Monday, 16 December 2013

Atlantis: Hunger Pangs


In this episode, Jason suffers from an unfortunate little problem at night, and we're reminded that he and Ariadne still fancy each other...

Atlantis hits the same pet peeve of mine this week that Plebs did back in the spring, as Jason suffers from stealing food offered to the gods. This particular mis-understanding of ancient religion drives me batty. Religious people are not stupid. The Greeks and Romans were not stupid. When food was offered to the gods, the gods got the bones and the fat, the priests or the people (depending on the occasion) got the meat. You don't kill a valuable animal and then waste the best bits on the gods, that's a quick way to starve yourselves. You might offer the gods first fruits, but that's on the assumption that it's harvest time and there will be plenty more fruits to eat. There was a whole special myth - part of the story of Prometheus - to explain why humans got to eat the good parts of the animal and the gods got the useless bones. No one would suffer, socially or magically, for eating the meat offered to the gods. I suppose in this case Jason took the bones as well, but still.

Other than that - and the bit about turning into a dog, of course - the representation of the cult of Hecate is pretty accurate. Hecate was goddess of witchcraft, ghosts and necromancy, and therefore associated with the underworld. Her statue was often a triple woman, facing three ways, as she was also associated with crossroads (crossroads being associated with danger and magic in ancient mythology). She was also associated with black dogs, and with Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the underworld. Her temple here is nicely atmospheric, and I especially liked the three-headed statue. Obviously, the bit about people who take her offerings turning into dogs is an invention of the show - though it does once again raise the question of just how present or absent the gods are in Atlantis, as it would seem to imply that Hecate herself is punishing Jason - unless her priest is behind it, using witchcraft (which would make sense).

This is a "funny" episode. You can tell from the music, which is painfully jaunty and desperately 'light' and 'comic' from the start. It reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer a lot in places - particularly 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered', which featured Hecate, accidental nudity and people looking for a rat (albeit not to kill it) and 'Phases', in which we discover that Oz is a werewolf. I've always liked Buffy's 'funny' episodes, and I've nothing against the idea of throwing in a lighter story in between the heavier emotional stuff in the ongoing arc. The downside is, humour is a subjective thing, and for me, it wasn't especially hilarious - though I did like Hercules covering Pythagoras' eyes and Pythagoras peeking when Jason appears naked in the doorway. Addy and Emms are talented actors, and that was nicely played.

Although no one ever says the word, this story is essentially about Jason turning into a werewolf, just without needing a full moon to change. He's even cured with silver (kids, do not try drinking molten silver at home). There were stories of werewolves in the ancient world, as well as the myth of Lycaon (from 'lykos' or 'lukos', 'wolf'), a king who was turned into a wolf, so it's possible the show will revisit werewolf mythology in its more classic form at some point, though this story is so close to it, it would seem a bit redundant unless they do something very different with it.

Pasiphae, Minos, Heptarion and Ariadne turn up again for the first time in weeks here. Heptarion, Pasiphae and Minos are mostly there to remind us they're still alive - in Minos' case, only just, as Pasiphae is carrying out her plan to poison him slowly. Ariadne, however, has an important part to play in the story. My favourite bit of the episode was probably the moment where Hercules and Pythagoras realise they need silver and go to Ariadne for help, because they remember that the princess is in love with Jason and will probably be willing to donate some silver to help him. I love it when characters on TV act like real, intelligent people and do things you would genuinely do in that situation. I was less keen on Ariadne half-trusting her new maid, who is clearly spying on her for Pasiphae.

Heptarion. Still alive, still chasing Jason even when he doesn't know it's Jason.

Having spent all weekend barely conscious on the sofa with some horrible virus (as have many of my friends and family this week, I think), this was the first week I actually sat back and watched Atlantis without taking notes throughout the show. I have to admit, it made a nice change - I was able to sit back and enjoy the chemistry between the actors, the pleasantly light tone (even if I didn't actually laugh all that much) and most of all the still-gorgeous lighting and set design. With wind and rain howling outside and feeling awful, watching our heroes run around gloriously sun-drenched sort-of-Greece was quite pleasant. I also enjoyed the moment at the beginning where Jason does his best impression of Disney's Aladdin, though unfortunately he's not very good at it. The episode dragged a bit in places - especially, ironically, the conversation about measuring time (the Romans definitely had a concept of hours, but whatever period Atlantis takes place in, clearly they don't). A little bit more character work on Hercules and Pythagoras rather than a random conversation drawing attention to how little was happening might have been better there. Still, it was a pleasant enough way to fill the evening. Next week, things look like they'll be taking a more serious turn, so it'll be interesting to see where the show goes from there.

Quotes

Pythagoras: Scientific reasoning tells us that there is another solution to everything.
Hercules: What is it this time?
Pythagoras: Run!

Hercules: I was born to wrestle lions and wolves, not rodents.

All Atlantis reviews

1 comment:

  1. I remember the Prometheus story well from my mythology. Poor titan... all he gets for his trouble is condemnation to have his liver eaten every day by hawks or eagles, as I recall...

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