The Great T.V. Shows, vol. 1: Rome
I missed Rome when it first played on television back in 2005. I don’t have HBO so I knew I’d have to wait for the DVDs to come out before I could get a look at it. Thankfully, I think this worked to my advantage. Being able to watch the series in a matter of days rather than weeks kept the story and characters fresh in my head and allowed me to proceed at my own pace. I found this much more enjoyable than having to wait another week to see what happened next. Patience is not one of my virtues. So imagine how hard it was waiting for season 2 to come to HBO and then wait for that to come to DVD. Horrible, I tell you.
When I first heard that HBO was making the series and I saw the print ads, I must say I was not too excited. I was envisioning one of those cheesy sand-and-sandals epics that came out of Italy in the 60s. But when I saw what HBO was doing and the money they were spending, my doubts were cast aside and I eagerly awaited season 1, albeit on DVD. I was not disappointed. The show was very costly to make and that played a part in it lasting only 2 seasons. It was simply not feasible for HBO to keep producing the show at such staggering costs. But the 2 seasons told a great story, introduced memorable characters (real and fictitious) and provided some of the best drama I have ever seen on the small screen.
Rome tells the story of Julius Caesar’s rise to dictatorship, his subsequent murder, and the battle between Mark Antony and Octavian to become the first emperor of Rome. Along the way the story follows many characters, some of whom are based upon historical persons and others that are there to help personalize the times and events. The 2 main characters are Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, soldiers who live through the events that befall Rome during this time period. Right off the bat we are able to care for these two and watching them struggle to maintain their decency and honor is an incredible journey you won’t soon forget. Vorenus is the more serious of the two, a man who lives by a code he would die for rather than dishonor himself. Pullo is an outsized personality, a drinker, gambler and womanizer of the highest order. But he is fiercely loyal to Vorenus, who has saved Pullo’s life more than once. The bond these two share is indelible and the actors who portray them (Kevin McKidd as Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as Pullo) do a splendid job illustrating just that.
In fact all of the actors are first rate. It helps to have such vivid characters. You will not soon forget Atia and her children Octavian and Octavia, Atia’s pet Timon, Brutus and his mother Servilia, the intellectual Cicero or the charming yet utterly wanton and savage Mark Antony. As the series progresses and you see these characters grow and plot against one another, you come under their spells and often don’t know whether to love or be repulsed by them.
The plot moves along swiftly with each episode. Each has a self contained story or 2 going on as well. The episodes are broken down perfectly so that you always want to watch just one more before calling it a night. Rome is like the best page-turner novel, complex and addictive. As I watched the later episodes and knew that the series was coming to an end I was truly saddened. I lent the discs to a friend at work and he said the exact same thing. Watch Rome and be dazzled by the sets, the acting and most of all the characters. Just prepare to feel a bit empty when it’s all over and there’s nothing more to see.