It’s like every column of the New York Times’ “Modern Love”:
You go to the Registrar of Slaves, take a number, wait your turn, present your documentation to a bored clerk, and walk out with the emancipation papers for the slave you want to marry.
Your intended is thrilled to the moon, kisses your cheek and says, “I love you, sir!”
That “sir” right there is a tell, but you’re too besotted to notice.
You present her with a new dress to celebrate.
You can’t be seen with someone wearing slave rags, now can you?
And while you pace the courtyard all chuffed with yourself, look who comes out but some skinny rando who thanks you for freeing his future wife.
Say who say what now?
If you’re Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), you do the first thing that comes to mind.
You bash the dude’s head once, twice, five times into a stone pillar, and let him flop to the ground to die.
See: Just like every column of the New York Times’ “Modern Love.”
Pullo realizes too late that maybe he should have shared all his romantic expectations with the object of his affection, Eirene (Chiara Mastalli), who is distraught and wants nothing more to do with her liberator.
Also through with Pullo: His best pal Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), not so much for damaging his property (the slave) as for the way Pullo lashes out and points out Vorenus’ hypocrisy in supporting Caesar (Ciaran Hinds).
And now Pullo in one breath of rage has lost his love, his only friend, and his home.
That’s one beat of “Triumph” (original airdate Nov. 6, 2005), written by Adrian Hodges and directed by Alan Taylor.
The Senate appoints Caesar emperor for ten years with absolute power.
He celebrates with a massive parade of the legions, topped by the slow strangulation death of the king of Gaul.
Horror aside, the spectacle is just so immersive. You’ll believe you are in the streets of Rome, craning your head for a glimpse of the new ruler of the empire. It’s astonishingly authentic.
There’s a lot of fun to be had but in the hot mess of Atia’s household, but it doesn’t overshadow the dark tidings in Servilia’s estate.
Recovering from her attack, Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) welcomes Pompey’s surviving son into her home and infuriates her son Brutus (Tobias Menzies) by distributing an anti-Caesar screed all over the city signed in his name.
“You do understand: You might have me killed over this,” Brutus tells her.
She wants to hook him up with like-minded men who wish to end Caesar’s tyranny forever. And so the seed of a scheme that will change history is revealed.
Brutus is not interested.
After Brutus swears he didn’t write that anti-Caesar screed, Caesar replies, “I have never doubted your friendship or fidelity. Even when we were enemies.”
Brutus is left even more confused.
Maybe mothers are alike all over Rome:
Atia (Polly Walker) welcomes back her wayward daughter: “I’ve missed your gloomy presence all over the place.”
Servilia assures her son: “You can’t fail me. I’m your mother. You failed the Republic.”
My depiction of the Registrar of Slaves office is cribbed from this episode of “Rome,” down to the queue and the clerk who is clearly watching the sundial. It’s the DMV B.C.
Next: The Spoils
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