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Rome Fodder

Rome: 2-8F A Necessary Fiction - Full Review

Rome: 2-8F " A Necessary Fiction " - Full Review

Previously: Herod escapes death, Levi does not. Thug 2 and Vorena the elder snuggle, Pullo and Eirene snuggle, Memmio pulls his sting, Gaia visits an apothecary, Antony and Octavia wed.


Opening scene.

A lecture hall? The triumvirate? Octavian lectures a group of Roman matrons on the morality he wishes to restore to Rome. He makes the point that virtuous women are the backbone of Rome, civilizing the men. His words are contrasted with scenes of his mother making love to his brother-in-law, his sister making love out of wedlock, Vorenus’s slave buying a potion to kill her rival, and another woman selling it to her. “It is the women of Rome, like the she-wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, who have raised a nation of wise statesmen, and invincible warriors.” He says he intends to enact laws that reward fertility and sanctity in marriage, and severely punish adultery, promiscuity and vice of all kinds.

After the lecture, Octavian strolls with Maecenas. Maecenas lauds the speech and says “They bought it, wholesale.” But Octavian insists he meant every word. They discuss Maecenas’s search for a suitable bride for Octavian. Maecenas points out lovely Livia, who is young, comely, and of suitable nobility. Of course, she’s already married with a small son, Tiberius, but both agree this will be no great impediment, and indeed, as we saw in Octavia’s case in season one, it will not be. Maecenas presents Livia and her mother, Alfidia, to Octavian. With no preliminary chat at all, Octavian springs the question, the question being “How would you like to be married to me?” Livia and her mother gasp with surprise and delight. “I… would like that, sir.” Social climbers, both. Told that her husband is Claudius Nero, Octavian remarks that they are a patriotic family and would not stand in the way of a divorce. "See to the details,” he commands Maecenas as they stroll off.

Alone again, Octavian and Maecenas discuss security problems with the shipment of gold that’s coming in from Herod at the Ostian docks. Maecenas has been talking to Pullo. No problem, Octavian decides, the Aventine Collegium is allied with both himself and Antony, so there will be no funny business.

The streets. Timon and family are leaving Rome, and discuss excitedly their new life in Jerusalem. “Will Uncle Levi be there?” his daughter asks. “Maybe,” Timon replies. Timon is pulling a heavy cart heaped high. I hope he’s pulling it to a ship, and not planning to walk all the way to Jerusalem with it.

Elsewhere in the streets. Posca and Jocasta are shopping. Posca is indulging his young wife in jewelry, and sends Jocasta into a shop to buy an item. “Take your time,” he says. Across the street, he pokes his head into a garish – what is the name, please, for these canopied ‘rooms’ carried about by slaves? A brief net search turns up the possibilities of sedan chair, litter, and palanquin. Maecenas calls it a litter. His “third best” litter, in fact, in response to Posca asking why he didn’t use something “more discreet”.

Anyway, Posca pokes his head in the curtains, and we see Maecenas relaxing with a boy and girl hugging each other across from him. Posca declines to discuss their business in front of the lovers. Maecenas says they don’t understand a word. Posca says “The lower orders understand more than you think.” Former slave, he should know. The boy and girl are dismissed and Posca crawls in. They discuss the details of their plan to intercept the bribe money. Maecenas seems to be taking the matter lightly, and Posca reminds him that if Antony or Octavian discover what they’ve done, they both will die most unpleasantly. Their plan is to extract a portion, a commission really, of the gold while they are alone with the shipment after its delivery to the temple of Saturn. Further conversation is cut short as Jocasta bursts in, all suspicious. “I thought sure my husband was intriguing with an actress, or some such trollop.” Right. In the May-December marriages it’s December that strays. Right.

The Aventine Collegium. Pullo, Vorenus, and Mascius discuss the shipment of gold due tomorrow, and the secret route the gold will take. He’s told Antony and Octavian that it’ll go by river, so naturally they’ll go by road, to avoid any leaks at the Antony/Octavian end. “No one must know what this shipment contains,” Vorenus says. “I’ll use Yesh and his boys, they’re reliable, they don’t ask any questions,” Mascius says. Vorenus, however, places Pullo in charge of the detail, which upsets Mascius. Vorenus says it’s not for lack of trust in Mascius, but because Octavian and Antony both trust Pullo. Mascius says he understands, but clearly is upset as he leaves the room, past Vorena the elder sweeping the floor on her knees just outside the door.

The Aventine tavern. As Mascius stalks past, Gaia serves a cup of tea to Eirene. Don’t drink it, Eirene! She does. Gaia pauses across the room to watch her take the drink. Cut to nighttime in the Aventine – Pullo is running about in a panic asking someone!, anyone! to fetch a doctor, “There’s blood!” The doctor comes, along with a chanting priestess, but they can do nothing. The priestess spews a liquid from her mouth across Eirene’s body, and rubs an herb on her forehead, while the doctor washes up and shakes his head. In her final moments, Eirene asks Pullo to bury her, as is the custom of her people, not burn her as the Romans do. “Not burning, put me in black shroud and bury me,” Eirene pleads, “in an open field, no trees.” And she asks if her child was a boy or girl. A boy. Pullo doesn’t want hear this talk of dying, but Eirene knows better and insists on his promise, and dies.

The street. Gaia casts a glance sideways as Pullo carries a small black-shrouded figure through the streets, followed by Vorenus.

A burial, on a hill with a view. Pullo and Vorenus dig a grave on an open hillside. Pullo makes a moving burial speech which testifies to his love for her. We learn that she came from “somewhere beyond the Rhine”, and her original name was Adella. Pullo vows to dedicate his life to the gods, if they in return will look after Eirene and their boy in the afterlife, and make them happy.

A shrine-lined road, nighttime. We see Mascius and a group of men on horseback carrying torches and warily making their way with the treasure wagon.

Aventine Collegium. Vorenus and Pullo sit waiting. A servant reports to Vorenus – “It’s Mascius, sir, there’s trouble.” Mascius is laid on a table, badly wounded, a doctor working on his injuries. He says they were ambushed just before they got to the Ostian gate, by a group of armed men, and had no chance. Only Mascius and one other survived. He tells the tale between cries and grunts as the doctor works on him. The gold is gone. Asked if he knows who they were, Mascius says “No, they were good, though, they didn’t give us a chance. And brother, they were waiting for us.”

Vorenus orders that his men spread out, cover the city, pay coin, torture, kill if necessary, but “find out who did this.” When we saw this last week on the previews, I thought it was referring to the poisoning of Eirene. But apparently Gaia’s getting off scott free on that one. Now an ugly possibility suggests itself. Was Gaia’s motivation purely personal, or was it a way of getting Pullo off the guard detail? I guess we shall see. Vorenus orders Gaia to look after Pullo. “ How ironic!” as Superman used to say in the old DC comics.

The triumvirate. Vorenus appears and reports he has not found the gold, but will. Asked why Pullo was not on the shipment, Vorenus explains about his wife having just died. Maecenas is very skeptical about the ‘convenience’ of this. . The triumvirs and Maecenas discuss the loss of the gold. Antony suspects Maecenas or Lepidus. Maecenas accuses Antony of having something to do with it, since Vorenus was his man. Octavian asks Vorenus if one of his own men could be responsible. “Anything is possible,” Vorenus replies, “but I doubt it.” Because? “They are scared of me.” Antony reminds him of his responsibility, and that he (Vorenus) knows the consequences of failure. Vorenus leaves. Lepidus suddenly come up with alternate suspects. “Gauls – they breed like rabbits, you know, no notion of working, thieves, the lot of them.” He finds he’s talking to himself, Antony and Octavian have left. After Lepidus leaves as well, Posca and Maecenas are alone, each accusing the other of pulling a double cross and taking the gold for himself.

Memmio’s den. Vorenus visits. One thug has sex with a whore on the table, and Thug 2 (whose name, we learn, is Omnipor) is fondling another woman – thankfully not Vorena the elder. Still another thug knocks on Memmio’s door. As it swings open we see him indulging in a little strangulation sex with yet another chippy. “Brother Vorenus, welcome, sit, have some wine,” he invites, shooing the copulating couple off the table.

“You, uh, celebrating something?” Vorenus asks on seeing the festive mood. "No, we’re just sort of happy people," Memmio replies. “Property of mine was stolen on the Ostian Way last night.” Vorenus asserts. “What sort of property?” Memmio asks. “State property.” Memmio denies having anything to do with the robbery. “Makes us all look bad. Wasn’t us, was it?” he asks Omnipor. “State property, us?” Omnipor responds as he hands the woman in his lap a stick and wicker figure. “Nah, we wouldn’t dare.” “My advice, look to your own people, this kind of affair is nearly always someone close,” Memmio says. After Vorenus leaves, Memmio tells Omnipor to fetch Cotta, Acerbo, and the other captains for a little coup plotting.

The triumvirate. Maecenas talks with Octavian. It bothers Maecenas that Octavian is not more concerned about the money. Octavian is of the easy come, easy go persuasion, but Maecenas says it is a “gross personal insult” to Octavian. Unable to convince Octavian that Antony was behind the robbery, Maecenas accuses Antony of disrespect, i.e. continuing to sleep with Octavian’s mother while married to his sister. And water is wet and fire is hot, Maecenas. Octavian doesn’t believe Antony would disrespect him like that. Based exactly on what, we wonder? Maecenas also hints at Octavia’s indiscretions with Agrippa. Octavian summonses all members of the family to a little discussion and a sit-down dinner.

Memmio’s den. Memmio talks to the other captains, His message: Time to put an end to Vorenus. The captains figure that means Memmio conducted the robbery. Memmio begs the question for a moment and continues to ask for their cooperation. When it looks like they may leave, Memmio says ”I didn’t expect you to help me out of brotherly love.” Omnipor uncovers and opens a chest full of gold coins and Memmio begins throwing them to the assembled captains, who scramble like children under a birthday piñata.

Octavian’s chambers. Octavian and Livia sit alone. She takes his hand. As Octavian speaks, his hand tightens until it's causing her pain, but he continues, oblivious or uncaring. He’s discussing the upcoming marriage with Livia, and asks a strange question. “Does your husband ever beat you?” “No, sir, I have never given him reason to do so.” “Your father, perhaps?” “No, sir.” That’s good, Octavian says, it means you were a dutiful wife and daughter. One little thing. “You should know that when we are married, I shall, on occasion, beat you. With my hand or a light whip. When I do so, you must not think you have offended me, I do it because it gives me sexual pleasure. Just remember that, and don’t be upset.” “Yes, sir.” Ewwwww. I think we see now why Max Pirkis had to make way for a new actor. Livia is social climber enough, and Roman enough, that she takes this revelation without comment. Maecenas breaks in to say “They’re all here.”

Octavian’s dining room. The whole family, and family-to-be, and family-that-might-have-been are here. Antony, Atia, Octavia, Agrippa, Livia, and Maecenas. Octavian introduces Livia to the family, saying he wants her to see the family she’s marrying into. Octavian begins by telling Octavia that she has betrayed him. Antony jumps in “Remember, colleague, you are talking about my wife!” “Your wife in name only,” Octavian responds, “I believe my mother performs the wifely duties.” Octavian details his grievances – Antony has continued to sleep with Atia, Octavia is sleeping with Agrippa all while Octavian has been preaching morality to the Romans. Antony denies everything, but Agrippa admits to the charges. “What it it’s true?” Antony chides, “What are you going to do about it? You can do nothing.”

Octavian says he shall send ‘his women’ to their house under guard, whereas he banishes Antony to the eastern provinces, telling him if he (Octavian) spreads the news about Antony’s philandering and being cuckolded, Antony will be “a figure of fun”, and “the proles will laugh at you in the street, your soldiers will mock you behind your back.” Antony, is livid, the veins threatening to jump from his neck and forehead – he grabs Octavian by the throat, but Octavian stares him down and Antony is beaten and speechless. Another scene where Max Pirkis would have been at a disadvantage. Antony leaves. Octavia, in parting, tells Livia “it was nice to meet you. Take care. You’re marrying a monster.”

Soldiers bar Atia and Octavia’s way until Octavian commands Maecenas to escort them and see they arrive safely. On the way out, Atia tells Maecenas “It was you who told him, wasn’t it. I always knew you were a weasel.” “I wish I could apologize, madam, but it was my duty.” “You’ve done your master a terrible disservice. Now he has no family at all”.

Left alone together, Agrippa apologizes to Octavian, and says it was all his fault, not Octavia’s. Octavian tells Agrippa he will not banish him, he needs him in Rome. Agrippa leaves. Livia takes all this in rather coolly. She’ll fit right in.

Left alone with the feast, Octavian tells her, “You should try one of the stuffed songbirds, my cook does them particularly well.” Silently, she picks one up and bites off the head, beak and all. Yep, right in.

The Aventine. Pullo is morose. Vorenus asks Gaia if he’s eaten anything. No. Nor drunk anything for two days. Vorenus pours him a glass of water and orders him to drink. Pullo and Vorenus discuss the robbery. Only Mascius and Zeno survived. Pullo says it was most likely Memmio and Vorenus agrees. But who tipped him off? Vorenus says Memmio all but said it was someone inside the Vorenus organization. Mascius, they both think. Vorenus finds it hard to credit. Pullo picks up his knife and heads for the door. “No one’s a traitor until they are.”

They go to see the wounded Mascius, lying on a cot with a pillow. As they question Mascius with more and more ominous questions, Vorena the younger chases little Lucius though the room, crying “Give it back!” After they’re gone, Pullo approaches Mascius for more ‘questioning’ with a wicked looking knife. The children run through again and this time Vorenus confiscates the object of contention, shouting at the children to stay in their quarters. Pullo approaches Mascius with the knife, but just before Mascius can be filleted, Vorenus glances at the object in his hand, a straw and wicker figure. He’s seen someone with one of these before. Vorenus puts two and together, smells a rat, and stops Pullo.

Vorenus goes to the children’s quarters and asks little Lucius where he got the figure. This leads him to the chest under Vorena the elder’s bed, in the room where Vorena sits spinning thread. The secrets unravel fast. Vorena tries to maintain she bought the objects, but this doesn’t stand before Vorenus’s angry glare. Vorena cops to spying for Memmio. Asked why she betrayed him, Vorena spills it all out. "Yes, I betrayed you, and I was glad to do it!.” “Why?” “You killed my mother, you cursed us to Hades, you made me a f***ing whore! And you ask why? Because I hate you. I hate you. We all hate you. I wish you were dead!” Vorenus strikes his daughter. She pulls a small knife. “Go ahead, try and kill me like you did my mother – I’ll not go easy.” Vorenus tries to explain what he should have much earlier – that he didn’t kill her mother. “Liar,” Vorena exclaims, “she never loved you!” Vorenus starts to choke her, and might have completed the act but is checked by a quiet “Vorenus” from Pullo, with a nod to the two other children looking on. Vorenus releases her and leaves. Pullo hugs the sobbing Vorena.

The forum. The Town Crier Dude announces that Mark Antony will be leaving to govern the Egypt and the eastern provinces from Alexandria. Also that tomorrow the house of Rufus will be selling a fine selection of slaves, from compliant virgins to learned Greeks, for all budgets. (I was afraid that we’d see Vorena the elder in this auction but it didn’t happen.)

The street outside Atia’s house. Mark Antony marches up, announced by his lictors, but his entrance to the house is barred by a stern, tough-looking centurian and a squad of soldiers with orders not to admit anyone. A lictor asks Antony “Shall we use force?”, and I’m thinking that they’d take a lot longer to get those axes out of their bundles of sticks than it would take the soldiers to draw a sword. Antony, however, demurs, and shouts “Atia” at the top of his lungs. For a minute I have visions of a torn t-shirt and a shouted “Stella!”, but Atia appears at the door and my reverie is burst. The Centurian won’t let Atia out, either, but with a quiet word from Antony promising “We just want to talk. Don’t push me to violence, centurian”, he relents and lets Antony approach, though still with a squad of soldiers separating him from Atia.

Antony tells her he is leaving Rome. “Goodbye, then,” Atia replies, a little coldly. But she warms when Antony says he’ll send for her, “when the time comes”. She pushes him to say when, but Antony can’t say for sure. She asks him to “Promise”, and Antony vows “On my life, I promise.” He kisses her hand and they part.

Antony’s offices. Clerks are burning papers as Antony and Posca supervise. No sense leaving any incriminating evidence behind. Vorenus enters and Antony wants to know if he’s found ‘his’ gold yet. No, Vorenus says, but he knows where it is, and Pullo will get it. He asks permission to accompany Antony to Egypt, saying he’s resigned his post in the Aventine, and needs to leave Rome for personal reasons. Antony, at first angered, is moved by the depth of Vorenus’s emotion, and decides he could use a loyal man and agrees to take him. “You won’t turn to drink will you? You stoic types often do, when disappointed in life.” Vorenus assures him he won’t. Been there, done that, got the angry daughter.

Outside. Pullo meets Vorenus and asks what Antony said. “We sail tomorrow,” Vorenus responds. Pullo asks if Vorenus is coming home to say goodbye. No. Pullo tells him “Vorena’s got your blood in her, doesn’t forgive easy.” Vorenus says “It’s best this way,” and charges Pullo to take good care of his children. “Tell them I tried.” “Gods protect you, brother.” “And you, brother.” A hearty man-hug and a kiss on both cheeks from Pullo and the two friends part, Vorenus pauses a few yards away, and turns for a last look at a sad-eyed Pullo.

Atia’s house. Guards outside. Atia tells a morose Octavia that there’s a ‘surprise’ for her in the kitchen. Finally prodded to go, she finds Agrippa there. She proposes running away together. “I would go with you to Hades, to Britain even, if I thought we had the right. We don’t,” Agrippa says. Rather, he says, he’s there to say goodbye – not that they won’t be seeing each other in the future, but that he’s breaking off the relationship out of loyalty to Octavian. She accuses Agrippa of loving the power her brother confers on him more than he loves her, and of being a coward to boot. As a parting shot, she tells him she’s having a baby. “Who is the father?” he asks. "Who knows? Neither man is worth a brass obol, so what matter?"

The Aventine market. A hawk swallows a mouse whole. Foreshadowing? The market is full of plebs buying and selling, carrying sacks of grain, and doing all the stuff contented plebs do. But armed men begin filling the square from opposite sides. Pullo’s there, and he’s got all his armor on, though no helmet. Mascius is there, sword on his shoulder, bandage on his head. Even Gaia is there, with a wicked lance in her hands. Memmio’s collegium even has a standard. Memmio is carrying an axe. The armament is various, including a large number of clubs. The clamor dies down, and the plebs make tracks, leaving the square to the opposing groups.

“Titus Pullo, parley,” Memmio calls out. Memmio steps out and makes a little speech, smarm dripping from his lips, saying he knows Pullo is a reasonable man, not like that madman Vorenus. You and me can do business, he says. Pullo and Memmio step out from their groups, approach each other, and eventually clasp arms. Memmio smiles and gives a little chuckle as Pullo cocks his head.
Pullo head-butts him, then kisses him.
Full mouth kisses him.
Full mouth tongue-sucking kisses him.
Full mouth, tongue-sucking-and-biting-off kisses him.
Blood erupts from Memmio's mouth and he collapses to the ground, while Pullo spits the tongue on his prostrate form. Pullo grabs Memmio’s axe and throws it ‘kerchunk’ into Omnipor’s chest. General fighting erupts, with stabbing and bludgeoning galore. Gaia lances some baddies. Pullo retrieves the axe and swings it wildly like a crazed German. Someone is calling “stand fast, don’t run you cowards” as others flee, and we think Pullo’s group is winning, though we don’t actually see it as there’s a swift cut to…

Alexandria, Egypt. Cleopatra’s court. Antony enters (Posca and Jocasta trailing behind) and approaches the throne, but Cleopatra’s not there – Caesarion is there, playing ball with attendants. Instead, we hear her call “Antony” from off to the side, and she approaches. (Guess she remembers him, now.) “Cleopatra” he says. Fade to Egypty sounding credit music.


Next Week: Pullo is speaking to a crowd. “I know you’re hungry.” “People are starving,” a senator tells Antony. “No deal” Antony replies wearing weird Egyptian eye makeup, as a brass-bra’ed Cleopatra practices her archery on human targets. Cleopatra and Antony have rough sex. Posca and Jocasta hurry through the streets. Vorenus dons a helmet. “ONLY TWO EPISODES LEFT” Octavian wants Octavia to talk to somebody. Cleopatra proposes killing Atia (channeling Servilia?). “AS THE HUNGRY POWERS COLLIDE” Someone is handing Vorenus “a delicate mission.” Atia slaps Vorenus. “THE STAGE IS SET” Cleopatra tells Antony “You are a coward!” and throws crockery. Someone else accuses “You are no longer a Roman.” Octavian says “Fight him.” “FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE END” “And destroy him.” Pullo’s eye open wide. A knife is pulled. Antony nibbles on Cleopatra’s shoulder. Cleopatra slaps Antony. I swear some of these things are a single frame. Whew. See you next week.

- Cecil

Previous Episode: Rome: 2-7F “Death Mask” - Full Review”

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

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

Posted by Cecil on March 9, 2007 6:04 PM
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