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Prove­nance is some­thing of an is­sue for At­lantis. While myth­i­cal beef­cake Ja­son’s parent­age over­shad­owed the plot in 2013’ s de­but run, view­ers won­dered if the show would ever cut the apron strings of its main BBC ances­tor, Mer­lin. Se­ries two’s opener sug­gests it might: while im­per­fect, the “new dawn” is a dar­ing one. The tonal swings are surer, the per­for­mances more con­trolled. Jack Don­nelly’s Ja­son is less gym­nas­tic, more ex­pres­sive. But there’s a caveat: At­lantis now looks like Game Of Thrones’ off­spring.

Mark Addy’s rum­bus­tious Her­cules shakes off Robert Baratheon’s shadow, but Robert “Craster” Pugh’s pres­ence leaves you won­der­ing if he skulked onto the wrong set. If he did, he’d prob­a­bly feel at home with the poi­son- laced cour­te­sies, eaves­drop­ping vil­lainy and dragons in play.

And with the ac­tion em­bold­ened by a later broad­cast time, At­lantis lunges into the fight­ing fast here. Di­rec­tor Justin Molot­nikov makes brusque work of the open­ing dust- up, a con­fi­dent gam­bit matched by the con­fi­dence of a one- year leap from se­ries one’s cli­max, with King Mi­nos gone, Aiysha Hart’s Ari­adne queen and Pasiphae ( Sarah Parish, purring malev­o­lently) on the war prowl. It’s a strong open­ing – and stronger stuff fol­lows. The tor­ture vic­tims’ pains don’t match Theon’s ag­o­nies ( sausages are safe) but they aren’t teatime ma­te­rial ei­ther.

Which works, to a point, un­til an awk­ward dis­con­nect kicks in be­tween At­lantis’s new reach and trace el­e­ments of se­ries one’s goofi­ness. The ban­ter­ing bro­mance be­tween Her­cules and Robert Emms’ Pythago­ras works, but some silly plot con­trivances ran­kle. Juliet Steven­son’s Or­a­cle’s di­a­logue still needs work too: those por­ten­tous pauses (“You must embrace… your des­tiny”) prac­ti­cally sport “Quadru­plets On Board” badges.

But her teas­ing prophecy for Ja­son does sug­gest At­lantis knows where it’s go­ing. Smug­gled into a con­trolled tan­gle of quests, loom­ing wars and con­spir­a­cies, it’s prac­ti­cally a sneaky trailer, nod­ding to re­turn­ing friends, stormy seas, a ship… Brawnier, tighter and bolder, At­lantis moves for­wards here. The big quest will be to let go of its in­flu­ences and learn to stand on its own feet. Kevin Har­ley

tv reviews and opin­ion Ja­son has the most fas­ci­nat­ing knuck­les in At­lantis.

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