Mark Watches ‘I, Claudius’: Episode 13 – Old King Log

In the final episode of this disturbing miniseries, I’M ACTUALLY QUITE SAD. So it’s time for me to finish I, Claudius, y’all. I DID IT.

First, the video file for “Old King Log” is available for download here, and all Mark Watches videos are being indexed in my Dropbox folder.

  • I admit that I’m sad this is ending, not just because the experience was so surprisingly fun, but because the resolution of this miniseries is bittersweet in and of itself. It was inevitable that the finale would have to feature Claudius’s death, but I did not expect to feel so many things about it. The previous episode set up Claudius’s loneliness, and here we watch as that state is drawn to its final moment: Claudius dies alone, with no friends or family by his side, his wife and heir scheming to betray him in the end. 
  • Yet at the same time, his death is organized. Knowing that the line of emperors he belongs to must end, knowing that he must return Rome to a republic, he acts in a way to specifically cause the Roman people to hate him. God, it’s agonizing to watch because it’s so counter to who Claudius is. All his life, he’s been altruistic, kind, loving, and deeply desiring of positive affirmations. He’s wanted to be accepted for nearly the whole miniseries! So to watch him act purposely to get people to despise the imperial line is heartbreaking. He marries his sister, makes Nero next to rule, infuriates and distances his well-meaning and honor-bound son, and drives everyone away from him. He does this for reasons that aren’t selfish.
  • It’s fascinating that he openly accepts the prophecies of Sibyl, and that he acts in accordance with those predictions. His behavior in those last years of his life depended on those prophecies, so it was especially upsetting when Britannicus refused to take Claudius’s advice and hide from Nero. Claudius knew he was condemning his son to death if he couldn’t convince him to follow his plan, but what was he to do? His son was raised to respect honor and tradition, and now he was being asked to break that? Oh god, IT’S SO TRAGIC.
  • And then everything is a million more times upsetting when Agrippinilla BURNS HIS BOOK. NO! NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT. He spent DECADES working on it! It’s important! I AM SO UPSET.
  • But thankfully, there are two incredible sequences which gave me some satisfaction with how Claudius died. First, I loved the scene in the senate where Claudius hallucinates a visit from his entire family. It was shocking, yes, because I didn’t expect to see Brian Blessed, John Hurt, or Siân Phillips ever again. But then I was impressed because even these cameos were remarkably in character, a way to affirm that what Claudius was doing was right, and to remind him of what a terrible history he had lived through.
  • The appearance of Sibyl at the end was also great, because while Claudius died alone in our realm, he had Sibyl to guide him into the afterlife. She tells him that it’s time to move on, but the two are amused by the fact that HE BURIED A COPY OF THE BOOK. THERE’S ANOTHER COPY. Oh god, and Claudius will, in some way, live on. Which is very meta, considering that this show is a method of him staying in our memory. It’s a fictionalized account at times, yes, but it’s still compelling to watch.
  • Oh god, IT’S OVER.

Once again, many, many thanks to the wonderful folks over at Mark Spoils who commissioned various episodes: Mary picascribit, Ryan Lohner, Cate, and Sascha snapsnzips. Y’all are the best, and I’m glad I finally got to watch this. <3

If you’re interested, all thirteen reviews are located in the I, Claudius tag!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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