Atlantis (BBC America) Review “The Rules of Engagement”

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but “The Rules of Engagement” was a fun, entertaining hour of television– and not just by Atlantis standards. It was genuinely good. The writers addressed the rushed courtship of Ariadne and Jason in a believable manner, the court intrigue suddenly felt real and urgent, Ariadne was positioned as a major player in her own right and the fight scenes…I’m not sure I can talk about them without gushing.

It turns out Heptarian isn’t a pampered royal; he’s a brutal fighter. With the announcement of his betrothal to Ariadne, a Pankration was in order to ensure Poseidon was on board with their union. A Pankration is basically a no-holds barred fight that ends when one man draws blood. Once Jason finds out that if he can beat Heptarian, he can stop the wedding, he of course decides to enter the ring. He’s spurred to action by Ariadne seemingly giving up hope. After Jason sends a note via Medusa and Ariadne’s handmaiden, the two meet in the temple to discuss their affection for one another. How refreshing was it to actually hear our lovebirds remark on the fact that there is no real reason for their connection, but that it exists all the same as a pull they can’t deny? Love at first may not be my favorite trope, but in that moment, I bought that these two people who are in situations beyond their control could fall in love, at least with the idea of one another, without actually having more than a couple of brief conversations.

This was all set up for the epic showdown that was the Pankration. Getting back to Heptarian, that guy is, as much as I hate to admit it, awesome in his own evil way. He fought dirty, killing two men when he could have drawn blood, but his skill in the arena was undeniable. As was Jason’s, which was even more impressive given the fact that Hercules and Pythagoras were his coaches. To his credit, Hercules was a remarkable coach. He once again proved that he is a big softie as he cared for Jason’s wounds and tucked him in at night. He even went so far as to confess the reason he cared so much for Jason is because unlike Hercules, Jason is the real deal: a strong, heroic man with an unwavering desire to protect people.

My only complaint is that after last week’s shenanigans, Medusa ended up forgiving Hercules based on the way he cared for Jason. He took her free will away and she almost died because of his insecurities, so it was a bit too soon to see her holding hands with the guy. I would have preferred for them to address what transpired between them, rather than to see her transfixed once again by Hercules’ kindness. He always means well, but that doesn’t excuse an act of utter irresponsibility and selfishness. Medusa is far more forgiving than she needs to be.

Nothing could take away from the episode’s centerpiece though: the battle between Jason and Heptarian. We have been building toward this moment since the first episode and the payoff was exquisite. After a hard battle, Jason ends up with the knife and the means to kill Heptarian, ridding him from Ariadne’s life for good. However, he chooses the high road throwing the blade down and challenging Heptarian to kill him, and in the process creating a situation where his subjects would hate him forever. It was the perfect solution, as it resulted in Heptarian calling their brawl a draw, leaving the door open for Ariadne to call off their engagement on the basis that Poseidon clearly hadn’t given his blessing to their union.

What Ariadne doesn’t know is the Queen has poisoned her father. (She does know that her wicked stepmommy had her handmaiden killed to prove she has power over Ariadne’s fate.) Now we have a situation where Ariadne may be forced back into the marriage in order to keep Atlantis stabilized. Meanwhile, even though it wasn’t addressed this week, Jason still has to kill to the Queen unless he wants to risk the wrath of the Queen’s sister. To put it simply, stuff just got real in Atlantis. Bravo show; now, let’s keep that momentum going, please.

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