Sunday, February 18, 2007

Rome Returns: Episode 6: The Ascension of Cicero

Ah, Cicero. The real man is one of my favorite thinkers and writers. A quote from his De Natura Deorem serves as the frontispiece of my 1979 doctoral dissertation on the evolution of media. The real man was a shrewd genius, silver-tongued orator, writer of such precision that words for him came as easily and effectively as scribbles on a page for most other people. Based on the considerable amount of his work that survived, I would rate him right up there with Plato, Milton, Shakespeare, and Jefferson. The real Cicero had that mixture of poetry, philosophy, political acumen.

The Cicero on HBO's Rome, up until the present evening, offered only a thin veneer of the above. Brilliantly played by David Bamber, the Cicero of HBO was often slippery, deceitful, and conniving. He was politically shrewd all right, but often lacked a redeeming depth. For all we know, this is true to history. It's always dangerous to make assumptions about the lives of real historical figures, even when we have so much of their own writing at hand.

But whatever the real Cicero was like - or what I envision him to be - he and the Cicero on Rome finally came together tonight, as Cicero died at the hands of Pullo, as per Antony and Octavian's orders. It was the noblest scene in the series. I was almost as outraged as Cicero's death as I was about Caesar's - maybe, in some ways, more so. Should a human being ever be put to death solely because of his ideas and political positions? Have we really made all that much progress since then?

Bravo to David Bamber for a performance that outdid itself in its final appearance tonight. Ray Stevenson deserves credit for playing Pullo just right - killing Cicero is no different for Pullo than pulling peaches off a tree - but I'm still too angry at the character to say anything good about what he did in that scene...

In contrast to that noble scene, we saw the deaths of Cassius and Brutus tonight, too. Nothing too noble about that - they got what they deserved, in history and in this series. Kudos, again, to Tobias Menzies as Brutus. Also to Guy Henry as Cassius.

Antony, Octavian, Atia, Octavia, and Agrippa were in fine form tonight, too. Next week beckons. The players diminish but increase in stature. Except for Cicero, RIP.

4-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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