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Rome Fodder

Rome 2-10F De Patre Vostro - About Your Father - Full Review

Previously: We see Titus Pullo and Cleopatra in flagrante / Caesarion presented to the troops / Pullo rationing grain / Atia’s abortive journey to Egypt / Gaia’s employment interview / Cleopatra & Antony / Atia spurned / Antony and Cleopatra lovers / The Town Crier Dude denouncing Antony / Antony’s will being read


Opening scene.

A small boat. Mark Antony and Lucius Vorenus are escaping the loss of the battle of Actium in a small boat rowed by perhaps ten men. We see burning ships on the horizon as the boat tosses in the open ocean. Some fighting is still going on, as we see fireballs tossed by catapult stream through the air. The boat is heavily laden, gunwales barely above water. Vorenus edges down the narrow catwalk between the rowers, and has a dead rower cast over the side. Making his way to the bow, he offers a disconsolate, brooding Antony a drink of water. Antony is dressed in Roman, not Egyptian battle gear. As the sun sinks below the horizon, Antony philosophizes that “All my life I’ve been fearful of defeat, but now that is has come, it’s not near as terrible as I’d expected. The sun still shines, water still tastes good. Glory is all well and good, but life is enough, ney?” Ask the guy that just got tossed overboard, or the ones on the burning ships.

The Forum square. The town crier dude announces “Glorious news. At Actium, in Greece, the navy of our Imperator, Octavian Caesar, under the command of Marcus, Vipsanius Agrippa, has won a decisive victory over Queen Cleopatra, and her slave, Marc Antony. The Egyptian fleet has been destroyed. (Great hand gesture, and cheers from the crowd) Even now, Octavian Caesar advances on Alexandria, where the witch and her creature take refuge.” Lyde and Vorena the elder, dressed in white temple robes, listen without enthusiasm, and with worried looks on their faces. Lyde covers Vorena’s shoulder with her arm and they turn and go before the announcement finishes.

Livia’s quarters. In an intimate, girls-only dinner party, Livia lectures on Octavian’s victory. She says Antony’s leaving the battle before it was over is either a sign of his slavish devotion to Cleopatra, or cowardice. Octavia defends her husband, saying it was doubtless to protect the gold stored on Cleopatra’s barge, in order to fight on later. “Not what my husband says”, sniffs Livia. “Your husband’s a liar,” Octavia comes back. In the background, a depressed Atia wonders where she went wrong with her son.

Octavian’s camp near Alexandria. Octavian listens as a Roman messenger presents Antony and Cleopatra’s terms for surrendering themselves. Which are basically that nothing changes except Antony will ‘withdraw from public life and not meddle in politics’. Octavian sends back that no terms are acceptable except unconditional surrender without conditions. Octavian tells the messenger to speak to Lucius Vorenus alone. Octavian asks Pullo if he thinks Vorenus will open the palace to them in return for a guarantee of safety and asks for a private word that will tell Vorenus that Pullo is here. Pullo says they don’t know Vorenus if they think he will betray Antony, but proposes a message for Vorenus: “Tell him that his children are well and that I hope my child is well, also.” “Private joke,” he says to the puzzled looks around him.

Antony and Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria. A chair is lowered from the palace walls to get the messenger past the barred gates. Inside, faced with defeat, what better way to spend the time than an orgy? Eek! I think I saw that bald prostitute from last week. Or maybe not, shaved heads seem a common response to the Egyptian heat. Bodies writhe all over the throne room, as the emissary has to step delicately between the coupling couples. Are those cymbals I hear? At last he presents himself to Antony and Cleopatra and presents Octavian’s answer. It’s “No.” Antony’s anger is rising, but Cleopatra coolly says “Calm” and Antony collects himself, briefly. But his voice rises to a shout as he tells the emissary to “Go and tell that FROG SPAWNED HOMUNCULUS THAT I…” “Calm.” Cleopatra tells Vorenus to find the emissary a drink.

Antony and Cleopatra discuss their options. Cleopatra proposes ‘escaping by night and going south.’ Antony says “And hide under bushes like hunted animals?” Cleopatra says she will be guided by Antony. Antony raises the option of suicide. “Look around us”, Antony says, “whores, hermaphrodites, and lickspittles.” Antony is morose, and a tear trickles down his cheek as he says death is their only option, all they have left.

The emissary delivers Pullo’s private message to Vorenus, and says that Titus Pullo is indeed here and will answer for Vorenus’s safety if he should find a way to open the gates. Vorenus replies that Titus Pullo’s child is indeed well, but “He has forgotten who I am.” The emissary, like any good salesman, asks Vorenus to think on it for a while, but before he can continue Antony calls him back.

Antony gives the emissary a counter-proposal. He challenges Octavian to single combat. “Just as our ancestors did.” Cleopatra tries to intervene, but Antony says “How can he refuse?” which indicates he still doesn’t understand Octavian very well. The emissary bows and departs. Antony orders Vorenus to “Fetch some weapons” for practice. Cleopatra looks troubled.

As Vorenus leaves, Caesarion stops him and says “Octavian’s going to kill me, is he not?.” The statement has a slight questioning lilt, but it’s really more of a statement. Vorenus tries to tell him that things will be all right, but the boy is smarter than that. “Do not lie to me. There can only be one son of Caesar.” “Talk that way loud enough and the gods will hear you and make it so.” Vorenus says. “Come with me to the armory and we’ll get you a decent sword, and if it comes to a fight, you can give as good as you get.” Brave words, but the only martial practice we’ve seen the boy get is throwing balls at helpless slaves.

Octavian’s camp. Octavian chuckles at Antony’s proposal for single combat. Octavian asks the emissary for the conditions in the palace. The emissary says Antony is drunk or drugged, but Cleopatra is sober and alert, Lucius Vorenus still loyal to Antony. The emissary leaves, and Octavian, Agrippa, Maecenas, and Pullo discuss strategy. Octavian would rather not burn out the palace with Cleopatra inside, if only to keep the Egyptian people quiet. “What then?” Agrippa asks.

The palace. Lucius Vorenus and Antony spar with sword and shield. Antony is drunkenly clumsy, and it's not in Vorenus to hold back. As they fight, the emissary gives Charmian, Cleopatra’s chief slave and advisor, a private message for Cleopatra. Charmian, in contrast to her appearance last season, is wearing a frightful black wig that looks like Roseanne Rosannadana channeling Jackie O.

On the fighting front, after a few more stumbles, Antony cries “enough” and accepts the applause of the crowd, but then turns and attacks Vorenus again. Vorenus gives the clumsy Antony a shove with his shield that drives him to his knees, and an onlooker laughs. Big mistake. Is laughing-boy a whore, hermaphrodite, or lickspittle? Hard to tell. Antony takes offense. “Do I amuse, you? A f***ing clown, am I?” He does a little clown dance, and orders laughing-boy to stand up and take a weapon to show how he can do better. The man apologizes profusely and begs Cleopatra for assistance, but Antony is relentless, and Vorenus hands the man his sword and shield.

Antony toys with him for a while but, hysterically defending himself, the man gets in a lucky cut and the whole court goes “ooh”. Now Antony’s blood is up, and he relentlessly pursues the hapless no-longer-laughing man, eventually running him through with his sword. Standing, spitted, the soon to be deceased gets one last good line, “Really, sir, I must… protest.” The deathly quiet audience begins to clap when Cleopatra does.

Now, Antony spots Octavian’s emissary and invites “Young Hermes” to give his message. The messenger has not been named, and I don’t think this is really his name because ‘Hermes’ is a Greek name, and the Greek version of the Roman Mercury, the messenger of the gods, so I'll keep calling him 'the messenger'. Octavian refuses Antony’s challenge and insists on the same terms. Otherwise the siege and burning of the palace begins tomorrow. Antony rejects the terms, crudely. (Well, what else did we expect?) Then he rails at the throne room crowd, commanding then to “Enjoy yourselves you f***ing scum. Eat! Eat!” while he throws food at them. He and Vorenus have a drink together as Cleopatra slips from the room.

Cleopatra’s private quarters. Charmian delivers the secret message. Octavian swears to spare Cleopatra and her children’s life if she surrenders separately, and to let her retain her crown. Cleopatra discusses these terms with Charmian, who urges her to accept despite the humiliation. Antony enters, wondering why she’s left the party, and why’s she so sad? “Look at us, Apollo and Isis, it’s pathetic.” (Last week I thought it was Isis and Osiris? A change in self-referential theology?) Now Antony’s coming down. Cleopatra tells him “These years together have been the happiest of my life.” Antony proposes that they mutually suicide now, but Cleopatra says she wants to wait for the day and sunshine. Antony says “Shall we go back to our guests?” Cleopatra desires to stay in her quarters, but tells Antony to go along.

Throne room. Antony returns and drinks and reminisces about old times in the army with Vorenus. Antony asks if Vorenus believes in an afterlife. Vorenus replies, “Of course.” Antony says that some philosophers don’t. Vorenus asks “Which philosophers?” Greeks. “Greeks talk a whole pile of nonsense,” Vorenus opines, “F*** ‘em.” The two philosophers drink until they pass out.

Throne room, the next day. Antony and Vorenus are now alone in the room, sleeping it off. Charmian enters and awakens Antony with a note from Cleopatra. It’s wrapped around a dagger. “Dearest Love, forgive me for leaving you this way” Antony begins to sob. “You know how I hate to say goodbye.” The sobs grow louder. “I will see you on the other side. Please come quickly.” Antony wails, as Vorenus stand respectfully aside. Charmian explains “Queens die alone – it is the custom. With her last breath, she called your name.” Antony sends her away. He is unmanned.

Antony prepares to commit suicide with the knife, then throws it away . “No this won’t do, let’s use a proper Roman sword.” Vorenus offers his, and the two exchange a last few words. “Good place to die at any rate. Could have been a ditch in Gaul. Men that knew Alexander once stood here.” Antony says. “Good a place as any, I suppose.” “Lucius Vorenus, loyal to the end. Don’t you die here, with me,” Antony tells Vorenus, “Get out while you can.” “It’s been an honor serving with you sir.” Vorenus says. “Tell the people I died well, I died Roman,” Antony says. Bracing his hands on Vorenus’s shoulders, he runs himself onto the sword held by Vorenus. He gasps and dies holding, and being held by, Vorenus.

Charmian gazes from hiding as Vorenus gently lowers the body to the floor. He lovingly cleans the body of all the Egyptian makeup, dresses Antony in his Roman military uniform, and places him on the throne.

Cleopatra, very much alive, enters the throne room, and as Vorenus looks on with disgust, approaches and kisses Antony’s lips, crying. She orders Charmian to “bring the children.” Vorenus stares at her and Cleopatra orders him to “Stop looking at me,” but he snarls that he takes no orders from her. He wonders why, now that his captain is dead, he has not “Done the honorable thing?” “I would,” Vorenus replies, “but I have to get Caesarion out of here.” Octavian will kill him, he explains.

Cleopatra asks Vorenus if, now that Antony is dead, Octavian will keep his promises to her. Mostly, Vorenus says, but he will kill Caesarion. He’ll die, and “we both know he’s not the son of Caesar.” Cleopatra protests, but Vorenus reminds her “I was there at his conception.” “Why would you save him. What is he to you?” “He’s nothing,” says Vorenus, “but his father is my friend.”

Cleopatra asks “That man, what’s his name?” “Titus Pullo.” “Is he a good man?” Vorenus (sounding remarkably like me) responds “Define good.”

The children enter, and Cleopatra shows them the body of their father and stepfather. “That is how nobility dies.” She tells Caesarion to “put on your traveling clothes, you’re leaving with Lucius Vorenus.”

The streets of Alexandria. Vorenus and Caesarion make their way through the crowds from the palace, dressed in commoner’s clothes, dodging squads of Roman soldiers, who enter…

The palace. Octavian and his entourage enter. Cleopatra sits in a chair in regal splendor. She and Octavian engage in a polite tete a tete in which he assures her of her safety, but firmly ‘invites’ her to accompany him back to Rome, with the children, and brooks no delay, “we sail tomorrow.” Despite the veneer of politeness, both parties understand exactly what’s being discussed. Cleopatra will be paraded in chains in Octavian’s triumph. Throughout all this polite conversation, Octavian’s demeanor and expression is more reptilian than the cobra figure on Cleopatra’s headdress. Octavian departs.

The palace halls. Cleopatra stumbles and shrieks in hysterical despair. She returns to the throne room and asks forgiveness of Antony’s body, still sitting upright in its martial splendor. “Sorry, my love. You were right about that boy. A monster. He only wants me alive to parade me in shame for the mob to spit on.” She climbs into the corpse’s lap and holds his arm around her neck. She entreats Antony, and kisses him. And lastly, to Charmian, “Bring the old woman.”

Octavian’s camp. Octavian, Maecenas, Agrippa, and Pullo discuss the events of the day. “What if she follows Marc Antony, instead?” Agrippa asks. “She betrayed Antony so that she might live. Why would she lose heart now?” Octavian asks. “You can have that effect on people,” Maecenas says. “No, I was all sweetness and light with her. Charm itself.” “Yes, that is your most disheartening manner.”

The palace. Cleopatra discusses the pros and cons of various poisons with ‘the old woman’. (Who doesn’t look all that old, to me, but then maybe that’s just an indication of how old I’m getting.) “The belladonna is not fast, but it is least painful.” Cleopatra sits on he throne beside her dead lover. She wants no bloating or discoloration, so finally she decides – “the snake then”. The woman produces a snake which Cleopatra cuddles and contemplates for a while, remarking that it’s a different color than “cousin Seth’s”. “They vary. This is the needful animal.” the old woman tells her. “Where’s the best spot?” “Wrist or breast, no matter.” “Thank you.” To Charmian, “Make sure the children are safe before you follow me.”

Cleopatra clasps the snake to her breast and the fatal bite is made. At first she thinks that nothing is happening, but the woman has promised her ‘death within forty breaths’ and we see it begin to come. The woman promises that the initial pain will cease before the end.

Soldiers rush into the palace and at first we think this is after news of Cleopatra’s suicide has gotten out, but then we see Cleopatra is still breathing and the Romans must have decided to cover their bets. Octavian, Agrippa, Maecenas, and Pullo are there to see Cleopatra die. Just before she dies she rises to tell Octavian “You have a rotten soul”, then collapses back into her throne, grasps Antony’s hand, and dies. After a moment Octavian wrests the two hands apart. Octavian’s first command is “Find the children.” Pullo, unnoticed, picks up… something. Perhaps a portrait of Caesarion?

Octavian’s camp. Octavian has a headache. “Caesarion has escaped. With Lucius Vorenus. The man turns loyalty into a vice.” Pullo volunteers to try and find them.

Night is approaching, a camp in the desert wilderness. The camp is next to a fallen statue we’ve seen before. It’s where Vorenus and Pullo waited to follow the Pharaoh’s men to the captive Cleopatra, many years (and one season) ago. Caesarion speaks of what he will do when he recovers his kingdom. Vorenus advises him to forget it, that life is over.

Later, nighttime. Caesarion jumps at several nighttime noises. One turns out to be a real threat. Titus Pullo walks into the firelight. “How’s it going?” he asks Vorenus. “Not so bad, you?” Vorenus responds, and the two old friends embrace. Nodding to the statue, “I never thought I’d see that ugly bastard glaring down at me again.” “I knew you’d remember.” Pullo is happy and proud to see Caesarion. “Handsome, isn’t he?” Caesarion doesn’t like his manner. They sit and talk around the campfire. Caesarion asks for news of his mother. Pullo tells him she killed herself , “Best way to go, honorable.” Caesarion cries, but objects when Pullo touches his shoulder when attempting to comfort him. Pullo and Vorenus decide their best bet is to head south, all other directions are closed by Octavian’s troops. Vorenus asks for news of his children. Vorena the elder is now in the temple of Orbona with Lyde, Lucius is apprenticed to a stonemason, but wants to be a soldier. “You’re not encouraging him, are you?” Vorenus asks Pullo. Vorena the younger, “She’s a little tiger”, now practically runs the Aventine tavern, and can freeze troublemakers with "a look like Medusa on the rag". “Gaia?” “That didn’t end so well, long story.” Pullo somberly replies.

Rome, Atia’s villa. Octavian talks with Atia and tells her Antony is dead. Atia thanks him for telling her privately, and says “You’re as good as king, now.” “Not king, merely first citizen,” Octavian replies. He asks Octavia to watch over Antony’s children by Cleopatra, Helios and Selene. Octavia asks him if he’s murdered ‘the other one’? ‘Soon, I hope,’ Octavian tells her.

A road in Egypt. Pullo and Vorenus, dressed as civilians, drive a cart with Caesarion in the back. Pullo regales them with stories. Memmio’s tongue? “Tasted like chicken.” “Eww” says Caesarion, and me. The cart comes to a roadblock manned by Roman soldiers. Pullo and Vorenus claim to be Roman grain merchants headed for Memphis, the boy their slave. The soldier in charge of the roadblock appears to be buying the story, but as they start to leave, he asks, in Egyptian, for Caesarion’s blessing. Caesarion, also in Egyptian, grants it, and the fight is on. Pullo and Vorenus win, killing a superior number of soldiers, but after the fight is over Vorenus collapses, wounded. Pullo says he’s seen worse, “just a few scratches” but the blood on his hand belies his words. Vorenus is not fooled and demands to be taken back to Rome to die, and to see his children.

One month later, Rome. Octavia watches as the children play, and asks Atia if she’s chosen a dress for the triumph. “Today’s your triumph as much as his. Mother of the first citizen, you should be happy.” she says. Atia is depressed, and says she may not go.

The forum. The Town Crier Dude announces Octavian’s upcoming triumph to celebrate his victory over the Egyptians and the “glorious rebirth of our republic.” As he read the rules for the triumph, Pullo enters Rome driving a cart with Vorenus in the back.

The Aventine tavern. Lyde and the children are eating at the table. Pullo enters with Caesarion, who he says to be “Aneaus, a friend, he’s from Egypt.” “Children, I’ve brought your father home.” “Why did you bring him here?” Vorena the elder asks. “He wants to see you. He’s been wounded. He’s going to die, likely.”

Later. A room, the family quarters. Pullo is talking to Lyde, who is mopping Vorenus’s brow with a cloth.. He says Vorenus should have died weeks ago but stubbornly stayed alive to see his children in Rome. “Won’t last long, now.” “Thank you, Doctor Pullo, Vorenus says, awakening. Seeing only Lyde, he says “Where are the children? ... They don’t want to see me.” But Vorena is looking though the louvered blinds. “Stubborn like their mother,” he says. Lyde tells him to rest. Trumpets sound in the street and Vorenus asks “What’s that?” Just Octavian’s triumph starting, Pullo tells him. “Thanks. I thought I was dying.” Vorenus says. They clasp hands.

Vorena the elder calls softly “Father” and quietly enters the room. She takes Vorenus’s hand and kisses him, kneels at his side. He gently caresses her cheek with a finger. We see Vorena the younger and Lucius enter and stand nearby, and a contented look comes on Vorenus’s face.

A chamber, somewhere. Livia greets the ladies gathered there and decries Atia’s snubbing the ceremony. “I’m afraid my husband will take it as an insult.” “Livia claps her hands and announces “It is time. In order of precedence, please.” Just before the assembled women can proceed to the balcony where they will watch the triumph, Atia appears and heads straight for the balcony exit. Livia tells her ‘the priests’ say ‘the wife’ should take precedence over ‘the mother’. Atia declares Livia a “vicious little trollop” and goes first, anyway. Octavia is amused by the polite cat-fight.

Outside. The women take their seats and look on as the triumph proceeds. Trumpeters. Cheering throngs. Octavian rides a chariot, a slave behind him holding a crown just over his head. We don’t hear it, but tradition and Gen. George S. Patton tell us that the slave is supposed to be whispering “Remember, all flesh is mortal,” in his ear. The crowd chants “Caesar, Caesar.” Soldiers march. Octavian takes his seat with his family, next to Livia. The crowd cheers. Octavia and Agrippa, seated nearby, eye each other. Trophies of conquest are paraded, golden statues and chained slaves. The desiccated bodies of Antony and Cleopatra are tied upright on a wagon. No expression crosses Atia’s face as the body of her lover passes. Atia gazes sideways Octavian, who is expressionless and unblinking as ever. He returns her look. She looks the other way and the merest glimmer of … grief(?) can be seen in her eyes as the scene fades

Octavian’s private quarters. Octavian sits contemplating a game board, alone. Pullo enters and Octavian greets him with a smile, then asks the result of Pullo’s mission to find Caesarion. Pullo says he found him, killed him (“cut his throat”), and tried to bring his head to Octavian, but “it went bad, didn’t look like anyone, so I tossed it.” Also, Lucius Vorenus is dead. Octavian says he must reward Pullo. “Reward? Hadn’t thought of that. Wouldn’t say ‘no’.”

The streets of Rome. Pullo hands a copper to a beggar. Caesarion approaches and says “So?” “He bought it” says Pullo and the two walk off together. As they walk down the street, Caesarion begins to talk about his revenge someday. “Didn’t I tell you there’s be no more of that blather?” Pullo asks. Caesarion says he cannot rest until he has avenged his mother, and redeemed his father’s name. “Listen,” Pullo says, “about your father…” and he puts his hand on the boy’s shoulder as they walk off into the crowded streets of Rome.

The theme music sounds, and our viewpoint pulls back, and “Rome” is done…


Next Week: Alas, nothing of "Rome" but reruns.

It has been an honor and a privilege spending these weeks with you. I believe the “Rome” series will stand the test of time as a great work, bringing the times and personalities of the glorious republic in its waning days to life before our eyes.

Ave, atque, vale.

- Cecil


Previous Episode: Rome: 2-9F “Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus”
(No God Can Stop a Hungry Man) - Review

Next Episode: Sadly, there will be no more, herewith ends “Rome”

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

Posted by Cecil on March 23, 2007 5:46 PM
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Great job Cecil.

"Charmian, in contrast to her appearance last season, is wearing a frightful black wig that looks like Roseanne Rosannadana channeling Jackie O."

Made me laugh out loud, which is rare as I am still in mourning for Rome.
Can't believe it's over...

-- Posted by: Matt at March 29, 2007 2:22 PM

Me either. Well, we must take our humor where we can find it.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at March 29, 2007 5:31 PM

You know, it's occurred to me since writing the review that, in that first scene, they're in Greece - well, just off the coast of Greece. Are they planning to row that small boat all the way to Egypt?

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at March 30, 2007 6:06 PM

Great Job on the reviews!
I will surely miss this show because of it's high production value and great characters.

Sad to see it go.

I think they did row all the way back to Egypt, that's why they were so tired!!!!!!

-- Posted by: Janaki Cedanna at April 1, 2007 11:47 PM

I suppose that would account for why Antony was only watching, not participating in the orgy.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at April 2, 2007 10:08 AM

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