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Rome Fodder

Rome: Passover

Rome Episode 2-1 “Passover”

Opening scene. Caesar’s body lies alone on the floor of the Senate. Antony, leaving the Senate, is accosted by a gang of toughs with swords, led by Quintus Pompey, and flees, senatorial robes flying.

Brutus returns to his mother Servilia’s side, agonizing over the brutality he has just done and witnessed.

Posca weeps over the body of his slain master.

Lucius cradles the dead Niobe, then turns and shakes the boy Lucius asking whose child he is. When the boy’s sisters and aunt attempt to intervene, Lucius curses them all, then wanders the streets of Rome, where he hears from a legless beggar that “Caesar is dead!” Posca and other slaves spirit away Caesar’s body.

In Atia’s house, Octavian comforts his weeping mother. He attempts to comfort Octavia as well, but she retorts that she is not weeping, she is angry. Timon appears, apparently summoned by Octavian, and announces he has ten men with him, the city is quiet, doors closed as if waiting for something. Octavian, Timon and Octavia discuss fleeing the city but Octavian prefers to wait to assess the lay of the post-Caesar political land first.

In a private chamber of Atia’s house, Antony is washing the blood from his body and vowing “I swear on the black stone I will kill them all – Brutus, Cassius, and Casca, and the whole damned lot of them!” He decides “I will go north and raise an army of monsters, and I will return and I will crucify the whole lot of them”. After he and Atia spat a bit, it’s decided they should go together with all Atia’s household, and also bring Caesar’s widow, Calpurnia. Atia balks a bit at this, but Antony says Calpurnia must go for the sake of appearances with the proles.

Vorenus has collapsed in the street, when he is discovered by a blind beggar, apparently considered a holy man, whom he begs “Father, wake me.” Does Vorenus think he is dreaming? The holy man promises and begins a soothing chant, then knocks Vorenus unconscious and robs him with the assistance of a young helper.

In the country where they have made pilgrimage to the shine of some goddess, Pullo proposes to his former slave, Eiraine. Eiraine accepts. In a touching and brief ceremony, they each dab the other’s forehead with… what? - blood from the idol? – mud? - and apparently the marriage is complete. No bridesmaids, no endless shopping for dresses and accessories, no guest list, no band, no DJ, no photographer nor any of the modern paraphernalia of marriage. And we think we’ve advanced in the last 2000 years?

Caesar’s body lies in his house. Mourners chant around him, as Posca weeps in the background. In a bizarre death ritual I’d previously not heard of a woman approaches and bares a swollen breast and squeezes a few drops of milk on the lips of the corpse. They never taught about this in Mrs. Sherrod’s Latin class. Calpurnia thanks the milk-bearer for her services.

Antony, Atia and her household approach to pay their respects. Calpurnia wonders that none of the other friends or family have show up, but Octavian sneers “They’re afraid.”

Antony tells Calpurnia that they are leaving the city, because “It’s not safe.” Calpurnia insists that Caesar’s will must first be read because “It is the proper form.”

Cut to Posca reading the will, as the Julii and Antony gather round. Calpurnia is given adequate wealth for her support. Every legal citizen of Rome is given 75 denarii (“What a waste” Atia snorts.) Then in the telling stroke, Caesar bequeaths his name and all remaining property to “…Gaius Octavian, who is henceforth to be regarded for all legal purposes as my lawful son and sole heir.” Atia seems stunned. Antony must have been staggered by this, but gives not a sign and simply asks “What else?” Posca is given his freedom and a stipend. “I give you joy of your freedom,” Antony stiff-upper-lips, “What else?” “There are no further bequests”.

Antony’s eyes narrow, and with a sniff he congratulates Octavian. Atia’s eyes shift sideways from son to lover. An empire is shifting in this room.

Calpurnia departs, as Octavian sinks into calculating thought, while Atia seems trying to cope with the sudden events. “So Octavian gets everything?”. Antony counters that the will isn’t worth the wax it’s scraped on, since Brutus and his cohorts now control everything, and will undoubtedly nullify the will. Posca concurs that with Caesar declared a tyrant, all his acts, including the will would be declared void.

Octavian says “They cannot take the name.”

“Oh, no, that’s all yours, much good may it do you,” Antony responds.

Antony and Atia walk to another room, making plans for fleeing the city, and possibly having to bring a recalcitrant Calpurnia with them by force. Octavian, following, has completed his calculations, and come up with an alternate plan. ‘I must stay, and you with me that the family appear united.’ Atia dismisses him with a brush of his cheek, ‘What a strange, pompous little boy, we’re going North’. But Octavian sticks to his guns (well, spears, I suppose) and points out that he is now head of the family and makes the decisions “Strictly speaking.” Atia still insists they’re going.

Now we see the power and deviousness of Octavian’s mind in his dialogue with Antony:

“Antony, listen, Brutus is in a legal bind. I think we can force him into making a deal with us.”

“Go on.”

“Brutus must declare Caesar a tyrant, else the act of killing Caesar is murder. But all the acts of a tyrant are unlawful, including those appointing Brutus as praetor, Cassius as proconsul, and so forth.”

“And so?”

“If Brutus honors the law, he loses all rank and position.”

“Lawyer’s prattle.”

“I don’t think so. If you offer them amnesty in return…”

“Amnesty! I’m going to eat their livers! Amnesty!”

“You’re not following me.”

Atia beaks in with objections.

“You don’t understand,” Octavian asserts. “If the will stands, and it might, you are mother to the richest man in Rome. If the will is broken, Servilia… has that honor.”

Atia subsides into silence, and you can practically see the denarii signs lighting up in her eyes. Antony snorts and turns to Posca, telling him to be prepared to bring Calpurnia by force if necessary when Antony gives the word. Posca, the only man in Rome with as devious a mind as Octavian, points out that, until the will is ratified he is still a slave, and bound to the house of Caesar, and must “respectfully” resist any attempt to carry his mistress off by force. Before Antony can turn him into Posca-bits, Atia comes out of her stunned stupor to announce “Antony, we’re staying.”

Now we’re in the countryside, where Mr. & Mrs. Pullo are enjoying a refreshment at an open air roadside stand, when a horsemen rides up shouting that “Caesar is dead!”. Pullo dismounts the messenger and takes his horse, swinging Eiraine up behind him and galloping for Rome.

Niobe’s sister and daughters are washing her body as little Lucius tried to clean his mother’s bloodstains from the floor. They fret over the possible return of Vorenus. Elsewhere Vorenus wakes from his holy mugging. Back to the preparation of Niobe’s body. A step is heard outside. It’s… Evil Businessman Erastes Fulmen and his henchmen. “Hello, children.”

Cicero smarms into Servilia’s house “Immortals, you have carved your names deep in the eternal stone,” he congratulates Brutus and the other plotters assembled. He whines that they had not included him in the plot.

“We rather thought you preferred not to know” Brutus says.

“The city is secure.” “We have 2000 men under arms, Caesar’s people have fled.” “The city is ours,” various plotters assert.

Hearing that Antony is not dead, Cicero calls it an error, a grievous error.

Brutus responds, “We are senators, not hired thugs, kill him yourself if you want it so.”

Cicero declines this honor, and prepares to depart for the country, when behind him in walks none other than Mark Antony. “Why friend Cicero, why so pale?” Cicero, reputed the greatest orator of the time, has no answer but a nervous throat clearing, and we cut away to…

A bloodied Vorenus, standing over the body of Niobe, in silence until Titus Pullo walks in. In response to Pullo’s questions, Vorenus admits he had been about to kill Niobe for her infidelity when “She did it herself”. Vorenus does not know where the children are, but wails “I cursed them.”

Antony sits down for a conference with Brutus, Cassius, and Cicero, with Servilia and Quintus Pompey standing to the side. Cicero nervously asks Brutus to confirm that he knew nothing of the plot, which Brutus does. Antony objects to the presence of Quintus, “This man tried to kill me this morning.” Brutus objects he gave orders that Antony was not to be touched. Cassius apologizes if “this man has been overzealous” and orders Quintus to go,

Servilia cuts to the chase and asks Antony the reason for his visit.

Antony congratulates the plotters on vanquishing a tyrant, but asks why he does not hear the people rejoicing in the streets. They are afraid of change, Brutus replies but asserts that the people will come around and all the ‘important people’ are with them, ‘The senate, the knights, the pontiffs [what about pontiff Octavian? - CR], the urban cohorts, the lictors’ guild…’

“Oooh, the lictors, very good”, Antony sneers (he sneers so well, and so frequently), “only rally the bakers and the flute players and you can put on a festival. Best wait until after the elections, though.”

“What elections?” asks Cassius, taking the bait.

“Surely, you’ve thought this through?” Antony asks, then lays out Octavian’s plan, without mentioning Octavian. A general truce and amnesty, everyone to keep their offices, Caesar to be buried without being named a tyrant, his will to be uncontested. All this to avoid those messy elections in which the populace might seek revenge for Caesar’s death. Antony to serve out his term as consul, then just ‘fade away to the countryside’ like the simple soldier he is.

Servilia points out she has no desire to be reconciled with Antony, to which he responds, eyes narrowing. “Well if we cannot be friends, we will be enemies, and I shall do everything in my power to annihilate you.” He agrees to wait outside while the group discusses his proposal.

Cassius and Cicero both urge Brutus to have Antony killed while they have the chance. Brutus resists “He is a guest in my house.”

Servilia, showing a fine penchant for a career in the law, points out “He is not in the house, he is on the street.”

Brutus responds “You, too, Mother?” Which in Latin would be “Et tu”, the line we specifically didn’t hear Caesar say to Brutus as he made the “unkindest cut of all”.

In the street, Quintus and a gang of toughs idle around in the background as Antony waits. Brutus emerges from the house and accepts the deal. After a hug, a smiling Antony begins to depart, then turns and approaches Quintus, right hand extended from beneath his toga, still smiling. Quintus looks worried and undecided, as well he should since Antony’s left hand flashes from underneath the toga with a sword and slits Quintus’s throat neat as you please. Quintus is still standing, not quite realizing he’s dead yet, as Antony turns and strides away, still smiling.

Vorenus’s house. Pullo is washing the blood from his face. Vorenus anguishes over cursing his children. “You didn’t kill an animal on it, did you?” Pullo asks. Vorenus says ‘no’. “There you go then, it isn’t sealed,” Pullo states optimistically.

In the forum, the town crier (seriously, did these guys have a title?) is gesturing at full tilt, announcing Caesar’s funeral, eulogies ‘in a spirit of truce’ to be delivered by both Brutus and Antony. “No prostitutes, actors, or unclean tradesmen may attend.” Wonder if this includes Mr. Evil Businessman?

Servilia pays a condolence call on Calpurnia. Calpurnia gets to spit in her face. Twice.

Octavian is explaining events to Pullo. Octavian explains how Servilia knew of Niobe’s indiscretion but cautions Pullo that no one else must know. He explains he is now Caesar’s son, by provisions of Caesar’s will.

“You’ll be wanting vengeance, then,” Pullo responds matter of factly

Vorenus is still silently keeping his vigil over the dead Niobe, as Eiraine fidgets nervously close by.

Atia, surrounded by servants, is waking Antony to get ready for the funeral. Antony wants sex with her or somebody before he will get out of bed. Atia sends her chief attendant to “Fetch that German slut from the kitchen.” And tells the servant hemming her funeral dress to “Get if right this time, or you’ll be next for the ‘King of Goats’ over there.” Heh. Lifestyles of the Roman Rich and Famous.

In another of the parallels that run rife through this episode, Pullo summons Vorenus to go with the undertaker for Niobe’s funeral. Vorenus continues to fret over the children, and Pullo attempts to comfort him. Vorenus himself pulls the cart bearing Niobe’s body, as a small band of mourners follow.

Somebody (the German slut?) is lying naked on Antony’s bed as he is draped in a black toga.

In his house, Brutus is dressing similarly.

Niobe’s body lies on her funeral pyre. There is something (a coin?) on her lips. Vorenus wearing a black cloak, sprinkles soil on her forehead, then covers her face before applying the torch, as a light snow falls. Or is is ashes from the fire? Hard to tell.

A much larger group of mourners gather around the body of Caesar in a private room, then the doors are opened to the crowd outside.

We cut back and forth between Niobe’s modest funeral pyre, and Caesar’s magnificent one, small crowd of mourners to huge throngs. The crowd around Caesar’s pyre is noisy, and apparently they throw coins into the flames, as soldiers hold them back. Vorenus and Pullo respectfully gather fragments from the ashes of Niobe’s pyre, and wrap them in cloth.

After Caesar’s funeral, Antony is again at Servilia’s house, urging Brutus to accept a post as “grain monitor” which will get him out of the city. Antony’s speech has so aroused the crowd that he ‘fears for the safety of Brutus and his friends’.

Servilia hisses that Antony is a “liar and an oath breaker”. Cassius says they still have all the “men of quality” on their side.

Antony retorts “And I have an angry mob, that will roast and eat your men of quality, in the ashes of the Senate”, throws down his cup after one of his better sneers, and departs.

Vorenus, Pullo, and Eiraine return from their modest funeral, calling for the children. Hearing a sound from inside the house, they rush in and discover their nosy neighbor hiding in a cupboard. Fearfully, she protests she wasn’t stealing, only retrieving things she’d lent Niobe. Pullo tells her this doesn’t matter, but “Do you know where the children are?”

“Erastes Fulmen took them.” Vorenus and Pullo dash off.

Short scene of Brutus and Cassius, with retinue, leaving the city.

Cut to a tavern where one of Fulmen’s henchmen is describing the funeral and Antony’s oration. Fulmen apparently didn't want to test his 'clean tradesman' status and didn't go. The henchman apparently approves of Antony’s rabble-rousing, but EBEF grouses about the lack of dignity and decency (as if he’d know).

[Let me just interject here that the non-showing of Antony’s funeral oration is a disappointment rivaled only by the first season’s glossing over the battle of Pharsalus. Perhaps Shakespeare was too much for the writers to compete with, or perhaps the producers or directors felt James Purefoy was not up to the task, but Antony’s oration was surely a (it not the) great turning point in the struggle for post-Caesar political dominance, and I’d have liked to see more than a drunken recounting of it. End rant.]

Now Fulmen is shown having a sweat in a steam room in his home, and yelling for ‘Claudio’ to cut out the racket in the other room. In walks a bloody Vorenus, sword in hand, accusing “You have my children.” EBEF professes to have no knowledge of the children, and again calls for Claudio. Vorenus grimaces though the blood on his face, “Claudio’s not coming.” EBEF runs out to the next room, which is full of dead henchman, and a live, bloody, sword-bearing Titus Pullo.

EBEF, apparently figuring there’s no use fighting it, invites the two to have a drink. They decline, but he pours one for himself and slumps heavily into a seat. Vorenus again demands to know where his children are.

“Tell him,” Pullo prods, “tell him, and if they are yet unharmed you may live.”

“You think so?” Fulmen chuckles.

Prodded again by Pullo, Fulmen has a drink, then tells Vorenus “I took your children in repayment for your many slights to me.” He says he raped them, then killed them, and threw them in the river. Not very stirring last words. Vorenus swings his sword.

In the next scene we see Vorenus carrying Fulmen’s head, swinging by the hair, though the marketplace, Pullo at his side and watching his back, both still bloody. Never piss off a couple of the Thirteenth. They climb a long stairway, from the top of which we see a wide shot of the neighborhood, and the river beyond.

- Cecil

Next Episode - 2-2 "Sons of Hades"

Click here for complete "Rome" broadcast schedule, including reshow days, times, and HBO Channel

Posted by Cecil on January 14, 2007 8:04 PM
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First of all, it's Marc Antony; not Anthony. Marc Anthony is married to J-Lo. Secondly, you forgot to mention that in the conversation Antony has with Brutus about being "grain monitor" and leaving the city that Servillia is to stay as Antony's "guest". And thirdly, Erastes calls for Fulvio, not Claudio.

Personally, I liked that fact that they didn't show the funeral orations. First of all, we all know them from Shakespeare. But those were written by Shakespeare and not take from historical texts.

The new season is off to a rip-roaring start, I'd say.

-- Posted by: Krelnick at January 15, 2007 10:38 AM

>Krelnick says:
>Marc Antony not Anthony

Good point. I think I was influnced by my grandson Anthony who's spending the weekend with us. I'll make the correction.

>Secondly, you forgot to mention that in the conversation Antony has with Brutus about being "grain monitor" and leaving the city that Servillia is to stay as Antony's "guest".

Another good point. But it's "Servilia" with one "l".

>Erastes calls for Fulvio, not Claudio.

I don't have captioning to check, and the role is not credited, but I've listened to that scene 9 or 10 times now, and sometimes I can hear "Flavio", and sometimes "Claudio" but never "Fulvio". When I can get access to a captioned version, I'll check again.

>Personally, I liked that fact that they didn't show the funeral orations. First of all, we all know them from Shakespeare. But those were written by Shakespeare and not take from historical texts.

Agreed they wouldn't have been the same as Shakespeare's, and the writers may have felt attempting their own take would be lese majeste'. Still, I'd have liked to have seen them try.

>The new season is off to a rip-roaring start, I'd say.

100% agreement.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at January 15, 2007 2:41 PM

After my third viewing (geek alert!), you're right - it's "Flavio". Not that it matters, except to us fanatics.

-- Posted by: Krelnick at January 16, 2007 11:03 AM

I stand corrected on one point (probably among many).

The official HBO recap of this episode states that Erastes Fulmen's encounter with the bloody Vorenus takes place in the steam room of the tavern that we saw him in earlier with his henchmen, not in his house.

So apparently that stack of bodies Pullo was standing over was in the drinking area. Hope they were all henchmen, and not just some poor soul sitting there enjoying a cuppa vino when Pullo and Vorenus burst in.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at January 18, 2007 1:34 PM

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