Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Doing It Properly

Rome marches on, sanguinary as ever, with the pivotal Battles of Philippi and triumvir proscriptions this week. I suspect that the drama and suspense for the rest of the season won't be quite so political and more on the personal level, considering that at this point in history Octavian and Antony had taken all the power to be had, and all that's left is for Antony to trot off to Egypt.

I like how they worked Pullo in to being the soldier who slays Cicero.

Poor tormented Pullo -- tormented because all he wants to do is be a soldier and tear people limb from limb, but yay for him becoming a happy daddy! I just love how the writers -- and Ray Stevenson -- so effortlessly pull off his character.

I'll miss Cicero. He was a bit smug and definitely a snarky little bastard -- but that's what I really liked about him. He was one of the greatest speakers and writers of all time because he could inflame passionate views and change opinion, not because he was polite. He wrote philippics, not poetry. And his most vicious attacks were upon a man who was not to be trifled with -- Mark Antony. Antony was an easy target because he was a drunk, a gambler, and a whore, but he was also a powerful general with loyal men. Cicero just happened to make a fatal tactical error by politically underestimating the prowess -- and coldly ruthless nature -- of Octavian.

Cicero never bargained that Octavian and Antony would reconcile and align and that Antony would have his revenge. Cicero could see the grand sweep and understood how to plot and machinate and sway, but he missed those simple details about Octavian. Those few little details ended up being the death of the republic, and of the man.

The real Cicero was mouthy until the end, reportedly glibly declaring, "There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.”

They didn't go balls over the falls with Cicero to make him a bitchy queen, which is why he worked on this series. A little more dastardly quotient could've made him a bit more delicious, but it would've detracted from the historical significance of the man and wouldn't have rung quite true. The little bit of restraint shown made him work quite well onscreen. And really -- no one gets mouthy with Titus Pullo - it's just uncalled for.

Another character, now vanquished, that I thought they did a good job with was Brutus. Brutus is generally portrayed as either noble and sympathetic (Shakespeare) or as a disgusting traitor (Dante). Though I tip less to the "Sic semper tyrannis" view of him and a bit heavily toward the traitor side, the show did a great job of showing him to be the complex bag he must've been and not really casting judgment. With a mom like Servila, who wouldn't be all fucked up? But, screw him anyhow, you know? He's gone now and an empire is born.

When Antony and Octavian were watching the legendary battle from their horses, was that really popcorn Antony was gleefully munching? So very Paulie Walnuts to Octavian's Tony Soprano. (Except Tony wouldn't have had the look of utter fear in his eye, and I highly doubt Augustus Caesar would have, either.) Such a light, little touch, but it really nails Antony's character. It's the kind of detail that all the high-budget sets and costumes and extras and blood can't overshadow. And it's those little details than can make or break a series like this. And, as usual, HBO keeps nailing those details, and doing this series properly.


Myfanwy Collins said...

I can't believe there are only a few episodes left! I love Pullo!!! Seriously.

So very Paulie Walnuts to Octavian's Tony Soprano--hahahaha!!!

SusanD said...

I love Pullo, too! (and Ray S.) I imdbed him. The only other thing I can find with him is "King Arthur" -- which also had the most studly Clive Owen in it. So maybe I'll watch that when Rome is done.

Myfanwy Collins said...

Ohh, yes! Clive Owen! He's another favorite--and the two of them together? Whoa!