Much of this episode is focused on Lucius Vorenus, who’s in a bad way. He feels responsible for the deaths of his wife, children, Caesar, and by beheading Erastes Fulmen, the local mafia don in the neighborhood known as the Aventine, he has unleashed chaos. Erastes was not a nice man, but he was effective. Now rival gangs are at war and trade is in peril and even Cicero and Mark Antony are lamenting the situation.
Pullo tries, upon Eirene’s urging, to get Vorenus out of bed, but Vorenus refuses. Finally Pullo goes to a higher authority – to Antony, now Consul of Rome, to see if he can help.
The title of the episode refers to Vorenus but the heart of the episode lies with Mark Antony, who is weighed down by the responsibility of running Rome. Most of the hour’s best lines belong to him. He has to deal with a jealous Atia, an Octavian who wants his inheritance, and we finally see him with Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra meet and Antony says a few things that he will change his mind about later (not a spoiler; everyone knows the history of Antony & Cleopatra).
Antony, impatient with administration, welcomes the diversion of Pullo and Vorenus. Antony’s force of will and Vorenus’ habit of following orders finally get the latter out of bed. This, I think, is a great use of Antony. I always wonder, when writers paint themselves into a corner, how they’re going to get themselves out, and this worked beautifully. Moreover, Antony gives Vorenus something to do: take charge of the Aventine.
Atia holds a party for Cleopatra and invites her foe Servilia. Octavian notices Timon and suspects the Jew is there to kill Servilia, and talks his mother out of it. Cleopatra arrives at Atia’s with her son. We begin to sense a growing connection between Antony and Cleopatra.
Timon goes home – introducing viewers to a new setting and new characters – and finds his brother Levi there, who has come to Rome to make trouble.
We see more fights on Aventine, then a priest of Concord calls for a parley. Vorenus, newly shaved, proclaims he’s in charge. We’re supposed to feel that Vorenus’ smashing up the statue of Concordia is shocking, and it’s certainly startling, but as most of us don’t really believe that Concordia is a goddess -- I’ll bet many of us didn’t even know she was the name of a goddess -- we don’t feel the dreadful blasphemy that Vorenus commits. It’s one of those occasions when the gulf between then and now is too great. Sometimes Rome overcomes this challenge, but this time it did not.
Antony and Atia are frustrated by Octavian demanding his inheritance. Octavian, unable to get the money to give to plebs, borrows it and causes great ruckus at home. And so we have the first great breach between Octavian and Antony.
Pullo starts interviewing people to work for Vorenus. We see Mascius again, and we are introduced to Gaia, who will run the brothel.
Cicero must still be nervous about crossing Antony – why else would he refuse to bring back Brutus? Although the scene between him and Servilia is reasonable, it feels like filler. I think that’s because we’ve barely seen these characters during the episode. Their shared sidekick (Brutus) is gone and so they mostly interact with enemies – which can be dramatic, but we need more to feel connected to them.
Octavian departs from Rome, leaving his mother with a letter, going to his great friend Agrippa; as he goes we see Vorenus’ kids and sister-in-law as slaves. So they are not dead, as Vorenus believes, but in desperate straits. I guess Vorenus’ curse in the last episode worked.
Title musings. Hades is the god in charge of the Underworld, but the creators have chosen to use the Greek name. Of course, the word Hades is better known than the word Pluto, the Roman variant, which is associated mostly with a dwarf planet that has been kicked out of the major league. Obviously the main candidate for the title is Vorenus, who actually proclaims himself a son of Hades. But others may be edging into this territory as well. Mascius, a down-on-his-luck soldier, is ready to go into hell. So are Antony and Octavian, in their own ways. I also have negative feelings about Gaia and Levi.
Bits and pieces
Returned to doubling up on the credits, instead of tripling.
Naked body count: zero! If I missed someone, let me know in the comments.
Enjoyed the glance between Pullo and Cleopatra as they recognize each other outside of Antony’s.
Atia’s vulnerability with respect to Antony is rather sweet.
Eirene: You shave, I kiss.
Pullo: The full moon has come and gone – maybe it’s time to cut off these mourning beards? Life must continue.
Antony: She’s a queen! Caesar would’ve fucked Medusa if she wore a crown.
Antony: I cannot abide ships and boats – too much like cages. With the added risk of drowning.
Antony: It’s an odd thought – a Roman consul with an Egyptian wife. Wouldn’t do, you know?
Charmian: It is not permitted to touch.
Antony: You are wrong, Centurion. Dis is not your master. I am your master. By sacred oath under the standards of the 13th.
Antony: No man is beyond redemption, Lucius.
Vorenus: You will limit yourself to your usual liberties and malpractices. Nothing that will disrupt trade or politics.
Octavian: you’re not fit to lead Rome!
I was actually bored during part of this episode, but I was not watching for the first time. Furthermore it had several new characters, and I always need time to warm up to them. I admit I missed the angst of Brutus, and although Octavian is supposed to be cerebral, sometimes he is too cerebral. James Purefoy as Mark Antony saved the episode and the story moved along. Two spears out of four.
Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.