lesbiassparrow: (octavia)
[personal profile] lesbiassparrow
Hmmm...I'm not quite sure how I feel about this episode. Mostly I think it means that I will be quite, quite happy when Antony gets his at Actium and sad that all Octavian suffers is the endless dying of his male heirs. I've more or less given up on the history front, so it doesn't really bother me any more, except when I think they've given up something from history which is better than they've come up with as fiction.



What I did like was the friendship of Cassius and Brutus (and, yes, Brutus' honorable nature, to reuse that old cliche) and the contrast between that and Antony's and Octavian's hostility before and during the battle. And that they thought that the war was not all fun and games but about something meaningful. In comparison we have Antony's overdone grossness (which I think is meant to come over more as zest for life, but whatever) and love of slaughter and Octavian's coldness. Personally I like the version of the battle that has Octavian hiding out in his tent/the swamps claiming to be sick, but I think the battle was set up very well.

The actual battle itself, however... Hmmph!! It was a bit rubbish - history from the knees down and in close up. One too many shots of two men banging on shields and not enough of the sense of the size of it. It is quite remarkable how much space that ancient armies could take up - at Cannae the Romans only had 8 legions and their front may have stretched for 2 miles - and I was hoping for more of a feel for this.

I also liked Agrippa and Octavia and the love affair which will be crushed by the Antony-Octavia marriage. As this is HBO you know their 2 seconds of fun will be repaid for by years of pain. Though I guess that there is some satifisfaction in knowing that the nobody Agrippa will end up married into the imperial family no matter what Octavian wants. But poor Octavia - however did such a woman like Atia produce someone as softish as her?

But for the first time (please don't kill me!) I found Vorenus and Pullo utterly boring. I know the picnic was supposed to pinpoint just how these men and presumably most of the soldiers who are allied to various warlords of the republic are so detached from civil and civic society and values that to them killing Cicero or anyone of importance is just about booty and a moment to grab some fresh fruit. I didn't mind the Cicero death scene, though Tiro wailing in the background was a bit much. And I could have done without the peach gathering bit because although I like the surreality of it, it still was clumsily and horribly contrived.

The proscriptions I was also a bit disappointed in. I've always rather enjoyed the story about how Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus madly swapped names. Antony apparently wanted Cicero's head so much that he swapped his uncle for him. Lepidus handed over his brother for the list. And will Atia stick pins in Cicero's tongue?

There's a great story about how during the proscriptions of Sulla in 87 BC the orator Marcus Antonius (Antony's grandfather) was caught trapped in a farmhouse by some soldiers of Sulla. The tribune sent in men to kill Antonius and after waiting for ages wondered what was taking so long. Upon entering he found Antonius charming the men so much by his conversation and asking them so many questions that the only way he could deal with it was by rushing on Antonius and killing him before he too could fall victim to his eloquence. I rather wish they'd borrowed that for Cicero's death.

Date: 2007-02-21 11:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baleanoptera.livejournal.com
The actual battle itself, however... Hmmph!! It was a bit rubbish - history from the knees down and in close up.

Hee. I completely agree. I would have loved to see actual Roman fighting, with closed ranks and discipline. Instead the battle scenes became generic and almost "Braveheart" like (seeing as "Braveheart" set a certain standard for close ups of chopped limbs.)

I found Vorenus and Pullo utterly boring

Not just you, they were utterly boring. When I typed up my thoughts about the episode I completely forgot Vorenus - such was the impact of his storyline. And Pullo, the cheerful, peach eating assassin didn't just came across as odd.
All in all it felt like the episode lacked some nerve or tension, which was odd given the subject at hand.

As for you point about Pullo and Vorenus being so detached that they only focus on booty is a very good one. I hadn't thought about that, but I now think this is what the episode was trying to convey. Hm... I just hope they find their nerve for the next episode.

Antony apparently wanted Cicero's head so much that he swapped his uncle for him.

Now that is surreal and horrible! Why couldn't we have been given that instead of peaches?

Date: 2007-02-22 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I completely agree. I would have loved to see actual Roman fighting, with closed ranks and discipline. Instead the battle scenes became generic and almost "Braveheart" like (seeing as "Braveheart" set a certain standard for close ups of chopped limbs.)

Though they did try and do the cycling of the ranks thing - but no flinging of the pilum (even though they were carrying them in the beginning they magically disappeared).

And Pullo, the cheerful, peach eating assassin

I just felt like they were hitting me over the head with how life goes on even in these terrible times. The picnic was enough.

Now that is surreal and horrible!

It's one of those things you read about and realise how utterly devoid of normal feelings these people could be.

Date: 2007-02-21 12:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] queenofthorns.livejournal.com
Hmm! I actually enjoyed Pullo-Cicero scene, because I think the idea that the Republic died so quietly in a beautiful garden and its assassin was a jovial pleb who picked peaches for his wife so ... INTERESTING. (And they did give Cicero, Brutus and Cassius very good deaths!)

The other thing I found fascinating was the, to me, paralleling of Vorenus and Octavian - they both have rivers of blood on their heads in this one but neither gets his hands dirty with any actual killing himself. I think the contrast to Vorenus picknicking with his children while other people's families are slaughtered with Octavian holding back from the battle is deliberate. And Vorenus, the man who wouldn't kill a foreign trader at Erastes Fulmen's behest, calmly orders the deaths of Roman Senators - and thinks that it will be OK so long as he puts the money to feeding the plebs.

Date: 2007-02-21 01:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baleanoptera.livejournal.com
its assassin was a jovial pleb who picked peaches for his wife so ... INTERESTING.

I'll agree that it was interesting, but I'm not sure I felt it was very well done. If that makes any sense? It felt too rushed and odd for me - and in light of the depressive darkness of the past episodes maybe a bit too pastoral?

Even if I did love Pullo for thinking of his wife even in such a situation. ;D

I also see your point about the Vorenus-Octavian parallel. They mustn't appear as butchers etc. Yet again the Vorenus part of the story just didn't grip me.

A possible explanation is that I've been so used to Rome ripping my heart out, that when an episode comes along that doesn't do that I get confused. ;P
(And on a geeky note - Yay Pullo for saying no to Gaia! )

Date: 2007-02-22 03:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
Hmm! I actually enjoyed Pullo-Cicero scene, because I think the idea that the Republic died so quietly in a beautiful garden and its assassin was a jovial pleb who picked peaches for his wife so ... INTERESTING.

I appreciated what they were going for, but that particular part of these scene just felt like too much especially when they had him cart the peaches back in the bag with the hands. (I wonder why they didn't bother with the head? How would anyone know whose hands they were? I worried about that one for a bit.) Especially as they had Pullo all excited about appearing in the history books - until he realises that all he will be known as will be 'the man who killed Cicero.'

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