I, Claudius: Some Justice
September 12, 2017 10:13 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe
Rome, AD 19–20. Tiberius, with Sejanus' help, is ruling with an iron fist. Only Germanicus is preventing total tyranny, but when he dies in Syria under mysterious circumstances, it is widely rumored that Tiberius is behind it. Germanicus' wife Agrippina accuses Piso, the governor of Syria, and his wife Plancina of murder and treason. At Claudius' suggestion, they are tried in the Senate, so as to avoid any backroom subversion of the courts by Tiberius' agents.
AAAAAAAAAH!!!!! Shift to Antioch where an aggravating Agrippina, with Lil' Boots in tow, enters the crowded death chamber of her husband. She imperiously orders his body to be laid out in the local market place for all to see the marks of poison and witchery. Rome should be notified that Germanicus is dead. She breaks down bemoaning the fact that he was all that stood between Rome and its imperial destiny. A sinister Caligula comforts his mother.--------------------------
Sometime later, the funeral cortege lands at Brundisium where they are met by Claudius, Castor, the children of Germanicus and a throng of well-wishers. Agrippina's opening speech, "Thus my children does your father come home to you: ashes in an urn," rallies the crowd. After entrusting the ashes to Castor with a charge to avenge Germanicus' death and commiserating with Claudius, she notices the absence of a few key family members. When Herod Agrippa tells her that Livia and Tiberius are too "grief stricken" to show themselves, she flies into a demagogic rage. With the crowd suitably stoked by her fiery rhetoric, she orders the procession on to Rome.
Unfortunately this episode does demonstrate the limitations of the BBC’s budget for adapting I, Claudius. The novel has a detailed description of Germanicus wars in Germany and his character. But the budget of I, Claudius could not afford scenes depicting Germanicus dealing with mutinous legions or exploring Egypt and Greece with his son Caligula. The resulting cuts of Germanicus story make the character seem more of an offscreen presence. It is worth noting also that Germanicus’ heroic presentation by both the historians and Robert Graves is somewhat misleading. Germanicus was an excellent general, but his campaigns were only moderately successful. His lofty reputation was mainly due to the hatred of Tiberius. As Tiberius became more and more loathed Germanicus rose in the eyes of the Romans, until he became a martyr in the eyes of Rome for the dignified era."How do you follow a powerful, dramatic episode containing an event as cataclysmic as the death of Augustus? Well, if you're I, Claudius, you use the bulk of the next episode for a courtroom drama that subtly displays the shifting power structure in the wake of Augustus' death."
As for the actual plot of the episode, it is a thrilling court room drama from the perspective of Germanicus’ murderers Gnaes Calpurnius Piso and his wife Plansina. Having a courtroom drama is seemingly out of place in a drama series focusing on the machinations of a wicked family. First time viewers may even downright object to the relatively slow pace of the episode. But the narrative told is fascinating as audiences are observers to the wicked trying to survive.