‘Rome’: House of horrors

In this week’s especially dark “Rome” re-watch, Atia just wants some lunch, Servilia would like to pray in peace, Octavian can’t understand why no one recognizes him, and Timon picks the worst moment to demand a new job description.

We’ve seen men beaten to death, women throwing themselves off balconies, fathers cursing their children, but this hour of “Rome” might be the most disturbing hour of the series. (Please stand by as future episodes will no doubt find new ways to break the misery meter.)

“Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare),” written by Todd Ellis Kessler and directed by Adam Davidson, original airdate Feb. 4, 2007, picks up from that cliffhanger, with slave Althea (Rebekah Staton) bringing poisoned stew to Atia (Polly Walker).

Before she serves, however, Althea takes a secret dip, digging her fingers into the stew and licking them greedily.

Being a slob has never been so lethal.

Atia can’t believe her slaves can’t rustle up some entertainment as she eats, so she demands Althea sing for her.

The girl makes an admirable attempt – marred only by her keeling over, a convulsing mess, from the poison in the stew.

Duro’s (Rafi Gavron) guilt is confirmed by the way he flees the scene. On Atia’s orders, Timon (Lee Boardman) tortures him and later kills him, dumping his body in a sewer.

Atia arranges to have Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) kidnapped right out of a temple and brought to her cellar, where she can torment her until she begs for death.

That torture includes having a slave rape Servilia.

Servilia refuses to break. No matter how much she is beaten and abused, she will not beg for her life.

Atia demands Timon do something else to hurt her, and Timon snaps.

All the depraved acts he’s committed for this crazy woman.

He frees Servilia and grabs his mistress by the throat.

“I am not a fucking animal!”

Servilia finds her way out of the house and emerges onto the street.

She’s covered in her own blood, with barely the strength to walk, and no one on the busy street comes to her aid.

They know too well who lives in that house to risk getting involved.

Octavian is different. He's Simon Woods.
Octavian is different. He’s Simon Woods.

Pullo (Ray Stevenson) searches for Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) on a bloody battlefield in Gaul and runs into his old pal Octavian, now looking strikingly different, because he’s played by Simon Woods, replacing Max Pirkis.

Octavian has managed to rout Mark Antony’s forces, costing Antony 8,000 men – but fortunately, not Vorenus.

Pullo shares his news that Vorenus’ children are alive, and the two race across the continent.

At a slave camp, Pullo bluffs his way in by saying that they are looking for runaways owned by Octavian, and they are his favorites, especially the boy.

Vorenus finds Vorena the Younger (Anna Fausta Primiano) and then young Lucius. The boy is terrified and tries to flee, but Vorenus is too fast.

For a long moment, Vorenus struggles with the thought of killing the child (“Honor demands it,” he told Pullo), but he ultimately embraces the boy.

Kevin McKidd, as always, is just astounding in this sequence, working with no dialogue, just letting the emotions on his face tell the story.

Vorena the Elder (Coral Amiga) is painted up and working as a prostitute in a tiny cubicle.

How has Vorena the Elder (Coral Amiga) been changed by her experiences? (Photo: HBO).
How has Vorena the Elder (Coral Amiga) been changed by her experiences? (Photo: HBO).

Pullo kills the slavemaster, and Jeff Beal’s triumphant “Rome” theme closes us out.

We have seen one servant poisoned, a teenage assassin tortured and killed, a Roman matron abused and raped, a man considering murdering a child, but all is right with the world so long as Pullo can take out a bad guy.

You might need a hug after this one. But heed Pullo’s warning, that the children have probably been changed by their experiences in the slave camp. That’s important.

Next: “Heroes of the Republic”