on 24 July 2007
I caught up with the first series of "Rome" via DVD, enjoyed it and impatiently awaited the next chapter. Thankfully, its second outing did not disappoint! In fact, I found this series much more satisfying that its predecessor. The acting is once again first rate, as are the sets, costumes and the writing. And whilst Rome most definitely has its share of horrific moments (a man getting his tongue bitten out being just one), there is always great humour to bring light to the darkness.
The only thing this series suffers from is almost too much action. Originally the show was meant to run for multiple seasons, but a dwindling budget put paid to that and thus years' worth of stories had to be squeezed into just 10 episodes. As a result, the programme moves at breakneck speed, often spanning years per episode; skip just one installment and you could be left very confused indeed. The love affair between Mark Antony and Cleopatra for example, would have benefited from a lot more screentime than the handful of episodes that were devoted to it.
The beginning of the season also suffers a mild post-Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) hangover in parts. He was the man (it seems strange to label Caesar a 'character') who so much of the action revolved last series and so the show feels a little fragmented this time around. In his place, the programme-makers have divided our attention, focusing on the power struggle between Mark Antony (a show-stealing James Purefoy) and Octavian Caesar (first played by Max Pirkis and later Simon Woods). Unlike last series' tussle between Caesar and Pompey, where I believe the audience was naturally bound to take the former's side, the battle between Antony and Octavian is not so clear cut. We are both repelled by each of them and their actions but can also feel pity for them, at different points. For the record, I was always in Antony's camp but that might have something to do with Purefoy's charismatic performance.
I feel like I have written an essay instead of a review, my apologies! And I haven't even mentioned Pullo (Ray Stevenson) or Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), Rome's pleb princes. They're both back too and as fantastically portrayed as ever. My advice is to do yourself a favour and buy these DVDs. TV this compelling is hard to find.
on 30 June 2007
i have only seen a few episodes from the new series, and by god they haven't lost direction! far from it, the new series has taken a much moodier turn, with a turn around for many of the characters, pullo and vorenus in particular swapping roles to some degree, with the latter becoming more violent and unpredictable as he comes to terms with his new career in "politics". with the of caesar, a power vacuum is left in his wake, resulting in the growing collapse of his household, promising some uncomfortable rivalries between antony, octavian and the senators. with many of the original cast returning, along with new situations and conflicts, this season promises to deliver, perhaps even more so than the original, if only because of the uncertain period of history in which the action transpires.
The year is 44 BC. Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated by a cadre of senators led by Brutus and Cassius. The Julii and Caesar's ally Mark Antony prepare to flee, but Caesar's newly-anointed heir Octavian discovers a legal loophole that forces Brutus to agree to a reconciliation. Unfortunately for the conspirators, the popular mood in Rome swings decisively against them and they are forced to flee. When Octavian and Antony are divided by their own disagreements, the scene is set for a devastating three-way civil war which will eventually culminate at Philippi, one of the greatest battles in Roman history.
Meanwhile, former centurion-turned-politician Lucius Vorenus has seen his family torn apart by betrayal and treachery. Whilst Titus Pullo tries to save his friend's soul, Vorenus is placed in command of the Aventine Collegia and told to keep the peace between the warring criminal gangs. At the same time, the arrival in Rome of Timon's brother coincides with a rise in Jewish nationalism.
Rome's second season picks up at the moment Season 1 ends, with Caesar dead, Vorenus devastated by his loss and the Republic in danger of falling apart into anarchy. Given that the entire storylines for the second and planned third seasons had to be compressed into one season, and only ten episodes at that, the second season moves forward decisively and rapidly. The second season covers a period of fourteen years, and several times multiple years elapse between episodes which makes the season flow slightly less well than the first. In particular, the intrigue between the factions is covered in less depth and Vorenus and Pullo's storyline is to some extent separated from that of the political story, meaning that the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern-like angle from the first season is also diluted although the stories do converge decisively in the final two episodes. Timon's storyline is also given a rather unsatisfactory resolution due to this compression, which is a shame as his 'redemption' from a simple thug in Season 1 into someone with a moral conscience is one of the unsung triumphs of the second year.
Despite this haste, the series remains gripping and compelling viewing. Particularly amusing is the way that politics is depicted as one of the forms of entertainment of the day and how the notable unlovable Octavian wins popularity by surrounding himself with a 'next generation' of young, handsome but capable figures such as Agrippa and Maecenas, and arranges a crowd-pleasing marriage to the young, beautiful and intelligent Livia. These new actors fit into the tapestry of the series very well: Simon Woods replaces Max Pirkis to portray the adult Octavian and does a brilliant job portraying the cold, logical future Emperor, Alex Wyndham is excellent as the debauched Maecenas and Alice Henley is clearly relishing playing the twisted Livia. However, Allen Leech has the most challenging role playing the bumbling, well-meaning Agrippa who serves as Octavian's conscience, and hits the right note between Agrippa's somewhat sappy side and his lethal capabilities on the battlefield (Agrippa's military capabilities eclipse those of Antony in very short order, to the latter's fury).
Of course, the seasoned actors continue to deliver the goods. James Purefoy (as Antony) graduates from a supporting role in Season 1 to command almost every episode of Season 2 with an impressive, theatrical presence in a gift of a role. Unmentioned in my review of Season 1 was David Bamber as Cicero, whose task is challenging (Cicero was one of the most learned, respected and gifted orators of his generation) but his performance is compelling, especially his concluding scene with Ray Stevenson's Pullo in episode six, which may be the single finest moment in the entire series. Stephenson continues his excellent work as Pullo as the character is put through the wringer but, unlike the first season, manages to keep his head above water and even prosper. However, if Season 2 had a unifying theme it would be the journey through Hades and back of Lucius Vorenus. Kevin McKidd is superb as his character is forced again and again into some very dark decisions.
Eventually the dust settles and Rome finishes where it really had to, with Octavian ascending to absolute power with the Senate as little more than his puppet and one of the most famous love stories of all time reaching its tragic ending. Whilst it would have been perhaps more satisfying to see the series go on for longer, it ends brilliantly and the series' relative brevity becomes another one of its strengths.
Rome: Season 2 (*****) is a worthy continuation and conclusion to the story begun in the first season. With excellent effects (the Battle of Philippi is impressively depicted) and jaw-dropping set design (the new set of the Aventine Collegia is genuinely amazing in its size and scale) backing up the superlative writing and acting. As with the first season, there is still a lot of violence, swearing, sex and nudity so the series isn't for everyone, but it is well worth watching for those who can accept these elements as part of the narrative.
on 13 August 2007
The only bad thing about HBO's series "Rome" is that it has come to an end! What an amazing, fantastic piece of work by everyone involved. Yes, it is not as historically accurate as it might be, and I could see how that could rankle. However, the performances are so outstanding by each and every actor that you simply cannot be disappointed. How often is it that you get to see not one but two older women (and in Hollywood, that means over 25) who have such fabulous, juicy roles? Atia and Servilia are fantastic; Polly Walker's Atia is a force of nature. I must admit that I liked the young Octavian a bit more than the older -- the younger is Max Pirkis, who was so fabulous as the young sailor who loses his arm in Master & Commander. Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson are superb as Vorenus and Pullo, the two soldiers the story is centered on. But I have to say, the total standout is James Purefoy as Mark Antony. Wow. In the first episode of Season Two, to watch him walk up calmly behind Cicero and scare the bejesus out of him, and in Servilia's house no less, is a scream. He is the epitome of "calm assertive," and you know that everyone in that room is frightened to death of him (and for good reason too, as Quintus finds out moments later). He manages to convey great menace and violence with just a look -- an amazing actor. Love him, and the entire series of Rome. Bravo!
on 21 July 2007
I have watched both series and the second is definitely better than the first. You could not imagine a more dramatic or exciting story line than the story of the events that followed the death of Julius Caesar. While 'Rome' of course is not 100 per cent accurate and alters minor details for dramatic effect, I think it has told the main story brilliantly with good writing and superb acting. I would single out James Purefoy's performance as Mark Antony, he looks perfect for the role and effortlessly conveys the brilliance, flamboyance and self destructive nature of Antony. I have heard they are not making a third series - I can only hope they will change their mind!
on 23 May 2016
My boxset was missing episodes 1&2, but I have watched them before,
and it was cheap, so no complaints from me... having said that, I feel
the first series is better than this one, but, as a Roman history NUT, I
still found a lot to like here.
Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, are the best Roman double act, since Bud
Spencer and Terence Hill. I love these two guys, and they really hold the
series together. It is though them, we see the events of Rome's most important
epoch, as it turned from Republic to Empire. There were so many battles and events
that it is still hard to fit them all into a TV series, but they do try, and as for Rome's
social life.. it is spot on. There are so many small details that they include in the
story, that you really get the feeling of what Rome was like, For example, The
I didn't know about the Collegiums before I saw this series, but of cause, it all
makes sense. If you want a modern day equivalent, think THE MAFIA, Ancient
Rome is a mirror to our own society, Rome's institutions and values are still with
us today. When I watch this, and what I read, I see we are no different from them,
and how little has changed.
This is a great series, and although it misses parts of the real history, it is one
of or the best dramas about Roman history ever! No plot spoilers here, but the
last scenes of the last episode, had me jumping off my sofa. What an ending.
The first series of Rome divided opinion .Some thought it was fantastic .I was one of them. Others thought it was a shallow , historically inaccurate, crass version of Holly-Rome. It's accuracy from a historical perspective can be debated but here's the thing about historical accuracy. As long as events ,timelines and core characters are not altered then the rest is minor detail .It would of course be preferable if everything could be accurate but then the actors would have to speak in Latin and that would alienate great swathes of the audience , never a great move for a TV series where ratings play such a huge part. It's not as if HBO and the BBC have pulled a "Braveheart" or "U-571" and completely altered historical events to suit their dramatic agenda.
Great pains were taken to ensure as much of the series resounded with authenticity as possible . The series set comprising five acres is the largest standing set in the world to date . Ruins from Pompeii , Herculaneum and Ostia Antica to determine the correct colours of temples, streets, forums ands statues as well as the graffiti and street signs. There is no doubt that Rome has a genuinely gritty lived in realism. The costumes numbering around 4000 were specially designed , as well as the lead actors metalwork and armour ,Extras playing Roman legions were put through a two week boot camp to train like Roman soldiers and crowd extras were actual Romans so they perfectly mimicked the gait and body language of Ancient Romans , though whether they succeed is again open to conjecture. The principal actors were deliberately chosen as English so their regional accents could portray the different sections of Roma society , though these were toned down because American audiences had trouble with the stronger ones.
All this adds to the appeal and scope of this ambitious drama but it would be futile if the actual production , script and performances were not up to scratch. Thankfully series 2 taking in events from 44B.C. to 31B.C. is even better than series 1 with barely a pause for a gulp of wine amongst all the internecine rivalry , backstabbing (sometimes literal), politicking , savagery , bitchiness and carnal cavorting. It tracks the emergence of Gaius Octavian( Max Pirkis as the younger , a steely eyed Simon Woods as the older version)as a major power in Rome and his shady deals and conflicts with Marc Antony (James Purefoy) that lead eventually to war in Egypt as a banashised Marc Antony cavorts with Cleopatra (Lyndsey Marshal). Atia of the Julii (Polly Walker) see's her lover Marc Antony torn from her grasp , married to her daughter Octavia( Kerry Condon) in a political alliance arranged by the mendacious Octavian then banished , while continuing her feud with Servilia Of the Junii (Lindsey Duncan) who she kidnaps and has tortured by her henchman Timon( Lee Boardman) who, disgusted, walks out. Octavia meanwhile has fallen in love with Marcus Agrippa( Allen Leech) one of her brothers right hand men. The multiple plot strands weave their way in and out like the poisonous asp that does for Cleopatra in the series final episode.
That's not even mentioning Titus Pullo ( Ray Stevenson) and Lucius Vorenus( Kevin Mckidd) who incidentally are based on actual characters mentioned in Caesars fifth commentaries on the Gallic war. Vorenus grieving after the deasth of his wife and the disappearance of his children after they are kidnapped by Erates Fulmen ( Lorcan Cranitch) is dragged form his fug of self pity by Marc Antony who after the death of Erastes wants him to exert control over the Aventine gangs.Pullo now married to Eirene ( Chiari Mastilla) stays with his friend but their diverging paths lead them to opposite sides of the conflict threatening to tear the empire apart, and tragedy awaits them both.
Pedantry may lead many to winge about this being wrong , that not being right that theres too much profanity and nudity but that over looks what compelling and vital drama this is. There should be more lavish historical drama like Rome , not less and if the rumours are true and there is to be no more than it is a sad day indeed .Any series that can give you scenes like the one where Pullo on the orders of Octavian goes to murder Cicero(David Bamber) and chats amiably to him while picking peaches ,which he asks for permission to pick ,before driving his sword through his neck -"Kneeling down is better"- is worth watching time and again. This DVD with plenty of extras and scenes cut from the TV version of course allows that luxury The abiding memory of Rome though is not the scale and spectacle , impressive though it is but, the haunted lingering close up of Atia,s face as her son parades triumphant before her and Rome . Recollection and grief have overcome paternal pride because she knows the price that has had to be paid for it. History , whether wholly accurate or not can still teach us painful lessons.
on 23 July 2007
When reviewing Season 2 of HBO/BBC's Rome, I was struck by the immense difficulties faced by the producers of the series, while trying to remain faithful to the source material and juggle the inherent limits of the TV format. Overall, I think they did a good job; although the tweed-clad classicists will already have boiled over into a critical puddle at the inaccuracies they have witnessed, I thought the production was excellent. The only criticism I have is that the series effectively compressed the 15-year period from Caesar's murder to Anthony's defeat at Actium into 12 episodes, and this forced the action on at a breakneck pace. In terms of character development, Pullo and Vorenus now find themselves facing a desperate situation; Vorenus' wife is dead, his children are slaves, and he is backing the losing side in an impending civil war, while Pullo, similarly bereft, backs the winning horse. Among the aristocrats, we see a changing of the guard, as the old political order is whittled down by debauchery, treachery and a stubborn inability to see that the Republic's days are numbered, while Octavian's brilliant political manoeuvering sees him, finally, installed as the Republic's 'First Citizen', effectively a King in all but name. The final scenes, where Octavian's triumphal procession features a ghoulish tableau with the mouldering corpses of Anthony and Cleopatra propped up on a cart, send a shiver down the spine. What a pity it is, then, that HBO/BBC have decided not to make another series, and that many plot devices have been necessarily dovetailed with unseemly haste. The BBC's classic 'I,Claudius' picks up where this series left off.
As the title says and more. The second season is simply superb. Yes, it's graphic and there's a lot of swearing, but if you like reading about ancient history, you will find that although the Romans were creators of the advanced sewer systems and masters of running water systems, for example, they were also crude, extremely violent and often lacking in basic morals.
As in the first series, the actors do an excellent job of bringing Rome to life. Polly Walker as Atia is particualarly brilliant as is James Puefoy as Mark Anthoney. The costumes asnd set designs are a visual delight.
You will also appreciate the fantastic packaging in a wonderfully illustrated box set with some worth watching extras, such as the story of Anthoney and Cleopatra.
Yes, this is shocking but it does make you realise that the Roman way of life is not something to aspire to and makes the antics of Big Brother contestents look relatively tame.
Simply wonderful- I have nothing bad to say about this series at all. Well worth buying as you will want to watch it more then once. It is just a shame that HBO and the BBC have no intentions to make another series.
Series 2 starts exactly where the first series ended, Caesar still lies dead on the senate floor and Vorenus is in his courtyard unaware of what has happened to Caesar.
Once again the sets and costumes in this are spectacular and the squalor and filth of everyday life for the masses is not overlooked as it focuses more on the slum areas. For atmosphere and lifestyles ‘in the day’ this again cannot be beaten and is a must for anyone interested in the period. The factual backdrop is well handled, especially the first 4 episodes, but the characters do deviate widely from reality.
The box set contains 5 discs each holding 2 episodes with a commentary option which overlays factual notes as the episode plays. The discs are held in a fold out case and this is inserted within an outer card sleeve –so not as fancy as the series one case, it is however half the thickness. Again containing full frontal nudity, graphic sex, bloody violence and swearing throughout, this is rated at 15-18 so is not for younger viewers. The battle scenes are more detailed, rather than implied as in the first series. A definite ***** recommendation.