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Iron and Ashes: "Rome" Ends its Run on a High Note

With all the hubbub the other night with the season finale of Battlestar Galactica and a particularly fractious episode of The Amazing Race, I didn't want you to think that I'd forgotten about the series finale (sniffle) of Rome.

If you haven't ever watched Rome, I'm sure the episode in question wouldn't have even caught your notice but for those of us who have obsessively followed the slow burn of Rome, with its intrigues, vendettas, and fractured brotherhoods, the series finale, which aired Sunday (to be repeated a zillion times this week and available on HBO On Demand), was the perfect ending to a near-perfect series, which rarely had a misstep in its two-season history.

While I'm sad that this beloved series was drawn to a close sooner rather than later, I do have to admire HBO and BBC for acknowledging that it's far better to go out on a high note than draw out the inevitable with lackluster writing, subpar stories, and off-the-mark characterization. Like nearly every series tends to do. (Or what Lost is desperately trying to avoid.) Instead, Rome ended much like it began: with backstabbing and bloodbaths and brothers-in-arms Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus.

I was sad to see period rock star Mark Anthony throw himself on his sword (especially given that he made Vorenus hold said Roman sword) after fighting so valiantly (and in recent weeks in a drug and prostitute-fueled stupor). It was Anthony who gave the series that dog-eat-dog-and-die-smiling passion that will be missed but it was an incredible sight to see Vorenus transform the now Egyptian Anthony back into a true Roman. Of course, his death was for naught as the manipulative Cleopatra faked her death in order to engineer a truce with the clinically brutal Octavian... only to take an asp to her own breast when she realized that, as Anthony had told her, Octavian was a monster after all.

Did anyone else feel more than a little bad for poor Atia? Given that she's been responsible for most of the misery, heartbreak, and death in Rome, that's a pretty amazing feat. But I did feel truly awful for Atia, who realized that victory always comes at a price. She might be the mother of the emperor and guaranteed more power than any other woman in Rome, but it does seem that Servilia's curse did come true after all: despite new new position, she has lost everything and everyone she once cared for. ("Send her bitterness and despair for all her life. Let her taste nothing but ashes and iron.") And yet, even faced with all of this, she still manages to keep her head high... and cut Octavian's wife Livia out of her rightful place.

Titus Pullo finally finds his family after, let's say some pretty major setbacks with Eirene and Gaia, coming face to face with his own son Caesarion. He's also reunited, albeit it briefly, with his brother-in-arms Lucius Vorenus, who get to battle side-by-side one last time. Pullo takes Caesarion (now being called Aeneas) back to Rome, along with Vorenus. He too gets the chance to put things right with his blood, finally receiving forgiveness from his wrathful daughter Vorena the Elder.

Does Vorenus die at the tavern? While we never see the death scene itself, I think it's pretty safe to say that if Vorenus didn't die soon after the benediction he receives from Vorena, that the end is coming pretty soon. And in the end, I don't think Vorenus could have asked for a more fitting death than to have died as a result of a "glorious" wound from a sword during a fierce battle that had him and Pullo vastly outnumbered.

As for Pullo, he's happy to collect the reward for Caesarion's death and invents a story to conceal the truth of Caesarion's existence (it involves a rotting head and the desert; you fill in the blanks), which apparently suits Octavian, who wanted the boy put to death for political reasons. It never occurs to Octavian that his old friend Pullo might be lying to his face, but the never-blinking Octavian was never very good with people.

In the end, Rome boils down to those crucial relationships between people: parents, children, brothers, and the eternal possibility of reconciliation or treachery. That we're left with Pullo and Caesarion walking the streets of Rome somewhat richer as he finally tells the boy the story of his father is a fitting end to this vibrant, stirring, and thoughtful series. While life look a lot different since the days of Octavian's rule in Rome, it's a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Dateline (NBC); Gilmore Girls (CW); Dancing with the Stars (ABC); American Idol (FOX)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search of the Next Doll (CW); Primetime (ABC); House (FOX)

10 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); The Great American Dream Vote (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: American Idol.

Gwen Stefani Alert! The fashion icon, former No Doubt singer, and Mrs. Gavin Rossdale coaches the remaining ten finalists in some pop-themed performances. Where are the Harajuku Girls though?

8 pm: Gilmore Girls.

I've given up on this once-great drama, but for the few of you out there still watching, here's what's going on. On tonight's repeat episode ("To Whom It May Concern"), Lorelai forced Jackson to reveal the rationale behind Sookie's odd behavior, Luke and Anna attend a custody hearing, and Paris helps Rory mend things between her and Lucy. All in favor of ending this once great show, say aye.

Comments

God (or should I say Gods) this was a great series. And even though it was short-lived, I'm thankful that the creators knew it was coming to an end and were able to wrap it up in a wholly satisfying and exciting way. I'm already looking forward to rewatching this brilliantly written and performed series on DVD.

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