A heartbroken Jason tried to persuade the Princess not to go through with the match, but unfortunately, Pasiphae got wind of their communication beforehand and put pressure on Ariadne to break with Jason for good.
Seeing an opportunity to prove his worth and feeling he had little to lose, Jason then put himself forward as a competitor, not realising the nature of the unregulated combat. Of course, Heptarian was also taking part and had never been beaten.
Written by Richard McBrien, who also penned the enjoyable ‘Twist of Fate’, a good deal of this episode was taken up with the fights themselves, providing plenty of shirtless action for six-pack fans. Well handled, but steering clear of any blood despite the knife element, the more gory moments were sold by crowd reaction and long shots, as well as some effective tub-thumping incidental music.
As well as combat, the story had plenty to do in thawing frosty relations between Hercules and Medusa. His role as Jason’s mentor and fight coach provided the room for some quieter scenes where Mark Addy was allowed to shine, shedding the bravado and displaying further emotional depth. He also showed an amusing bedside manner in sorting out a dislocated shoulder.
Poor Pythagoras (Robert Emms) still struggled to find a role, with his only real moment coming towards the end of the tale. Providing Jason with a reality check, he pointed out that winning would doubtless cost them all their lives and sowed the seeds for Jason’s bloodless triumph.
At the palace the battle of wits between Pasiphae and Ariadne continued apace, with Jason’s success in the ring providing the Princess with the ammunition she needed to have the engagement called off. Suggesting that Heptarian did not have the favour of the Gods was a clever move, and easily swallowed by her weak father.
Pasiphae’s revenge was a splendidly nasty final sting and caught us by surprise. Bumping off Korinna (Hannah Arterton) both robs Ariadne of a confidant and also breaks an easy link with Jason.
Of course, this was not the only dastardly act perpetrated by the villainess, as she has begun to poison her husband too. With plans for a love match between Heptarian and Ariadne stymied, she will have to work hard to line up the succession ready for Minos’ demise.
To our surprise, given that the episode centred on a fighting contest, ‘The Rules of Engagement’ managed to balance its multiple threads effectively. We were impressed to see it deliver on the political side as well as furthering the show’s two budding love stories too.
Aired at 8pm on Saturday 9 November 2013 on BBC One.
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