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.

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August 2011

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