Combining Roman history with campy, soapy melodrama, "I, Claudius" is a must-see for TV fans and history buffs alike. Keep up to speed with these treacherous Romans with KCET's recap series and character guide.
Where we left off:
Rome has been doing well under Claudius' reign. But things aren't exactly going so perfectly for the emperor himself: His wife cheated on him, married another man and was then killed by the Praetorian Guard because of it.
Claudius' (Derek Jacobi) rule has backfired. The people love him, and the city continues to thrive under him. Sounds like things are running smoothly though, right? Wrong. A republican at heart, Claudius wants Rome to be rid of the ruling family -- including himself.
He decides the only way to get Rome to hate him is if he sinks to the depths of depravity his predecessors did, so he marries his niece, Agrippinilla (Barbara Young). To make matters worse, he adopts her son Nero (Christopher Biggins) and makes him a co-heir to the throne alone with his own son, Britannicus (Graham Seed).
Always one step ahead, Claudius knows of a prophecy that said Nero would be emperor after his death. He tries to reason with Britannicus to save him, but his son won't have it. Britannicus is too proud to resort to scheming. (Sounds like a young Claudius, doesn't he?)
Because of this prophecy, Claudius knows his time is coming to an end. Ready for his death, he allows his wife to poison him with mushrooms. After his death, Agrippinilla and Nero find Claudius' autobiography -- the one he's been recounting to us all this time. They burn it, but Claudius and the Sibyl laugh from the afterlife with the knowledge that he has hidden a copy for the world to see later on.
Farewell, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, God of the Britons, one-time emperor of the Roman world. It was fun while it lasted, and you were a pretty stand-up guy.
The juice (A.K.A. that awkward moment when...):
There are two rather odd moments in the final episode of "I, Claudius." One involves Caractus, King of the Britons. It's hard to pay attention to what the man is saying when he addresses Claudius and the senate after being captured. Why, you might ask? He looks like a historical version of Guy Fieri, complete with horribly awkward frosted hair -- and mustache.
The second awkward moment of the night deals with Agrippinilla and Nero. Toward the middle of the episode, they are having a seemingly normal conversation about taking over after Claudius' death (scheming is typical at this point). You would think incest would be standard with these people, too. Apparently not, because when Nero and his mother start getting a little too friendly, it is blatantly not okay and fully weird.
Line of the night:
There is a line Claudius repeats throughout the final episode that captures its theme perfectly. He realizes the only way to change Rome into a Republic is to rid it of his family, and says, "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out."
Historians maintain that Claudius' death in 54 A.D. was indeed brought about by poison. Some say it was poisoned mushrooms; others say it could have even been on a feather.
While the show paints his wife as the culprit, accounts of his death vary. Most do, however, implicate her as the instigator in Claudius' demise. Some say it was his taster who poisoned him, but others blame his doctor.
What we don't really see is the troubled relationship Agrippinilla and Claudius had. Unlike the docile Claudius we see in the show, the real Claudius was openly combative and complained about how he had poor luck with all his wives.