Atlantis returns for its second season this Saturday night. Geek Dave dives in feet first to bring us his spoiler free review of A New Dawn.
For the sake of full disclosure let me confess that I was not a fan of Atlantis series 1. My main problem with it, and there were many, was that Jack Donnelly (Jason) was just a poor choice as lead, the guy really is not the world's most accomplished actor. Couple that with the poorly written and paced scripting and the show veered from cringe-worthy to sleep inducing.
But I was prepared to give Atlantis another shot. After all the cast themselves have promised us a new darker Atlantis, one that takes full advantage of its later time slot. We're told that the production team have "reinvented it. In every single way they could change it". The characters are "not as simplistic as last year". More mature action packed storylines await, and a series arc that would keep us "wanting to find out what’s going to happen next".
And I do have to give them credit because some of these claims are partly true. The opening episode, A New Dawn (part 1), starts out action packed on the eve of a battle. Quickly there is fighting, chasing, escaping, and more fighting, with clash after clash following. There's even a touch of torture thrown in there... but as for it being darker? (which seems to be the BBC One drama theme this year - thank you Mr Capaldi). Well it takes place at night, does that count?
That's an unfair jibe because it is darker than series 1, but not significantly enough to claim that it is reinvented in every way. Yes, Donnelly gives a much better performance than he ever did in the first series, more controlled and less jumpy all over the place. He's also slightly less wooden, but still needs work, the same can be said for
Aiysha Hart (Ariadne). Though their romance feels very forced, and so it makes almost any scene which includes them talking
difficult to watch. It's possibly unfair to attribute all the blame to their limited acting skills because the dialogue they are given feels like the first draft of a local amateur dramatic production. Even the veterans amongst the cast are dealt an awkward hand, take Juliet Stevenson's Oracle and her drawn out sentences, almost each one including a pause long enough to make a cup of tea.
Maybe this reinvention they talk about was really an attempt to step out of the shadow of Merlin, but if anything all they've ended up with is a
bit of a weird hybrid of a show, almost like Game Of
Director Justin Molotnikov does mange to keep the episode relatively free of the series 1 slapstick elements, but it's not long before the Hercules/Pythagoras bromance kicks back into gear and some silly plot themes arrive. Then when the Oracle tells Jason "You must embrace ............................. (kettle on) ............................................................................ (brew's ready) .................. (sup, ahhh) ..................... your destiny", the memories of the disappointing first series come flooding back in force.
I'm quite sure that the producers did set out to make a more darker mature series, but it's possible that what they were left with from series 1 was just too much to reinvent. It's a shame because the weaker members of the cast have improved, however ultimately they, and Atlantis, get let down by lazy and frustrating writing.
On paper Atlantis does have so much potential, just clearly not on script paper.
I think it is safe to say that if you loved series 1 of Atlantis, then you'll love this. But if you felt even remotely like myself about the debut season, and we're considering giving the show a second chance then may I assist you in your decision with this helpful flow chart I have produced...
You don't need to be the Oracle to know that the pause after series 2 will likely be forever.
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