BBC One has a new 13-episode TV series set in a hollywood version of ancient Hellas--namely Atlantis. If you liked 'Merlin', this show will certainly fit your tastes. The show is about Jason, a strapping young man who ends up traveling to the--previously believed to be mythical--city of Atlantis in search for his father. Here, he ends up in a world of adventures, trying to find out who he is and who his father was. As we get very few regular series set in ancient Hellas, I decided to recap the episodes, starting a bit late as the second episode has already aired and the third will be broadcasted Saturday.

I think this part is obvious but this post contains spoilers.

We start the series looking out over the waters of the (what I assume to be) Mediterranean Sea with Jason (Jack Donnelly). He is on a hunt for his father, who took a submarine down under the surface after leaving his son a necklace with bull horns, and never came back up. He is about to take a submarine down himself and look for his dad, something the boat captain does not find a comforting thought.

The boat captain turns out to be right; Jason reaches the bottom of the sea and shines his one person submarine light on a piece of metal with the words 'the oracle' on it in funky typeface. I am assuming this is a part of his father's submarine as well as a major dose of foreshadowing.

As soon as Jason's light hits the metal, another light appears, speeding towards him with such force that it cracks the window of the submarine. Jason realizes his life is over and shields his face with his arms as the water rushes in.

When Jason wakes up on a beach, he seems to have misplaced his clothes, but he still has his necklace. That is never how it works for me in the swimming pool, but whatever, right? Jason does not care: he is still alive, so while covering his manhood, he tries to wave over some fishermen for help.

It seems the fishermen fish in the nude because when Jason reaches the place their boat left, there is a pile of (what I assume to be the hollywood version of) Hellenic clothing. Naturally, Jason takes the clothes and heads off to find civilization.

Civilization comes in the form of a huge city just past the dunes, which definitely does not look modern. It does, however, look pretty and the music swells in an impression of Greek music to set a mood that reminds me most of Xena: The Warrior Princess.

Once he wanders into the city, Jason finds himself in a market place where there are actually people who wear something resembling ancient Hellenic clothing (although most aren't) and are selling everything from chickens to fruits, to more fruits, and even more fruits. In the shade is something that finally seems to convince Jason that he is not in Kansas anymore: a two-headed lizard that I am assuming to be a Hydra. He tries to pet it and the Hydra snaps at him before chasing him through the market square. As a note, this scene had so many shots of fruit--either remaining stationary or rolling about after Jason knocks them over--that I figured there must be some hidden meaning or other relevance to it. Sadly, I have not been able to find out what.

After a long chase from the Hydra and then the city guards wherein Jason shows he was a gymnast in a (past) life, he ends up danging from a building and being pulled up by a scrawny young man so adorable, I immediately end up shipping Jason and the young man, who--it turns out--is Pythagoras (Robert Emms). Yes, that one. Pythagoras--like everyone in Atlantis--speaks posh English, and while I had not expected otherwise, it still irks me a little.
At any rate, Pythagoras is quite smitten with his guest, but his housemate isn't. Much to Jason's surprise, Pythagoras' housemate is no other than Hercules (Mark Addy, whom I know best from 'The Full Monty'). I really want to type 'Herakles' here, but it seems that is a bit too difficult for the common watcher, so 'Hercules' it is. Hercules is not exactly as he might have been portrayed in ancient Hellenic art, and I am quite sure he is supposed to be the comic relief, but I chuck any hope of authenticity out of the window just to be sure.
Jason shares a bit of his story with his new sidekicks and they wisely tell him to visit the temple of Poseidon and ask the Oracle his many questions. Pythagoras also tells Jason that his necklace represents the bull horns of Poseidon. To the show's credit, the temple is beautiful. It does, however, house the statue of a bull instead of a statue of Poseidon. As far as I am aware, Poseidon's only link to bulls is the myth of the Minotaur. Minos, king of Krete, requested Poseidon raise a bull from the sea, which the king promised to sacrifice; but when Minos refused to do so, Poseidon caused his wife Pasiphaê to fall in love with the bull. The child that came from this union was deformed in such a way that he had the head of a bull and the body of a man. Why the enormous link with bulls in Atlantis exists, I do not know.
At any rate, Jason sees Hercules leave the temple with a heavy heart and doesn't seem too happy to look for the Oracle now. He does, however, and the Oracle turns out to be the wonderful and underrated Juliet Stevenson for whom I am very happy she got another acting gig. In the most un-Hellenic thing of the episode, a chicken is slaughtered, its blood added to a bowl of water, and the Oracle tells Jason that his father 'walks amongst the dead'. She also hints that Jason is actually from Atlantis, and so was his father. She also hints that his destiny will cause a lot of danger to him. People want him dead; it seems only Jason can 'bring an end to the people's fear and suffering'.
After Jason leaves, the Oracle's helper asks her why she witheld information from Jason. She tells him she did it to keep Jason safe. In all my years reading books, watching TV, and playing games, never, ever, has witholding information led to a safer situation for the person involved, but we'll see what happens next.
Pythagoras meets Jason on the steps of the temple and the two bond over the message the Oracle had for Jason. Pythagoras then tells Jason to come home with him as there is a curfew tonight. Tomorrow, lots will be drawn amongst all Atlantians to see which seven citizens will be shipped off to be sacrificed to the Minotaur (Ah! Now the bull thing makes sense! (sort of)). Anyone caught outside tonight will be shot on sight, as it will be assumed they are trying to flee the will of Poseidon.
Later that night, Hercules begrudgingly allowes Jason a place to sleep in the house he owns, but Pythagoras helped him keep by paying his gambling debts, and then tries to sneak out of the house. Jason wakes up and wakes Pythagoras. The two sneak out after Hercules and manage to catch up to him before he climbs down the city wall, which would make him an exile for life. It seems he was fleeing because the Oracle predicted he would draw a black rock tomorrow and be shipped off to the Minotaur.
The trio manages to get back home safely, despite being discovered by the guards and being hunted by hunting lions. Jason shows the two some spectacular gymnastics and seems to be clueless as to how he suddenly developed this talent.
The next day, king Minos--played by Alexander Siddig whom I only know as Dr. Julian Bashir in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' but who has done a lot of acting afterwards--oversees the drawing of lots after a half-assed speech about honor in sacrifice. Hercules draws a white stone and is thus safe, as is Jason who cares a lot more about the king's daughter Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) than the stone. Pythagoras, however, draws a black stone and is stunned.
That night, Pythagoras babbles about triangles to hide his fear of dying and the trio makes plans to save his life that never go anywhere. It isn't until the morning that a brilliant idea comes to Jason: take the stone and take Pythagoras' place, never mind that he can't handle a sword, nor any other weapon available in Atlantis. So said and done. No one seems to mind--or realize--that Jason took Pythagoras' place. The only one who does notice that Jason is not a scrawny, curly haired, math geek is Ariadne, who has fallen head over heels for our strapping hero and thus offers him her locket, which holds an unbreakable and/or unending chord of marvelous awesomeness which will lead him out of the labyrinth she used to play in as a kid.
Fast forward to the entrance to the labyrinth where Pythagoras and Hercules show up to bring weapons to their newfound friend at Pytrhagoras' insistance. They get found out, obviously, and end up taking the place of two of the women who drew black stones. Now they are all in a world of hurt.
Seven people enter the labyrinth and only one gets a name--a girl named Helena (Faye Brooks)--so I figure the others are Minotaur food. In the end, I think I'm right as I counted at least two (completely bloodless) deaths amongst the tributes. It takes a while of waving torches around and looking past the camera with fear on their faces, but eventually Jason ends up in the lair of the Minotaur who--as it turns out--was a man, turned into a Minotaur, and is a beautiful feat of CGI, especially as he turns back into a man after a bit of a lackluster fight where Jason only needs to hold out a sword to let the Minotaur run into.
It seems the man was turned into a Minotaur by the Gods as punishment for doing 'a great wrong' that 'betrayed his [Jason's] father', and was told that one day a kid named Jason would come along to lift the curse. I wonder if the dying part was included in the prophecy, but at least the man dies in the form of a man, and in the arms of a young stud. Before he dies, though, the Minotaur-man tells Jason that Minos must never know who he is, and that 'this is just the beginning' of his great destiny.
Outside of the labyrinth, the Oracle sees her prophecy come true as Jason slays the Minotaur. She and her sidekick see their faith in Jason rewarded and start plotting the next steps to Jason's greatness and their end goal, of which we are most certainly not certain. They also spell more doom for Jason.
Once the tributes are recovered from the labyrinth and presented to the king, queen, and princess, king Minos makes another speech which is just about as sincere as the previous one. He congratulates Jason, Pythagoras and Hercules for their efferts and Hercules gladly takes the credit for the kill. Jason lets him for now, but teases Hercules about his very limited help--it seems Hercules ran in the other direction when the Minotaur fell upon the group and never even saw the beast--once they are outside of the palace.
Jason returns Ariadne's necklace, which her mother--Queen Pasiphaê (Sarah Parish)--sees and does not seem to approve of. Watch out for that one, Jason. Pasiphaê looks like a woman who could pose a problem, and not just to your love life.
Next time on Atlantis: Jason goes to see the Oracle again to ask why she is hiding the truth from him, Jason has more innocents to protect at the bottom of a well (or the end of a chasm, I'm not sure), and we are introduced to Medusa.
Despite the glaring inaccuracies, I like 'Atlantis'. It's an adventure with Hellenic influences, and while the acting is not as strong across the board and the dialogue is a bit stunted, I look forward to the next mythological reference and to see where the prophecy goes. What did you think of Atlantis? And would you like to see recaps of the remaining episodes? Let me know!