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Rome Fodder

Rome: 2-6C Philippi - Capsule Review

Rome: 2-6C "Philippi" - Capsule Review

Previously: We see the children enter the Aventine Collegium, Timon in the synagogue, Octavia’s “abduction” from the orgy, the Janus ceremony, Brutus and Cassius plot their triumphant return to Rome, Antony’s camp in the alps.

Opening scene: Greece, Brutus and Cassius’s legions march. Riding along, Brutus enjoys the scenery while Cassius does the accounts on horseback, grumbling about how much armies eat. Guess he hasn’t read his Napoleon – “An army travels on its stomach”. Oh yeah, that’s another XIX centuries from now.

Cisalpine Gaul: While Octavian writes in wax with a stylus, Antony is doing all the talking, planning their campaign in Greece. His strategy is basically Bedford Forest’s – get there the fustest with the mostest. Octavian, it turns out, is planning for the home front – he’s making a little list - of men to be killed in Rome. No sense leaving supporters of your enemy at your backs as you ride off to do battle. Octavian will send the list to Vorenus to parcel out the contract murders among the gangs. Maecenas points out that the confiscated money of the dead men will come in handy. Posca scowls silently in the background. Lepidus will be left behind with a small contingent to keep order.

Atia’s been listening and speaks for the first time, saying she’s got a name to add to the list. ‘No’, Octavian says, ‘no killing women’, i.e. Servilia. But the name, Atia proposes is Rufus Tranquillis. ‘Huh’ says everyone simultaneously, including your reviewer. Turns out he’s Jocasta’s father. Guess that’s one way to deal with her social climbing. Maybe we could try a haughty snub, first? The guys are not down with this at first, but come around on hearing how wealthy Tranquillis is.

Antony proposes Cicero should go first, both to settle a personal score and because he’s the most dangerous. Oh, and have his hands nailed to the senate door – Antony promised him that, in the past, if Cicero ever crossed him again.

The army is departing to face Brutus and Cassius’s legions. Atia tells Antony to ‘bring her Brutus’s head for a wedding centerpiece. Antony shies a little at this wedding talk.

Aventine Kiddy Korner: The children are playing at cosmetics, with some help from Gaia. Lucius Vorenus, encountering this, objects and tells Vorena the elder to rub it all off, toot sweet. Vorenus tells Gaia to not interfere with the children.

Later, little Lucius runs out to play in the street, pursued by his older sister. From the side, two thugs remark the pair.

A meeting in the Aventine Collegium: Pullo doodles while Vorenus hands out death orders. The gangs quarrel over how to spend the money the assassinations will bring them. Vorenus, as canny in gang psychology as he is inept in family psychology, proposes they spend some of the money on bread and fish giveaways, to improve the gangs’ reputations, since in the coming peaceful times, they’ll need some support from the populace. Memmio agrees to the plan just a little too readily.

On the street, one of the same thugs makes goo-goo eyes at Vorena the elder as her chaperone dozes.

Memmio and Cotta ascend those long Aventine stairs. Cotta wants know why Memmio backed Vorenus. Memmio says Vorenus is a man of vision.

Vorenus sends Pullo on a little errand. Pullo says, since it’s a wonderful day, why not take the whole family along for a picnic? Way to turn an assassination in to a kiddie romp, Pullo. As they break up, Gaia bats her eyes a little at Pullo, but Eirene’s been watching and calls him on it.

Some Sylvan glen: The Pullo-Vorenus party throws down a checkered cloth and enjoys the out of doors. Pullo excuses himself to go run and errand – with his sword.

Cicero’s country villa, the garden: A messenger arrives bringing Cicero the news of the Octavian-Antony alliance that bodes ill for Brutus and Cassius. Cicero hastens to dash off a warning letter to Brutus, but before he can finish it, a servant beings word of armed men at the door. Knowing exactly what that means, Cicero nevertheless finishes his letter rather than running, and gives it to the messenger, telling him to get it to Brutus at any cost. The messenger disappears just as Pullo walks into the garden. Brutus and Cicero chat for a while, Pullo very respectfully. Pullo complements Cicero on his peach tree, and asks for permission to pick a few ‘for the missus’. They are interrupted by Cicero’s slave/scribe Tiro, who emerges from the kitchen brandishing a battered cleaver, intending to defend his master. Pullo tells him to not be absurd, and Cicero concurs, adding that he’s given Tiro his freedom in his will.

Pullo moves toward Cicero, but Cicero asks for a few moments to compose himself, which Pullo grants. Cicero watches a large black bird flying lazy circles in the sky, then gives himself up to Pullo. Pullo advises him to kneel, to make it easier. He advises the weeping Tiro “You might want to look away, now”, then thrusts his sword down past Cicero’s scapula to the heart. Blood spurts and the greatest orator of late Republican Rome will speak no more.

The same sylvan glen: Little Lucius, playing, runs into the road and is almost run down by a speeding horseman. Vorenus upbraids the horseman for excessive speed. Words are exchanged and Vorenus pulls down the horseman for a little serious discussion. Eventually, the horseman is allowed to leave, but he’s lost his dispatch case, which the children play with – it was Cicero’s messenger. Pullo returns, distributing Cicero’s peaches to the family, and remarking on what a fine fellow Cicero turned out to be.

Night time, the Senate: We hear a pounding at the door. The camera pulls closer and we see what’s being pounded - two soft white hands. In actual history, I understand Antony also had Cicero’s tongue nailed there, it having done Antony much more damage than his hands ever had.

Octavian’s villa: Agrippa and Maecenas are visited by a messenger bringing “more names”. Agrippa retires from the unpleasant discussion, meeting Octavia in another part of the house. They discuss their relationship, about which Agrippa says he knows he could never marry her, because he is of common blood. Octavia ends the discussion with a passionate kiss.

A synagogue, somewhere: A group of men are discussing how much of a bribe to give the Romans, and which Roman, the idea of which is to get the Romans to recognize Herod as the legitimate ruler of Jerusalem. A splinter group, including Timon and Levi, objects to paying the Romans anything, preferring to pit themselves against the whole Roman soon-to-be-empire. One spits in the high priest’s face, leading to a brawl. The revolutionary group flees to the streets laughing over this political action, and we learn that Timon’s real name is Tevye. But they have to disperse when interrupted by…

Soldiers in the street shouting “Make way”. Who lead us to Vorenus and Pullo congratulating themselves over their successes. Pullo, however is concerned that with the ascendancy of the Antony-Octavian faction the city will become too peaceful for a warrior like himself.

Elsewhere in the streets, prostitutes stroll outside a brothel. Inside, a voice calls “second hour”. I guess that means ‘pay more or leave’. In an alcove we see two bodies writhing in lust. Drawing closer, we see it’s Agrippa and Octavia. Guess they took some ‘get a room’ taunt literally. Later, while they shower, we hear, “third hour”. Nice staying power, kids.

Octavian’s villa: Octavian is preparing to leave Rome. Maecenas is there. But where’s Agrippa? “He attends to several whores, or one lover,” Maecenas quips. Agrippa appears, but denies it when Maecenas says he’s ‘hot from a brothel bed’. Octavia appears, breathless, claiming to have had ‘female problems’. Octavian and party depart. After they’re gone, Atia shows she knows all, telling Octavia to not think she can marry him.

Atia’s house: Jocasta stumbles into the doorway asking for asylum. Her family’s been killed and herself ‘abused’. Guess this orgies aren’t as much fun when involuntary.

Aventine Collegium: Pullo inspects and polishes his old military gear. Eirene finds him and they talk about Pullo’s desire, like an old fire horse, to dash after the clanging bells toward the smell of smoke. Pullo says the Aventine Collegium smells of fish (guess the handouts have started). Eirene says it reminds her of home. At the end of this domestic small talk, Eirene says “I’m pregnant!” She has to say it a few times for it to penetrate Pullo’s thick skull.

The fields of Philippi: In Brutus camp, a scout reports to Brutus and Cassius that Octavian and Antony have combined their armies, and are only a day away. Their opponents have XIX legions, while Brutus and Cassius have only XIV. (Guess Cicero’s “twenty Legions” was a bit optimistic.) Cassius’ first instinct is to retreat, but Brutus says better to have it out here, where “we have the high ground”.

The next day, Brutus and Cassius wait on their horses for the enemy’s approach. Brutus remembers to wish Cassius a “happy birthday”.

Over on the opposite side, Antony advises Octavian to take a last chance to urinate, if necessary. Octavian says it isn’t.

Both sides give the orders to advance. Men clash shield to shield. We see attempts to fight in an organized fashion, as the Romans did the barbarians in Gaul in the very first episode of season 1, but the battlefield collapses into man to man chaos.

On a hill, Antony snacks while watching the battle. Octavian asks if Antony can tell how the battle goes. “No idea” Antony replies, then leads from the front by joining a new charge himself with his retinue. Octavian does not come along, but releases Agrippa to charge himself with his men,

Back on the Republican side, Brutus’s right flank has crumbled and an officer seeks reinforcements. Before they can return to the battle, a flight of arrows begins to arrive. “Testudo!” the officer shouts, which is a signal for the men to link shields overhead in a ‘turtle’ formation to shield themselves from the rain of arrows, which they do, though with some casualties because the shield isn’t perfect.

Cassius is down and Brutus comforts him. (The writers are taking considerable liberties here – in the actual battle of Philippi, Brutus and Cassius fought their armies separately). Brutus tells his old friend they’ll have to retreat, but Cassius is already dead.

Brutus’s army has melted away. An aide urges Brutus to flee, as Brutus looks out on the enemy now advancing on his elevated position in neat files, Brutus kisses his grandfather’s ring, ignores the aide, and walks calmly toward the advancing troops, stripping off all insignia of rank and all his armor as he goes, retaining only his sword. As he meets the advancing files, they pause and consider each other or a moment, armored and shielded warriors vs. a lone unarmored man. Brutus wades into the foe waving his sword ineffectually. They play with him for a bit, pushing him about with their shields, but when Brutus gets in a lucky stoke under a shield and slices a soldier’s calf, they turn serious and quickly skewer him.

In the aftermath, officers are searching for Brutus’s body, planning to pack his head in salt for return to Rome. A battlefield scavenger cuts the finger from Brutus’s body to remove his ring.

The credits roll over dirge-like, mournful music.


Next Week: Quick confusing cuts showing Eirene confronting Gaia, Pullo and Gaia, Antony and Octavian quarreling, Servilia praying, more confrontations among the Jews, and the line “Old Alliances are Broken”

- Cecil


Full review now available HERE.

Previous Capsule: 2-5C “Heroes of the Republic" - Capsule Review

Next Capsule: 2-7C "Death Mask”

Next week, Feb 25-Mar 3, no new episode. Instead the first six episodes will be repeated throughout the week. Click the line below for the week's broadcast schedule.

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

Posted by Cecil on February 16, 2007 7:06 PM
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