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Rome Fodder

Rome: 2-7F Death Mask - Full Review

Rome: 2-7F "Death Mask" - Full Review

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Previously: We see the death list being built, name by name, Atia’ suggested addition (Jocasta’s father), Jocasta seeking asylum at Atia’s house, Pullo at Cicero’s, Octavia and Agrippa, “I’m preglant”, Thug 2 meeting Vorena the elder, Antony and Octavian meet and join in Gaul, Cassius’s death, Brutus’s suicide by soldier at Philippi.

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Opening scene:

The street outside Servilia’s house. It’s morning and the torches are being extinguished. Inside Servilia weeps over a death mask of Brutus and we see dozens of similar masks hanging on the wall, backlit by lamps and we have our fastest title, ever. Servilia weeps over the mask, and even presses it to her own face in grief. Eleni, horrified, peels it off her and attempts to comfort her, offering her ‘willow water’, to help her sleep. Servilia, though confused and numbed by her grief, is determined. “No… More… Sleep”. She cries in Eleni’s robes.

Atia’s house: Jocasta is being prepared for marriage. She snivels a bit. Octavia tries to cheer her up. Octavia tells a servant to “show her how lovely she looks”, but the metal mirror the servant holds up is full of flaws, and the image looks like one of those distorted fun-house mirrors, bringing more sobs from Jocasta. Atia enters and is dismissive of Jocasta’s sniffles, reminding her how hard it was to arrange any kind of marriage. Jocasta bucks up a bit but observes she’d always planned on marrying someone… “different”. A little make-up, a little motherly advice from Atia (!) and Jocasta’s ready to meet her fate.

Finally we see the ceremony, and she’s marrying…. Posca! As the family and Antony look on, and chickens stroll in the yard. Jocasta’s a bit distracted and stumbles over her lines. As the priest continues the ceremony in Latin, Atia again raises the “M” word to Antony. Antony deflects the conversation to the (far) future tense with his usual aplomb.

In mid-ceremony, a strident voice is heard in the street calling “Atia of the Julii, I call for justice.” It’s Servilia. Kneeling in the street, as Eleni sprinkles ashes over her head. Atia peeks out the spy-hole in the door, and is irritated. Her servant asks “What shall we do?” Atia says “Nothing, ignore her,” not reckoning with Servilia’s persistence.

Pullo and Eirene’s bed. Pullo creeps into the bed telling Eirene to get up, with an affectionate nibble or two. Marital natter ensues. Pullo hints for a little morning nookie, but Eirene says it’ll disturb the baby, and invites Pullo to feel the baby move, which he does and goes all soft and goofy like first-time fathers everywhere, e.g. Mac.

Aventine Collegium – Vorenus, Memmio and Mascius discuss the allocation of swag from the new heavier grain ships that are arriving, and which need to use the deeper docks at the Ostian wharves (Memmio’s territory). Memmio wants a V per cent cut and his laborers to do the unloading. Vorenus concedes the five percent, but sends Mascius to Ostia to supervise. In the background, Thug 2, Memmio’s man, makes a new stick figure. Negotiations concluded, Memmio leaves, and passes Vorena the elder in the hall. Following behind, Thug 2 makes goo-goo eyes at her, and drops the stick figure as he passes. She snatches it up, smiling, and hurries to place it in a chest under her bed with perhaps a dozen others. She kisses the original ‘couple bound together’ figure and closes the chest.

Nighttime, the rainy Streets outside Atia’s house. Servilia still kneels and chants without a break. The ash is now streaked by the rain. Eleni holds an ineffective cloth over her head.

The triumvirate’s headquarters. Antony enters gingerly, proclaiming a hangover from “Posca’s wedding yesterday” and the world’s worst headache. Octavian gazes at a map of the (mostly Roman) world. The Mediterranean is labeled “Mare Nostrum” (our sea). Lepidus mentions some of his friends are fearful over possible tyranny of the triumvirate. Antony wants names, but Lepidus demurs. Antony tells Lepidus to tell lthe nervous citizens to “shut their mouths”, and “go look on Cicero’s hands in the forum”.

Octavian proposes getting back to business, that being figuring out how the three can share the power in ruling Rome. He proposes they divide the territory and each assume command over their piece.

But how to divide things fairly? Antony borrows a sword from a guardsman, which makes everyone nervous for a moment, and literally slices the wall map up as he proposes Octavian take the city and the western provinces, and he take Egypt and the eastern provinces. Octavian observes that “Rome and the west has, what, rowdy Gauls and Germans, a fractious Senate, and all the trouble of keeping the Roman mob happy?” whereas “the east is where the money is, the grain supply, and most of the tax revenue.” Antony says “the revenues would be divided equally, of course.”

"And I, what would I get?” Lepidus wonders. “Africa”, Antony says, tearing that part of the map off and handing it to Lepidus. ‘But Antony, Egypt is in Africa,’ nobody says.

Back to Atia’s house. Servilia is still chanting outside, Eleni still sprinkling, and Antony walks past with a bunch of the boys. “What is this? Is she putting down roots?” he says in passing. Inside, Atia’ s covering her head with a pillow as Antony walks in. Antony says “Go out and let her rant at you awhile, she’ll soon leave.” “And have her curse at me in front of a mob of ogling plebs, never,” Atia responds.

The Aventine. Pullo is distributing fish, but runs off a fellow he thinks is coming back for seconds, and probably doesn’t live on the Aventine anyway. The mob apparently has tokens of identity to get their dole, and Pullo declares this one a fake.

Nearby Eirene orders a sullen Gaia (fanning herself and showing off her legs) to get some chores done, but Gaia is not responsive. Infuriated, Eirene picks up a stick to beat her, but Gaia threatens to “shove it down your throat”. Eirene promises "My husband will beat you.”

Inside the Aventine Collegium. Pullo and Vorenus discuss the fake token. Vorenus is not sufficiently upset, i.e., not at all. Pullo fumes and fulminates. Vorenus says do nothing. Pullo says 'that man was probably a Memmio plant'. Vorenus says ‘so what if he was?’

Eirene comes in to request a Gaia beating. The offense? “She wouldn’t bring in wood like I tell her, and she’s gonna choke me with a stick.” Pullo wants to know ‘what Eirene was going to do to her that made her say that?’, which infuriates Eirene and she storms out. Pullo asks Vorenus for advice but Vorenus is all “Don’t look at me.” Sensible policy, Vorenus.

Pullo is nervous about how Mascius would feel about Pullo beating his woman. But he can’t talk to Mascius, who’s in Ostia. Pullo wonders if Vorenus will do the beating for him. Vorenus says he will if Pullo wants it. Pullo decides, ’no, my wife, my problem.’ Pullo speculates that pregnancy “drives them a little mad.” What say, Mac?

In the Aventine Collegium tavern back room, Pullo approaches Gaia with a whip in hand, asks her to ‘assume the position’. Gaia wants to assume a different position. Pullo grabs her and it turns into quite a fight, Gaia is not afraid to sling crockery and uses her knowledge of a man’s “sensitive areas” to hold her own for a while. Pullo finally grasps Gaia in a close hold, and she turns it into a kiss to which Pullo responds with another. He flings her down on a table and ‘rapes’ her, though it’s what she was maneuvering for all along, and has been for some time.

Cut to Eirene in another part of the tavern – unsuspecting?

Gaia laughs as her plans have come to fruition. After round one he flips her over – for some serious beating? No, he ‘gags' her with the whip, holding it like a bridle, and it’s round two, ride ‘em cowboy. Finishing, Pullo growls that "This was a mistake, this never happens again” and Gaia smiles. They have a whispered exchange amidst the broken crockery, talking past each other, each ignoring what the other is saying. Pullo is all ‘don’t test me’, while Gaia is all ‘we go great together’.

Atia’s house. Atia is at a dreary table, with Octavia and Antony, Servilia’s chants ringing throughout the house. It’s been - how many days now? - and Servilia’s voice is still going strong, a crowd of onlookers surrounding her in a half-circle, leaving the side toward Atia’s house open. Atia in frustration finally cries “I give up” and heads for the door. There, with Octavia and Antony looking on, she demands. “Here then, you creepy bitch. Speak your piece and then be gone.”

Servilia has so many ashes poured over the head, she has a really ghost-like appearance. Servilia points her left hand, index and little fingers extended in a ‘horns’ sign, and recites:

“Gods below, I am Servilia of the most ancient and sacred Junii, of whose bones the seven hills of Rome are built. I summon you to listen. Curse this woman, send her bitterness and despair for all of her life. Let her taste nothing but ashes and iron. Gods of the underworld, all that I have left I give to you in sacrifice if you will make it so.”

Curse complete, Servilia pulls out a dagger and stabs herself in the heart, falling in the street. Octavia is shocked, starting forward but checked by a hand from Atia. Atia appears stunned. Eleni weeps over the boss's body and kisses her ash-streaked cheek, then withdraws the dagger, and, loyal unto death, stabs herself with the same blade and falls beside Servilia’s body. Antony sneers “Now that… is an exit.” Atia whispers “She’s dead” and appears to be weighing the balance ‘rival dead vs. curse on my head’ and can’t quite decide whether she’s won or lost.

Our view pulls back over Servilia and Eleni’s bodies, lying in the street in similar fashion to Caesar’s body in the forum – a death Servilia was instrumental in bringing about - and so was Eleni, come to think of it.

In front of the fastum. The town crier dude announces that “Prince” Herod of Judea, a vassal, is visiting Rome. “By order of the Triumvirate, all mockery of Jews, and their one God, shall be kept to an appropriate minimum.” Hm, I wonder just how you calculate that? We get a really good look at the fastum. I can even count the – possibly non-historical - niches – 44. Darn, why couldn’t it have been 42?

Antony’s chambers. Antony receives Herod who asks for a short course in bribery etiquette. Bribes are never given, only “gifts”. Herod then offers a “substantial gift” if Antony will help him take the throne of Judea. Antony is glad to oblige and they settle on twenty thousand pounds of gold at Posca’s suggestion. Herod agrees too readily, which stimulates Antony’s greed gland. “Should have asked for more,” with a rueful look at Posca. Herod asks if Antony speaks for Octavian and Lepidus as well, which Antony assures him he does. After Herod leaves, Posca asks what his cut will be, and Antony assures him he will be a generous as ever, i.e. nothing.

In the streets. Levi shouts “Scum!” at the departing Herod as Timon attempts to quiet him. Levi tells Timon that “the bastard should die.” And they’re just the boys to do the job.

Near Octavian’s chambers. Posca approaches Maecenas who is writing on a wax tablet while having his toenails trimmed. Posca asks if Maecenas is a ‘man of discretion’ who can hear a confidence and not later let on who told him. And reward the person who told him the confidence? Maecenas says he is.

Octavian’s chambers. Antony is entering in the company of an African gentleman, and grousing about how the lions the gentleman sold him were very poor chariot pullers. The gentleman offers a giraffe, or camels in their stead, but Antony is not having any of it. He wants lions. That pull chariots.

Octavian confronts Antony about the bribe as Maecenas looks on and demands his cut. Antony want to know “Who told you this?” Maecenas says “I bought one of Herod’s people.”

Antony says it was a personal gift, not revenue to be shared. Octavian differs. Antony tries to make light of the matter, but ends the lightness when he declares that Octavian has “no accomplishments of your own, so you seek to borrow the glory of others.” “It’s true, it was no accomplishment to defeat you at Mutina," Octavian low-blows back. Now Antony’s temper is up, and the veins throb in his forehead as he declares that Octavian never left his tent at Mutina. “You have never defeated me in anything!” As Maecenas attempts to calm the gathering storm, Octavian says “I had hoped you might have learned some humility and discipline. I see now that you are still the same crude, arrogant letch you always were,” as he strides off. “That’s right, just the same - I’m still f***ing your mother,” Antony really low blows to his departing back.

Aventine Collegium. Gaia is serving dinner to Pullo and Eirene, limping and asking “anything else, mistress?” most humbly. She winks at Pullo. Eirene comments “See, good slave now, ever since you gave her a good beating. You should beat her, the same way, every month,” which nearly causes Pullo to choke on his food.

Upstairs. As her chaperone nods, Vorena the elder tells Vorena the younger “If she wakes tell her I’ve gone to the temple.”

A bed. Thug2 and Vorena the elder are in it. Memmio ‘discovers’ them there and wails about how he must report this to Lucius Vorenus. Vorena the elder begs him not to, saying he’ll kill her, like he did her mother. Memmio ‘relents' if only she’ll do a little spying for him which Vorena the elder agrees to do.

The triumvirate office. Octavian and Antony, Lepidus strangely absent, are hammering out the deal of their power-sharing agreements, with Maecenas acting as scribe and Atia looking on. The terms are nearly agreed when Atia pipes up that a marriage between the houses of the Julii and Antony would be the perfect tie to bind the deal. Antony quips “I don’t care if all Italy burns, I’ll not marry him.” Atia takes that for a joke, and adds that “after Lupercalia” would be an auspicious time to have the wedding. Octavian seems open to the idea but sends Atia away because “It’s not proper for a woman to be present” at the marriage contract bargaining.

Atia leaves and chortles with her woman servant over her upcoming wedding. Atia wonders where Octavia is. Getting boffed by Agrippa, that’s where.

A synagogue. Timon and Levi are in it discussing the proper time to carry out their political action. Tomorrow after the wedding, they agree. They’re not being particularly quiet about the details, and they’re surrounded by fellow worshipers. Does nobody hear, or do they just not care?

Timon’s house. Dinner. Everyone is happy, but Timon’s breathing (and drinking) heavily.

Aventine upstairs. Vorenus interrupts Vorena the elder pawing through some papers, but is totally oblivious to what she’s obviously doing, and inquires about her health. Vorena says “Sister needs a new dress” and Vorenus obligingly comes up with some coin.

Atia’s bedchamber. As Octavian gazes on the two lovers from behind a curtain, Atia babbles with wedding plans. She proposes “a little break” from sex until their wedding night, so as to make it “something special”. Oh, it’ll be something special, all right, I hear all the history majors saying, while the rest of us don’t have a clue. Antony says there’s something he must discuss with her.

A wedding. As a priest asks the same questions we heard at the Posca/Jocasta wedding, we see Atia dressed well but with a noticeable lack of emotion on her face. Octavian as giver of the bride grasps Antony’s hand, then.... Octavia’s! Antony is marrying Octavia! The guests applaud as the wedding completes. Atia seethes. Agrippa looks on disconsolate.

The Reception. Octavia receives hand-kisses from many notables, including Herod. Agrippa complains to Maecenas of the unfairness of it all. Maecenas simple lays it to “politics”, and notes that “poor Atia’s” attachment to Antony, which he had always assumed to be purely practical, seems instead to have been true love. Octavian asks Atia to ‘please understand the political necessities.’

Atia retreats to her bed, despite Antony’s entreaties to return to the party. Antony, says it’s just “politics” and was Octavian’s idea, and won’t change anything between himself and Atia. OK, all together now... eugggghhhh.

The Streets. The wedding procession makes its way. Soldiers. Lictors. Dancing girls in scanty costumes. Pan-flautists. Dancing boys in scanty costumes. Flowers strewn. Jocasta and Posca. Antony kissing thrilled dowagers’ hands as he walks along. Senators. Foreign guests.

Among the guests following behind is Herod. Levi and Timon watch him approach. As Herod passes Levi urges “now”, but Timon is seeing Atia and hangs back and holds Levi back, too. Timon says he can’t do it, “No more killing. Herod is just a man, his death is useless, it’s just more blood. If we kill him, another will take his place.” Levi says “I’ll do it alone,” and draws his knife. The two struggle over the knife, unseen by the revelers. Levi ends up stabbed, by accident, and with his last breath proclaims “You are not my brother.”


The Marriage bed. Antony and Octavia lie in uncomfortable silence. At last Antony comments “This is strange, isn’t it.”, and later "Look, I know you’re not exactly happy about all this, but it is our wedding night.” Octavia non-romantically responds “Do as you like.” Antony requests she assume a position, which she does, and a very non-romantic coupling takes place. Antony doesn’t seem to mind.

Elsewhere. Atia wanders in a dark courtyard and remembers Servilia’s curse “Send her bitterness and despair for all of her life. Let her taste nothing but ashes and iron.”

A potion shop. Gaia buys what is apparently a potion to induce an abortion. I’m thinking “is it Pullo’s baby, or is she getting rid of Mascius’s baby to make way for Pullo’s?” But a reader suggests a more sinister explanation – perhaps she’s buying it for someone else? As she leaves the shop, we see her smiling face distorted in one of those wavy Roman mirrors, and I’m freaked, let me tell you.

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Next Week:

Another confusing set of fast flash images that I can’t catch while writing, but we see Cleopatra in there, and the slogans “All Trust is Lost” and “All Ties are Broken” and we certainly can imagine several applications of both.

But now, with the wonders of DVD technology, here’s a complete presentation: “No one must know what the shipment contains,” says Vorenus. Pssst, it’s gold coins. Don’t tell anyone. “Help, somebody,” shouts a frantic Pullo, and I get a very bad feeling about Eirene, as Gaia looks on enigmatically. Somebody’s getting tortured and Vorenus is ordering more tortures to “find out who did this” as Pullo pulls a wicked looking holdout knife. “All trust is lost,” burns on a wall. Antony is choking someone, while Octavian says “Antony would not dare disrespect me like this.” Vorenus points at someone (Vorena?) “It was you, wasn’t it?” Antony walks in the street as we hear Octavian’s voice say “You shall leave this city or I will declare our alliance is broken.” Posca finds his bride (I think) in flagrante with another woman (I think). “And all ties are broken,” flames another wall. A voice (Antony’s?) calls “Atia!” She turns and quick looks are exchanged by Atia, Octavia, Octavian. Antony tells Atia “I’m leaving tomorrow.” “Promise me you’ll send for me.” Vorena tells someone to “Stop it!” Vorenus slaps her. Quick flashes of hands clasping, “You betrayed me” from someone. A smiling Cleopatra. Vorenus throws something at someone. Running figures. Pullo, in armor, faces someone in fancier armor. Pullo yelling “Keep your mouth shut", and raising a sword overhead as if to cleave someone in two. Someone grabs Vorena’s arm. And that’s it. Whew. All this in less time than it took to type the first sentence.

See you next week.

- Cecil

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Previous Episode: 2-6F Rome 2-6F “Philippi” - Full Review

Next Episode: Rome 2-8F “A Necessary Fiction"


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


Posted by Cecil on March 2, 2007 11:23 PM
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no comment ;) -- mac

-- Posted by: mac at March 6, 2007 3:05 PM

Chicken! (Mr. Cluck?)

Does Mrs. Mac read the blog?

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at March 6, 2007 4:51 PM

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