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Rome 1.02 - 1.06

Have been watching more of Rome. Random comments made after each episode...

1.02 - "How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic"

Don't know enough Roman history to know if the "real" reason for the civil war as revealed in this episode (ie Titus Pullo's role in it) was just made up out of whole cloth, or if there was some sort of justification for it, ie to explain the historical figures' actions in a way that make sense. In either case, I don't particularly care. Dramatically it worked well enough and that's what matters for a TV show.

I suspected from the pilot that the Vorenus/Titus relationship would be a recurring one - that they'd form a strange sort of buddy bond, and that appears to be the case. Having each save the other's life in different incidents in the one episode will tend to bring two men closer together.

Vorenus becomes a more rounded character this episode. The soldier's loyalty he displayed in the pilot is deepened and the husband's loyalty he talked about is made more complex. Both will obviously be tested as the series progresses. He has a temper and is very much the product of a patriachal society (as I assume Rome was, or at least the military). But he also does harbour a "deep affection", to quote a phrase from an effective scene, for his wife - who is no two-dimensional cutout herself. So far Vorenus is the most interesting character of the show ... perhaps because as a fictional creation the writers don't have to stick to history's portrayal.

Incidentally, this episode features the most graphic surgery scene I've ever witnessed. But it didn't come off as gratuitous, probably because the show reeks of quality. British accents will do that.

1.03 - "An Owl in a Thornbush"

There's a implausible coincidence in this episode which spoils it a little. After becoming suspicious and killing nine men when they refuse to reveal the contents of their wagon, Vorenus insists that they don't even bother to look underneath the tarpaulin. This will obviously have consequences later, but it is implausible. Still, better to use a plothole to get people into trouble rather than out of it, as the old writing truism goes.

The Vorenus/Niobe relationship certainly didn't develop like I suspected. I thought her infidelity would provide fodder for many episodes to come, but it seems to be resolved, and movingly so, in this one. If this was a Joss Whedon series one or both of them would be due to die any minute now.

The Vorenus/Titus relationship takes a more humorous turn - I must say that Titus is better at explaining the mysteries of women that Vorenus is at explaining physics and metaphysics ... not sure what it says about me when the bit where they contemplate the night sky reminded me of The Lion King. Guess these scenes are a staple of sorts in philosophising.

It did seem out of character for Vorenus to tolerate the blatant disregard Titus showed for his orders in the scene where Titus sets upon Pompey's men (or boys rather, as was painfully obvious on screen and remarked upon later). but I guess it's to be the nature of their relationship and a sign of his disillusionment that bears fruit in his action at episode's end. And with only three episodes under the show's belt, can someone's actions really be considered "out of character" yet?

Suspect that Titus will have to face real emotions after he rescues the shepherdess (?), something aluded to in the pilot, with his lack of attachment to women. What with the goings on with Vorenus and his wife, I didn't expect this series to have so many "shipper" touches. The graffiti painted on the outside of her house was cute in a nasty way.

Atia doesn't appear to have the depth of insight and intellect of the classic schemers, but she is certainly ready to take advantage as events turn, and able to take ruthless action that affects her family.

So far the historical/political machinations are interesting, but it's the personal stories that are involving.

1.04 - "Stealing from Saturn"

Servilia is another character able to evoke empathy, thanks in part to the writing (eg the scene where she and her son Brutus chose separate paths in the previous episode) but mainly I think due to Lindsay Duncan's restrained, dignified performance. (Incidentally, Tobias Menzies who plays Brutus looks quintessentially Vulcan ... J.J. Abrams take note!)

Was surprised that Vorenus would quit the legion. Not that it wasn't in character - his disillusionment was clear - just that it struck me as unusual that a main character would have such a dramatic career change so early in the show. I suspect it will be a temporary thing though as the conversation with Mark Anthony, not to mention the bad omen at his business "coming out" party, augurs.

I obviously misread the scene last episode between him and Niobe. I thought that she had essentially confessed and that he was ready to forgive her and move on. But as this episode shows, her infidelity is still a secret to him, and one due to spill any minute. Guess though it's also in character that he wasn't able to "read" his wife as well as he should have.

Did Kevin McKidd start speaking with a pronounced Scottish accent this episode?

And was Titus wearing what in 2000 years would clearly be considered to be an Armani t-shirt??

Atia reveals some vulnerability for the first time.

Caesar's epileptic fit explains why he tolerates such backchat from his slave (whose name escapes me) as shown in previous episodes - he knows he has his full trust and confidence.

One of the things I like is how the show portrays the various rituals of Roman life: religious, political, social, and whether these be devout, corrupted or just the vox populi scrawled on the walls. It adds real texture and verisimilitude - these are people of a specific time and place, not just modern man dressed in togas.

Also, really like the production design and the credit sequence is becoming a favourite.

1.05 - "The Ram Has Touched the Wall"

This episode start off in the middle of a campaign which we never see - presumably because of budgetary reasons - but this has the effect of placing the focus squarely - and rightly - on the drama and politics, not the action.

Atia thinking that Octavian has seduced Caesar is amusing, considering how concerned she was about his manhood last episode. Guess it's okay if it's for political advancement ... or maybe she wasn't worried for his heterosexuality, but his passiveness in matters sexual period. Which might make more sense if I understand the sexual mores of the period correctly. Her reaction is also interesting given that she ostensibly bears a torch for Caesar herself ... unless that's, again, a purely political flame.

Caesar's rejection of Servilia was shocking, but I guess it had to be in order to set up her response, which has to bear fruit down the line.

Even when Vorenus and Titus aren't apart, they're bound together as this episode shows. It also continues to portray the future Augustus as incisive and ruthless.

1.06 - "Egeria"

This episode, as it might say on certain video tape covers, was "mostly concerned with sex." Sex as an educational tool and rite of passage, to affirm matrimonial bonds, as a means of political manipulation and bribery.

Mark Antony (who was an unappealing character in earlier episodes, but even more so now) and Atia demonstrate that they deserve each other, even as they repulse even each other.

Something this show does is balance familiar, by-now-expected pairings - Vorenus/Titus, Vorenus/Niobe, Atia/Mark Antony with less common ones - Servilia and Octavia (in a brief scene that portends things to come), Titus/Octavian etc... these unfamiliar dynamics keep the show interesting and allow for lots of future developments.

This show definitely has my interest. Will keep watching.

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