I had hoped when Atlantis debuted that it would provide an interesting view on Greek mythology and something to talk about each week by looking at what it maintained and what it changed in the world of Classical myth. Sadly, the show itself doesn’t seem even half-interested in developing a coherent take on Greek mythology, or even its own mythology, and this is very disappointing.
Episode 4 “Twist of Fate” plays out exactly as you’d expect, but if you haven’t guessed the identity of the baby Jason and Pythagoras discover in the woods, stop reading now.
Yes, they find baby Oedipus, which confuses Greek mythology mightily if the hero of this TV show is supposed to be Jason of Argonauts fame, since that Jason’s wife Medea was the stepmother of Theseus, who in turn was king at Athens in Oedipus’ old age—and Jason on this show already took the place of Theseus on the Minotaur story.
But that’s neither here nor there, for the show did nothing at all interesting with the discovery of the baby fated to marry his mother and kill his father. Rather than take the opportunity to develop the character of Jason—who really ought to have had some better-developed flash of insight that an abandoned child sent away to live a false life in another kingdom though fated to return home has more than a passing resemblance to his own backstory—the show instead decided that it was the perfect opportunity to show that its female characters are either (a) evil sluts or (b) self-sacrificing maternal types. Queen Pasiphae got the “evil slut” role at the show implies heavily that she is cheating on her husband with Oedipus’ royal father. Jocasta and Medusa share the self-sacrificing mother role, defining themselves as the non-male Other, because men are apparently rough and rational while women are emotionally-driven and irrational. The men, of course, are confused and baffled by child-rearing, resurrecting comedy that was old when Greece was young.
Pythagoras tells Hercules that Jason is “different,” a superior savior, but really, he’s kind of dim. Does he really care nothing about the modern world from which he came a scant few weeks ago? Has he stopped caring why he is in Atlantis? Surely being hurdled through time and space is of some passing interest. Increasingly, it seems that the origin of Jason in our world was less a feature of the story than a sop to international broadcasters who probably panicked that without it audiences might wonder why everyone was wearing funny clothes and lacked iPhones. Even the name Atlantis seems a marketing gimmick by people who could not pronounce Knossos—so obviously is Atlantis meant to be Minoan Crete. After all, Thebes is apparently within commuting distance.
I’ll probably offer capsule reviews of the remainder of this series, if only to chronicle its increasingly retrograde view of women--Atlantis is in my tagline after all—but I am hugely disappointed that this show managed to do less with Greek myth than Legend of the Seeker did with its made-up mythology. The absence of an actually threatening villain is probably the reason for this; let’s lobby to get an angry Dionysus (who becomes Ariadne’s husband in Greek myth) to show up and start flooding the city with wine and causing vines and wild animals to erupt from nothing (Homeric Hymn 7: To Dionysus).
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.