'In Search Of' episode 9 & 10 review: 'The Empire of Atlantis' is adventurous without being spectacular
The episode proved to have some redeeming elements, but leaves you with the feeling that the execution could have been better.
'Life After Death,' the eighth episode of History's 'In Search Of,' may have been the rebooted series' most ambitious episode yet. Humanity's mortality and our ever-impending deaths are somethings that we have obsessed over since the dawn of civilization. While taking on a subject matter as heavy and subjective — take how each religion treats it, for example — could have backfired quite spectacularly, the episode did manage to cover a surprisingly broad spectrum of topics in a thorough manner.
It unfolds with an interview with Pat Johnson, a man who claims he experienced the afterlife in the brief moments he was drowning underneath a river. His explanation of how the other side presents itself — the long tunnels and hallways, the blinding lights — is something that's common amongst hundreds of thousands every year, giving rise to a suspicion of whether there is any truth to such claims after all.
There's also a brief segment where a renowned oncologist assures host Zachary Quinto that the human body is inhibited by a non-quantifiable entity — a soul. You could take it with a pinch of salt, but the fact that the show even tried to answer such a question is commendable in its own right.
But maybe the most interesting avenue through which 'Life After Death' tackled the issue is cryogenics. Once a science fiction dream, advancements in technology have made the concept of freezing and preserving your body for the future a reality. And instead of having Quinto just appreciate all the fancy equipment, the show has Max Moore, the president and CEO of the cryogenics company they visit, explain in easily digestible terms on how they facilitate the process.
While a visit to Harvard University geneticist Dr David Sinclair provides an introduction to the advancements made in anti-aging technology, it was the talk with Gary Galka that saw the episode cross-over into the bizarro realm. Galka appeared to provide tangible proof that his daughter was communicating with him from the afterlife, though to Quinto continues to remain as skeptical as ever.
Review of episode 9 and 10, 'The Empire of Atlantis'
The latest episode of 'In Search Of' would be its longest yet, taking the better part of 80-minutes to explore the mystery behind the lost city/empire of Atlantis. To this day, there remains a reasonable doubt on the existence of the mythical city. To many, it represents one of the human race's crowning achievements. A city so grand and technologically advanced, it was ahead of its time by hundreds of years. To others, it's merely a figment of philosopher Plato's imagination; he references Atlantis within an allegory on the hubris of nations in 'Timaeus' and 'Critias,' and mentions how it submerges into the Atlantic Ocean after falling out of favor with the deities.
'The Empire of Atlantis' sees Quinto at his most adventurous, traveling across the Mediterranean and through Italy, Greece, and Morocco in search for clues that may hint at the city's existence. It begins with an introduction to Robert Ishoy, a former US intelligence expert who has studied the mystery for three decades. A brief conversation ends with Ishoy presenting a list — one that compiled the characteristics of Atlantis as per Plato's recollection of the city and which Quinto would use through the rest of the episode to compare findings.
Quinto's search for the lost ruins takes him to five different locations: the sunken city of Pavlopetri off the coast of southern Laconia in Peloponnese, Greece; the oldest city in Europe at the palace of Knossos in Crete; the necropolis of Montessu on the Island of Sardinia; the Nuraghe Arrubiu in Orroli, south Sardinia; and the region of Sous-Massa in Morocco. In each of the locations, clues, and items on the checklist, appear to indicate that there are merits to claims they may have been previously been a part of the famed Atlantis empire. Legends claim the empire once eclipsed that of ancient Egypt, so the thought wasn't too farfetched.
However, it becomes apparent that there was a problem with their approach. Unfortunately, Plato's 350 BC musings happen to be the only written mention of Atlantis in existence. This meant that Quinto would repeatedly reaffirm why he felt the present location was a part of Atlantis by reading out the same items on the checklist over and over again — I lost count of the number of times they stated that the ruin was once "technologically advanced" — and by the end of the episode, they had maybe ticked off a grand total of 10 items.
Furthermore, the existence of the list in itself propagated a confirmation bias that became quite evident. At one point, while Quinto is diving underwater, he sees a series of rocks and muses whether it was once a wall; then, at Montessu, he notices a little black on the walls and wonders aloud if bodies were burned at the site. While his over-excited demeanor is endearing at times, it can also get quite grating as 'The Empire of Atlantis' goes to show. The 41-year-old can't help but proclaim they're standing at what was once Atlantis at his current location, only to claim the same at every other ruin he visits as well.
Another segment that felt quite unnecessary and looked to build that false tension the series has, for some reason, embraced was Quinto's Skype call with one Josh Warren. By purpose or by design, Warren's choice of clothing meant he appeared as an ominous, disembodied head and gravely warned the host not to mess with anything he found at any of the ruins because it could have 'grave consequences.' After all the hard work done to scope out and visit numerous relevant locations, why invite a random somebody to dole out menacing cautions? A running theme through every episode of 'In Search Of' that wants to make it appear as if Quinto is in some grave danger every time, it's never going to fool the audience and is, quite frankly, an insult to their intelligence.
But back to the positives, there was some intrigue with one of Quinto's and Ishoy's findings at Montessu. A wall with scribbling that purportedly may have been alphabets. The show brings in hyperspectral imaging experts to scope out the area, giving viewers the chance to get a glimpse at the incredible leaps we have made in understanding our race's past.
Quinto's visit to Jessica Farrell, a hematologist, also threw up an interesting fact in the ambiguity behind the existence of Rh-negative blood types. However, its mooted connection to a super-race that once inhabited the empire of Atlantis, and the board of characteristics that indicated whether you might be one of this people felt something you would see in a Facebook quiz or an astrology column.
Overall, the concept behind the episode was quite adventurous, but the execution could have been a lot better; a microcosm of what has been a mixed first season.