Ancient Worlds: About Face, Forward March

Ancient Worlds: About Face, Forward March

The long flowing gown is a critical component to any young witch's wardrobe. Color is important too. Rose? Still good. But just wait a few more scenes...
The long flowing gown is a critical component to any young witch’s wardrobe. Color is important too. Rose? Still good. But just wait a few more scenes…

My apologies, folks. This week is going to be more brief than usual. You may have heard that we had some excessively exciting weather last night here in Wisconsin. That means little sleep for anyone in my house and a shortage of brain power today.

Having decided for Jason and his men over her father, Medea provides him with a potion that will allow him to harness the fire-breathing bulls and sow the dragon’s teeth. These teeth spring up into an army, but Medea gives him the clue to toss a rock into their midst and they cut each other to pieces.

Jason is successful, but the fleece still isn’t in his hands. After a sleepless and frightened night, Medea realizes that A) there is no way her father is going to give it up and B) he probably knows that she is responsible for Jason’s feats. So she flees the palace, returns to the Argonauts, and promises to lull the serpent that guards the fleece. They can then make off with it, provided that they promise to take her with them.

Once their absence is noticed, the Colchians give chase. Medea’s brother Aspyrtus catches them in the Adriatic. Talks ensue and a bargain is reached: the Argonauts can keep the fleece, as they won it fair and square. The real point of contention is Medea. Since no deal can be reached, they both agree that she should be deposited in a temple of Artemis until a third party can judge whether she should be returned to her father or given to the Argonauts.

And here it gets trope-tastic, as Medea executes what is, in this work, a pretty inexplicable face-heel turn.

Off topic: here, Jason is pictured being disgorged by the serpent who guards the golden fleece. This clearly alludes to another version of this myth, but it’s one that is now lost to us. Which is a damned shame, because this seems like a REALLY INTERESTING VERSION. The figure to the right is Athena, and Medea isn’t present. More fantastic storytelling, lost to time…

Otherwise known as a heel-turn, a “face-heel turn” is (according to tvtropes) a term from pro wrestling whereby a character who has been Good becomes Evil. Maybe they’ve lost a loved one and grief drives them mad. Maybe one of the other Good Guys wrongs them one too many times. And maybe remaining Good results in being sent back to the father you’ve robbed for almost certain execution.

Willow in Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an excellent example. Raistlin Majere may be one of the first you came across, unless you went to Bible school, in which case Judas Iscariot is tops on the list. Face-heel turns can be great when well-executed. They shuffle the chessboard and can add a whole new sense of risk to a story. They can also provide real consequences to a hero’s actions. On the other hand, they can feel both gimmicky and predictable.

Jason clearly didn’t see it coming, though. Medea suggests that the solution to their problems is to murder her brother. Jason is unable to come up with another suggestion and Medea shames him into complying. She doesn’t actually do the deed (Jason holds the knife), but she is without a doubt the responsible party.

Up until this point, in Apollonius’s work at least, Medea has been a child-like if extremely powerful character. She has been brave and strong-willed, but this comes out of left field. But a mass murderer has to start somewhere.

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