Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rome Returns: Episode 5: Octavian+Antony, Necessity v. Love

What a perfect ending of a perfect episode of HBO's Rome tonight: Antony and Octavian hugging, Vorenus' older daughter (Vorena the elder) smiling over the dinner table at her father, and all not of love but necessity.

Behind the political scenes, the slippery Cicero is bested by the wily, fearless Octavian, and Cicero writes to Brutus to bring him back to Rome. As I've mentioned before, I like to think that the genius who wrote De Natura Deorum was a better man, morally, than the Cicero of HBO's Rome, but who now can really know much of what the real Cicero really was? We can at least be content with David Bamber's superb performance, and with the fact that, even in HBO's Rome, the deceitful Cicero was fighting for a democracy of sorts.

For Octavian and his celestial ambitions are clearly in the ascendant. He - or more likely, his mother Atia, played by the beautiful Polly Walker - may have realized that an alliance with Antony and his army was the only chance they had against Brutus and his superior, foreign numbers, but we and history both know that this alliance cannot last.

We can't be as certain about anything in the fictional downstairs of Rome, where anything is possible. We can only hope, if we like the occasional, partial happy ending, that Vorenus and his children fare better than Antony and Octavian.

But we will win, in any case, as viewers of the splendid acting of everyone on the show, but most especially again, of James Purefoy as the now bearded Antony, and Simon Woods as the just slightly older Octavian.

Next week's battle, with the two allied versus Brutus and Cassius, promises to be a battle royale.

Useful links:

3-minute podcast of this review

Rome - The Complete First Season

Rome: Music From the HBO Series

I, Claudius 1977 BBC-HBO series

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