This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This review contains spoilers.
Troy: Fall Of A City Episode 7
The title of this episode, “Twelve Days”, refers to the truce agreed between the Greeks and Trojans to allow for a funeral to be celebrated for Hector. While the Christmas truce of World War One is the most famous, the presence of this scene in the source poem the Iliad proves that short breaks in war to bury the dead are almost as old as warfare itself. There is one major difference though – in the Iliad, everyone on both sides respects the truce, as it would be extremely dishonourable to break it. Here, Agamemnon and Odysseus trick Achilles into thinking the truce has been broken, something even the tricksy Odysseus does not do in myth (though why Achilles to implicitly trusts someone known for trickery is a bit of a mystery).
The episode opens on Achilles’ refusal to return Hector’s body to Troy. The scene between Priam and Achilles in which Achilles finally gives him up is one of the most effective page to screen adaptations this series has done. A bit exposition-heavy at first, the scene is expanded from the source poem and we see Priam and Achilles connect a bit and talk about their dead. It’s a shame not to see Priam grasp Achilles’ knees in supplication though – even though modern audiences wouldn’t understand all the historical context of the gesture, it’s a powerful visual anyway.
The conclusion of that scene brings us out of the Iliad and into the stories surrounding the closing stages of the war. The timescale is of this series is completely unclear. In myth, the war takes ten years, and some bits of dialogue seem to imply that might be the case. Odysseus wonders if Penelope will remember him when he gets home, Agamemnon tells Menelaus he said he would avenge his shame ‘many years ago’ and Helen says she hasn’t seen her daughter in years. On the other hand, no one really seems to have aged ten years, and the timescale on Andromache trying for a baby, conceiving Astyanax and giving birth could be ten years, but feels more like two to five (considering she seems to have been trying for a while before Helen arrived).
Whatever the timescale, the end is definitely nigh, and when Odysseus declares he has had enough at the end of the episode, it feels very much like what Odysseus says is what will happen. We also see stories inching slowly towards their conclusions, with Helen, becoming more unlikeable by the moment, deciding to return to Menelaus after all and Odysseus’ spy Xanthias (a common name for slaves in Greek comedy) returning to the Greeks.
If all of that wasn’t enough of an indication that we’re nearing the end, both sides are also swiftly running out of main characters as Achilles follows Hector and Patroclus to the next world. Now that we’re out of the Homeric Iliad, the pace has picked up again with Achilles rushing from killing Penthesilea to his own death in a matter of minutes. In myth, Achilles falls in love with Penthesilea at the moment he kills her, but there isn’t really a way to do that here, so her story just peters out.
Other loose ends are being tied up. What to do with Briseis is one of those thorny issues for modern adaptations in which the audience are expected to care rather more about her than an ancient Greek audience did. In the Iliad, she is given back to Achilles and mourns for Patroclus. The poem concludes before the death of Achilles and she isn’t important outside the poem, so it’s not clear what happens to her when he dies. David Benioff in Troy (2004) made her a princess of Troy and had her returned with Priam. Here, she hasn’t even been returned to Achilles, and instead the series uses her to gain some audience sympathy for Odysseus, who advises her on when to escape and helps her.
In other news, Aeneas finally gets something to do! Apparently his “love” and most of his home city have already died from disease. He seems to have a thing for Penthesilea, who politely tells him she doesn’t swing that way before going out and dying anyway. Pretty much the only thing Aeneas has in common with his married, Trojan classical counterpart so far is the name, but perhaps he will get something to do in the final episode next week. And at least he was able to demonstrate his feelings for Penthesilea subtly, whereas Odysseus tells us he loved Achilles after the latter’s death. We saw the two of them work together and trust each other, and the way Achilles talks with Odysseus and ignores Agamemnon shows that Achilles and Odysseus are clearly the real leaders of the Greek army, while Agamemnon and Menelaus stand around shouting. But we haven’t seen a whole lot of love (of any kind, romantic, friendly or companionable) between them over the last nine hours.
The gods, meanwhile, are still thoroughly mysterious. Zeus tells Aphrodite that ‘none of us’ decide fate – so who does, then? That fits with the part of the Iliad in which Zeus cannot save his mortal son from death, but it’s interesting. It’s hard to say whether the mysterious nature of the gods in this series is really effective, keeping them strange and alluring, or whether they are too mysterious to be interesting or engaging, appearing and disappearing at random with little motivation and no context.
We’re nearly at the end now, with only one episode to go to fulfil the promise of the series title. Will the gods actually do anything else, or will they leave the humans to suffer in the mess they’ve put them in? We’ll have to wait and see…