Image Source: http://www.newonnetflix.info
I have a deep love of the classics, although my experience skews toward Latin and the Aeneid, which are about the Romans. However, Romans were big fans of copying everything the Greeks did. Virgil, who wrote the Aeneid, was heavily influenced by the Greek blind poet Homer, and his Iliad and its sequel, the Odyssey.
It’s arguable that these two epic poems are the foundation of Western literature. And I can tell you that like the Aeneid, the Iliad and the Odyssey are really, really good. So I saw there was a joint BBC-Netflix production of Troy and I was ready to dig into eight episodes of siege-worthy glory.
But, for the first time in a really long time, I’ve been sorely disappointed by a BBC production. (If you look at the IMdB reviews, you’ll see others are a lot more salty than I am.)
Here are my issues:
Everyone knows that the fall of Troy is about Paris, prince of Troy, and Helen, who abandoned her husband Menelaus and their daughter in Sparta to be with Paris, sparking an international incident that led to a 10-year-siege. The city eventually falls when Trojans, starving, encounter a wooden horse on the beach they think the Greeks have deserted. They determine the horse is an offering to the sea god, Poseidon, and contains grain and bring the horse into the city walls. The horse also served as a vehicle for a select group of Greeks, who were unknowingly and personally escorted into enemy territory by the enemy. The army returns to the beach and Troy is destroyed.
(That’s a simplistic overview, I know.)
Paris has several brothers and a sister, Cassandra. According to Greek myth, Cassandra is cursed with the gift of foresight–yet no one believes her and writes her off as a madwoman. Apollo, the sun god, cursed her after she refused to sleep with him. In the miniseries, Cassandra has visions of the future as a child. Her parents are indulgent and although she lives in isolation as a teen and young adult, her sisters-in-law and Paris eventually turn to her for advice when the war starts to go south. However, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, who portrays Cassandra, does an excellent job and is well cast.
Before the Greeks leave for war, they offer a sacrifice to the goddess of the hunt, because they were hunting Helen. The priest gets a visit from the goddess, who determines that the usual fare of doves and other small animals are not enough and demands the daughter of King Agamemnon. It’s easily the most striking plot development in the early episodes of the season, and Odysseus spells out why: By killing his own daughter, Agamemnon will be in such pain he will be utterly despondent to his enemy; it will make him that much more of a ruthless killer. The priest refers to the goddess as Diana, which is the ROMAN name for Artemis, who the Greeks would have been trying to appease. That’s just downright sloppy and there’s no way that should have made it into the first draft of the script, much less the broadcast.
The Amazons eventually join the Trojans in fighting the Greeks. The Amazons, fierce female warriors, were so dedicated to battle they all chopped off their left breasts in order to more accurately hold and fire a bow and arrow. All of the Amazons in the series have two boobs.
Agamemnon recruits his allies and their armies from different city-states across Greece. Every single one of them speaks with a British accent. So do the Trojans.
Paris, in the poem, is superficial and flighty. He’s visited by Zeus and three goddesses: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, and is forced to choose a favorite. Aphrodite promises him the most beautiful woman in the world and after about 30 seconds Paris chooses her. Although the Greeks treated their gods as mightier than them, they still had mortal characteristics. Hera is a jealous harpy; Athena is wise and shrewd; Aphrodite is seductive. But in the miniseries, the whole thing is played off like Paris meeting four strangers in the woods and settling a minor dispute instead of a showdown with catastrophic consequences. There’s really nothing to differentiate them from humans, except they randomly show up places and only certain people can see them. As battle begins, Aphrodite and Athena bless soldiers on their respective sides, but it’s nothing special.
When we meet Menelaus and his wife, I was confused as to how Paris could seduce Helen so quickly. She’s smothered in jewels and she and her friends throw sex parties. Her husband is a mite condescending but he’s young and handsome and clearly adores her. There was little to no chemistry between the actors who played Paris and Helen. He gives quite a speech at his death, telling Menelaus that although he has Helen back, he’ll never have her love like Paris did, but that was too little, too late. I can’t overemphasize how important it was to cast these two roles correctly. Their relationship destroyed a family, their city and its citizens. (For a master class in sexual chemistry between two actors, see Rufus Sewell and Caterina Murino in the miniseries Zen.)
I was so disappointed in the final episode, mainly because a lot of time in previous shows is devoted to showing how savvy and shrewd and manipulating Odysseus is. When Achilles refuses to fight because Agamemnon takes a slave he claimed for himself, Odysseus finds a way around it. After Achilles kills Hector (in retaliation for killing Achilles’ lover in battle) he grants Priam an audience and allows him 12 days of mourning. Odysseus has one of his men kill one of Achilles’ soldiers and made it look as though a Trojan did it, all but assuring Achilles’ return to war.
Paris kills Achilles, and immediately the Greeks’ chance of winning the war plummet. Paris convinces his brothers to attack their enemy’s encampment and comes across an empty beach with a horse.
- We know nothing of how Odysseus comes up with this idea.
- How does he convince Agamemnon to sign on and the others to stay hidden inside?
- How do they build it without the Trojans noticing it?
- HOW DO THEY DECIDE ON THIS DESIGN?
Image source: Press Reader
I give the series 5 out of 10 stars (Benjen Stark is a good Odysseus) but 0 out of 10 stars for that horse.