Saturday, 3 April 2010

Rome: An Owl in a Thornbush

This is Rome - expect sex and violence.

We open with Atia whipping one of her slaves herself - really, does she not have anyone to do that for her?! Caesar is marching towards Rome with only one legion - 'suicidal treason', according to Brutus.

Soldiers Boring and Dodgey are sent ahead as scouts with strict instructions that 'there will be no rapine, pillage or burning'. Perhaps Caesar thinks this is why Boring is so sulky - Mark Antony has to tell him it's actually because Boring think they will be punished by the gods for their crime, which the much more practical Antony thinks is only a crime if they lose.

Niobe's lover tries to persuade her that Boring Soldier really is going to die this time, but Niobe has suddenly become much more attached to her marriage vows. Her rather dim daughter thinks she should come clean, while the much more sensible Niobe points out Boring Soldier might kill them all if he found out. Meanwhile, Boring Soldier asks Dodgey Soldier for marital advice. Why he thinks someone whose idea of romance is to rape any woman who crosses his path who isn't a prostitute will be able to give him useful advice concerning his marriage is a bit of a mystery.

Pompey needs four days to assemble his legions, which is a shame for him, as Caesar is only two days away. Cicero desperately looks for an alternative while Cato gets very, very cross. Pompey insists they must leave the city, to re-take it later and Cato points out he has managed to lose Rome without even unsheathing his sword.

Ati is having dinner with Brutus and Servilia, having a screaming hissy fit about the Pompeians outside while Octavian tried to think things through properly despite his mother's discouragement and Brutus insists he will never desert Caesar. Lindsey Duncan and Polly Walker play very well off each other, Walker all rage and fire, Duncan completely calm and serene to the point of smugness. Pompey is making a right mess of leaving and Cornelia is keeping things together, including reassuring their cuter-than-cute children (no one in a show like Rome should ever have cuter-than-cute children, it's a sure sign that they're doomed - just remember what happened to Sejanus and his kids).

Dodgey Solider proves he is not the person to come to for marital advice by suggesting 'the warm beating heart of an enemy' is the way to a woman's heart. His other advice, it must be said, is better (talk to her, compliment her, and, somewhat unexpectedly, he knows what and where the clitoris is). Pompey's men have been betrayed and his stuff is stolen by some ruffians, along with a young woman who happened to be in the wrong spot on the Appian Way at the wrong time. Atia, meanwhile, plans who should kill who when the mob break in (she's far too cheery about killing her daughter). She and Octavia get into such a row about who should kill who that Octavian has to yell at them to point out that the mob have gone (it's all rather like something out of Chelmsford 123).

Brutus is leaving with the Pompeians, because he thinks they will win, but Servilia insists on staying because she's madly in love with Caesar, despite Brutus' offer to buy her a nice muscular slave to have sex with instead.

Octavia sneaks out to a romantic rendezvous with her fictitious former husband Glabius, despite the fact that when the streets are filled with panicing soldiers is not the best time to do so. She tries to persuade him to leavee because apparently everyone knows he is for Pompey, but they have a quick shag instead. This interrupts Atia's attempt to have sex with her uppity strongman Timon, as she sends Timon out to kill Glabius.

Atia, in the absence of a man of the household, does the Godfather-thing (patronising lesser families, in tis case reassuring Pompeians who've stayed because of business that she will protect them from reprisals from Caesar). Dodgey Soldier is feeling philosophical, wanting to know what the stars are,while Boring Soldier is complaining that they should have been attacked by now by people defending Rome. They run into the ruffians who stole Pompey's stuff, who tells them that Pompey has fled. Dodgey Soldier wants to buy the girl they kidnapped, and when they refuse, Boring Soldier observes that they are a bit well-armed to be guarding a grain wagon - at which point, all hell breask loose and the girl is dragged off when the oxen pulling the cart she's tied to wander away.

Glabius' corpse turns up at Atia's house, much to Octavia's distress, while Atia, having been let down by her guilty expression, swears that she had nothing to do with it and, miraculously, Octavia believes her (though Octavian doesn't). Dodgey Soldier wants to rescue the girl, coming over all sentimental all of a sudden (his true motivation being, he wants to get into her pants) but Boring Soldier insists that they continue into the unguarded city, completing the fall of the Republic that he's so upset about. (The proclamation is written in Latin, wich is nice, and read aloud by Caesar in English voiceover).

Boring then immdeiately decides to desert, gives Dodgey his sword, sacrifices to Venus to try to get Niobe to love him and goes home, where he puts Dodgey's advice into action. He offers Niobe a divorce, but she feels far too guilty to agree, and has been charmed by the talkin and complimenting. Dodgey returns to the road, where he finds the girl, collapsed on the ground by the cart, which just happens to be chock full of all Pompey's money and treasure. Natrually, he heads off with both girl and cart, pronto, just as Caesar and Mark Antony appear with the rest of the legion.

I enjoyed this episode, which is one of the more successful attempts to blend Boring and Dodgey's stories with actual history. In this epsiode, everyone is basically concerned with the same events, and everyone is in danger for them, so it doesn't feel as much like there are two separate stories going on as it sometimes does. There's also not too much need to shove Boring and Dodgey in where they don't really belong, though Boring's obsession with the crime they're comitting and ridiculously dangerous decision to desert (he's come to Caesar's personal attention several times - he should be killed for desertion) gets very tiresome. The irritating and fictitious Glabius is now gone, too, so there seems to be hope for getting back to Octavia's actual biography (though these hopes will soon be soudly dashed, a few episodes from now!). The one scene that did feel quite out of place was the ludicrously comic scene in which Atia tries to arrange who is going to kill who to protect them all from rape and slavery, which is played in such a sily, sitcom-style tone that it doesn't seem to sit with the serious events of the episode - though it is genuinely amusing, so it does have a saving grace. Overall, though, this is one of Rome's more tightly plotted, satisfying installments.


  1. Octavia did have a first husband named Gabius.I do not know if he was like the fictional one,but he existed and they had children togheter.

  2. Octavia's first husband was called Claudius Marcellus and he died in 40 BC, nine years after this. But he isn't included in the series, so I guess Glabius more or less represents him.


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