Julian Jones takes to the writing helm with the latest instalment of Atlantis, The Gorgon’s Gaze. The title gives a major clue as to the story, and last week’s preview clips should have left viewers in no doubt that Medusa (Jemima Rooper) would return to her snake-haired form. With a queen to rescue, it is up to our heroes to do whatever they must to save Atlantis from Pasiphae (Sarah Parish).
Jason (Jack Donnelly) and Hercules (Mark Addy) are mostly passive as Pythagoras (Robert Emms) leads the action. He sneaks back into Atlantis and make his way to friends: Daedalus (Robert Lindsay) and his son Icarus (Joseph Timms). No sooner are they introduced than they rush off to temple, steal Pandora’s box and Pythagoras is back on his way, though not without some meaningful glances with Icarus – a romantic sub-plot?
Jason and Hercules are still out of the loop as Medusa takes the box to a nearby cave (there seems to be a minimum quota of cave scenes in this show) and goes back to gorgon form. All this happens off screen while Pythagoras explains to Jason what has happened and how Medusa chose this fate as her punishment for killing the Oracle. She had also mentioned that Jason only needed her head…
Back in Atlantis, Pasiphae and her sidekick Medea (Amy Manson) spend most of their time torturing Queen Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) mostly to occupy time while Jason’s arc gets him back in the city armed with his petrifying head (not an expression you write every day). He frees Ariadne, but not before he learns a secret that stops him killing Pasiphae. He is also tempted, again, by Medea and there are echoes of Star Wars and of turning Jason to the dark side. It all works pretty well.
What works less well is the way the story rushes to get to its conclusions. Medusa’s fate is a complex and original thread, too soon cut, and the way Hercules is kept off-stage avoids really exploring this turning point. In similar vein, no sooner does Lindsay re-appear as Daedalus than he vanishes back into the alleyways of the city. Will he return? If there’s any justice, yes; this is another strong idea worthy of exploration as is the new Oracle.
The darkness of this season really shows in this story, and every single female actor brims with screen presence and genuine character. Amongst the heroes, Hercules is subdued (there is always next week as he explores his grief over Medusa), Pythagoras has plenty to do but poor Jason, the central figure of these stories, is somewhat a victim of events with little control over his destiny. Roll on next week’s Dying of the Light.
Better but not well balanced, Atlantis seems very well aware of its cancellation and is cramming too much into each episode and not letting it breathe. Some very good ideas and dark tones, but not enough expression of them.