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Don't Kill the Messenger: Intrigues Aplenty on "Rome"

I've been woefully lax in discussing the latest season of Rome, which kicked off on HBO a few weeks back and has completely captivated my Sunday nights (along with Battlestar Galactica, Extras, and Gordon Ramsay's F Word).

Deceit. Betrayal. Lust. Murder. Scandal. Welcome to Rome, capital of voracious backstabbing, sometimes quite literally. It's the second season of the beautiful and gripping HBO/BBC period series and also its last.

Wait, what? You heard me. In perhaps a wise mood, HBO renewed the vastly expensive series under the condition that it would be the last and would tie up the storylines from Season One, creating a double-digit maxi-series spread over two seasons. While, on the one hand, I'm deeply saddened to know that there's only a few episodes left to tell the story of Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo and that of Rome itself, I do find it heartening that the series' producers (and creator Bruno Heller) had advance notice and could carve out the story they wanted to tell in the time given. So hopefully no major dangling plotlines at the end of this run, unlike, say, that of the sorely missed Carnivale.

That aside, onto last night's episode ("These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero"), which was filled with Rome's trademark intrigues. After the suicide of his wife Niobe and issuing a curse on his children (who were promptly picked up by Rome's version of Satan, local mobster Erastes), Lucius Vorenus has been at a bit of a loose end and has been placed in charge of overseeing the Aventine and keeping the local crimelords in check, meting out justice like a feudal lord. And poor Titus Pullo, now married to former slave Eirene, follows his master and "brother" around like a wounded puppy. But not for long.

After a disagreement over Vorenus' handling of a local dispute (which quickly turns into a gang war), Pullo accidentally reveals that he, you know, killed Vorenus' wife's lover Evander last season. (Only in the shadowy world of Rome would this make sense. Pullo's logic: Vorenus and Niobe were happy together so rather than Vorenus find out that his "grandson" was actually Niobe's child with Evander and kill Niobe, Pullo--aided by Octavian--murdered Evander.) Their rift leads to a full-on brawl, after which Pullo and Eirene leave the Aventine and travel for several months. Their poorly-handled return in the only weak point in an otherwise taut episode.

I'm glad that things have come to a head between these two and that the secret of Evander's death (and Pullo's culpability in the matter) has finally been revealed, after all this time. While Pullo and Eirene were off wherever they were, Vorenus was hand-picked by Antony to serve in the upcoming battle royale against turncoat Octavian. Of course, Pullo has always been a favorite of Octavian, so it's no surprise where he'll end up on. Me, I can't wait to see these two former brothers-in-arms on opposite sides of the battlefield.

Meanwhile, over at the house of the Julii, Atia has some major problems of her own. With Octavian gone (and raising an army of 10,000 strong against Atia's lover Antony), Atia focuses her energies on driving daughter Octavia mad, slighting her friend Jocasta (the daughter of a wealthy tradesman) and making it clear that the goo-goo eyes she was making with Octavian's friend/messenger Agrippa will not be tolerated. (Hmmm, looks like there's a possible love story brewing there.) With Antony's consulship about to end, he is planning to leave Rome and take over as governor of Macedonia, a desolate place that Atia shutters to think of, so she tries to convince him to stay in Rome. Antony being Antony, he instead decides to take over Gaul and alternately tries to bribe/threaten Cicero to force the Senate into making his whim a reality. (Cicero instead leaves Rome and sends a scathing proclamation about Antony's unsuitability to the Senate to be read aloud; Antony strikes down the messenger.)

But Atia may never get to Gaul as intrigues in her own home could bring about her demise. A spy lurks in Atia's household, a beautiful slave boy Duro, who was hired by the deceitful Servilia to poison her. Once Duro is sure that Atia is dining alone (Octavia is out with Jocasta again), he pours a liquid into her stew and watches gleefully as a cook brings the bowl out to the waiting Atia.

Hmmm, could Atia be dead? I certainly hope not as Polly Walker is one of the many reasons I tune in regularly to this period-flecked soap/drama. My guess: Atia does take the poison, but not enough to kill her. Then she flays Duro and goes after his mistress. Revenge is a bitch and no one is bitchier than our beloved Atia. Oh, Servilia, I almost feel bad for you.

Meanwhile, Vorenus and Pullo still have no idea that Vorenus' children weren't killed by the evil Erastes but were instead just sold into slavery. (Still, not exactly a good time.) As Vorenus' guilt continues to eat away at him, his sister-in-law Lyde manages to escape her cage and heads for help in Rome, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Pullo has a vision from the gods to seek out Vorenus in Rome and, while he doesn't find his fallen brother, he does find Lyde and discovers the truth and sets out to free those poor kids.

Please tell me it's almost time for another episode. With only a handful of episodes of Rome remaining (seriously, it's less than ten), I can't wait for another fix of this bold, colorful, and spellbinding drama and to learn what latest intrigue its denizens have cooked up next.

"Rome" airs Sunday evenings at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: How I Met Your Mother/The Class (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Everybody Hates Chris/All of Us (CW); Wife Swap (ABC); Prison Break (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: Two and a Half Men/The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS); Heroes (NBC); Girlfriends/The Game (CW); Supernanny (ABC); 24 (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: Miami (CBS); Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC); What About Brian (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Everybody Hates Chris.

Everybody Hates Chris, recently picked up for a third season, returns tonight with a new batch of episodes. On tonight's episode ("Everybody Hates Hall Monitors"), Tanya learns that her friends are hanging out with her just to get close to Drew, while Chris makes the uncomfortable realization that his classmates don't take him seriously when he becomes hall monitor. Word to the wise, Chris: hall monitor has never equalled popularity. Ever.

9 pm: 24.

It's 9 am on Day Six of 24. While FOX doesn't give us much in the way of previews, President Palmer (D.B. Woodside) and his advisers continue to deal with the, er, fallout from the nuclear blast in Valencia, Jack's family problems get even more tricky, and Reed Pollack (Chad Lowe) and Lennox strategize.

9:30 pm: Old Christine.

I can't tell you why I like watching this traditional sitcom, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus is like a warm blanket of coziness after a long Monday. On tonight's repeat episode ("Separation Anxiety"), Christine's friend Barb (Wanda Sykes) decides to split from hubby Pete, leading to Christine getting excited that she finally has another divorced friend, but relations between Barb and Pete quickly thaw.

10 pm: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel.

On tonight's episode, Tony travels to Russia, where he samples some mushrooms, caviar, salmon, and vodka, all in a 19th century-style restaurant.


I really hope that Attia isn't dead! Polly Walker is definitely one of my favorite things about Rome. She's scrumptuously wicked.

I'm very sad that we'll only have two seasons of this brilliant show but agree that knowing their time is limited, the creators should be able to wrap the series up nicely.
greebs said…
Rome Schome. What are your thoughts on Battlestar so far this season?
Jace Lacob said…
Hey Greebs,

I'm actually loving this season of BSG. I saw the latest batch of episodes ("Rapture" and "Taking a Break from All Your Worries") a few months back, so I will have to admit that I haven't been watching it "live" with the rest of the viewers. So apologies for not discussing it.

I'm due to receive the next slew of eps soon, so look for a BSG-related post soon. I can't enough good things about this brilliant, though-provoking series.
Anonymous said…
Who is the actor that plays Duro the slave boy???
Anonymous said…
Duro is played by the rather attractive Rafi Gavron

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