One of our worst enemies in the realm of enjoying new television shows and movies is our own preconception. “This is going to be just like my other favorite show!” or “This is going to dark and moody like that other show!” or “I’ll never like this because it’s silly like those other shows.”Generating comparisons based on a commercial or even the first episode is dangerous because you run the risk of missing out on something far more rewarding than you imagined. Feeling my own preconception get bested by a new TV show is a fun bit of chagrin for me, showing it is not always a bad thing to be proven wrong. The BBC series Atlantis brings a new twist to the legendary lost city.
In this version, Atlantis is home to not only its own legends, but also a flurry of Greek mythological heroes and monsters. The story surrounds Jason, who falls through a wormhole in time back to the ancient city and quickly befriends the famous duo of Hercules and Pythagoras (who never actually meet in the original tales). Jason is at the center of a dark and troubling prophecy, but he doesn’t understand his part and must decide how hard to fight to get away from it, while not risking the lives of the friends he meets along the way.
After watching the first episode, I thought I had this show pegged. It’s the BBC version of Xena: Warrior Princess. There are jokes, some slapstick humor and fantastical action, which always seems to include lots of acrobatic flipping by the hero. I didn’t expect much more as it went along, but I found myself drawn in by the most simple of premises. Jason, played charmingly by Jack Donnelly, is the prototypical fish out of water, but his naiveté comes across as very genuine. A poignant and poetic side of the character evolves from his foreknowledge of events since some of the people he meets are part of the stories he was told as a kid in the future. When he is introduced a lovely lady by the name of Medusa, he sadly realizes her fate is already sealed, no matter how much he would want to change it. Watching him navigate those waters and balance his morality with so-called destiny is much better than your ordinary scifi/fantasy fare.
The revisionist stories are also fun for those people who know the original stories; the show is full of mythological easter eggs just for you. The writers find more and more creative ways to drop in folks like King Midas, the Minotour, Pandora’s Box, and of course the historical significance of Hercules and Pythagoras. Jason’s two lovable sidekicks, the ancient version of Laurel and Hardy, provide much of the heart for the show. This version of Hercules shows a man past his prime and living off the legends of his past heroics, which more and more seem like fairy tales in themselves. He drinks too much, gambles too much, and takes too much advantage of those who care about him, but he is loyal to the end and proves to be there when he’s really needed. While Pythagoras is braver and more courageous than his thin frame belies, he uses his brain (and his love of science and triangles) to help his friends cheat death time and time again.
The villains are numerous and they provide an endless series of hoops for Jason and his friends to jump through in order to stay alive and chase their dreams, which for Jason is the love of Atlantis’ Princess Ariadne. Her place in the royal family and Jason’s place, or lack thereof, trots out the tried and true long lost lovers storyline. Yet the stories that surround our hero, including some which I won’t give away, keep the show multi-layered and full of possibilities.
Atlantis is a fun show that is easy to pass off, but don’t make that mistake. It will get under your skin and soon enough you’ll find yourself cheering out loud for the talented trio of heroes.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00FRQ0NYU]