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The Adventures of Aella the Amazon. Part 2: Season One

By Paul Leone.

The first Myth of the Week: Plight of the Pegasus.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Reviews of books, films, and television shows that have an alternate history content are – as long-term readers of this blog will be aware – relatively common. What, one wonders, would happen if the concept were modified to cover such alternate history reviews on a more elevated level? Paul Leone has developed one such possible concept.

Continuing our review of the series. The first review can be found Here.


The Adventures of Aella the Amazon.

Part Two: Season One

(Disclaimer. This is a work of fiction and fantasy; no such show exists... at least in our timeline).

It’s a rare show that’s at the top of its game right from the start, and Aella, sadly, is not one of them. The two-part pilot suffers from a combination of a weak script, a cliché plot (Aella, having come of age, must take part in the Proving, a trio of challenges to prove mind, body, and heart) and some regrettably bad acting on Casta’s part. To be fair, it was her first acting gig, and as mentioned last time, she got a lot better, and fairly quickly on. Casta is reluctant to talk about the show nowadays, but has previously both hinted at behind the scenes problems (one of the executive producers would leave midway through the first season; the other was fired between seasons one and two) and repeatedly praised the programme as “acting school for me.”

One stumbling block was believability. While Sarah Michelle Gellar being physically unassuming was the point of her character, and Lucy Lawless, 5’10” and sturdily built, is believable as a deadly warrior, Laetitia Casta unfortunately fell into the gap between the two ideas. Put simply, she wasn’t an action star, and everyone watching the show was quickly aware of that. The production at first compensated by giving Aella the Amazon Palm Strike, a super-powerful attack where she’d palm strike a foe and they’d awkwardly go flying backwards thanks to the magic of wire-fu. It didn’t take long for the showrunners to realise this worked best as a sometimes treat and they wisely let Menippe and the guest stars handle combat instead. They also wisely focused more on puzzles and mystery instead of action. Some over-eager fans of the show claim it was more cerebral than Xena. This is quite clearly going too far, in my opinion. It’s not going too far to say Xena had a lot more action.

For all their flaws, the first two episodes (Aella the Amazon and Aella the Adventurer) did a serviceable job introducing the characters and the setting. Episode three, The Plight of Pegasus, was the first myth-of-the-week episode and while the flying horse aspects (somewhat central to an episode about Pegasus) are a bit silly, there’s a somewhat touching bond between Aella and Pegasus, and one wishes they’d kept the noble steed around as a main character. Next up was The Madness of Medusa, guest starring Marion Cotillard as the titular monster, here as much as a victim as anything; Aelle’s failed attempt to redeem Medusa and her grief afterwards are genuinely touching for a fantasy action show. You’ll get no cookies if you can guess what The Walls, The Horse, and Echoes of Troy are about. The show’s depiction of the Trojan War is hamstrung by a low budget, but it makes a sincere go at it all the same, and the presence of solid guest stars Adrian Paul, Charlize Theron (a curious decision on her part given that she was already starring in major Hollywood films by 1998) and Lani Tupu elevated things.

Adrian Paul, who appeared as Achilles.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

And speaking of elevating things, the first post-Trojan episode, Agave’s Ambition at least introduces Aella’s twin sister, Agave, played with scenery-chewing glee by young Eva Green. Her wild-eyed villainy, although very much of the petty ‘browbeat a dozen farmers into doing her will’ sort, was a welcome addition to the show’s lore. The next episode, City of Sages, played into the old ‘hidden realm of the super-wise ones who don’t actually help anybody with their super-wisdom’ trope and is mostly notable for a cameo by Patrick Stewart in the grand tradition of great British actors slumming it for a bit of easy cash. The first season ended with The Vengeance of Medusa and the episode delivered what the title promises. Much like in Damien: Omen II, nearly every scene ends with someone’s messy death-by-petrification – including, it seems, Aella, Menippe, and Agave! The last shot of the season is the three of them screaming in terror and agony as they slowly turn to stone. Imagine if the show had been cancelled on that cheerful note? Fortunately, though, Aella and company would soldier on for five more seasons.

Never short of statues for the garden. Marion Cotillard who played the role of Medusa.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

So, what to make of season one? As was (and still is) common with a genre show, the first season sees the writers trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and The Adventures of Aella the Amazon had a bit more of the latter than the former. Fortunately, by the end of the season, clear progress had been made and even the biggest stumbling block (Leatitia Casta’s thespian ability) was less of a factor, if one that wouldn’t fully disappear until season three or so. What can’t be denied is that, much like Xena: Warrior Princess, Aella was fun. The plots were cheesy, the guest stars hammed it up to the Nth degree, and the CGI was goofy even at the time, but there was a vitality to the show that made all of it work somehow. I strongly encourage you to track down the show – it’s readily available on YouTube and on DVD if you prefer physical media (as you should). Until next time, when we go into season two, farewell. Amazons, Attack!

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Paul Leone is the author of the SLP book In and Out of the Reich.

His extensive list of books can be found Here.


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