At the end of the first episode, Rip (Cole Hauser) hints at John’s downfall by comparing the governor’s ball to the last days of Rome, and John himself to the infamous emperor Nero.
“What was the name of the emperor who played the fiddle while Rome was burning?” he asks Beth (Kelly Reilly) when she finds him not enjoying the party like everyone else but sitting on some grass nearby.
“Nero?” she answers, to which Rip responds: “This reminds me of that.”
As Beth contemplates what he means by this, Rip wastes no time in spelling it out for her: “He’s going to lose this place.”
The comparison is a fitting one given that Nero was the fifth emperor of Rome, who essentially wiped out the Julio-Claudian dynasty as a result of his ineffectual leadership.
Meanwhile, John — as viewers were reminded by Jamie earlier on in the episode — is a fifth-generation rancher whose family had always had a stake in Montana, even before it was recognized as a state.
Nero used the resources of the mighty Roman Empire for his own indulgences and, as the famous expression goes, “fiddled while Rome burned.”
We’ll have to see whether John does lose it all, but it does appear that, like Nero, he only seems to care about pushing for policies that benefit himself.