HBO’s Rome

23:44 Wed 13 Jun 2007
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I recently watched the first season of HBO’s Rome. Like most of the series that HBO produces, the quality of the production is extremely high, including the acting, directing, and writing.

I don’t rate it quite as highly as The Wire, The Sopranos, or Deadwood. I’ve only seen one episode of Big Love, and so far prefer Rome.

It’s interesting watching a series like this while already knowing much of what’s going to happen. When Servilia threatens Atia and Octavian at the end of the first season, her words have far less dramatic impact, because you know that things are not going to work out as she imagines. The same is true earlier in the series, when you know how the battles between Caesar and Pompey are going to turn out.

I assume this is one of the reasons why the writers introduced Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, two characters whose historical details are sufficiently scant to allow for a lot of dramatic license. These two form a narrative counterpoint to the intrigues of the more prominent figures such as Caesar, Cato the Younger, Marc Antony, etc. These two also allow exploration of “ordinary” Rome, away from the upper classes.

While the show takes many liberties with history, it seems relatively accurate in terms of the sense of the times, and it is certainly effective in portraying the familiar-yet-alien Roman environment—the setting and characters seem modern much of the time, and then are revealed to have quite different attitudes about slavery, sexuality, death, and honor.

I intend to get the second season when it comes out on DVD, and that seems like a basis for recommending the first season.

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