Domina episode 3 ended with Livia being sent to exile by Augustus as punishment for her role in Marcellus’ death, after she got caught. Gemina is also killed by Livia in self-defense as the former viciously attacks her. Livia is not happy with the exile plan, but she accepts it as a show of loyalty toward her husband.
Power shift in Rome
With Livia gone from Rome for over a year, things have been slightly different in the capital city. Women closer to Augustus feel Livia’s power has reduced as well, and they are keen on exerting their powerful female influence on him. It is probably because Augustus is not letting any woman close to him or his inner circle. The Gemina incident may have allowed Augustus to be cautious.
Livia’s sons are under Agrippa’s watch in Rome. Iullus, Tiberius, and Drusus can see that Domitius is slowly gaining power and becoming a major threat as he gets closer to Augustus and Agrippa. They are aware of Domitius’s ambitions. The only difference is that Domitius openly showcased his quest for power. He does not understand that he will have to be quiet about it instead of making a noise.
However, his rise to power could be problematic for Iullus, Tiberius, and Drusus. Iullus suggests a triumvirate where the three of them could take power and divide it among themselves. For that to happen, they will have to liquidate Domitius’ power, which will be a difficult task. Domitius is known to be a vicious person, and one mistake could lead to his downfall. At this point, the viewers can sense the growing insecurity in all three men and how they want to get hold of power before anyone else does.
Livia in Exile
Livia has been in exile for over a year now, and things have not changed at her residence, which is far away from the politics of Rome. She surely misses the city and its nasty politics, in which she thrived. Like Augustus, she has been looking after her physical needs by having a slave by her side. She has accepted her fate—that she might have to live in this place for the rest of her life. Piso is staying with her to update her about the happenings in Rome. Livia is visited by Vilbia, an upcoming consul who was seen flirting with Julia back in Rome. Maybe he did that to get into the good books of Augustus’ only daughter and get his work done.
Vilbia blackmails Livia to marry him into a suitable political family for his gains in exchange for silence regarding Tiberius murdering a woman at his brother’s brothel and Drusus owing him a massive debt. Livia knew Vilbia had a catch to him while he approached her, and she could not believe a lowly pimp was after a powerful person like her. Livia considers Porcia for Vilbia because she is from an influential political family. Vilbia’s slow rise to power could be his way of breaking the clutter where only the rich and powerful become consuls. The fact that Livia still holds some power was the reason Vilbia traveled from Rome to have an audience with her. Vilbia pursued his instinct, which initially worked in his favor.
Julia’s affair is busted.
Julia is heavily pregnant again with Agrippa’s child, and she has one final rendezvous with Iullus before she gives birth. Unfortunately, she goes into labor halfway through the act with him. This time her child survives, and she gives birth to a boy. Agrippa is elated to hear the news, and he is overwhelmed by the number of kids he has who will carry his legacy forward. Agrippa and Julia are aware of the importance of carrying the bloodline forward, and that’s why Julia gets physically intimate with Iullus whenever she is sure it is her husband’s child. The number of kids that women had in that era also showcases the lack of education about how the process could wreak havoc on the female body. The patriarchal Roman society is such that if Julia is not able to give her husband any more kids, she will be replaced with a younger wife who could continue doing her job.
Marcella overhears Julia talking about what led to her labor. She was quick to inform Augustus about his daughter’s indiscretion because she assumed Julia would be exiled and that would pave the way for her mother, Octavia, to be the woman who would influence and manipulate Augustus. Thankfully, Marcella is not aware of the name of the man, but this starts a chain reaction within the family to confront Julia and cast doubt on the father of her children. It was not Julia’s mistake but Marcella’s who chose to reveal what she heard in her quest to attain power, and despite the backlash from her mother, Octavia, she does not feel guilty at all. Marcella also conveniently forgets the fact that she is having an affair with Domitius, her sister’s husband. Augustus is livid to hear that his daughter is becoming a cause of disgrace. Julia could be in trouble as well, but only time will tell how she will get out of this murky situation without naming Iullus.
Why is Livia back in Rome after her exile? Is Iullus dead?
With the secret of her affair out, everyone who knows will be affected by Marcella’s stupid move. She did not know it would be Iullus who would be targeted, but Octavia, Antonia, and Antonina knew the identity of Julia’s paramour. Marcella’s actions prove that she is shortsighted, just like Domitius, and she went ahead with this information without realizing it would affect her family. Iullus is her brother as well, and if Augustus and Agrippa are made aware of his being involved with Julia, his life will be at stake, and as an extension, Marcella’s family will be questioned too and will be rendered powerless.
Augustus gathers Iullus, Domitius, Tiberius, and Drusus to get hold of the man Julia is having an affair with and demands his severed head. Augustus sees this affair as a direct attack on his traditional marriage policies. Hypocrisy runs deep in Roman men, for their affairs are never held in contempt. Tiberius and Drusus take a vow to protect Iullus because of their friendship and loyalty. The men turn out to be helpful because they make sure Iullus is not put in the line of fire for their chance to get Augustus’ support.
Augustus informs Agrippa of Julia’s infidelity, and he runs off to kill the infant with the assumption that it is not his child. To his shock, his daughter and several other friends of Julia protect the baby boy from his father’s anger and stop him from making a mistake. Julia and Livia’s situation is not that different; they both committed sins, but they, unfortunately, got caught, unlike many around them who have kept their affairs a hushed-up matter. The women who protect his son are some of Julia’s closest friends, and they do a good job of making sure the infant is not alone now that Julia has disappeared out of shame.
Julia most likely took off to avoid being persecuted by her father and husband. She ran off to Livia in the hope that the woman could help get her out of this messy business. Livia realizes her words still have power, which is why Julia came to her instead of going to anyone else, including her father. People still seeking her counsel would mean they remembered what she was capable of. She asks Julia to go back to her father and confess to him. Julia’s confession will work in her favor because it will prove she is willing to admit her mistakes and move on. That will butter up her father’s and Agrippa’s egos as well.
Octavia is terrified of losing Iullus because she cannot afford to lose another son. She has no choice but to meet Livia as well. It was implied that Livia was living far away from Rome. How are they able to travel at short notice to meet Livia? The writers seem to expect the viewers to suspend their disbelief at this juncture. The entire back and forth of everyone meeting Livia to sort out their matters is presented in a flimsy manner. Livia getting involved was bound to happen because, despite her exit from the city, she is the only go-getter and can provide concrete solutions. Octavia’s meeting with Livia is proof of her finally giving up on her power and admitting that Livia still has a hold.
Livia sends Julia back to Rome with Tiberius, and the girl declares Vilbia to be her lover. Julia apologizes to her husband and swears that all their children are his. Agrippa, to showcase his power, kills Vilbia. This was surely Livia’s plot to get rid of Vilbia because she didn’t want him to come back and demand more from her. He had information on her kids that he could have misused, and she found a way to get rid of her without realizing Vilbia’s brother was alive, and he might seek vengeance. A smart subplot helped Livia eventually, and she was able to save Iullus. Augustus meets with Livia at her residence, and they reconcile over this matter. He feels she might be instrumental in making things right between Julia and Agrippa. Augustus and Livia’s reuniting brings the latter back to Rome, far more powerful than the one she left. With Octavia as her new ally, there is nothing that will stop Livia from achieving greatness.