‘Rome’: Mob mentality

If you were going to be killed, you’d want Pullo to do the job.

Kind, he is. Efficient. Precise.

Compliments your garden. Gives you a moment to make your peace to the gods. Lets a foolish slave live when he could easily smite him.

He even says nice things about you after you’re gone.

Sure, the result is all the same.

In this week’s pivotal “Rome” re-watch, a few key players meet some dire ends. Overdue justice or justice denied?

That’s the thing about “Philippi” (original airdate Feb. 18, 2007), written by Eoghan Mahony and directed by Roger Young.

You can see it as a tragedy or a comedy. Pick your poison.

Octavian (Simon Woods) devises a plan to take care of those in Rome who still support Brutus (Tobias Menzies) and to fill his coffers: He draws up a list of men to be killed and their assets confiscated.

Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) is tasked with dividing up the list of targets among the gangs in the city. As he challenges the captains to think about supporting a feast for the peasants, Memmio (Daniel Cerqueira) plots against him, sending one of his men to tempt Vorena the Elder (Coral Amiga).

Pullo (Ray Stevenson) draws the most important target – Cicero (David Bamber) – and turns it into a picnic in the country for both families. Vorenus even brings along Lyde (Esther Hall).

Cicero has enough time to scribble a message to Brutus that Octavian and Mark Antony have joined forces.

Pullo turns out to be almost the perfect guest – perfect, except for the whole stab-you-in-the-throat thing.

He even brings back some peaches from Cicero’s garden for the families to enjoy.

“He’s not a bad fellow, that Cicero. Not stuck-up like you might think,” he tells Vorenus.

Cicero’s messenger speeding away on horseback?

He almost runs down young Lucius (Alessio Cuna), drawing the wrath of Vorenus, who pulls the servant off his horse – inadvertently knocking that message to the ground.

The messenger rides off – and Vorena the Younger turns the vital message into a paper hat for young Lucius.

We never do see that messenger again. Did he get to Brutus’ camp only to discover he had lost his precious cargo?

Forces about to collide at Philippi (Photo: HBO).
Forces about to collide at Philippi (Photo: HBO).

Brutus does receiver word of Octavian and Mark Antony’s advancing forces – one day before their arrival at Philippa.

Despite being outnumbered, he refuses to retreat, telling Cassius (Guy Henry) that it’s up to the gods now.

The gods, alas, have a wicked sense of humor.

The battle, with hundreds of soldiers clashing, shows again how “Rome” served as a case study and incubator for “Game of Thrones.” The choreographed mayhem is intense and convincing and can easily be seen as a dry run for “Game’s” “Battle of the Bastards.”

Cassius dies in Brutus’ arms.

As his men run off, Brutus pulls off his gear, and, sword unsheathed, advances into the enemy line.

The soldiers don’t know what to make of this one lone, foolish figure.

He cuts a man’s leg.

They turn on him, stabbing him in a free-for-all.

The man who unleashed a bloodthirsty mob onto the “tyrant of Rome” dies in just the same fashion – only his death is anonymous.

His body is forgotten among the dead.

A thief cuts off his finger and makes off with his father’s signet ring, perhaps the only thing that could ever identify him.

Brutus (Tobias Menzies) decides to meet his fate. (Photo: HBO).
Brutus (Tobias Menzies) decides to meet his fate. (Photo: HBO).

Random notes:

This is the final episode for Menzies, Bamber, and Henry.

Menzies gave soul and substance to one of history’s great villains, and Bamber imbued Cicero with the cunning that you knew would get him killed. Their departures mark a huge turning point for the series.

Vorenus certainly has softened toward young Lucius. He’s physically affectionate in every scene they’re in together.

Octavia (Kerry Condon) flirts with Agrippa (Allen Leech): “It’s tiring work, I imagine. Killing people. Even defenseless ones.”

Later, Atia (Polly Walker) calls her out.

“How long have you two been lovers? Oh, please don’t lie to your mother. You know it’s futile.”

“How did you know?”

“I didn’t until now.”

Next: “Death Mask”