Wednesday, January 24, 2007

When Antony Met Cleopatra: Episode 2 of Season 2 of HBO's "Rome"

After the bloody conclusion to the events of Episode 1, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo return to Vorenus' home. Vorenus tosses the decapitated head of Erastes Fulmen into a corner, and lies down. He stares despondently at the ceiling.

In the streets of the Aventine, there is utter chaos and gang violence in the wake of Erastes Fulmen's death.

In the next shot, we see that Pullo and his new bride, Eirene, are living with Vorenus. Eirene is quite worried. She calls Casa de Vorenus a "house of death," and worries that any child the two of them conceived within its walls would be "a monster". Wow, for most of last season this woman didn't say a word, now it's nag, nag, nag.

Pullo, newly married and even more newly hen-pecked, decides to have that long overdue chat with his old friend. We learn that a month has passed since the opening scene, and Vorenus looks like he might not have moved in that entire time.

Vorenus blames himself for the deaths of his wife, his children, and Caesar. Viewing things from his perspective, this is a very logical conclusion.

Meanwhile, Atia and Marc Antony are having a discussion about Cleopatra, who has just arrived in Rome. Atia's son, Octavian, asks Antony why he hasn't yet received Caesar's money in accordance with the great man's last will and testament. Antony assures him that he'll see to it. Octavian seems less than convinced.

Antony and Cleopatra meet to broker a deal. Cleopatra wants Antony to pledge to protect her throne with Roman military strength. In exchange, Antony wants 10 grain shipments per month for Rome, and a monthly payment of 48,000 denarii's as a "personal gift". Posca and Cleopatra's chief servant and counsel, Charmian, haggle over the "personal gift", finally settling on a monthly sum of 42,000 denarii's. (I think these two would make a very cute couple, by the way)

Antony wants an even more personal gift from Cleopatra. Cleopatra says that it's possible, but only if Antony fist acknowledges her son, Caesarion, as a lawful son of the late Gaius Julius Caesar Dictator. Antony refuses, and earns himself a slap in the process.

As she leaves her sit-down with Marc Antony, Cleopatra spies Titus Pullo amidst the crowd waiting for an audience with the consul. The two exchange a look that makes it clear neither has forgotten their "encounter" roughly 9 months before Caesarion's birth.

Marcus Tullus Cicero is the next person to meet with Antony. Cicero seems to grown a spine since the last time since we saw him last, and we quickly learn why. Antony personally summoned him back to Rome to endorse the list of candidates for the upcoming elections. Antony claims that Posca discovered this list among Caesar's papers. Cicero sees right through him, and makes it clear that he knows these potential candidates paid Antony (through Posca) to get their names put on a list drawn up long after Caesar's body was cold.

After saying that he knows Antony can't kill him because he needs him to run the Senate, says that he will provide his endorsement of these candidates, but only if he's allowed to strike the names of the worst scoundrels off of the list. Antony grudgingly agrees, but it's clear there is still plenty of bad blood between these two.

Marc Antony is obviously not enjoying the business of running Rome. He calls an early end to the day's business. As he heads for home accompanied by his guards, Titus Pullo steps forward and tells Antony about the condition Lucius Vorenus is in. Marc Antony accompanies Pullo to Vorenus' House of Death for an intervention, Roman style.

It becomes obvious from the start that Marc Antony certainly knows his man. He starts off with a dose of tough love. Antony expresses his disgust with Vorenus' condition. Antony tells him that he (Vorenus) is responsible for Caesar's death and that his name is "disgraced forever". He asks Vorenus why he has not done his duty and opened his own stomach. Vorenus answers that Dis, Roman god of the Underworld, is his master and that Dis wants him to suffer more before taking his life. Antony tells him that he is Vorenus' master, by sacred oath under the standard of the 13th Legion.

Antony picks up Erastes Fulmen's rotting head (which hadn't been moved), and tosses it outside. He asks Vorenus if he would like a chance at redemption.

At the house of Atia of the Julii, Octavian observes the preparation for his mother's dinner party. He sees several hard-looking men sharpening their blades outside. He puts two and two together rather quickly when he sees that Servilia, still Antony's hostage, has been dragged to the party. He knows that his mother doesn't plan on letting Servilia leave alive.

Atia stages a show of reconciliation with Servilia. She says that it is enough for her to know that she's won and to see Servilia humbled. The two women exchange a formal kiss. Octavian confronts his mother, and, after she confirms that Antony has no knowledge of her plan to murder his hostage, he quickly fills Antony in on the details. Antony and Atia argue briefly. He wins, and Atia tells her armed henchmen that their services will not be required.

Cleopatra makes a grand entrance to the party. Her son, Caesarion, accompanies her. Cleopatra is in full seductress mode, which entrances Antony and threatens Atia. After dinner has been served and consumed, Cleopatra makes ready to depart. She tells Atia that she "[has] made a friend for life." As the two exchange their own formal kiss, Atia whispers to her new-found friend, "[d]ie screaming, you pig-spawned trollop."

Atia's sometime henchman (and sometime lover), Timon, returns home to find that his older brothr, Levi, has resurfaced in Rome after 9 years in Jerusalem. Although Levi claims at first that he's come to Rome to expand his business, the spice, cloth, and oil trade, Timon finally gets him to admit the truth. Levi was forced to leave Jerusalem because he spoke too freely about the Pharisees' "licking the boots of Roman soldiers." Timon warns his brother that he's in Rome now, and that he doesn't want to see his wife and children placed in any jeopardy.

On the Aventine, the priests of Concord (Concordia), goddess of harmony, call a meeting of all the captains of the collegia. They are the ones responsible for the gang violence as each is trying to claim a share of the power and authority on the Aventine that once belonged to Erastes Fulmen. We cut to Pullo, who is trying to get Vorenus cleaned up.

Vorenus parley with the captains. He says that the Aventine college is now his, by the authority of Mark Antony. He tells the captains that they are to stop their fighting, and, in exchange for a generous stipend, are to help him maintain law and order on the Aventine Hill. When one man, Gaius Acerbo, asks why anyone should do business with a "poor, cursed, hounded beast . . ." Vorenus responds grabbing the sacred statue of Concord and smashing it to pieces. He declares himself a son of Hades. The captains quickly realize that a man willing to desecrate the statue of a goddess and announce his allegiance to the Underworld is not likely to balk at much of anything when it comes to mere mortals.

Octavian confronts Antony again about Caesar's money. Antony again puts him off. The young man goes to his sister, Octavia, and informs her of his plans to fill the leadership vacuum left by Caesar's death. She laughs, until she realizes that her brother is deadly serious.

A public announcement is made that Octavian has given the common people the money promised them in Caesar's will. Atia and Antony burst into Octavian's bedroom. They are upset about the announcement. They are even more upset when Octavian tells them that he has borrowed against his inheritance from Caesar (already legally in his name) to the tune of several million sesterces, and that he plans to enter public life. Atia strikes her son. Surprisingly, he hits her back. A physical struggle ensues between Antony and Octavian. In the end, Antony overpowers Octavian, and only Atia prevents him from choking the young man to death. Octavian, though physically over-matched, doesn't back down. He shouts at a departing Antony that the consul is "not fit to lead Rome".

Pullo is interviewing candidates to fill vacant positions of authority within the Aventine college. Ironic, since Pullo, along with Vorenus, was responsible for the violent deaths that caused these positions to become vacant in the first place. Mascius, one of their old comrades from the 13th Legion, shows up, ready to join their "merry band". Mascius said he'd heard word that a "black-hearted villain" in league with the gods of the underworld had taken over the Aventine. A man named Lucius Vorenus. Vorenus chuckles at this, but Pullo warns him that the gods do not like that sort of thing. Vorenus asks him "[w]hat more can the gods do to me? How can they punish me now?" He seems to think these are rhetorical questions.

Servilia and Cicero are celebrating what they think is wonderful news: the falling out between Antony and Octavian. Cicero, while pleased, thinks that Octavian cannot hope to rival Antony. Servilia thinks otherwise, commenting that Caesar would not have chosen his heir on a whim. She wants the Senate to invite her son to return to Rome. Cicero says that the wiser strategy would be to wait and see how things play out.

Octavian has left both his mother's house and Rome itself. In the letter he left for Atia, he expresses his displeasure over the fact that she took Antony's side over his. He says that he is still intent upon pursuing a political career, and that he hopes that one day his mother will realize "the gravity of [her] mistake."

Octavian and his men depart Rome. On a dusty Italian road, they pass a slave transport. Octavian pays the transport no mind, but, as the episode ends, we see that among these slaves are: Vorenus' daughters, Vorena the Elder and Vorena the Younger; their aunt, Lyde; and Lucius, the son of Vorenus' late wife, Niobe.

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