Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pullo and Octavian play games

The new HBO series Rome has to be commended for its fidelity to history, as compared to the other cable series about the same epoch, called Empire. The latter was full of so many historical fantasies it should have been labeled alternative history. But this latest episode of Rome is a strange way to demonstrate Octavian's capacity for ruthlessness. He and Pullo decide on their own to find out what's what with Vorenus' wife and supposed former lover. This poor guy had made love to Niobe after the army told her her husband was dead and his salary stopped coming. So he has a pretty good excuse...but Octavian and Pullo, who should have known this, tell him they are going to kill him anyway, so why not talk before they torture him. Pullo, who doesn't know how, has to take suggestions from a kid. This is meant as humor I suppose.

And so Octavian instructs Pullo to cut off the guy's thumbs for starters...and so on, and after they find out the Niobe's grand-daughter is really her own daughter, then they see red and stab him and dump his body into the aqueduct...if this was a common method of murder, the Romans should have been all poisoned in no time at all from the polluted water supply.

I suppose this scene is to show us how common brutality was in Roman times, as well as giving us a clue to Octavian's nerves of steel, which would lead him to successfully climb the ladder of power to Emperorship. On the other hand, it strikes me as rather dumb....here are two guys butting their noses into someone else's business, they are bound to make Niobe unhappy, though Pullo likes her, they kill a totally innocent person who did nothing wrong under the circumstances, they contaminate their city's water supply without a thought, the list goes on.

I suppose this is part and parcel of the "Upstairs, Downstairs" soap opera motif in which we are alternately shown how the nobility conduct themselves in some particular fashion, and then how the riffraff do it their way. Except in this case one of the upper classes is slumming, "gaining experience" so to speak. Obviously none of this can be historically verified, the idea is to take what history tells us of the famous personages of the times, and flesh them out with dramatically interesting traits and intriguing plot twists. Nothing wrong with this I suppose, but this particular example is rather disgusting.

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