I, Claudius: A God In Colchester
January 12, 2018 10:19 PM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Rome, AD 47–48. Claudius is leading his troops in an invasion of Britain. Messalina's sexual excesses lead her to challenge the well-known prostitute Scilla to a contest to see who can take the most men in an evening; she wins easily. Claudius returns in triumph, but is devastated to learn that Herod has organized a rebellion in the eastern provinces against his rule.

A God In Colchester
The title of this episode reflects Augustus' wry, sad acknowledgement that he is a god in Palmyra from much earlier in the series, as he demanded to know from Livia, in utter frustration, how he's supposed to cure gout. The main content of this episode, however, is very different - we're deep into the classic Roman orgy of melodrama here, almost enough to rival the Caligula episodes - and it is most certainly not suitable for children.
So much of I, Claudius has been a depiction of how the intersection of power and ambition RUINS ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, and that’s certainly the case for Messalina and Silius. Lord, what a downfall.
posted by the man of twists and turns (2 comments total)
Mnester: Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Mnester, I'm an actor. Most people have heard of me.
Scylla: My name is Scylla, and I'm a whore. Everybody's heard of me.

This one's pretty dark, but Pallas and Narcissus are fun in it, as is the shot immediately following Messalina's execution. That shot has gotta be #2 on the Top 10 Most Unforgettable I, Clavdivs Moments, right behind (of course) "Don't go in there."

The fate of Herod always makes me genuinely sad. Such a likable, well-realized character. I don't recall how affecting that part was in the novel, which may mean it wasn't as affecting. But these threads have inspired me to re-read them (…sometime soon).

More on Claudius's temple in Colchester

And speaking of sad (content warning, subtype Trump): An I, Claudius reference from the NYT opinion page, quoted in this comment on the current USPOL megathread
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:04 AM on January 13, 2018

I think Herod's death is more affecting in the series because of the narration of what happened, and the narration of the letter. Having the scene where Herod takes ill narrated by a really quite pleased Roman official, is gut-wrenching in a way that having it told in the text of the book isn't. Then to hear the character's voice, speaking from the grave as it were, to try and explain and apologize to his friend is really moving.

IIRC Claudius the God was heavily cut down compared to I, Claudius. I also think that that gives it more of an impact. Rather than talking about Claudius' court cases and law and the games as the book does, the series just gives you both barrels of tragedy and betrayal.

I first watched this series with a friend of mine. I still remember his comment on Claudius during the last scene: "Guys, I just became that which I despise most in the entire world. Can you please give me a minute?". That's pretty much it. Claudius never wanted to be Emperor. Here he is asking "Am I still Emperor?" and having hundreds arrested to keep it. The bureaucracy of the Empire will kill to protect him (and themselves).
posted by Grimgrin at 10:17 AM on January 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

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