Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Man from Atlantis: "Hawk of Mu" (October 18, 1977)

Mark Harris (Patrick Duffy) finds an unusual ally against Mr. Schubert (Victor Buono), his adult, somewhat awkward daughter: Juliette (Vicky Huxtable).

Juliette's help is necessary because Schubert has set his sights on the acquisition of a strange an d ancient relic, a hawk statue that can cause power black-outs.  The device is protected in an ancient underwater cave by booby traps.

Once Schubert gets his hands on the unusual device, Mark and Juliette must get it back, lest Schubert once more hold the world ransom.

“Hawk of Mu” is a down-right weird episode of Man from Atlantis (1977). The McGuffin of the Week is a big hawk statue which is held in an underwater vault, and if possessed, can short out power around the world.  

But the hawk statue can also transform into a living hawk, as we see in the climactic act.  There, it escapes from Schubert, and attacks Mark, and then flies away, never to be seen again.

Although Schubert name-drops, by way of explanation, Easter Island, no satisfactory history of this device is presented in the episode.  Who created the statue? What is the statue?  Why was it left in the undersea vault?  Is it a weapon? Where does it go?

These questions, pale, perhaps, in context.  The big question of “Hawk of Mu” is, simply, why is Mr. Schubert still a free man?  

In the time since the series has begun, we’ve seen him hold the world ransom with a microwave device, and create a sentient, out-of-control robot probe too.  At the very least, there is enough evidence to consider him a “person of interest,” and it seems the Federal Government would want to hold him for his “proximity’ (if nothing else…) to several illegal and dangerous activities.

But “Hawk of Mu” seems more concerned with the funny/quirky Mutt and Jeff relationship between Mark and Schubert’s daughter, Juliette than in these other concerns of narrative and character. She accidentally causes Mark to be captured and sent to jail, but then assists him in escaping. Schubert, meanwhile, wants to know the water breather’s intentions towards his daughter.

The most dramatic and intriguing portion of the episode concerns Mark’s discovery of the undersea cave, and his efforts to enter the secret chamber. For a time, he and Elizabeth Merrill (Belinda J. Montgomery) are trapped inside the chamber, until they find the (secret) release button controlling the stone door.  This portion of the episode fulfills the adventure/mystery quota of the show, even though the writers seem hell-bent on making a Man from Atlantis a light-weight superhero show one with campy villains and weird plots.

More and more, one can see how Patrick Duffy’s sincere performance as Mark Harris is the (often-powerful) anchor that grounds Man from Atlantis and keeps audiences tuned in.  Here he treats the quirky Juliette with respect and decency, and notes that he doesn’t “make fun” of people who are different.  Instead, he finds her "charming."  

The innocent, fish-out-of-water depiction of the character keeps Mark, and his series, generally appealing, even when the stories are baffling, or a letdown.  

In terms of the Man from Atlantis's powers, we see in "Hawk of Mu" (as we did in the TV-movies) that he weakens when taken away from the water, and that he becomes rejuvenated, and scary strong, when he is in water.  Here, when he is hit with the water from a hose in prison, he becomes physically powerful and bends the jail bars with his bare hands.

Next episode: “Giant.”

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