Playing a new Game…
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.