In a Nutshell: Tywin Lannister Entering Rooms in Game of Thrones

Anyhoodle, I just love Charles Dance in this role. His elegance, his grace, and his arrogance are all perfect. Most poignant of all his is use of stillness in the role. He is a patient man, a still man. He does not fidget. He masters himself like he masters his surroundings. He knows that the victor is not always the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but the one who can endure. As I mentioned above, everyone else is on HIS time. He comes across as inhuman at times…but he most assuredly isn’t.

Not pictured: comedy relief

When I was much younger, I used to go through phases where I would have a crush on an actor. I suppose this behavior counts as “fangirling,” but since it was before the internet I didn’t know that term. Anyhoo, one of those crushes was Charles Dance.

I know. Don’t judge.

I loved him for his portrayal as Eric in a TV-version of Phantom of the Opera, and for his role as Sardal Numspa in The Golden Child, which is another delightful film you should totally check out. I have no explanation of why I liked him so much, other than it was a phase and I am strange.

With that said, there is literally no one else on this planet I could see in the role of Tywin Lannister. Charles Dance is perfect. 

If you haven’t seen the show, then everything you need know is summed up in this mnemonic device I used to help me remember his name when I first started watching:

Ty(rant) + Win = Tywin Lannister, the Tyrant Who Wins

If I had more time and less employment, I would create a Tumblog dedicated just to scenes of him entering rooms like a badass. Because there are copious scenes of him entering rooms and just filling them with his magnificent presence. Alas, some other person shall have to come up with it.

The reason they love to show him entering rooms/scenes like a badass is multifold:

  • His physical presence – Charles Dance is tall and elegant, and the camera loves his long, stately stride. he enters rooms and then WORKS. THEM.
  • His abstract presence – TL just walking into a room changes what’s going on in it. People stop what they’re doing, conversations end, and everyone basically waits for him to dictate what’s going on next; as the (arguably, to be explained below) most powerful man in Westeros, they are on his time, he is not on theirs
  • For the purposes of filmmaking, it’s easier to begin a scene with a character entering or leaving a room/scene than in the middle of a conversation or situation, especially with as many characters and situations as GoT has.

Look how the man works that horse.

Makes me think of Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China, except the exact opposite: “Everyone stop relaxing, I’m  here now.”

Incidentally, this is a scene in the second season where Tywin’s arrival saved the day – by displacing the former acting lord of Harrenhal, Tywin exercises some much needed order over the ruinous castle and its ruinous garrison. The acting commander at Harrenhal was the psychotic and terrifying Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain That Rides, aka the 8-ft tall guy who cut off a horse’s head with a single blow in the first season during the tournament. Tywin arrives and ends the random killing of captives, and puts them to work in the castle.

While he does employ psychotic and terrifying people like the Mountain, he considers them only useful in battle.  “Meet your enemies with fire and sword, but help a kneeling man to his feet” is one of his axioms. And he does do this – there’s not much TL takes personally, when it comes to the other lords and people of Westeros, unless someone tries to start some shit with his family. THAT he does not put up with. Granted, he usually turns things to his advantage when dealing with his former enemies, but while he can be duplicitous, he is at least generally in the open about things and you usually know where you stand. His first loyalty is to his name and his family: but whatever threatens the realm, like instability, threatens his family.

I think something a lot of people overlook with his character is the fact that he spends most of the War of the Five Kings cleaning up other people’s messes. To wit:

  • He goes to war with the North after his son is taken prisoner by Catlyn Stark. Granted, he could have ransomed Tyrion or something, but anyone who knows him know he doesn’t do things half-assed nor suffer fools. But he’s also upholding the stability of Westeros – there are a lot of highborn lords out wandering around, and if people start getting the idea they can just grab somebody and demand terms, well, there would be a LOT of problems. People need to see what happens in such cases.
  • He continues the war of the Five Kings because of the actions of Cersei and Joffrey; Cersei, who blows her nose with the will of her DEAD KING, and Joffrey, who beheads his own Warden of the North. They wrote some checks they couldn’t cash and TL WILL NOT allow the honor of his house to be sullied by their actions. You don’t become the (arguably) most powerful man in Westeros by shrugging and “just going with it.” I wish we could have seen his reaction when he heard about what the queen and Joff did, although it would hvae been best viewed from a safe distance; the surface of Mars, say.
  • He arrives in King’s Landing just in time to save the day and rout Stannis’s army, but also to salvage the wreckage of Joffrey’s actions – this is after he’s been acting as Battle Commander for a few months in the West and Riverlands, losing several battles to a sixteen year old. True, it is INCREDIBLY shitty that he takes up the position of Hand and relegates Tyrion to some crappy darkened room to heal up. That’s a dick move, hands down (HURRR). So he loses cool points there, but he didn’t get where he is by worrying about whether people like him or not. Lannister can read between the lines of Westerosi history: a weak king requires a strong Hand, and he knows that better than anyone.

This is all doubly interesting if you consider that cleaning up family messes was how he started his life: his father was a weak man, who loaned out money freely without demanding repayment. He was disrespected by his bannermen when they were drunk, and generally thought of as The Local Softy. When some nearby families started some shit, he backed down. Eventually, the widowed Tytos brought a common woman into his bed, and gave her run of Casterly Rock. The situation was sort of like if the Kennedys (Lannisport sounds a LOT like Hyannisport to me) replaced Jackie Kennedy with Britney Spears. After his father died, Tywin Lannister became the lord of Casterly Rock and he had had ENOUGH. He threw the woman out and made her do the Westerosi version of the walk of shame – naked as a jaybird, right through the middle of town. Then when the Reynes started some shit, he marched on them and eradicated the entire family, and burned down their seat. “The Rains of Castemere” is like the Lannister Fight Song.

“…and then you shall die.”

Then he had to serve Mad King Aerys, who went all sideways on him. The twenty years he served as Hand are remembered fondly by the common people as a time of peace and plenty.

Anyhoodle, I just love Charles Dance in this role. His elegance, his grace, and his arrogance are all perfect. Most poignant of all his is use of stillness in the role. He is a patient man, a still man. He does not fidget. He masters himself like he masters his surroundings. He knows that the victor is not always the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but the one who can endure. As I mentioned above, everyone else is on HIS time. He comes across as inhuman at times…but he most assuredly isn’t.

And just to show that Mr. Dance can be silly too, here he is in a scene from Da Ali G show, shaking that thang:

You’re Welcome

Thanks for reading my long rambling love letter to Tywin Lannister. Have a great day!

The Secret Heroes of A Song of Ice and Fire: Fat Guys

Today, I am focusing on a single, select group of heroes that have no other defining characteristic than offering more cushion for the pushin’. As before established, heroes come in all shapes and sizes in Westeros, and so do heroic deeds. Today, we’re giving some time to a group who need and deserve some recognition. Their deeds might not be writ large, but my gosh, GRRM sure writes THEM large! (yes that was a dumb joke; moving on)

This post will contain some WICKED spoilers from the books and the show! Just FYI! 

There are all manner of heroes in A Song of Ice and Fire: obvious heroes like Jon Snow, who wrestles with his inner turmoil so much it’s a wonder he can even get past breakfast in the morning; Ned Stark, whose heroism was cut short (HEYOOOO!!!!) by both his rigid adherence to honor and his utter lack of self-preservation; Davos Seaworth, who can be as rigid as the fallen Lord of Winterfell but has four billion times the good sense, and SO FAR seems to be plugging right along, despite some pretty awesome fakeouts discussed below;  less obvious heroes who at first seem to be terrible people and then either perform some selfless acts or see the error of their ways, like Sandor Clegane and Jaime Lannister; complex, flawed heroes like the MAGNIFICENT Tyrion Lannister, for whom no good deed goes unpunished; and simple, stalwart heroes like my personal all-time favorite, Brienne of Tarth.

But we aren’t here to talk about them today!

Today, I am focusing on a single, select group of heroes that have no other defining characteristic than offering more cushion for the pushin’. As before established, heroes come in all shapes and sizes in Westeros, and so do heroic deeds. Today, we’re giving some time to a group who need and deserve some recognition. Their deeds might not be writ large, but my gosh, GRRM sure writes THEM large!  (yes that was a dumb joke; moving on)

Samwell Tarly

samwelltarly.jpg
Utilizes the same defense strategy as a basket of kittens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samwell Tarly on the show is pretty much the same as Sam in the books. He will literally be the first person to tell you how cowardly he is, but they gave him a bit more dignity in the show by skipping the parts where he wees himself in terror during battles with the Others. Sam is a gentle boy who loved songs, playing with his sisters, and literally, baskets of kittens. That’s one of his favorite things right there, I’m not being funny, he literally loves baskets of kittens. ADORABLE!!

Sam’s father is the terrifyingly badass Lord Randyll Tarly, who gave Sam the choice of either taking the black so Randyll’s younger, butch son could inherit his title, or having a fatal “accident.” Tarly the elder also practiced such gentle paternal techniques as beating the holy living fluff out of Sam, and chaining him up in a dungeon. So, given the choice between death and a suck life, Sam chose the suck life. Sam has absolutely no belief in himself, and despite the fact that he slays a White Walker, perhaps the FIRST White Walker in over eight thousand years to be slain by a human being, he is convinced it was an accident. The nickname that the other Night’s Watchmen give him, Sam The Slayer, is BADASS, but the name only embarrasses him. However, HE DID THAT. Maybe it was an accident, but either way, he did it. To paraphrase something Eddard Stark told Jon, a man can only be brave when he IS afraid. In that case Sam Tarly is one of the ballsiest men in the Seven Kingdoms.

Later in the books, Jon Snow sends Sam on a trip down to Oldtown to become a maester, and to watch over Aemon Targaryen, who is ancient and in danger of being burned by the red witch (long story). He travels with Gilly, and I am very pleased to say he loses his virginity during the sea voyage. It’s just too sweet! Sam’s story is awesome because while he’s not outwardly heroic, he’s also not exactly the usual type of anti-hero either: he’s shy, he blushes around women, is terrified of just about everyone, and is so useless in a battle he’s usually ignored by enemies because he poses no threat. Granted, there is a lot to dislike, but as a character he has come a long way. He challenges the reader by unflinchingly revealing all his flaws, but then redeems himself on the odd occasion he pulls off something heroic. I was CHEERING  for him when he shanked that White Walker, AND when he nails Gilly for the first time – although to be fair, in the latter situation it was more her nailing him. Whatever! Good for Sam!

Varys the Spider

"Girrrrllll, PLEASE!"
I treasure every eyeroll, ESPECIALLY the ones at Littlefinger’s expense.

To be fair, Varys is described as “stout.”  POV characters think of him as soft and effeminate, with his silks and powders. To further be fair, silk bathrobes are unforgiving on EVERYONE without a wardrobe wrangler, so it’s to Conleth Hill’s credit that he brings the character to life and makes him as riveting as he does.

POV characters think of Varys as duplicitous, untrustworthy, and scheming. The audience knows different: he really does try to help save people from themselves, but can’t compromise himself or his network of spies. He counsels Ned Stark on how to save himself, and to Stark’s credit he takes the advice, but Joffrey the Shitbag ruined that plan by just being his shitbag self and everyone knows how that turned out. Varys also tries to advise Tyrion from continuing his relationship with Shae, but when he sees that Tyrion is dead-set on seeing the whore he arranges for them to meet in secret. He does betray people, which is pretty far from heroic, but he only betrays people after they have already betrayed themselves.

Varys is nothing if not practical: as a Targaryen loyalist, he is trying to both hold the realm together and tear it apart just enough for Danaerys to arrive and reestablish the Targaryen dynasty. Varys helped spirit the Targareyn children away, and later,  you find out that he also was instrumental in helping save (HUGE SPOILER HERE IT COMES!!!! ) Rhaegar Targaryen’s son, Aegon.

Though he’s not an actual fat guy per se, he does take epic amounts of shit about being a eunuch and generally disliked. However, he can change his appearance by using costumes and makeup (although by all accounts he makes a repulsive woman). It wouldn’t surprise me if, at the end of the series, Varys revealed himself to be seven feet tall and cut like a granite cliff face with hair down to his waist. If that happens, I’d like to take credit for being the first person to imagine the possibility, and I’m refusing to Google and see if someone else has come up with the same thing.

Strong Belwas

Strong Belwas, wearing the same amount of armor that women are usually shown in.

Strong Belwas has not yet appeared in the show. He shows up either at the end of A Clash of Kings or the beginning of A Storm of Swords, and is basically there to act as a distracter for the real meat and potatoes of the story, reintroducing Barristan Selmy (Note: maybe I’ll do an ‘Old People of ASOIAF’ next; Selmy would be king of that list). A former pit fighter, Belwas is a huge fat eunuch who seems like an oaf at first; he shows up, and basically acts as occasional comic relief, doing nothing but eating and sort of doofing around in the background. He has a sword, and a tiny iron vest he wears as armor. He is covered with scars, claiming that each cut represents a foe he has slain, as he allows them to make a single cut before he finishes them so everyone can know how many men he’s fought. Everyone sort of glances at each other and smiles, thinking he’s full of it.

THEN.

During their march, Danaerys’s army comes up on a walled city. The city close up their walls and send out a single champion on horseback. The meaning is both clear and veiled: Dany can send out her own champion to fight the lancer, but there is no guarantee that the people will open their gates if her champion wins; the veiled meaning is that if she loses, she will look weak and foolish AND be out a champion. She looks over her little court of champions and decides to send out the one who hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot yet and wouldn’t be a big loss to Team Targaryen, Strong Belwas.

Belwas requests they make him a dish of liver and onions, which are his favorite ‘after battle’ food,’  draws his sword and absurdly tiny shield, lumbers out onto the battleground, and goes to work. However, when battle is joined, he moves like a fat tiger.

In thinking about Strong Belwas’s fighting technique, I am reminded of Bruce Lee’s adage of ‘Be like water.’ If Lee was a fan of ASOIAF he might have amended that adage to “Or jello. If you can’t be water, be jello.” Jello traps an enemy’s blade, conforms to whatever shape it’s dropped in, and springs back into shape once it’s freed. So too does Strong Belwas. He’s fast, he’s agile, and he lets the lancer get in a single cut before he finishes the guy like the last french fry. Then, rather than take a victory lap, Belwas drops his pants and takes a victory dump in the direction of the city’s no longer cheering crowds. Then he returns to Dany’s camp and requests the aforementioned liver and onions. After all, he did make some room.

Strong Belwas again proves himself when he inadvertently eats a poisoned dessert intended for Dany, surviving the poison because of his huge bulk. I have no idea what the future holds for the character, but I do love him so.

Illyrio Mopatis

Played by Roger Allern in the show

Illyrio Mopatis in the book has probably the cruelest description of all the fat guys on this list. He’s described as ‘lord of suet,’ ‘lord of cheese’, ‘vast’ and other unkind terms, by various POV characters. In the show he just looks like they added some padding to the actor.

Illyrio is a magister in Pentos, basically a super rich businessman. We meet him in the beginning of the series when he helps Viserys (remember him? he was AWFUL) arrange Danerys’s marriage to Khal Drogo. The fancy mansion that the Targeryens are staying in belong to him. He also gives Danaerys her dragon eggs.

Like Varys, much and more is said of Mopatis, and most of it is not too kind. Besides POV characters describing him as fat, he is also mistrusted and considered to be conniving and self-serving. Strong words, considering he sheltered the Targaryens and is helping Varys with his plans to restore them to the throne. It could just be that he’s a businessman with unusually long foresight – after all, whichever Targaryen takes the throne would remember the man who helped them, and that would be a good position to be in. Some make the facetious claim that if he had known the dragon eggs would hatch, he would have sat on them himself rather than give them to Danaerys.

However, as the reader I think he’s a bit more of an altruist, similar to Varys. Both of them grew up penniless on the streets of Pentos, and when he was young Mopatis was a sellsword who was incredibly lithe and fierce with a  blade. Perhaps they both remember those days and are seeking to stabilize the realm for the benefit of smallfolk. After all, the smallfolk are the ones who pay the highest price when it comes to wars.

Mopatis sends Strong Belwas and Arstan Whitebeard to Dany as bodyguards. When Tyrion escapes King’s Landing, Mopatis helps him across the Narrow Sea and also sends him to Dany, chatting with Tyrion along the way. Tyrion mistrusts his motives, but I don’t know, I really think he’s just out to help the little people. He also states that Viserys had intended to sneak into Dany’s room the night before her wedding to Khal Drogo and steal her maidenhead, but he put a stop to that by posting guards outside her room.

Wyman Manderly

Any resemblance to Santa is purely coincidental… or IS it?

Wyman Manderly appears at Winterfell early in A Game of Thrones, but I don’t believe he’s in the show, or if he is they didn’t introduce him. He shows up as one of the Stark bannermen to discuss things with Bran, who is acting as lord when everyone else is away. He is, without a doubt, my FAVORITE secret fat guy hero of the entire series.

Uncharitably but probably truthfully described as ‘Lord Too Fat To Sit a Horse,’ Manderly is the lord of White Harbor. Two of his sons are involved in the War of the Five Kings: one is taken captive by the enemy, and the other travels with Catelyn Stark, ultimately being murdered during the Red Wedding. One of his sons is visible in the show during the Wedding, a round-cheeked guy with a waxed mustache and a silver merman on his black shirt.

SPOILERS AHOY!

By the time Davos Seaworth makes his way to White Harbor in the fifth book to ask Manderly to support Stannis, Manderly has become paranoid and mistrustful. He has Freys in his charge as wards and allies, and so he immediately puts Davos to death. Later, another POV character reports that they have seen the Onion Knight’s head dipped in tar, his mouth stuffed with onions and put on a spike above the gates of White Harbor. Since Davos is another of my favorite characters, I was M A D that day. My boyfriend occasionally comes to check on me when I reading ASOIAF, usually when I start yelling. Sometimes my yelling is angry (GODDAMN IT CATELYN STOP DOING THINGS), sometimes my yelling is in disbelief (WTF THEY JUST CUT OFF JAIME’S HAND I CAN’T EVEN) and sometimes it’s in excitement (SAM FOUND BRAN AND RICKON! YEAAAHHHHHH!!). He just wants to know what kind of yelling it is. That day it was the ‘THIS BOOK KEEPS KILLING THE GOOD PEOPLE THIS IS ALL BULLSHIT’ kind of yelling. I am very passionate when I read.

BUT!

It was all a ruse!

Davos has been chilling in the dungeon, and since he knows how to write now he can probably write the ‘Let’s Go!’ book of Westerosi dungeons since the man spends more time in them than anywhere else.

Wyman Manderly is NOT a turncloak – he is aware that his court is crawling with Frey spies, and he is FIERCELY loyal to Team Stark. He had to make it seem like he was putting Davos to death, even going so far as to kill some poor bastard who resembled the Onion Knight and putting his head on top of the gate. He has also found one of Theon’s underlings and gotten the true story of the Stark boys out of him: that Bran and Rickon are alive, and heading to the Wall. He charges Davos with the most awesome, dangerous, and heartfelt quest  in the book, after Brienne of Tarth’s: finding Manderly’s young lost lords, Bran and Rickon, and bringing them home to White Harbor, safe. He knows for certain that Rickon is on the Isle of Skagos, so that is where Davos heads.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!

Remember how I said that Manderly had a couple of Freys in his charge? And he was fiercely loyal to the Starks? And how EVERYONE in Westeros knows about the Red Wedding?

Manderly gets some sweet, sweet vengeance. Oh yeah.

He bakes them into a pie and serves them to Roose Bolton, Walder Frey, and some other Freys.

BAM!!!

WYMAN THE PIEMAN, baby!

I had some friends who declared that they didn’t want to watch the show anymore after the Red Wedding. I honestly can’t blame them; I knew what was coming because I read the book, but even reading the book I nearly stood up and threw it across the room. Since it was my Kindle, I had to exercise restraint though. After I sat down and my blood pressure slowed down, I HAD to keep reading! SO MUCH GOOD STUFF happens in the second half of book 3 and beyond. I am hoping that seeing Joffrey buy it (GOD that day can’t come fast enough – even though i know it’s coming I CANNOT WAIT)  will draw people back.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little reemergence of my ramblings. I really do want to try and keep it up again. I have ideas for entries all the time and just can’t seem to work blogging into my schedule. I do enjoy it so!

Do YOU have a favorite character on GoT? Who is it? Why?

Arbitrary List! Entry: The Five Best Deaths from HBO’s ‘Rome’

I was recently rewatching my all-time most favorite TV show, HBO’s Rome, and realized I had a perfect opportunity for a blog entry. Unfortunately, Rome is not available on Instant and by all accounts may not be for a long time; HBO offers its own streaming for its content, so we won’t see its programming streamed anywhere but the HBO site anytime soon. So you can only get it on DVD.

It kind of goes without saying that there will be spoilers in this entry; I mean, if you haven’t watched the show and don’t want anything spoiled then perhaps you should give today’s entry a miss. On the other hand, if you are able to read English at all and are surprised to find Julius Caeasar to be a character who dies, then I congratulate you on your ability to filter information at such an astounding rate.

5. Vercingetorix, King of the Gauls

Vercingetorix’s death itself, a gruesome strangling, is not so interesting as what it signified.

When first we meet Vercingetorix, he has been defeated in battle by Julius Caesar, and is being ceremoniously stripped of his clothing and crown (a pretty bitching little number with pheasant feathers on it). A tall, striking man, he is forced to kneel and kiss Caesar’s standard as a sign of submission, and is then thrown in the dungeon.

There he stays for most of the first season, until he’s taken off the shelf and presented to Caesar one day, who offers a chilling ‘Goodbye, old friend,’ before instructing his minions to clean up the now-decrepit, broken man. As was made clear in the Princess Bride, you should be healthy (or at least look it) before you are broken.

Which is ironic, as he is being trotted out in order to be executed in front of the ravening crowd at Caesar’s triumph.

In the history of Public Relations, the Romans were goddamn rocket scientists. They knew better than anyone before or after (except the Nazis) of the power of perception over rational thought. Show a once-powerful person broken, in the right context, and the might of Rome doesn’t just become an idea to the people, it becomes sacrosanct. ‘THIS is what the power of Rome can do,’ such an event demonstrates. ‘Serve Rome, or fall.’ It’s perfectly illustrated by how the people cheer after Vercingetorix is strangled to death, and how his mouldering corpse is considered just another piece of decoration to be swept up, afterwards. Never mind what it signified to the other side (the decimation of the Celts and Gauls, and how Rome would now become rich beyond measure as a result of the massive gold reserves of Gaul and Britain); for the average Roman citizen, it was just so much confirmation that they were on the winning team.

4. Eirene

Being dragged behind a wagon is an excellent exfoliant. Look at that skin!

 Eirene’s death was startling not just because of how surprising it was, but because it seemed unnecessary.

In a historical show where people are dying left and right, it seems almost unfair that a character who falls in the ‘not really based on anyone specific but more a composite of other people and is just kind of a fun side character’ group should die. Especially given the circumstances: while pregnant with Pullo’s baby, she is poisoned by a jealous Gaia. But the abortifacient seems to go awry, and Eirene dies, instead of just miscarrying (or maybe that was Gaia’s intent all along; then again, the apothecary seemed assured that the potion would be fairly straightforward).

I liked Eirene, although she didn’t have much to do, storywise. She functioned as a vehicle to show that Pullo was capable of gentleness instead of just violence, but that character trait came out anyway, through his interaction with the children. And Pullo as a doting father was a lovely counterpoint to the darker goings-on of the show. But Eirene as a character was kind of quietly awesome- she was strong, hardworking, and inpatient with slaves who did not know their place or did not work as hard as they should have. This last is because she herself was a slave; along with that comes all kind of complicated character building. She holds other slaves to her own high standard–or perhaps takes a special small joy in being the one doling out beatings.

3. Julius Caesar

He would make a great Vulcan, admit it
"Can't wait to get home and kick back with my boy, Brutus!"

Caesar’s death is kind of a given that it would be on this list; after all, it’s the penultimate moment of the first season, and sets into motion almost all of the events of the second.

The event itself is ugly, and brutal. It probably also wasn’t clean or short enough, if you ask Caesar himself: a veteran of many wars, he probably knew how to kill a man more efficiently than the indolent, privileged members of the Senate who did him in. Additionally, what appears to be an epileptic attack occurs, which both prevents him from properly defending himself and reveals his condition to the whole of the senate. His last act is an attempt to hide his contorting face, as Brutus looks on in horror.

I’m sure the Liberatores (as they are historically known) thought they were doing Rome a favor, but considering the chaos that ensues in the wake of Caesar’s death, it’s clear he proved a very stabilizing force, both politically for the city, and personally for its inhabitants. Historians still fume and foam over this murder; was he a tyrant, or a visionary with Rome’s best interests at heart? Unless a secret diary is unearthed in which he declares himself God and discloses his plans to personally molest and murder every inhabitant of Rome, we’ll never know.

2. Marc Antony

"OMG im so hi lol!!!"
"What? I can't, I don't even. . . is that a boob hubcab?"

Somewhere in the depths of freshman level Psychology, I learned that while women are twice as likely to attempt suicide, men are five times more likely to succeed. My data may be skewed, but the logic is this: Women are more likely to make suicidal gestures, like cutting and pills, but men tend to choose more final methods, like blowing their heads off with shotguns, or throwing themselves off cliffs. This could also be complete bullshit, but it’s oen of those little interesting facts I filed away.

When Antony decides to off himself, it is after a long downward spiral of drugs and debauchery. Guilt-ridden over Caesar’s death, he makes a series of political missteps (and a few small victories) that eventually land him in Egypt, presiding over a court of sycophants and whores. He goes native, declaring himself the god Osiris to Cleopatra’s Isis, gets a boss snake tattoo, and decks himself out in the latest in celebritry Egyptian fashion, which looks kind of like something Liberace’s pool boy might have deemed ‘too much.’

Antony’s death was as much a character death as a theme death. The show afterwards felt less like a denouement than a few loose ends being tidied up, as nothing that occurs afterwards seems as important or interesting. Sure, Cleopatra had her big moment, and Lucieus Vorenus and Pullo had their wrap-up, but it felt a little tacked on. Antony killing himself, with Vorenus’s help, was the end of both the Caesare story arc and the direction of the show. It’s almost a shame it wasn’t the last, last minute of the show, as it would have been easier to accept the show’s cancellation, then. Showing us Octavian’s triumph and everything else that occurred jsut reminds we, the viewer, of everything that we WON’T get to see.

1. Cicero

EARS!
"I believe I shall go home and stupify myself with wine." -Actual quote from the show

You’re surprised, aren’t you?

Certainly, many characters had more exciting deaths than Cicero, but his was the most poignant to me.

Perhaps it was because Cicero, while a Patrician, was not as established within that class as other highborn Roman characters, and it always felt as if he were eternally chasing that brass ring, all the while struggling to maintain a moral center. Cicero had to work hard to get where he did. He isn’t courageous by his own admission, but still manages to stand up for what he believes in when he declares Antony a ‘wreck.’

Cicero’s death, when it comes, is a strange peak in the show. The pacing slows down a great deal; he observes a single bird overhead, and seems to be reflecting on not how little he has done with his life, but that it should end this way, in his garden, while his slave weeps hysterically in the background. The sun is bright and a soft wind is blowing, rustling the leaves of his peach tree. It’s a beautiful day, the rest of which he will not see.

Cicero’s resignation to his fate is only part of the greatness of this scene; the other half is Titus Pullo’s gentle, self-assured assistance as he helps walk Cicero through his last moments. He asks permission to take peaches from Cicero’s garden. It’s clear that Cicero is thinking of other, much loftier concepts, but the import of this small concession is not lost on him. In five minutes, they won’t belong to anyone, after all, and Pullo could do as he likes. He’s no mindless thug, come to humiliate Cicero, loot his house and commit violent murder; he’s simply carrying out orders.

The other interesting thing about this scene is its small flirtation with the concept of mortality. Cicero mentions that he will be immortalized in all the history books, and so will his killer. Pullo mistakenly takes this to mean that he will be immortalized, physically, before the matter is cleared up. Their names and deeds will live on, if nothing else.

Rome is a show I include in a group filed under ‘Great Humanist Dramas.’ Sure, many of the characters invoke the names of their gods as they go about their business, occasionally even putting importance into that god’s opinion of their actions, but ultimately it’s a show about humans.

The History Channel’s Life After People series: Entropy Gets the Michael Bay Treatment and It Is AWESOME.

Anyhoodle, Life After People is at least off to a strong start. Full marks for the guts to show some of our most cherished images covered in vines and weeds, or being completely decimated by a few decades’ worth of pigeon shit.

If Planet Earth is the family member who inspires you to follow in their inspiring footsteps, Life After People is the crabby, drunken relative with a pill addiction who inspires you to reach the heights that they perceived, but failed to achieve.

Did you blink and miss this? Don't worry, so did everyone else. It was between a Hitler marathon and another Hitler marathon.

A few years ago, the benchmark for Documentaries that Blew Everyone’s Mind was raised by a series Discovery and the BBC made called ‘Planet Earth.’ It was an amazing collage of a nature program, combining great writing, mind-blowing subject matter, David Attenborough’s voice (or Sigourney Weaver, for all the people for whom British accents are an impossible obstacle to surmount) and great camera work.At the end of each episode was a diary that showed what the people who shot all the footage of animals in the middle of nowhere went through–sometimes at severe risk of life and limb, as in the two guys who got trapped in the shack in the Arctic with a Polar Bear outside.

The History Channel unwittingly made a sister project to the Planet Earth series; though they are different in many aspects, their basic message is the same: Humankind is ephemeral, and we aren’t as important as we thought.

In short, Humankind is Not a Beautiful Unique Snowflake.

‘Life After People’ posits the complete, COMPLETE extinction of the human species. This is a great approach because it completely negates all the ‘well when *I* am living in a post-apocalyptic world I will do X to survive’ theorizing that people like to do; it completely removes humanity from the picture. We are not scattered packs of survivors, struggling to retain our humanity in an inhumane world; we are not cannibalistic mutants; we are not battling for supremacy or survival.

Quite simply put, we are NOT.

As in, we were. But now we are not.

Structural engineers, researchers in applied sciences, futurists, biologists, historians, and others were consulted in the creation of the show in order to create a realistic, believable theory on what, exactly would happen should humanity suddenly engage in some kind of global, species-wide bounce.

The first episode, ‘The Bodies Left Behind,’ engages in some psychological tricks to get the viewer thinking; in short, all the human monuments we use as mental shorthand for ‘immortal,’ like the Sistine Chapel, Lady Liberty, and others will crumble and fall in as little as 500 years. Mummies that were happily celebrating their 3000th year in a dry, cool tomb underground will become infested with bacteria and fungus and rot away, when their climate-controlled displays in museums fail.

Is Erectile Dysfunction putting a crimp in YOUR lifestyle?

It’s pretty heavy stuff.

Two kinds of people will watch Life After People; well, the ones who actually watch the show instead of saying ‘There are no people I want to have sex with in this show therefore it is a waste of my time’ and change the channel.

The first group will view it as further proof of the ‘Why Bother?’ school of thought: everything you do is going to disappear in the slow-motion avalanche of time, humanity is fleeting, nothing you do will matter, everything falls apart in the end, why does no one love me, etc., and they will go back to bitching about the world and everything wrong with it.

The second group will look on it and say ‘Of COURSE humanity is fleeting, that’s why you have to make every moment of your existence COUNT.’ As a secular humanist (which is a less-scary way of saying ‘atheist’) I don’t believe in an afterlife, or the immortality of the soul, or any of that. I believe that the human experience is as unique as you choose to make it, and in the end if all you have managed to accomplish in life is moderation in all things, stable relationships, and you haven’t murdered, raped, or introduced anyone to the drugs that would eventually kill them, then you’re doing all right. We have our five senses, we have the relationships we build with others, we have the consequences of our actions (both near and far-ranging), and that’s IT. I’ve heard the expression ‘Every time an old person dies, a library burns down.’ I believe that is absolutely right, and yet it says something about our society that maintaining both old people and libraries are not very high priorities.

Pictured for no other reason than Rhinos amuse me.

Anyhoodle, Life After People is at least off to a strong start. Full marks for the guts to show some of our most cherished images covered in vines and weeds, or being completely decimated by a few decades’ worth of pigeon shit.

If Planet Earth is the family member who inspires you to follow in their inspiring footsteps, Life After People is the crabby, drunken relative with a pill addiction who inspires you to reach the heights that they perceived, but failed to acheive.

Additional Note: Anyone interested in apocalyptic fiction should definitely catch this, especially if you enjoy writing it as well. It doesn’t show the comprehensive picture it could, at least not that I’ve seen thus far, but if you ever take a creative writing class on World-Building then this is definitely worth checking out.

It’s available on Instant Watch.