‘Atlantis’: 1.02 “A Girl By Any Other Name” Review

“Why do I sense you are not telling me the whole truth?”

Atlantis

Perhaps my enthusiasm last week was a little premature as I felt decidedly underwhelmed by this week’s Atlantis offering…

The story wasn’t too bad in itself – Jason is feeling lost in this new world (how ironic in the lost world of Atlantis), unsure of his place and purpose. The Oracle still cagey with the facts tells Jason that “the fate of Atlantis rest in your hands”, but not how or why. Jason however, still isn’t certain he understands his path towards his destiny until a dying man comes to seek help to find his missing daughter after hearing of his slaying of the Minotaur. Jason feeling pity for the man and believing this must be his purpose agrees.

Jason discovers the woman is being held by the Maenads, the cult-like fanatical female worshippers of the god Dionysus. Frances Tomelty leads the men-haters with one of her usual solid performances who has already bewitched the girl who has no desire to be saved and refuses to return to her father on his death bed. During the rescue mission however, Hercules is saved from the Maenads by Medusa (pre-snakes in her hair), a feisty woman who so far has had the ingenuity (by putting candle wax in her ears) to avoid being put under the cult’s spell. That is until, Hercules smitten with his saviour exposes her when he goes in search of her. Jason however, is concerned for her, knowing what fate awaits her in the future and feels a failure for not returning the old man’s daughter. Something which isn’t appeased when the Oracle tells him: “Medusa can no more escape her destiny than you can escape yours. Her fate is inexplicably bound to your own” and “you believed that the path that you were following you would find the girl and yet you found another”. The Oracle likes a good riddle it would seem.

It’s quite common for episodes to be filmed out of sequence and I do wonder if this episode was filmed first? The actors seemed unsure of themselves and very wooden in places. Donnelly over compensates in the earlier scene with the Oracle shouting his lines when in fact a quiet menaced tone would have worked much better. As much as the writers would like Atlantis to stand alone and move out from under Merlin‘s shadow it’s very difficult not to compare when you can tell clearly that the same woods have been used to film in as were the caves last week and memories of a more nuanced performance from Colin Morgan showed what could be done in scenes like that with the Oracle.

Jemima Rooper adds some much needed female balance to the male group, but so far, just like Merlin‘s (sorry, I know) Angel Coulby – an experienced actress is woefully underused. I’m hoping Rooper will add some of her comedic wit to events as the series continues.

There is a lot of unanswered questions and plot holes: What happened to all the other women after their leader died? How come Jason now has all these new acrobatic moves and yet he doesn’t question how? What was the purpose of the cult? Why do they hate men? What danger are they warding off to make an offering to the gods? And the list goes on unfortunately. I know it’s early days and we need some mysteries but the week’s story arc should at least be satisfyingly concluded.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still an enjoyable episode but the level of believability and acting left a lot to be desired in this episode. I’m just hoping this was a minor lull and next week the episode and story proves more satisfying and succinct.