Atlantis continues much as it started with another action packed episode A Girl by Any Other Name. Penned by Howard Overman (as was the first episode, The Earth Bull) this story has the task of moving on the series without rushing too fast. This it does with style.
Modern TV series have to balance providing self-contained stories that entertain in their own right with an overall story arc. Gone are the days where people made a bunch of episodes that occasionally nodded towards a bigger picture; we know explicitly that Jason is in Atlantis for something big. We the viewers also have the same inside knowledge that Jason has – we know Atlantis sinks at some point and are keeping half-an-eye open for impending disaster. This allows the writers to catch us unawares.
A new series also has to paint the characters for us and this episode focussed predominantly on Hercules with Jason’s development being oriented to the series as a whole. We assume Pythagoras will be getting an episode that focusses on him. The story started in a simplistic manner with Hercules shown as an unreliable drunk. Into this comes an old man, Itheus (Karl Johnson – Twister from Lark Rise to Candleford) whose daughter Demetria has gone missing. We have already seen a young woman (Jemima Rooper – Amanda in Lost in Austen) captured in the woods and we soon learn of a cult of Dionysus with its fanatical female followers, the Mænads and hideous Satyrs. All men who enter the forest are taken and sacrificed so of course in go our three heroes.
Hercules plays to his type and is tricked into leaving the others sleeping. He is trapped but rescued by Jemima Rooper on whom he quickly forms a crush. This transforms his behaviour wonderfully and really brings his character to life. We then have various temple encounters in which Jason is shown to have authority over the Satyrs and Jemima Rooper is in fact not Demetrea but named Medusa! A climactic battle in the forest has Medusa save Jason by killing the Mænad leader Anysia (Frances Tomelty) and becoming cursed. Of course we and Jason know what that means though no-one else does.
For me this was another really strong episode with the Medusa thread being quite innovative. Jemima Rooper is excellent as the resourceful future Gorgon and her sub-arc, if pursued, will be something to look out for.
The only flaw we can find in the programme so far is its broadcast time – is 8:30 Saturday evening the right time for the natural audience? We look forward keenly to next week.