Troy: Fall of a City season 1 review — Netflix, BBC produce a hasty misfire of epic proportions

Deven Kanal

Apr 18, 2018 12:51:34 IST

If I had to give the producers of the show Troy: Fall of a City just one piece of advice, it would have been this: Don't rush it.

Recently, Netflix came under fire from critics and viewers for trying to stretch out plot in its TV shows: See Jessica Jones Season 2 and Luke Cage Season 1, both of which clocked in at 13 episodes each and could have easily wrapped up in eight episodes.

Troy: Fall of a City season 1 review — Netflix, BBC produce a hasty misfire of epic proportions

A still from Troy: Fall of a City. Netflix

One could thus see the temptation that gripped the makers of Troy: Fall of a City, packing in a decade plus of storyline — from Helen eloping with Paris to Troy burning and, spoiler alert, the decimation of their line of kings — in eight one-hour (approximately) installments. The trouble is that there is just so much material to get through (thanks, Obama Homer) that you cannot really do it justice unless you are willing to play the long game.

Chief among problems (there are many) that plague Troy: Fall of a City is that it rushes through most of the plot at a frenetic pace. As a viewer, you never get to really know the characters or develop any kind of affinity with them. It never really answers the questions: Who are these people? What motivates them? Why should I care about them?

Compare this to the master class of storytelling that were the first four seasons of Game of Thrones, in which character development was king and big battles took a backseat (also because they simply did not have the budget). Every death, from Ned Stark to Joffrey, drew a visceral reaction from the audience, partly because you had lived with these characters for years. Every twist and turn only pulled you further into the world they had painstakingly constructed.

Ned Stark was killed off in episode nine of the first season of Game of Thrones, which is a testament to the acting chops of Sean Bean, the character crafted by George RR Martin and brought to the TV screen by David Benioff and DB Weiss. Coincidentally, Sean Bean also played the character of Odysseus in the 2004 Brad Pitt move Troy which received a firm thumbs in the middle from critics, but is leagues better than the BBC/Netflix drama.

By contrast, the world of Troy: Fall of a City feels shallow. The action is limited to a few set pieces, which does not help and most of the characters seem one note, especially Paris and Helen. Helen is a bored housewife. Paris is horny (yes, really). Worse, the actors are seriously miscast and have absolutely no chemistry with each other (or anyone else for that matter).

We also do not get to spend much time with any of the other characters. Menelaus is bitter and vengeful. Agamemnon is hungry for power. Hector is a bit of a big, dumb brute who likes to fight. Odysseus, the most clever man in the world (wonderfully essayed by a rakish Sean Bean in the 2004 movie), is played with a grim, joyless countenance by Joseph Mawle.

Ironically, Netflix deserves praise for casting a number of African-American actors in important roles, especially Zeus, the king of all the gods and Achilles, the world's greatest warrior. In fact, Netflix goes where no one has gone before and makes the bold choice to cast Achilles as both black and bisexual.

Contrast this to the 2004 move Troy where Achilles, played by a seemingly roided up Brad Pitt (allegedly), is introduced to the audience rousing from his bed and leaving behind two beautiful (and presumably satisfied) women. Unfortunately, the BBC/Netflix version of Achilles added another couple of Bs to the mix: Bland and boring. You do not get much from Achilles except that he likes violence and is immensely prideful.

The action scenes are not anything to write home about. The battles look low-rent (Game of Thrones' excellence has forever ruined TV battles for lesser shows) and the duel between Achilles and Hector — the first super fight in history— is ultimately unsatisfying.

Troy: Fall of a City never quite gets into gear even as it hurtles towards its conclusion (and perhaps a sequel about Odysseus' journey home). To steal a line from the shows: "The gods do forgive." Sadly, neither will most TV critics. Troy: Fall of a City is an odyssey to get through and an epic letdown.

Updated Date: Apr 18, 2018 12:51:34 IST