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You Should Be Watching: 'Troy,' 'In Search of the Trojan War,' 'History of Britain'

If you yearn for an epic production of the world’s literally most epic love story, then set sail to see “Troy: Fall of a City.” Telling us the torrid tale of the elopement that rocked the ancient West, “Troy” offers both furious battle and passionate romance.

Title: “Troy: Fall of a City”

Year it began: 2018

Where it can be seen: Netflix, BBC

Who’s in it: Louis Hunter, Bella Dayne, David Threlfall, Frances O’Connor, Tom Weston-Jones, Joseph Mawle, Alex Lanipekun, Chloe Pirrie, Johnny Harris, David Gyasi, Jonas Armstrong and Alfred Enoch.

Typical episode length: 56 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 8

Brief plot description: During a diplomatic visit, the Trojan Prince Alexander and Spartan Queen Helen fall in love and abscond to Troy. To recover Helen, Agamemnon leads a Greek army featuring Achilles to besiege Troy, whose forces include Hector and Aeneas.

Why it’s worth watching: “Troy” succeeds by sticking close to the standard story told by such ancient poets as Homer and Virgil. It uses gorgeous filming locations and a talented cast to vividly imagine a classical world pulsing with passionate deities and two fiercely competitive civilizations. We get fantastic renditions of the legend’s key set pieces, such as the fateful moment when Paris ensures destruction by choosing Aphrodite (Lex King) over the vengeful goddesses Hera (Inge Beckmann) and Athena (Shamilla Miller), or the horrific scene where a morally shattered Agamemnon (Harris) monstrously sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia (Lauren Coe) to gain favorable winds for his fleet.

The exquisitely paced opening episode, which blends Cassandra’s bloody visions of Troy’s future fall with slowly building erotic tension, creates scintillating chemistry as Paris and Helen begin an emphatically consensual affair. Projecting a wild freedom and passionate love for Helen, Hunter is fantastic as Prince Alexander (better known by his shepherd’s name, Paris). Dayne is equally terrific as Helen: as stately and intelligent as she is beautiful, Dayne’s Helen reveals a deep desire for independence that is satisfied in a Troy where women are valued as much as men. Many fine performances flesh out the legend, including Gyasi’s coolly aloof Achilles, Mawle’s cunning and melancholy Odysseus, O’Connor’s gracefully intense  Hecuba, and Threlfall’s refined yet fiercely proud Priam. I found myself especially mesmerized by the show’s eerie presentation of deities: here, spectacularly partisan goddesses strut across raging battlefields, while a world-weary Zeus (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) remains resolutely neutral amidst the chaos.

Also to consider

“In Search of the Trojan War.” On the same topic, Michael Wood offers a breathtaking exploration of a truly epic legend. Investigating whether there really was a Trojan War, Michael Wood consults with experts and visits locations involved with the story of Greek armies invading and destroying Troy. A masterful storyteller, Wood transforms the search for a historical Trojan War into spellbinding television. Structuring the documentary as a personal quest, Wood and his crew travel to a variety of locations that offer vital clues about the Greeks invaders who famously fought with Trojans after Paris absconded with the Spartan Queen Helen. Info: 6 episodes, 59 minutes each. Available via BBC and Amazon.

"A History of Britain." If Brexit has got you wondering about Britain, then fix yourself a cup of tea and take a televised tour through “A History of Britain.” Guiding us from the Stone Age to today, Simon Schama brings both passion and clarity to Britain’s past. The show uses smart scripts, vivid visuals, and historic locations to offer a deep history of the British Isles, from ancient times to today. With a big BBC budget and a top-shelf historian host, “A History of Britain” is documentary history at its best. Guiding us every step of the way, Schama presents the drama of history with infectious enthusiasm. Divided by eras into three sets, the series features gorgeous filming locations, tasteful music and exquisite writing. Info: 15 episodes, 59 minutes. Available via BBC and Amazon.

 

 

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