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Rome: 2-5F Heroes of the Republic - Full Review

Rome: 2-5F "Heroes of the Republic" - Full Review

Previously: Althea dies of the poison intended for Atia, Duro is tortured, Pullo meets Octavian on the battlefield of Mutina, Servilia is tortured, Pullo finds Vorenus, Antony rallies his spirits as his armies retreat, Brutus and Cassius raise their armies, the Vorenus children rescued by Vorenus and Pullo.

(Bear with me readers. The flu and asthma are making me dizzy. This episode is making me dizzy. I counted 25 changes of scene in a 55 minute drama. The world reels. Great changes are afoot.)

Opening scene. Timon prays in a Jewish temple somewhere, rocking and chanting with the rabbis. Timon is wearing a tefillin (phylactery, or box holding prayer scrolls) on his on his forehead. So I guess he’s becoming Orthodox. Next stop, kosher. Whatever, it’s the last we’ll see of Timon this ep.

Cisalpine Gaul. It’s a wet, miserable camp as two legionaries squat over a small fire stirring some gruel. Thunder sounds, and the rains drizzle down. A twig snaps, the legionaries alert, but it’s only Tom Hanks from “Castaway” with a deer over his shoulder. No, actually, it’s Antony in long hair and beard, looking like it’s a fun camp-out with the boys. He slings down the deer carcass with a hearty ‘Let’s eat!’. The legionaries fall to butchering with a will.

A wagon on the road. Vorenus and Pullo wax philosophical as they carry the sleeping children home. Pullo doesn’t think the Aventine Collegium will make much of an child-care facility, and advises Vorenus to take off for, well, anywhere. Vorenus still figures he has this duty, see – to a fled dictator, Antony. Oh, those life oaths. They are stopped by soldiers, who turn out to be Octavian’s men – Octavian’s back in the Big Olive. With his army. “Fifteen thousand men on the fields of Mars”, they learn. Here we go again. In the wagon, Vorena the younger shakes her sister awake, nods to the now empty seat as Vorenus and Pullo have gone forward to talk to the soldiers. “Not yet,” big sister tells her, “we can’t run off without any money.” Walking back to the wagon, Pullo and Vorenus trade gibes about their respective leaders, Antony and Octavian. “Your boy’s a bit aggressive. Eh?” Vorenus asserts. “My boy gave your man a whipping,” Pullo responds, “I expect he knows what he’s doing.”

Cicero and Octavian confer in Octavian’s camp headquarters. “My dear boy, you are a Hero of the Republic,” Cicero lauds, “Caesar himself couldn’t have done better.” “I am Caesar himself, technically speaking,” Octavian responds. Octavian wants a triumph, but Cicero quibbles on several technical grounds, such as the victory wasn’t over the enemies of Rome, but rather over other Romans, and the victory wasn’t quite complete, being that Antony is still alive, and the victory wasn’t quite Octavian’s either, since the now-dead generals Hirtius and Pansa did most of the fighting. So no triumph. The Senate, Cicero says, has had to sent Lepidus and two legions north to clean up Octavian’s leavings. Octavian concurs that Lepidus is the best man for the job. The people, Cicero asserts, would not look kindly on a triumph, what with Octavian’s soldiers loitering about.

Cicero proposes building a temple to “Caesar Victorious”. Octavian would rather prefer to be made a consul, which Cicero resists, at first, protesting that Octavian is too young at nineteen to be a senator, leave alone consul, “You’ve been listening to bad advice, you have no experience, you have no connections.” “He has an army,” Agrippa points out. He says Octavian will have to listen to his (Cicero’s) wise counsel. Octavian agrees to “not utter a word without your advice, your consent.” Cicero figures he can OK this, since he can control this 19 year old upstart. (Somewhere we hear echoes of a certain Lepus Insectivorus “He don’t know me very well, do he?”)

Atia’s house. Atia and Octavia discuss Octavian. Octavia is planning on going to see Octavian and wants Atia to come along, to make peace with Octavian. Atia insists Octavian must come to her. “You’re delusional! He will not come,” Octavia cries. “Thank you daughter, I really appreciate these little chats we have between your drug binges.” Zing. Octavia is off, then. “Should I give him your love?” (Nothing.) “What should I tell him, then?” “Tell him that he’s still got all our money, and we want it back.” Guess Octavian did make good on those Caesar-bequest pledges, then.

The Aventine Collegium – Mascius flirts with the ever voluptuous Gaia, who apparently favors whoever’s in charge. She sits in his lap, and blows on his dice for luck. Pullo and Vorenus return – the place doesn’t look quite like the smoking hulk we remember from when Pullo returned to Rome. There’re walls here, and ceilings. A hush falls over the crowd as Vorenus and Pullo pause on the landing with the children. Eirene looks up and smiles, a smile Pullo returns. Eirene ascends to hug the children. Vorenus announces the identities of the children to the thieves, ruffians and prostitutes assembled below, lingering a little too long, perhaps, on what they’ve been through, and commands everyone to treat them with respect and kindness “Or I will know the reason why.” Mascius doesn’t look happy to see his boss’s return.

Vorenus leads his family to an upper room in the Aventine Collegium. It’s dusty and squalid, but hey, compared to their previous quarters a palace, indeed. “Gets a good breeze from the river. We’ll have it swept and painted. You like it?” “Yes, father,” Vorena the elder dully replies. Vorenus makes an awkward little speech about being a family again and not speaking of the past. “Yes, father,” Vorena the elder dully replies, again.

Octavian’s camp. Octavian and Octavia reunite. “You still eat like a horse,” Octavian sibling-natters. They trade light banter and tit for tat (no literalism intended) on the subject of Atia. Octavian can’t get over “She set her lover to beating me!” Octavia counters “You drove your family to ruinous debt, for this – playing at soldiers.” Octavian still refuses to come to Atia, stating he will not enter the city until ratified as consul, at which time he will live in Caesar’s villa. Nothing resolved, Octavian dismisses her “Until I’m less busy.” “What a stupid ass you’ve become!” she parting-shots.

Aventine Collegium again – Vorenus reviews how business has been while he’s been away. Mascius, who’s held down the fort against the other gangs while Pullo and Vorenus have been out rescuing maidens, is disturbed to hear he’s still number 3 to Pullo’s number 2. Gaia approaches with a plate of food, and Mascius snaps “Not now woman. Can’t you see we’re talking business!” She gives him a look and a little hiss, and I think Mascius has moved down a few notches on another list, as well. Gaia asks Vorenus if there’s anything else “Boss”, and he sends her to check on the children’s needs. Mascius still stews, and Vorenus tells him “If I die, Pullo becomes first and you move up, that’s how it works.” Pullo tries to lighten the mood with a joke that ‘I’ll bet fifty golden drachma, it’s not me that goes first”. Just then he looks up to see…

Lyde descending the stairs, hesitantly, dressed in a white gown and head scarf. Lyde bows her head in fear as Vorenus approaches. “Raise your head, Lyde, I’m harmless enough. You’re in the temple, now?” asks Vorenus. Vorenus takes her to see the children, but makes it clear he will keep them, not her. The room looks better now, but where’s that promised paint? Vorena the younger and little Lucius leap into Lyde’s hug, Vorena the elder hangs back, but finally joins them. Lucius Vorenus, near tears himself, looks on as Lyde praises the goodness of the goddess. He’s never gotten this hug.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the collegium, Pullo watches Eirene from afar with love in his eyes. “Come to bed, love”. No response, Eirene continues with her dish washing. “What’s wrong, Princess? Why are you crying? Tell me.” Eirene’s upset that Pullo ‘leaves me here with these bad people’. Eirene accuses Pullo of loving Vorenus more than her. (P-V shippers everywhere alert.) Pullo says if Vorenus and Eirene were both drowning in the Tiber, he’d save her first. “Swear?” Eirene starts to thaw. “Swear. You’re half his weight. Half his weight. Easy to save.” Dude, you so don’t want to joke at this point. Nevertheless, it has some effect and Eirene melts into his arms.

Octavian’s camp – Atia comes crawling (literally) and begging for forgiveness. “Forgive me. I’ve been wicked and cruel. Beat me, kill me, do whatever you want to me, just please, please forgive me.” It works. Tears all round. (Are there some dry-eyed crocodiles in the wings?)

Atia’s house – “Look who’s here, daughter.” “Welcome home, brother,” says Octavia. A hug, Atia makes a ‘mission accomplished’ face behind Octavian’s back.

A religious ceremony. A priest invokes ‘Father Janus’ (God of new beginnings, remember?) to heal the Vorenus children of their bad spirits. Vorena the Elder gets a healthy smear of sacrificial blood on her cheeks. Vorenus holds the sacrificial cup high and renounces darkness, promising to ‘walk in the path of light’. No more Son of Hades, I guess. Wonder how the boys at the Aventine Collegium will feel about this?

Antony’s camp. Antony receives Lepidus, escorted by four guards - Antony’s guards - “My old friend.” Antony’s pushing the legion’s grooming standards, having a full beard and mustache and long hair, reminiscent of Brutus two eps ago, but with nothing resembling Brutus’s angst. Guess it’s cold in those mountains. Antony dismisses the guards. “I don’t think General Lepidus has any ill designs on me… do you?” “Not under… present circumstances.” Lepidus replies. It seems as soon as they got close, Lepidus’s legions deserted and went over to Antony. Antony says he must write Cicero and the senate to thank them for the fresh troops. “Soldiers like a little spit and dirt in their leaders – you were a little too noble for them, perhaps, too aristocratic.” Antony makes Lepidus an offer he can’t refuse – second in command.

Octavian’s house – (formerly Caesar 1.0’s). Octavian and Pullo stroll and discuss the finer points of marriage. Pullo delivers the message that Vorenus recognizes Octavian as the legitimate legal custodian in Rome, even as he must obey his sworn oath to Antony. For now Vorenus will keep the peace on the Aventine, even though he can’t guarantee his actions if Antony returns. Octavian agrees to let things rest there, for now.

The Senate – Cicero introduces and lauds Octavian, who has been made consul. Octavian approaches and sits in a plain chair at the center of the room, on a raised platform. His first speech promises a “new era of moral virtue, of dignity, the debauchery and chaos we have had to endure will now end.” But then, he proposes a motion “to declare Brutus and Cassius murderers and enemies of the state.” His oratory has improved. Rumblings erupt, Cicero is having palpitations. Furious at being out-maneuvered, Cicero approaches and grumbles that Brutus and Cassius still have friends in the chamber, and Octavian is endangering the unity of the republic. “Step away from my chair,” Octavian commands.

Rising, gesturing to the senators, “My father died on this floor – right there. Stabbed twenty seven times, butchered, by men he called his friends.” Oh, yes, his oratory has improved. “Who will tell me that is not murder? Who will tell my legions, who loved Caesar as I do, that that is not murder?” Soldiers appear behind the new consul, soldiers with half drawn swords. “Who will speak against the motion?” No one does.

Later, slumped in an empty senate chamber with his scribe/slave Tyro, a furious Cicero dictates a letter to Brutus and Cassius, which he begins “Heroes of the Republic, Greetings…” (Didn’t my draft board’s letter start the same way?)

Aventine Collegium – near the kiddy quarters – Gaia cleans up. As she leaves, Vorena the younger sneaks coins from a box in the room. She scoots back to her quarters and gives them to her sister. Suddenly, they scramble to hide their bags as Daddy comes in. He stoops to pick up a broken toy, an elephant on a wheeled cart, and promises to mend it. “All is well?” Vorenus is being as tender as his nature allows, which is not very. The children say ‘all’s well’ or at least Vorena the elder does. To date, we’ve seen only a single a word pass the lips of Vorena the younger and not one from little Lucius. Vorenus makes another uncomfortable speech about not having time to spend together, and maybe ‘real soon now’, “we’ll spend a day together… in the country… would you like that?” He’s trying, folks. “If you like,” Vorena the elder answers as dully as ever. “Good, good. We’ll do that.”

As soon as daddy leaves, Vorena the younger spits. Remember, as far as the children know, Vorenus killed Niobe.

Back in the bar, Gaia is cleaning up the empty chamber where Vorenus sits, making a new axle for the toy. “Want anything from the kitchen before I lock up?” “No”. “It’s good to have you back.” Drawing things out, “Ever seen a real one?” (the elephant). “Yes.” “Are they as big as they say?” (Not sure she’s still talking about elephants.) “They’re big.” (Double entendres multiplying like lepae.) “No wheels, though.” “No.” Not sure where this rates on the entendre scale.

She makes her move “You can have me, if you like… or I can go.” “Stay.” Cut to sweaty sex. Long shot of the lone light in the window over the Aventine hill. Afterwards, Vorenus dismisses her “You can go… there’s some coins on the table.” Gaia is offended, “I’m not a whore.” “No, then why are you here?” “I thought you liked me.” They go back and forth several times with “Take the money.” “F*** you.” (Q. Isn’t that what started all this?) Vorenus finally prevails, preferring to keep the relationship on a commercial basis.

Cut to some of that debauchery and chaos we’re not going to be having in Rome any more. - a sit-down orgy for, oh, hundreds. Pan flutes and writhing naked female bodies abound. An uptight Agrippa wants to leave, feeling it beneath the dignity of ‘seconds to consul’, but Maecenas is OK with it. The pan-flautists have their amplifiers turned up to eleven, and Agrippa, having trouble hearing Maecenas, shouts he is leaving. Leaving, Agrippa spots Octavia on a bed getting stoned on that far-out Grecian hemp with Jocasta. Jocasta’s beginning to get a little freaked, declaring “the walls are melting”. Thought this was hemp, not acid. Agrippa picks Octavia up and apparently carries her though the streets in his arms to…

Atia’s house – where he leaves her with Castor to be got to bed. Atia appears and wants to know what this soldier is doing with her daughter. “He abducted me!” Octavia whines. “And brought you home to mother? That’s a strange abduction.” Good one, Atia. When it come out she was at an orgy, Atia doesn’t think this will sit well with Octavian’s restoration-of-morality campaign. Atia abuses Octavia a while about the chances she’s taking of getting them both banished to some “filthy Greek isle”, then admonishes Agrippa to not say a word of what’s happened. “Never, of course,” stammers Agrippa. Atia picks up on this, “What do you mean, of course? Why wouldn’t you run and tell your lord and master?”

Agrippa stammers out that he loves Octavia, which gets a sort of half eye-roll from Octavia. “You only say that because you don’t know me.” Agrippa protests that he knows her very well, and would “tear down the sky for her.” Atia’s mental gears are turning as she wonders how she can turn this to her advantage. Agrippa plights his troth a little more, beginning to get some respect from Octavia, perhaps, then starts to exit, but remembering at the last moment that Atia’s been berating his beloved, turns to her to say, “And if you ever speak to her again like that in my presence, I shall…” Suddenly realizing he hasn’t got a leg to stand on here, he hesitates as Atia looks on, bemused and amused. “I shall… I shall be very angry.”

Asia: Brutus and Cassius receive Cicero’s letter, which delights Brutus. Brutus figures Octavian has only four legions, Antony seven. Soon they must fight, then Brutus and Cassius can come in and mop up the survivors.

Aventine Collegium – Vorenus and Pullo sit conferring with Memmio and Cotta. They have the two largest gangs outside Vorenus’s. Vorenus says he wants peace on the Aventine, for his children and because the new consul demands it. Vorenus figures that if these three declare peace “Acerbo and the lower collegia will have to kiss our feet, as they once did.” Vorenus will concede the Argosy docks to Memmio and Cotta, to divide as they wish, Vorenus will keep the Ostians for himself. But, he’ll give the other two “a taste – 5 percent.” “Each,” Cotta amends. “Done.” They clasp hands on “Peace, then.”

Leaving, Pullo says “They’ll think we’ve gone soft.” “Let them,” Vorenus rejoinders, “we need time to regain our strength. While they’re fighting over the spoils of the Argosy, we’ll be recruiting men, and restoring order.”

Cut back to the tavern, where Memmio and Cotta are already starting to quarrel over the divvy of the take in the Argosy. Strategic Vorenus.

Aventine Kiddy-Korner – The children are sneaking off, with stolen money. They run away to aunt Lyde. “We’ve run away. We can’t stay with that evil man.” “He is your father.” “He killed momma!. He cursed us to slavery and disgrace.” (So the children think he sent evil businessman Erastes Fulmen to enslave them? Wonder why they think he then came to save them from that same slavery?) Aunt Lyde, however, says they must go back, for they can’t live without Vorenus’s support, even though they all think Vorenus killed Niobe – and remember Vorenus wasn’t that far from actually doing so, so maybe there’s some justification for their feelings. Lyde says they must profess love for their father and never let him see their hatred.

Octavian’s house. Cicero’s here. It’s “not a social call.” Cicero wants Octavian to surrender command of his legions. If he does, maybe Cicero can persuade the oncoming Brutus and Cassius (and their "twenty legions") to treat him leniently. ”How many legions do you have? Four, is it?” “A war between you and Brutus would be short and bloody, and not to your advantage,” Cicero says. Cicero leaves, and Octavian, Agrippa, and Maecenas strategize. Octavian appears to be at a loss as to what to do. Into their midst walks Atia, “Hello, boys. Why so glum, has someone died?”

Servilia writes to Brutus. We see no lingering effects of her severe injuries from one ep ago. She encourages his advance and sends him his father’s father’s ring, said to be made of gold from the crown of the last Roman king. We see Brutus and Cassius crossing into Greece, near the Hellespont, with their legions.

Antony’s camp. It’s evening, and Antony and Lepidus look over a map, planning their march into Rome. A commotion arises outside. Into camp, with great ceremony, rides a sultry and serene looking Atia, wrapped in furs. Antony gets ‘that look’. Her first remark to Antony “I’m not sure about the beard.” They embrace. Later, in bed, Antony asks, “How on earth did you manage to get here, all alone?” “Oh, I’m not alone,” Atia replies.

In the morning, the troops are lined up for review, and Octavian rides into camp. Antony, stern-faced, strides from his tent like a barbarian king. Atia emerges behind him and gives a slight shake of the head to Octavian. Octavian dismounts, and he and Antony consider each other warily for a moment, then embrace like old friends. Oh, Brutus, you are so, so screwed.

Final scene. More or less a family dinner. Gaia is serving, and we see Vorenus, Pullo, Eirene sharing a lame joke. Vorena the elder, Vorena the younger, and little Lucius bring more food. Vorenus compliments Vorena the elder on the food. Oh, Vorenus, maybe you need to confer with Atia about the advisability of employing a taster. They all drink “to family”. Vorena the elder accepts the compliments, but behind her back she’s making some sort of hex sign.

Fade to credits, this time the music has an Eastern flair.


Next Week: Maybe we finally, finally, finally get to see a big Roman-a-Roman battle. At least the episode’s named for one, and the brief scenes hold out some hope.

- Cecil


Previous Episode: 2-4F “Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare) - Full Review”

Next Episode: 2-6F “Philippi” Full Review


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


Posted by Cecil on February 11, 2007 5:01 PM
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Great recaps.
FYI the hex symbol that Vorena the Elder is making is the Corna, I believe, which has many meanings one of which is infidelity.

I really liked this episode.

-- Posted by: Matt at February 15, 2007 3:32 PM

Thanks, Matt.

A quick Google on "Corna hand sign" shows lots of references, this one among them:

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at February 15, 2007 7:36 PM

Sounds like my predictions/hopes for the next episode are coming true. Someone in another forum has advance access to "Rome" historian Jonathan Stamp's musings on "Philippi". I quote the significant parts:

"We made Philippi 'Rome's' biggest production number for a reason. It was not just the largest clash of arms in all of ancient history – significantly more than 200,000 men fought to the death on that plain in northwest Greece – but also one of the most important turning-points in the story of Rome.

A week of filming, 400 plus extras a day at a quarry near Rome in 100 degree heat, seven months of rendering and special effects, two weeks in the sound edit. We felt it was worth it — for an event that changed history."

Be prepared for a very dramatic new episode. The battle of Philippi determines the next 500 years or so of human history, as the last chance for Rome to return to her republican roots is snuffed out. and an imperial future ordained.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at February 16, 2007 3:23 PM

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