And here we go with series 2 of Atlantis! This is a sort of review, with my thoughts, random ramblings, and some pictures.
Needless to say, there will be great big spoilers for the espisode :-)
Firstly, the awards for the episode are:
Shirtless Award: Hercules
Adorable Award: Pythagoras and his, “I do it for love,” speech.
WTF?! Award: It’s a tie between Jason’s new hard man attitude, Pythagoras’ new fighting ability, and Pythagoras apparently seriously contemplating murdering someone in cold blood.
Well, that all got very exciting very quickly! Atlantis is back, with a whole new look and feel, and a lot more action. Possibly even too much action, purely because it launches straight into it with absolutely no explanation whatsoever, and then seems to lurch from one fight scene to another without a whole lot in between. I just about managed to keep up with what was going on, but that’s because I have read all the promo material. I dread to think how anyone might have coped if they hadn’t watched series 1 and just tuned in on a whim.
On the plus side, it’s essentially had a reboot of tone, and it appears that all the silly slapstick and fat jokes and childish humour has gone, which is excellent. Unfortunately, it appears that along with the annoying silly humour, they have got rid of almost all the humour, which is a shame because the fun and banter between the three leads was one of my favourite things about series 1. I don’t think Jason smiled once all episode, and Pythagoras and Hercules only smiled or laughed a couple of times. Perhaps it’s just because the opening episode was so action packed and playing for such high stakes, and once it calms down a bit in later episodes they might have more time for a bit of a laugh.
Jason appears to have forgotten how to smile, which is a shame when he normally has such a pretty face.
That said, I am very much liking the new, more mature and practical and introspective Hercules. I’m less impressed with the fact that Pythagoras appears to have turned into Mr Spock, with all this talk of logic and reason all the time.
And on the subject of Pythagoras, when exactly did he turn into a badass combatant? In series 1, half the time he couldn’t even be relied on to remember to even bring his sword at all, let alone use it in an effective manner. Now, okay, yes he is still the one most likely to fall over and need to be rescued in a fight, but for the most part he is pretty much holding his own in all the swordfights. I know all the promo material has said that it’s a year since the events of series 1, so possibly we are meant to assume that Pythagoras had been practising, but it still seems a massive leap for the character who was pretty much their non-combatant last year.
On the subject of the time jump, I don’t actually recall hearing it mentioned at all in the show that it was supposed to be a year later, or, for that matter, the reasons or circumstances surrounding Pasiphae being banished. I was on the phone to my mum earlier, and she was wondering if she had missed something because she didn’t remember Pasiphae being banished at the end of the last series. To paraphrase Elvis, maybe a little more conversation (and info dumping) and a little less action was required.
Ariadne certainly seems to be getting into the role of queen pretty well. She’s being decisive and in control, she knows what she needs to do, and mostly seems to know how to do it. This looks promising.
I have to say, I like Medea. From what we’ve seen so far she’s resourceful, intelligent, powerful, and pretty damn awesome. And she rides dragons (or whatever that thing was supposed to be). I get the feeling that if she ever ends up in a fight against the boys she’s going to kick their arses. Actually, I quite want to see that happen now I’ve thought about it!
So, onto specific comments about the episode.
Jason’s drug-induced vision was interesting. The Argo! That looks like it ought to be good. I was wondering if they might, one day, play with that particular bit of mythology.
The most surprising, and in some ways most defining scene in terms of the new tone, is the scene where they discover the surviving soldier after the fight, and stand there seriously discussing whether or not to kill him, because leaving him alive could jeopardise the mission. And when both Jason and Hercules have decided they can’t do it, Pythagoras actually looks like he is seriously contemplating murdering the man in cold blood for a good ten seconds or so before he, too, bottles it. The scary thing was, for a second there, I seriously wondered if he might actually do it. The fact that they even had that discussion at all is a reflection of the new feel of the show, and the whole ‘stakes are higher’ situation. That conversation simply would not have happened in series 1. Oh, and by the way, re Pythagoras in this scene, doesn’t anyone else remember episode 1.8 – The Furies from last year? This is definitely up there with this week’s WTF Awards.
Contemplating murder is obviously a serious business, and requires a serious expression. For ‘serious’, here you could also read, ‘rather hot’. Or maybe it's just me who thinks that...
Also on the subject of Pythagoras (yeah, this is me, what did you expect me to be focussing on?), I think it’s possible that he may have forgotten to update his CV recently. Currently, it ought to read ‘Useful skills and abilities: mathematics, healing, general knowledge, stealth ninja assassin’. No, stick with me on this one. I draw your attention to the scene in Pasiphae’s camp, when he’s keeping watch while Jason and Hercules search for the Palladium. Pythagoras ends up in single combat with a Colchian soldier, and kicks off the fight by apparently attempting to slit his throat. When that fails and the soldier overpowers him, there’s something of a tense fight in which we see Pythagoras desperately fighting the soldier off and trying to prevent the soldier from stabbing him in the throat with a dagger. The scene cuts away, and when we come back, the soldier is dead with the blade sticking out of his chest, and Pythagoras is completely fine, if a little shocked and breathless. How? How the hell did he do that on his own?
Seriously, look at the way that dagger is sticking out of the soldier. It’s been angled between two plates of leather armour so as to get past the armour and penetrate the flesh. That involves precision placing of the blade, which is pretty difficult in the ‘pinned down on the ground’ type of fight they were having. It also requires a great deal of physical force to push the blade past the armour and deep enough into the man’s body to achieve a fatal, or at the very least incapacitating, injury. Pythagoras has never come across as being that physically powerful.
So, stealth ninja assassin? Or did something else happen off-screen that might prove important later (which I very much doubt, given that the entire encounter seems to have been forgotten about within seconds of it being over). Or was it just dodgy editing?
The campfire conversation between Hercules and Pythagoras was probably one of my favourite bits of the entire episode, for obvious reasons. It was also the one scene that felt a lot closer in tone to the first series, and to the heart of the relationship between the three leads. This conversation is why Pythagoras is pretty much the only candidate for the Adorable Award for the week. Awww, bless.
“I love you. Both of you.”
Moving onto the subject of people who aren’t Pythagoras, is it just me, or has Jason turned into a grumpy, bossy bastard with an over-inflated sense of self-importance? Jason spent much of the latter part of the episode unconscious, which, quite frankly, came as a relief, because his shiny new, ‘I’m an angsty tortured hero with a destiny and we’re going to do things my way and I no longer appear to give a fuck whether my friends agree with me or not’ attitude was really starting to get annoying. I don’t care how much Pythagoras loves him; if Jason keeps treating his friends like that I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them turns round and punches him in the face before the series is over.
“Ever since I came to Atlantis I've been told I have a destiny. A purpose. For the first time, I think I understand.”
That said, along with the campfire conversation, the last ten minutes or so actually seemed a lot more like series 1, once Jason was unconscious and the other two were directing the action. The whole bridge sequence and the bits in the caves felt far more like one of the adventures they would have had before. And also, Cyclops! Excellent! Other fun moments definitely include the catapult escape, and it’s nice to see they haven’t forgotten that Pythagoras should be using his brain to get them out of trouble instead of just attempting to stab anything that moves.
Sadly, this is not the ‘three in a bed’ that it looks like. It is, however, one of the most fun moments in the entire episode, when Pythagoras decides it’s a good idea to fire themselves at the sea out of an enemy catapult.
So, new look, new feel, new tone, several new characters. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it a lot. But I think the sheer scale of the difference from series 1 is what has thrown me a little. The best way I can think to describe it is feeling like I walked into a cinema expecting to watch Indianna Jones, and got halfway through before I realised I was sitting in the wrong screen and was watching a Quentin Tarantino film.
One thing is very clear – this is not the same show that I was watching last year. Right at this moment, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.