Made it! Posted before ep 2.10 airs! Admittedly, only 45 minutes before 2.10 airs, but that's not the point!
So, here we go with the review post for 2.9 - The Gorgon's Gaze. It's the longest one yet, and ha the most screencaps, with a record 34. Oops!
Shirtless Award: no one
All the Hugs Award: Pythagoras
But... But... Nooooooooo! Award: Medusa
Wow. That was a bloody good episode. In many ways, that was the episode that I had wanted episode 2.8 to be, with the emotional dilemmas and awesome acting from Mark and Robert (and anyone who has read my review for episode 2.8 knows exactly how much I had to say on how badly that episode did not live up to expectation). 2.9, on the other hand, gave us not only some incredible acting from Mark and Robert, it gave us incredible acting from everyone, and a script that supported that, without any of the ridiculous suspension of disbelief issues that we had in 2.8. Well done to everyone involved in making episode 2.9, it was up there amongst the very best episodes of Atlantis, ever.
So, we start out with the new Oracle, Cassandra, making her first official prophesy. Sadly for Pasiphae, it is not favourable. The last time the queen of Atlantis ‘defied the gods’ she was deemed a blasphemer and arrested. This time? Pasiphae has the Oracle arrested. Somehow Melas doesn’t seem so keen to bandy the word ‘blasphemer’ around now, does he?
Meanwhile, our heroes appear to be hiding in the hunting lodge in the mountains, with nothing in the way of a plan, and Jason falling ever deeper into despair. Hercules, on the other hand, appears to be content, happy even, because he has his beloved Medusa back. The scene with Pythagoras and Medusa is sweet, and it’s nice to see Medusa interacting with one of the boys who isn’t Hercules for a change. Her scenes with Pythagoras suggest that they have a stronger friendship than we have ever really seen onscreen (although it’s likely she doesn’t know how quick Pythagoras was to want to offer her up in exchange for Jason in episode 2.8). With the darker tone of series 2, we haven’t seen much of Pythagoras’ ‘mother hen’ mode lately, so seeing him try to comfort Medusa is a welcome nod back to the first series portrayal of the character. That said, this being series 2, the comfort is largely empty, and there is no easy fix with a hug and some kind words.
The scene with Hercules and Jason is lovely. Mark Addy really has been allowed to shine in series 2, with a far more mature realisation of Hercules from the series 1 comedy buffoon. Despite Pythagoras’ attempt to reassure Jason the previous night, Hercules is the one who actually manages to drag Jason out of his angsty brooding, and give him renewed fire and conviction. It’s a convincing scene from both Mark and Jack (and I have to admit, Jack’s acting has improved tremendously from series 1).
In the city, however, things aren’t going so well. After the Oracle’s prophesy, Pasiphae has to consolidate her power before word gets out that the gods are against her, and offers Ariadne the chance to live if she renounces her throne (although really, how many of us actually believe that she would let Ariadne live, even if she did willingly give up the throne?). Ariadne, of course, basically tells her to piss off. So Pasiphae has Delmos taken away and tortured. Not subtle.
Nestor, the cute young soldier from last week who is still, apparently, loyal to Ariadne and Delmos, smuggles food to the queen, and what little news he has of what is going on. Ariadne, somewhat desperate by this point, begs him to get word to Jason, no matter how dangerous it is for Nestor to try to do so. The fact that she accurately knows/guess the location where the boys are is possibly the only plot point this week that stretches credibility, but it’s a minor one so we’ll let it go. Although she refers to it as the place where Jason took her to meet her brother, Therus (referring back to episode 1.4 – White Lies). Which does raise the interesting question of what happened to Therus, and where is he now? Because when Minos died, it ought to have been Therus, and not Ariadne, who was in line to inherit the throne of Atlantis. Even a throwaway line saying they hadn’t been able to find him, or that they had received news of his death would have resolved that loose end, but to my knowledge we have had nothing at all mentioning him in series 2 until this point.
So Nestor manages to get word to Pythagoras. I’m actually beginning to fear for Nester’s long term survival. He has now appeared in two episodes, and in both of them he has risked much to get messages to the boys. He is both recognisable and likeable. This is exactly the kind of character who would have more emotional impact if he was killed, rather than just a random bit-part of the week.
Medusa cooks up a plot and enlists Pythagoras to help, but insists that they cannot tell the others. As she so accurately points out, if Jason knew exactly how bad Ariadne’s situation had become, “He will only do something rash.” We don’t see Medusa outlining her plan, or how hard she had to work to persuade Pythagoras to go along with it. By the time they return to the hunting lodge they have obviously come to an agreement on what they plan to do, and that they will indeed keep it from the others. Pythagoras does not look happy about it, but he goes along with it.
It’s interesting that Medusa trusts Pythagoras to go along with this, despite his clear loyalty to Hercules and Jason. Obviously Hercules would not go along with it, and, as Medusa says, Jason would attempt to do something rash and impulsive. Pythagoras is the only one who she feels might be persuaded (not to mention the only one who is currently not under a death sentence in the city - an argument that they use quite effectively to persuade Hercules ad Jason to let Pythagoras return to Atlantis alone). Perhaps she does know, or has an inkling, of how Pythagoras was willing to sacrifice her for Jason after all?
That Pythagoras agrees to lie to his friend and betray Hercules’ trust like that is perhaps not as surprising as it initially appears. Remember back in 1.10 – The Price of Hope, Pythagoras was quite prepared to keep the secret of how to cure Medusa from Hercules, in order to prevent Hercules from sacrificing himself. In that episode, during a conversation that reveals a lot about their friendship, Hercules said to Pythagoras, “No matter what you do, even when I’m too pig-headed to see it, I know you’ve always got my best interests at heart. You’re a good friend to me, Pythagoras.” Whether he will feel the same by the end of this episode is another matter. But perhaps that, right there, is the motivation behind Pythagoras going along with Medusa’s plan (it’s also worth noting that this point that Medusa neglected to mention the part where she intended to die as soon as she turns. Pythagoras believes that she merely intends to become cursed again. Perhaps if he had known the second part before he went and retrieved Pandora’s Box he might have been less supportive of the plan. Medusa clearly knows him well).
Melas goes to visit Cassandra in prison, and warns her that she has to word it carefully when she reports the words of the gods. Cassandra gives that the respect she feels it deserves. Melas, finally, seems to have realised that perhaps he has made a huge mistake in betraying everyone and letting Pasiphae take control. Really? It’s taken him this long to work that out?
The scene where Pythagoras is leaving to return to Atlantis is an interesting one for all their states of mind. Pythagoras is going off alone into certain danger, and all Jason seems to care about is getting word to Ariadne to tell her that Jason loves her and will come for her. He is really rocking the self-absorbed brooding this episode! He has absolutely no words of support for Pythagoras himself, no goodbye hug; that is left to Hercules and Medusa. Hercules couches it in a light-hearted exchange about bringing back wine and pies, but his parting words, “Don’t do anything stupid,” is pretty much Hercules-speak for, “For the love of the gods come back to me alive, Pythagoras”. Medusa’s parting words are in some ways more sincere because she is the only one who knows what Pythagoras is actually going to do once he gets to Atlantis.
Pythagoras, meanwhile, is beginning to show an independence from the group that we haven’t really seen much before. It was notable in series 1 that while both Jason and Hercules often went off by themselves, it took until episode 1.9 before we ever saw Pythagoras do something significant entirely by himself, without either or both of the other two with him (the precise circumstances being when Hercules and Jason went to Hades, and Pythagoras was left running around the city trying to find their bodies and save their lives). We also had him going off and doing investigations and research by himself in episode 1.11, when he was trying to find a cure for Jason’s curse, and in series 2, in 2.3, when he was investigating around Telemon. But for the most part, Pythagoras does not tend to be given plot that he does by himself, he is far more often working as part of the group, or in a support role to one of the other two. So it’s a welcome, and interesting, change to see him finally getting something significant to do entirely by himself, and to see him interacting with people outside of the core group.
And following on from that last point, the scenes with Pythagoras and Daedalus and Icarus are lovely simply for the fact that they show Pythagoras actually does have a life and friends and interests outside of the core group. Hercules and Pythagoras have lived in Atlantis for years, so logic suggests that they must have other friends. We have seen Hercules’ friendship with Critias earlier in series 2, and a brief appearance by Daedalus in series 1, but beyond that it is generally rare to see them with anyone else, or to get a sense of what they actually do with their lives when they aren’t going on dangerous quests or saving the city or getting dragged into Jason’s latest escapades.
Delmos, meanwhile, has been returned to Ariadne, horribly tortured. Despite this, he makes Ariadne promise that no matter what happens to him, she must not give in to Pasiphae. Ten out of ten for loyalty. One out of ten for long term survival prospects.
So, Pythagoras sneaks back into Atlantis (let’s gloss over exactly how, considering that he is a known friend and associate of Jason and Hercules, and is therefore probably high on the ‘arrest on sight’ list). His first port of call is his good friend Daedalus, we finally have the appearance of Daedalus’ son, Icarus, and all of tumblr promptly exploded from the collective release of six months of anticipation. Now, let’s be clear, I want to see Pythagoras/Icarus as canon as much as anyone, but let’s at least make an attempt to look at what we actually got without viewing it through the slash goggles, and pretending that we don’t know about that extremely suggestive gif from the trailer that aired last November. When you strip all that back, what we actually saw was two hugs and a lot of eye contact.
Okay, let’s elaborate; two extremely enthusiastic hugs. But remember this is Pythagoras – he is, and always has been, an incredibly tactile man, and requires very little provocation to hug his friends and the people he cares about. And even when he’s not hugging them, there is generally a fair amount of casual physical contact – a hand on a shoulder or arm, an arm slung around someone’s shoulder, that kind of thing. So is what we saw with Icarus any different from that?
Possibly. The hugs were certainly very enthusiastic. You could argue they haven’t seen each other for some time, and with everything else that was going on in the city lately, and the knowledge that Pythagoras is best friends with someone who was recently accused of murdering The Oracle, Icarus may have thought Pythagoras was dead, which might explain the enthusiasm at seeing each other alive and well. But still, there’s also the extended physical contact long after the hug itself has ended (particularly on Icarus’ part). And all the eye contact while Pythagoras was explaining what he intended to do. And Icarus repeatedly worrying that it was too risky (although, granted, he might just be a natural worrier about everything; with only five minutes of airtime it’s impossible to say whether his concern was heightened because it was Pythagoras, or if he’s always so risk-averse). And see this post for a succinct and persuasive argument by rushiwick for how their parting was acted and filmed in such a way as to be suggestive of a romantic scene, without actually being a romantic scene.
It is all very persuasive. But in fairness, it could also just be read as simply a very close friendship.
So, Pythagoras/Icarus aside, it was great to see Robert Lindsay back as Daedalus. One suspects he has fun playing that character. Despite the obvious danger of being associated with Pythagoras, Daedalus immediately lets him in without question, and despite initial scepticism, very quickly gets on board with Pythagoras’ plan, especially when he hears that Pythagoras intends to steal Pandora’s Box. The fact that he goes along with it based on practically no information as to what Pythagoras plans to do with Pandora’s Box once he gets it, implies that Daedalus has a great deal of respect for, and trust in, Pythagoras.
Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that Daedalus is may well have been in Atlantis long enough to remember the last time there was hostile takeover in the royal household, when Minos and Pasiphae overthrew Aeson. No doubt for a time, then, as now, the city was thrown into turmoil until the political situation settled and something like normality returned. It’s obvious from Daedalus’ comments that he has no love for the new regime right now, but he also has the sense to keep his head down, and until Pythagoras turned up on his doorstep with a better offer, it is quite possible that Daedalus simply intended to wait it out until everything calmed down again.
Icarus, of course, is far too young to remember any of that, so this new oppressive police-state that they are living in is all new to him. Perhaps that is why he seems so reluctant and nervous about trying to act against Pasiphae and her army. Nevertheless, he helps anyway, despite his fears, although it’s unclear how much of that is because he wants to help Pythagoras, or how much is Daedalus forcing him to go along with it whether he wants to or not (oh, and congratulations to Robert Lindsay and Joseph Timms for showing us, in less than five minutes, exactly how much of a dysfunctional relationship Daedalus and Icarus have with each other).
Anyway, his plan works, and Daedalus obvious enjoys getting to blow shit up as a distraction (although distractions frequently work better if the person for whom you are creating the distraction – i.e. Pythagoras – actually knows what to expect). Pythagoras gets into the temple, and finds Pandora’s Box lying around in plain view. You have to love the security of the temple – first The Oracle was kidnapped from the inner sanctum, now Pythagoras can just wander in and help himself to some of the most powerful artefacts of the gods. Then he runs into Melas, and things don’t look good for a moment, until Pythagoras appeals to what remains of Melas’ loyalty to the city, and offers him another way, and Melas helps him escape undetected.
It is interesting to contrast how Pythagoras works when he is away from the core group. If Jason or Hercules had been the one doing the sneaking around and stealing of things, chances are they would have acted alone, and fought their way out if discovered. Pythagoras knows he is not strong or capable if it comes to straight fight, so he relies on his friends, and even on appealing to Melas, despite all evidence suggesting that Melas will more than likely betray him. This actually seems very in-character if you consider how Pythagoras has always been played as a kind person, who will help others without a thought. Perhaps, finally, that kindness and willingness to do anything for a friend is coming back round when Pythagoras is the one who needs help.
Ariadne continues to defy Pasiphae, and Delmos meets a rather brutal end right in front of Ariadne’s eyes. Nevertheless, she honours his loyalty by telling Pasiphae to piss off. Again. I have to admit that I don’t normally have a great deal to say about Ariadne, but on this occasion I have to comment on the fact that Aiysha Hart turned in a very strong performance for this episode, and, indeed, for last week’s episode as well. Of course, it helps that in series 2 the scriptwriters have given her some decent material to work with, rather than simply flouncing around the palace trading sarcastic jibes with Pasiphae, and mooning over Jason, which seemed to be her lot for much of series 1. Here, her scenes with Sarah Parish, while not necessarily being on a par with the scenes between Sarah Parish and Juliet Stevenson in episode 2.7, are very well played.
Pythagoras returns to the hunting lodge, and is met by Medusa, who is clearly waiting to ambush him before he sees the others. Pythagoras tries to get her to reconsider, and it is only now that Medusa reveals that she does not intend to live for long once she is re-cursed. She then begs him not to tell the others, and resorts to something like emotional blackmail, “Do not make this any harder for me.” The look on Pythagoras’ face says it all, but by now he’s already too far involved to back out. Okay, no, this isn’t too late. If he decided to draw the line at helping her to kill herself, he could, at this point, turn and run as far away as possible, taking Pandora’s Box with him. But he doesn’t. Pythagoras, ultimately, has a practical and a pragmatic streak that the others do not. No matter how much he does not want to lose Medusa, he continues to go along with this, and to hide it from Hercules and Jason, because he knows that this might be the only way. And, perhaps, he has enough respect for Medusa to let her make her own decisions – something that Hercules and Jason would not do on this matter unless they were given no other option, which is effectively how it all plays out. As noted earlier, Pythagoras has previous form on the subject of hiding things from his friends when he believes it is in their best interests to not know.
Pasiphae ups the pressure on Ariadne by bringing in Medea to use black magic as a torture device. Much as I have all respect for the acting and such, I have to admit that by this point I was getting a little irritated by these scenes, because there are only so many ways that you can rehash a scene that essentially boils down to Pasiphae saying, “Renounce the throne to me!” and Ariadne saying, “Fuck you, bitch.”
In lieu of detailed analysis of the entire sequence, I’d just like to say hats off to Jemima Rooper, Mark Addy, Robert Emms and Jack Donnelly for the entire sequence of scenes starting with Pythagoras and Medusa conspiring to drug Hercules, Medusa saying goodbye to Hercules, them both explaining to Jason that he has to kill Medusa to save Ariadne, Jason carrying out the deed, and finally, Pythagoras breaking the news to Hercules. Every single one of them was utterly convincing, and the entire sequence was by turns both brutal and heartbreaking. I actually cried the first time I watched this.
I wonder if being forced to kill Medusa is actually far more responsible for Jason’s emotional and psychological downfall than receiving the news about his parentage? Certainly the two events in such close succession can’t have helped, especially considering he was already in a pretty volatile emotional state to start with. I also wonder if Hercules and Pythagoras’ friendship can ever be the same after everything that Pythagoras has done in this episode. I commented in my review for episode 2.3 that we might be seeing the beginning of the end for their friendship as a trio. I am very afraid this episode may have finished it completely.
After everything else that has happened in this episode (and boy, a lot of stuff was packed in there), the final scenes where Jason uses Medusa’s severed head to fight his way into Atlantis and save Ariadne seem almost anti-climactic. Of course, the real point of him going back to Atlantis is to have the face off with Pasiphae, in which she finally tells him that she is his mother. She only does so to prevent Jason from killing her, and it works. Medea has some explanation that there is a magical bond between them, and that he cannot kill Pasiphae and Medea because they are blood, or something. Technically so were Circe and Heptarian, and Jason had no problem killing them, but perhaps the difference is simply the whole ‘touched by the gods’ thing?
Either way, he leaves both Pasiphae and Medea alive, and appears to be in a pretty foul mood by the time he rescues Ariadne; there aren’t even any hugs or concern for Ariadne after everything she has been through.
Technically by the end of the episode the plan has worked exactly as intended, they have rescued Ariadne, and it should be a positive ending. It actually feels like the not so calm before the even bigger storm.
On a final note, let’s take a moment to appreciate Jemima Rooper’s portrayal of Medusa. Much as we should try to avoid comparison with Merlin, back in series 1 when she was first introduced, and The Oracle told Jason it was his destiny to kill her to save Atlantis, a lot of people felt that Medusa was going to have a broadly similar story arc to Morganna – gradually cursed and corrupted until a character who started out as a friend and ally became an enemy. How much more fantastic was it that they didn’t go down that route, and that in the end, Medusa remained a strong, loyal, brave, and loving friend who chose to sacrifice herself to help her friends and save everyone. Well done Atlantis, that was actually something I hadn’t seen coming (and I am so glad I didn’t get accidentally spoiled for Medusa’s death as I was for The Oracle’s).
And after all that angst and pain and tears, if you want to cheer up a bit, read this recap of episode 2.9 by ceryshightower on tumblr. It had me in tears – but this time it was tears of laughter.