Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Episode III: An Owl in A Thornbush

The third instalment of ROME is a bit of a hit and miss. The story picks up where Episode II left off with Caesar marching on Rome. His strategy of attacking with a single legion appeared suicidal to the senatorial faction. But it soon became apparent that he had been vastly underestimated. With only one legion, Caesar’s speed had surprised Pompey and Caesar was suddenly in a position to take Rome, a city that was essentially undefended. Pompey simply could not get his men together in time and he had no choice but to retreat south to gather his legions. The episode’s best line, which ironically was bordering on the comical, was Cato’s impassioned rebuttal of Pompey’s strategy. With fury and rage, he shouts at Pompey “You have lost Rome without unsheathing your sword… You have lost ROME!”

This episode is mostly exposition, and there is a stretch in the middle of the episode where the viewers are drawn into the world of Rome and see and feel a kind of panicked chaos that the creators certainly intended the viewers of feel. There was a sense of claustrophobia as the episode moved from shot after shot of the main characters huddled in their houses or carriages looking helplessly as chaos spreads in the streets.

The episode also feels like it is building up to something that we won’t see pay off until the later episodes. It is about ten minutes shorter than the first two instalments and lacked the electricity of episode II when there was that great electric moment near the end when Caesar gave his speech. Caesar’s march on Rome is left mainly untold in episode III. Those who know a bit more of the history can certainly fill in the blanks, but it certainly leaves the impression that Caesar crossed the Rubicon and was at the city gates over a single weekend. In reality, it took him about three months to move from Gaul into Rome itself, converting most of the towns and cities in northern Italy to his cause without a fight and gaining additional legions on the way.

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