Since I reviewed the first two episodes of the BBC’s Atlantis, I figured I should give a brief notice to the third. British critics seem to agree that this episode was an improvement over the previous two, but I’m not convinced. In this outing, Jason and his friends get in more trouble with King Minos (who surely should be on better terms with them by now) and end up condemned to the bull ring where they must learn to leap over an angry bull or die trying. In the real world, there is no evidence that bull leaping—found widely in the Bronze Age Mediterranean world, but best known from Minoan Crete—was used as a punishment.
I found the story to be a watered down, derivative combination of Spartacus and Gladiator, and the substitution of bulls for gladiators did nothing to mask the borrowing. In terms of myth and history, the show imported Roman arches and a Roman amphitheater and had the cast recite a version of the gladiators’ famous oath (“we who are about to die salute you”)—reinforcing my suspicion that the show takes its cues from Roman rather than Greek myth, following, as it did Roman versions of the Medusa story last week. In terms of production values, the green screen work and CGI were so laughably fake that it reached Once Upon a Time levels of cut-and-paste awfulness.
The show furthered its poor opinion of women by making Pasiphae into a witch, importing voodoo dolls into its universe so she can try crippling Jason from afar. (The Greeks used curse tablets and clay representations of limbs, so this isn’t that far off, just enough to be annoying.) Ariadne almost takes an active role in her own life, but stops when she realizes this might involve work, while Medusa does the bidding of the men in her life, and some other condemned woman apologizes to the men because she feels just awful for betraying menfolk by conspiring with the agents of the evil queen, who, of course, is also scheming to control the royal succession by offing Jason and making Ariadne the wife of her favorite. In short: women either do what men tell them to do, or else they become agents of evil by acting independently without a man’s direction.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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