Atlantis: 2.03 Telemon

If there was anything the two-part opener for this season of Atlantis showed, it was that the show is more than capable of balancing action with drama. This trend continues with the third episode, which builds upon the season’s strong start and is just as engrossing – if not more so – than those that came before it. Telemon is an episode which stands well on its own without ever being irrelevant, a rare feat that should win over even the most sceptical viewers.

The defeat of Pasiphae’s army in A New Dawn: Part Two may have ended the immediate threat to Atlantis, but Telemon makes no mistake establishing that the danger is far from over. The city is severely weakened and in need of allies, and newly crowned queen Ariadne’s reign is fragile. With the Coronation Games imminent, it is clear that the champion from Atlantis must win to buoy the people’s hearts. Jason, naturally, is chosen as the man for the job.
Matters are complicated, however, by the arrival of Prince Telemon of Aegina, who is also entering the Coronation Games. More than that, he is intent on winning Ariande’s hand in marriage, and will let nothing stand in his way. Jason and Telemon collide in the arena and in Ariande’s heart, but the prince may not be all that he seems and it could cost Jason his life.

There are a lot of elements for this episode to cram into its 45 minute runtime, but it does so with great aplomb. We see Jason fighting in the arena, Telemon’s attempts to woo Ariadne, and Hercules and Pythagoras investigating the prince; the three stories interweave and inform one another without any one of them overriding the others. It’s a real credit to writer Richard McBrien that he manages so much so competently in a short space of time.

The human element is once again extremely strong in Telemon. It is the weight of Ariadne’s decision that is its beating heart, as she summons the resolve to earn an alliance through marriage for her city. Jack Donnelly puts in one of his best performances as Jason, forced to watch Ariande from afar with quiet longing. Hercules and Pythagoras show a new, determined side as they accept their roles as Jason’s protectors, combining comedy with drama in equal measure.

It is Clive Standen’s performance as Telemon which must receive the real plaudits, however. He is the only one present in all three plotlines and he draws them together with seemingly no effort. He is charming, heroic, cunning, and dishonest all in one, a mercurial villain with yet-ambiguous intentions. With him in place, Pasiphae’s absence from the episode is barely noticeable, and that is indeed impressive.
Of course, it’s not all talk that drives this episode forwards. There are plenty of fight sequences in the arena, and they are as superbly choreographed as the battles were in A New Dawn. They are, however, merely a backdrop to the bigger issues. Perhaps the best thing about Telemon is that it doesn’t allow itself to resolve easily; the questions over the prince’s true identity never interfere with Ariadne’s decision or provide her with an easy way out.

It’s another excellent episode for the second season of Atlantis, and one which excites curiosity for the next. What is Telemon’s game, and is he truly the prince he claims to be? The show gives us just enough to make us hungry for more without ever gorging us on information. Telemon is still exciting and family friendly enough for children to watch, but its maturity is what makes it such a strong episode and lets it set things up so well for the future.

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