Atlantis: 2.12 The Queen Must Die
It’s over: the BBC’s family-friendly show Atlantis has reached the end of its run after only two seasons. Those who watched it from the start saw it transform from an awkward mess in its first season into something full of drama and thrills in its second – a transformation which came sadly too late to save it from cancellation. Also unfortunate is that the final two episodes, aired together as a finale, were penned before the axe ever came down on Atlantis. The result? That it spends far too long setting up a future that will never happen, and fails to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Unsurprisingly, since this two part finale is called The Queen Must Die, Jason and the other heroes hatch a plot to kill Pasiphae and end her reign of terror for good. With a small band of freed slaves behind them, they must overcome the might of the entire Atlantean army, not to mention Pasiphae herself and her fearsome magic. After overcoming betrayal by Icarus, and once Jason reveals himself as the rightful heir to the throne, it seems success is right around the corner when they manage to capture Pasiphae and quell her powers.
However, this success is half the problem – because it’s only halfway through the double bill that Pasiphae is executed and all the tension saps away. Her subsequent resurrection by the goddess Hecate may come swiftly, but The Queen Must Die really starts to lose its way – surprise, surprise – after the queen has died. The second half is too busy setting things up for the third season to make itself interesting.
Much of the problem is that with Pasiphae gone, a lot of other things that have made Atlantis so enjoyable of late disappear as well. Medea, turning traitor early on, helps Jason by telling him how to block Pasiphae’s magic, but then quickly walks away from the episode after he refuses her affections. Cilix, Pasipahe’s advisor, is plentifully slimy but so insufficient as a villain on his own that he barely lasts five minutes, and there are no other challenges to our heroes’ progress. In short, there simply isn’t enough conflict.
When Pasiphae does return, she does so with considerable vengeance, immediately turning Jason’s victory into defeat – and things really pick up again. Sarah Parish has been one of the show’s highlights since day one, and as Pasiphae resurrected – twisted, pained, half-mad – she is better than ever. It’s a tad unrealistic that the army change their allegiance without any real cause – and not for the first time, it should be said – but it serves the purposes of the plot well enough.
It would be too much to call The Queen Must Die a disappointment, because it really is quite enjoyable; it’s full of great action, some poignant moments, and a blossoming of tragic romance between Pythagoras and Icarus. Unfortunately, it relies too much on teasing the question “what will happen next?” when we already know that we’ll never find out. The decision to cancel Atlantis, made after this episode was filmed, robs it of its power. We can always hope that another company will pick up the show and finish things off, or even that the BBC will agree to a miniseries or a short film – but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I was you.