Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer DVR Dump: Atlantis 1.07: "The Rules of Engagement"

“It was never really going to happen, was it, Jason? I mean, Ariadne’s a goddess on earth, whereas you? Are just you.”

We took a break from the overall mythology of “Atlantis” in this episode to settle some matters of the heart. The previous episode was a gamechanger in the sense of showing us the larger stakes and the greater forces at work. This week was a gamechanger in the sense of sheer plot momentum. Ariadne is officially bethrothed to Heptarian, and because Jason still carries a torch for her (and the feelings are pretty clearly mutual), this sets all sorts of interesting events in motion. So we dealt with Hercules’ romantic problems in the last episode, and we deal with Jason’s (and a little more with Hercules’) in this one. To be honest, I’m kind of surprised how this show has basically come down to an Ancient Greek soap opera. Not that I’m complaining. The characters are all, for the most part, engaging enough to make the melodrama interesting.

The episode opens with King Minos announcing the betrothal of Ariadne to Heptarian. To celebrate the occasion, there will be a Pancratium. The Pancratium is basically a tournament where two guys at a time try to get to one knife and draw blood from the other guy with that knife. Sometimes they didn’t just stop at drawing blood. The competition could definitely be fatal if someone got carried away. Pythagoras and Hercules are excitedly telling Jason about the Pancratium, but he doesn’t get why he should care. Then Pythagoras drops the bomb that Ariadne is betrothed. Jason does not take the news well at all, since he still had this Pollyanna hope that they could be together someday.

Hercules tries to soften the blow by telling Jason that he never had a chance with Ariadne anyway. Which is kind of a mean thing to say, really. I wonder if part of that was to get back at Jason for the things he and Pythagoras said about Hercules’ chances with Medusa? Hercules doesn’t strike me as a passive aggressive guy like that, but I can’t really think of a better explanation. Anyway, Jason, like Hercules, makes a rather dumb decision based on his unrequited love. Well, several dumb decisions, to be precise. First, he sends a note to Ariadne asking to meet up with her. He sends the note through Medusa and Korinna. Pasiphae sees Korinna pass the note, and she demands to see it. Pasiphae has Korinna arrested for treason, and she says she will only show Korinna mercy if Ariadne cuts Jason out of her life once and for all.

Ariadne meets with Jason, and while she acknowledges her feelings for Jason, Ariadne insists that they both must “bow to their fates.” Jason gives Ariadne his father’s necklace, and she accepts it, although she insists she doesn’t need a token to remember him. Jason leaves and Ariadne sobs, but getting the brush-off from Ariadne doesn’t keep Jason from making his second stupid decision of the episode. He decides to join the Pancratium tournament. Heptarion and Pasiphae both are very unhappy to see Jason at the signing-up ceremony, but they let him enter the competition anyway. Pythagoras and Hercules think Jason made a very stupid decision in signing up for the Pancratium, but they’re his friends so they try to help him out anyway. Hercules is going to give him some combat training, for what that’s worth. The training doesn’t go well at all. Hercules continues to beat Jason fairly easily, although Jason manages to get one victory out of the bunch.

Meanwhile, much more sinister things are afoot back at the palace. An older man named Stymas pays a visit to Pasiphae. He meets her in her bedchambers, but there’s nothing romantic going on between them. In fact, an affair would be way better than what does actually happen. Stymas has a delivery of a very slow-acting poison for Pasiphae. Pasiphae accepts the delivery, and she kills Stymas to make sure he will never tell anyone about the delivery he just made. We later see Pasiphae mix the poison into a drink that is consumed by King Minos. I guess this means that Alexander Siddig is not long for the show, which is a shame, because I have really enjoyed his nuanced performance. It’s clear he has done horrible things in the past, but his love for his daughter is pure and is his primary motivation now. It’s been fun to see just how much Siddig has grown as an actor since his “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” days.

Through the middle of the episode, we see a bunch of Pancratium battles featuring Jason and Heptarian fighting various opponents as they inch closer and closer towards ultimately fighting each other. Heptarian has significant Pancratium experience, so he makes it through most of his opponents with relative ease. Jason continues to be victorious too, but at a cost. At one point, he separates his shoulder. Medusa delivers some herbs to help ease Jason’s pain, and she’s impressed to see that Hercules of all people knows exactly what is wrong with Jason and how to fix it. She still (understandably) doesn’t want to talk to him, though. Throughout this episode, Medusa does gradually warm back up to Hercules, and by the end of the episode, they’re quite chummy again, although I’m not entirely sure he deserves it.

Eventually, Jason and Heptarian are the final two contestants, and King Minos announces that they will fight the final battle the next morning. Heptarian has gotten a little too angry and murdered at least one of his opponents, so the crowd is firmly on Jason’s side. In the evening before the final match, Jason and Pythagoras talk about what is going to happen the next day. Jason still wants to win the match and Ariadne’s heart, but Pythagoras disabuses him of that notion. Because Hectarian supposedly has Poseidon on his side and is betrothed to Ariadne, he has to win. Jason and all his friends would be dead by the end of the day if it went down any other way. Ariadne, meanwhile, goes to pray for Jason.

The fight between Jason and Heptarian is pretty epic, and there were several moments where it looked definitively like one of the two men would prevail. Ultimately, however, it ends in a draw because Jason found himself in a position to draw blood and chose not to so his friends would be spared. After the fight, Ariadne gives Jason the necklace back and gives him a brief kiss before going to confront the whole betrothal situation. She tells King Minos and Pasiphae that she can no longer marry Heptarian. Clearly he wasn’t Poseidon’s choice for her if he didn’t win the Pancratium. King Minos accepts this, but in an aside, Pasiphae tries to threaten Ariadne. Ariadne says she’s not afraid anymore.

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