Atlantis: 2.09 The Gorgon's Gaze

Last week’s episode of Atlantis was in a bit of a rush to get through a lot of things; now, with this week’s instalment – The Gorgon’s Gaze – we get the payoff from that set-up. It’s bloodier and more brutal than what we usually see from Atlantis, which is likely to distance it even further from the family-friendly image it developed in Season 1, but is also a certain sign of its development and maturation. Despite a few lingering plot problems, it still manages to pack a powerful punch which few people are likely to forget in a hurry.

Pasiphae has successfully taken over Atlantis, but her conquest is not yet complete. She rules by fear and oppression, but she does not have the blessing of the gods which will keep the people in line, and Ariadne, though imprisoned and in a hopeless position, refuses to bow down to her. Jason and the others are her only chance: they must come up with a way to infiltrate the city and save her before it is too late.

It still makes little sense that the Atlantean army has so quickly accepted Pasiphae as their ruler, especially given her attacks on the city earlier on in the season – but if you choose to overlook this, The Gorgon’s Gaze tells a truly engrossing story. It lets its villains be villainous and its heroes be heroic, while providing plenty of tension and moral quandaries along the way. Sarah Parish plays Pasiphae as perfectly as ever, exposing her cruelties and frailties alike, while the steely determination of Ariadne which foils her is captured beautifully by Aiysha Hart.
The real drama comes from Medusa, however, who makes a decision to sacrifice herself – accepting her curse by opening Pandora’s Box once more – so that Ariadne can be saved. Her decision, and how others react to it, provide the most powerful moments of the episode. Mark Addy as Hercules has very little to do as events unfold, but when he discovers that the woman he loves is sacrificing herself, the result is one of the most unforgettable scenes of the episode.

Finally, when things come to a head, we get a long awaited resolution as Jason finally discovers that Pasiphae is his mother. Hercules and Pythagoras have kept this hidden from him on the advice of the Oracle, who claimed that it would blacken his heart. If the preview of next week’s episode is anything to go by, Atlantis isn’t about to disappoint on that promise – and as a result, is about to get a whole lot more interesting.

The Gorgon’s Gaze takes a lot more time with its source material than last week’s episode, and it is all the stronger for it. It pauses before taking the plunge, so that every blow it throws your way is that much more powerful. It is much to its credit that despite being relatively low on action it is still extremely exciting – and though the content may mean keeping younger viewers away, it’s unlikely to disappoint anyone else.

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