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Rome Fodder

Rome: Son of Hades - Full Review

Rome 2-2 “Son of Hades” Full Review

Opening credits, and we see the days and months literally passing on that great calendar wall, the one where they move objects around on the niches to represent the date. Sort of the Roman equivalent of the old courthouse clock. Does anyone know if this is a real Roman thing, or a plot device of the producers? I haven’t been able to find out.

On to the episode, and Pullo and Vorenus return home from a hard days beheading. I thought when they climbed that great staircase last ep they were perhaps planning to plant Fulmen’s head on a spike in a high spot, but apparently it’s just a souvenir which Vorenus tosses on the floor under a cabinet, and heads to bed and oblivion, as Pullo looks nervously on.

The winds blow though some naked columns somewhere and we see fighting in the Aventine – one of the seven hills of Rome and the former franchise of capo Erastes Fulmen. Men run with daggers in their back, fires are knocked over, warez are spilt in the street, blood flows freely. An old woman carries a tray of fire, chanting “fever inside”, and we see Pullo emptying a bucket in the street – we’re at Vorenus’s house. A bearded Pullo asks Eirene “gi’ us a kiss, then?”. Eirene’s getting this wife stuff down now, as there’s no more “Yes, master.” Instead she flinches away - “You shave, I kiss.” Guess the honeymoon’s over. Pullo and Eirene talk about getting a place of their own, Eirene being sure that Vorenus’s house has a curse over it and any child conceived there will surely be a monster. A month has passed. Vorenus lies in bed, a mess. Pullo tries the old ‘Spring is here, birds are chirping, lambs are gamboling, time to cut the mourning beards’ ploy without success. Vorenus has spent the month in bed contemplating his sins, and has no plans to move any time soon.

Antony and Atia discuss Cleopatra, who is paying a visit to Rome. “What sort of woman is she?” “Who?” “The Egyptian girl.” “Oh, her. Skinny thing. Talks too much.” These two might as well be married. This is the same sort of conversation you have when the wife asks about the new intern at the office. “I don’t mind your whores, but I don’t want you making love to her sort.” “Meaning younger women of higher rank than [sniff] you?” But as Antony leaves, Atia quietly says “I love you”. Both are just full of themselves for their triumphs over Brutus and Servilia, respectively.

Octavia waylays Antony, post tete a tete, and wheedles him about getting Caesar’s money from the will. Apparently already an old wheedle. Antony’s all ‘what’s your hurry?’, and promises to look into it. Like we haven’t all heard that from government bureaucrats a thousand times.

Antony is holding court and receives Cleopatra. Cleo is looking a bit more regal and attractive than the teen-age tart we saw previously. Maybe she’s stayed off the hard stuff. Antony mentions they’ve met before. Cleo says ‘all you guys in uniforms look alike’ and feigns not to remember him. Antony asks why Cleopatra is looking sad. Cleo says “Caesar is dead, who was like a husband to me.” Antony scoffs at the notion of a Roman consul with an Egyptian wife, which does not amuse Cleo. Posca, whom Antony’s had the good sense to retain the services of, suggests ‘beginning negotiations’ to change the uncomfortable direction this conversation’s beginning to go in.

Charmian, Cleopatra’s factotum, begins to read the agreement. The essence of the deal is Rome is to guarantee Cleo keeps her throne and Cleo guarantees 10 grain shipments a month to Rome (Egypt being sort of the Iowa of the Mediterranean). Oh, and a few payoffs on the side to Antony, personally – 48,000 Denarii a month. (Rome being sort of the Chicago of the Mediterranean). A little fast Charmian/Posca bargaining ending with nods from Antony and Cleopatra brings the number to 42,000 – “delivered on the Kalends”. In other side negotiations, Antony would like to relieve Cleopatra of her pants, while Cleopatra is amenable if Antony will have little Caesarion (now 4) named Caesar’s legitimate son.

They engage in a little torrid whispering back and forth, and Cleo says ‘it could happen’ if Caesarion is publicly acknowledged Caesar’s son. Antony tries to stroke Cleopatra’s cheek, earning a double slap, fore and backhand –very impressive – and a rebuke from Charmian “It is not permitted to touch.” “Nice manners, for a whore”, Antony comments.

“If I must prostitute myself for the good of my family, and my country, I will. The customer pays first, does he not?”

Antony disses Caesarion in vulgar terms, but Cleopatra leaves the matter open –“See you at dinner tomorrow, I believe. Perhaps you’ll change your mind.” Cleo leaves, but on the way out, spots Pullo – who may be the father of Caesarion – in the crowd and gives him a sharp look. If I was Pullo I’d start sleeping with my sword in my hand and my back to the wall.

Antony is holding more court, and an anonymous businessman protests about how the violence in the Aventine since the recent demise of Evil Businessman Erastes Fulmen is bad for business. Antony promises to do something about it. After he’s gone, Cicero the Smarmy chimes in with agreement about the lousy business climate on the Aventine hill. Antony’s tired of the hectoring about the Aventine and protests “I will handle it.”

Antony wants Cicero’s agreement on a list of candidates (which he says is ‘Caesar’s list’ although it may actually be Posca’s) for political office which Cicero protests is full of low-lifes. Antony would like to de-Cicero Rome, but needs him for the moment to control the senate, and so agrees to allow Cicero to edit the list. “Today I need you – tomorrow…?” Cicero knows his leash is short, but pulls a Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll worry about that tomorrow” move when Antony remarks how easy he would be to kill.

Antony is tired of court, and declines to hear the next legation. Posca asked if they might consider just one more item “The matter of my recompense and commission.” “No, no you wretched Greek thief!” and Antony flees, tired of being surrounded by various haranguers about money, only to be assaulted outside by more haranguers about money, whom he ignores, but halts when he hears Titus Pullo call him from the crowd. Now we see why Pullo was hanging around. Pullo asks for advice about helping Vorenus who’s sunk into a huge “I cursed my dead children” funk. The wheels begin turning in Antony’s head. Two avii with one calculus, coming up.

Next we see Antony visiting Vorenus's house. He’s apparently seen Jack Web in “The D.I.” or R. Lee Ermy in “Full Metal Jacket” and takes the same approach to comfort and succor. He braces Vorenus and recounts his various shortcomings. He asks why Vorenus hasn’t done the honorable thing and opened his own stomach. Vorenus figures that Dis is his master, and requires him to suffer a bit more on earth for a while.

Antony disagrees, and reminds Vorenus of his personal oath of loyalty way back when, and calls in his marker.

A few flies call Antony’s attention to the shrunken head of EBEF, which he picks up and contemplates. Pullo volunteers “I tried to get rid of it but it seems to calm him somehow.” Antony bowls the head out the door and over the parapet into the courtyard below. For a second it looks like a distressed Vorenus is about to follow it, but his discipline takes over.

Vorenus gets the job of cleaning up the Aventine. Maybe slightly easier than the Augean stables, but only slightly. “No man is beyond redemption, not even you” Antony asserts, as the camera pans to the head resting in the courtyard below, and perhaps contradicting the consul – it would seem Fulmen is certainly beyond any chance.

Later Atia and Antony disport themselves in a pool in her house, where they discuss Cleopatra some more, then Antony does his “Great Roman Peninsula Hump-Backed Whale” imitation – or is it a moray eel?

Atia is giving a party! Servilia comes! What fun! Atia greets her old friend Servilia and professes forgiveness (now that Atia’s triumphed) and reconciliation. Servilia’s having none of it, but goes though the forms, while speaking volumes with her eyes. Octavian, no fool he, has noticed Timon and his merry men hanging about in the yard and correctly deduces Atia’s planning a little Fulmenesque after-party for Servilia. He puts the kibosh on that by threatening to tattle to Antony that Atia’s breaking the truce and Atia dismisses Timon et al.

Now we see the motivation for the party, as Cleopatra makes a grand entrance. For all their republican professions, the Romans sure seem to have a fascination with royalty, as everybody vies for a glance or a word, none more prominently than Atia. Atia leans over to Antony and says “Just like you said, a little mouse”, as Antony’s eye bulge out and his throat catches at the sight. Antony introduces Cleo to the hostess, and Cleo leans close, touches Antony, and whispers that “Tonight, we shall be informal. It shall be as if we were equals”. She introduces her son and asks “Does he not resemble his noble father?”

“Uncanny”, stammers Antony.

“Nothing like him,” snits Atia, turning away.

There follows about the least cheerful party you’ve ever seen, full of reclining, knowing glances, eating, more reclining, and no conversation whatsoever. Atia, Cleopatra, Antony, Octavian, Servilia, Octavia, Caesarion (oblivious) the camera darts back and forth. Shots of cleavage, shots of sensuous chewing.

We cut to Timon’s house, seeing it and meeting his wife for the first time. Uncle Levi stumbles in with arms full nephews and nieces, making those growling noises uncles always make with the little ones. It’s Timon’s brother, whom he hasn’t seen in nine years. Levi professes to be there for business reasons. Levi will have some wine with Timon, but not eat there since Timon’s house doesn’t keep Kosher. Ah, the old Conservative/Reform split.

At the party, Cleopatra leaves. She oozes a bit at Antony, then Atia. “Atia, I have made a friend for life, I feel it!”

“Indeed”, Atia frosts back.

“Kiss me.” Cleopatra invites.

Atia leans in and kisses her on both cheeks, then leaves her a whispered parting salutation, “Die screaming, you pig-spawn trollop.” Perle Mesta Atia definitely isn’t. Then leaning out, “Safe journey, your highness”.

Cleopatra slinks off, and Antony can barely get a sigh out before Atia screeches “Party’s over, everybody can go home now!” in her best fishwife’s voice. Jeeze, can’t keep the royalty amused, can’t kill your rival. Atia’s parties are no fun any more.

Levi and Timon are deep in their cups, now, and it becomes clear that this is not just a business trip, Levi’s a little bit on the lam. A revolutionary even. Timon warns him he (Timon) has a wife and children to care for so don’t go trying any of that rebel stuff around here.

Somewhere on the Aventine, some local gunsels (spearsels?) are seen lifting two large cloth sacks out of a fountain. One they ventilate with direct sword thrusts. Blood erupts. The other they cut open and out spills a woozy, but still living guy. Well, it wasn’t quite a snake, a dog and a monkey and tossed into the Tiber. I didn’t even see a dog or monkey, but they seem to have made up for it with extra snakes. Apparently non-poisonous snakes, since the idea seems to have been to ‘send a message’ to a rival gang, sort of like a horse-head in the bed. More fighting seems imminent, when a religious procession brings it all to a stop with an announcement of truce and all gang leaders to gather at the Aventine Collegium for a parley, in the name of the goddess Concord, goddess of harmony and supersonic transports.

Pullo is at last getting to shave Vorenus’s beard, with a razor I wouldn’t want near my throat.

At the sixth-hour parley, all the gang bosses hang around wondering who called this mess, and everybody’s all “Not me”, “Not me”, and discussing the finer points of religious truces amidst gang wars. One of the bosses is practically a dead ringer for Fulmen, but nothing’s made of this. Brother? Up walks a clean-shaven Vorenus and Pullo. Vorenus says he speaks with the authority of Mark Antony, which impresses no one. He invites the captains all inside ‘to hear something to your benefit’. A skeptical group follows him into the collegium, flinging the rats off the tables.

Vorenus puts on an Al Haig “I’m in charge here” performance, but with a little more vim. Oh, and 5,000 denarii per month for each gang for limiting themselves to the only the usual graft, and stopping the violence. Gaius Ignus Acerbo objects, wondering who Vorenus is to take over. Vorenus points out that besides being the guy who did in EBEF, he’s “A SON OF HADES!”, and smashes the idol of Concord, declaring “I f*** Concord in her a**”. And them thar is NC-17 stars, brother. Pullo gets a little nervous at insulting the gods, but the gangsters are impressed and decline to object to Vorenus’s self appointment.

Back to a meal at Atia’s. Antony, under fire re Cleopatra, does a Clintonesque “I.. never… touched… that… woman”. Heh. Now that I think about it, Atia does bear some resemblance to Hillary. Octavian’s still on Antony’s case about his inheritance. Antony asks “If I did give you the money, what on Gaia’s great ass would you do with it?” Octavian replies “That’s a complex question.” But doesn't answer it completely. “I’d certainly start by giving the plebs the money Caesar promised them.” Octavian say’s he’s engaged a lawyer to help expedite Posca’s transferring the money, which doesn’t impress Antony, who says Octavian won’t get “one brass oble” of it. Antony exits, and Atia insists Octavian apologize, since Antony is the family’s sole protector. Atia exits. Meanwhile Octavia grumps about her salad. Nothing gets settled, for anybody.

As Antony leaves the house, a young boy is being beaten in the streets, and Antony and his retinue of lictors look nervous and exit quickly, Antony even foregoing his sedan chair. Atia’s chief slave, Castor, runs the boy-beaters off with suspicious ease. The boy thanks him and asks for work, which gets only a shrug, but a further offer of sexual services seems more in Castor’s line.

Octavian and Octavia discuss the money some more. Octavian swears Octavia to secrecy (we know how well that’s worked in the past). Octavian lays out his political analysis of the dire straits Rome is in, and how Antony is bad for Rome, but he (Octavian) has a plan. Before he can get it out, Octavia starts sniggering. Just like Jesus will say about LXXII years later, a prophet gets no respect in his own family/country.

Cut back to Vorenus and Pullo discussing the “Son of Hades” remark, which still makes Pullo nervous. Who’d have thought Pullo the more religious of the two? But come to think of it, there have been many small hints. Pullo praying to Mars over his kills in episode 1, sacrificing a cockroach to Dis for Eirene’s happiness, back when he thought he was going to die in the arena, etc. Vorenus seems to say it’s all an act for the thugs' benefit, but it’s hard to tell how much he believes this himself. Pullo reluctantly goes along.

Back to that calendar thingee, and a brass fish gets placed in a niche. I have no idea how much time this means has passed. None of the Roman months are named after fish, as far as I am aware. Are horoscopes, and the constellation Pisces being represented here? Can somebody decode this thing? Anybody?

It’s morning and the town crier dude announces that if any citizen will kindly make his way out to the fields of Mars, Octavian will personally hand him the 300 sestertii from Caesar’s bequest. I thought it was 75 denarii last week. Inflation? OK, a quick Google here informs me that four sestertii equals one denarius, so all’s right in the world. This wake-up call gets Antony and Atia right out of bed, and they go toss Octavian out of his. Guess either everybody lives right next to the forum, or town crier dude’s got one righteous set of lungs.

Antony and Atia demand to know where Octavian got, or thinks he can get, such a pile of loot, and Octavian says he’s borrowed it against his expectations. How much? 3 million sestertii. (I have no idea how to write this in Roman numerals. A quick calculation tells me there must be 10,000 eligible citizens.) This sends Antony to chewing the rug. Octavian tries to convince Antony that his (Octavian’s) venture into politics can be the basis of a mutual support society that benefits them both.

Atia snatches Octavian‘s towel and hits him with it. Octavian slaps her. Antony responds by nearly drowning Octavian, then pointedly refraining from hitting him. Atia, leaving with Antony, calls Octavian a very bad name indeed. Octavian sees her bad name, and raises her one back. This finally does provoke Antony to violence, and he throws Octavian to the floor, straddles him, and demands he apologize. Atia tries to intervene. Octavian sees an opening and whangs Antony in the mouth with a pot. Now Antony’s into some serious violence, in the process knocking over a brazier and starting a small fire, pounding on Octavian with blows to the head followed by heavy choking. Atia pulls Antony off, Octavia rushes in and cradles her brother, while a slave fights the fire. Octavian, his temper up for the first time, well, ever, screams “You’re not fit to lead Rome!” and then lies there bleeding.

Back to the Aventine some time later, where Pullo now has the world’s greatest job – talent scout for a bordello. He’s interviewing a real babe, played by Zuleikha Robinson, whose name “to the Romans”, she says, is Gaia. Gee when Brutus and Antony both referred to ‘Gaia’s green earth/great ass’, you don’t suppose… Nah. Gaia says she’s not ‘talent’, she’s supervisory material. Pullo approves, and Eirene better keep an eye out. Pullo also hires an old army buddy whom he takes to the back room to see Vorenus, and they chat about old times for a while – the buddy’s name is Mascius.

Over to Servilia’s house, and Servilia and Cicero are creaming themselves over the news of the falling out between Antony and Octavian. Servilia wants to bring Brutus back, but Cicero says ‘not quite yet’, which cools Servilia’s attitude a bit.

We next hear a letter Octavian’s composed to Atia, saying he’s sorry she’s taking Antony’s part, and he’s ‘going south’ to Campania, and to visit his good friend Agrippa (who was not, as I mistakenly wrote earlier, the third leg of the second triumvirate, but a famous Roman general who I'm sure we'll be seeing more of, later - thanks TJ.).

We see Octavian’s battered face as he and a retinue of soldiers head south. They pass a slow moving slave wagon headed in the same direction, and as the point of view pans across the unhappy faces of the slaves, we recognize first Lyde, then Vorena the elder, then Vorena the younger, then finally, little Lucius… … all alive. Cue Spanish-sounding closing music.

Next Week: Rome appears to be a free for all – everybody against everybody.

- Cecil

Previous Episode: 2-1: "Passover"

Next Episode: 2-3: "These being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero"

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

Posted by Cecil on January 22, 2007 9:16 PM
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Good review Cecil. I just have one question; I thought the 3rd member of the Second Triumvirate was Marcus Aemilius Lepidus? Or is "Agrippa" just a nickname for Aemilius? Just curio.

-- Posted by: TJ at January 23, 2007 5:45 PM

You're absolutely correct, TJ. Don't think I can sell this as a typo, so we'll have to call it a braino. Thanks, and I've made a correction, with attibution, in the text.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at January 23, 2007 6:59 PM

Cecil,would you please tell me what's the name of the song in the end of this episode? i keep chance :(

-- Posted by: alina at August 1, 2007 3:23 PM

I have to tell you I'm not very good on music, but as soon as I can get to the tape I'll take a listen and see what I can see. Check back here in a week or so. The official HBO website and the TWOP sites were unhelpful.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at August 2, 2007 2:04 PM

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