and fids himself unable to do so.

Helen is still feeling guilty about the war, as well she should. Hecuba tells her that she shouldn’t blame herself because if she’d gone back to the Greeks, they’d have carried on anyway. Considering Agamemnon has felt obliged to gain something from this war ever since he killed Iphigenia, she may be right, though that does rather skim over the fact that Helen could have chosen not to run away with a foreign diplomat in the first place. When a Trojan woman tells Helen that what she did was brave, it seems perhaps a bit unlikely. But when she adds that she’s not Helen of Sparta, but Helen of Troy now, the moment is rather sweet, and a nice touch considering that is how the character is usually known.

Achilles gets a bit more characterisation as well. His refusal to play fight and his genuine belief that if he takes Helen back to Menelaus, the war will end, say a lot about him, though his creepy behaviour towards Helen does not work in his favour. He does crack an actual joke though, and as it’s the only one in the episode, it’s very welcome. We also meet his companion Patroclus, but the exact nature of their relationship, which varies in different versions of the ancient myths, is left unclear. They are of the same ethnicity, which might be intended to imply that they are related, but not necessarily, as neither is related to Nestor (or Aeneas, or Zeus for that matter).

Some characters, however, are still basically names with swords. Poor Alfred Enoch got better characterisation playing Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films than he does here as Aeneas.

There were a lot of gloomy predictions in the second half of the episode about how the city is doomed if Paris returns, which is a bit odd as surely it’s too late now. Getting rid of Paris at this stage would definitely constitute locking the stable door after the Trojan Horse has bolted. It’s possible that it was Paris saving Hector’s life that is what will doom the city, but we’ll say no more on that for now – it certainly gives us something to think about over the next few episodes…