Rome is an innovator, but things are changing in the fabled city. Two lowly soldiers Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) find themselves caught in the middle of events on a historical scale. Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) is taking on Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham) for control of Rome and its people leading to a war that will change the fate of the city.
Rome—Season 1 aired from August 28, 2005 to November 20, 2005. The expensive series was critically acclaim and received Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series (“Caesarion”; “Triumph”; “Kalends of February”), Outstanding Costumes for a Series (“Truimph”), Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series (“Stealing from Saturn”) and Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series (“The Stolen Eagle”) with nominations for “Outstanding Main Title Design, Outstanding Non-Prosthetic Makeup for a Series (“Caesarion”), Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (“Triumph”), and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.
Rome is Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones (minus dragons, zombie walkers, and giants). The period piece was big and expensive and it often looks it despite being on the small screen. That was the drawback to Rome…the size and the cost of the project outweighed the profit and the series ended up collapsing on itself.
The second problem with Rome is that despite being captivating and entertaining, you know where it is all going to end up. Much like other period pieces where it is based on real events, it was hard to change the course of Rome. It was smart for writers to join the adventures of two regular soldiers in Caesar’s army (they did take real names from records for both Pullo and Vorenus), but the basic fate of Rome was already decides. You know what’s going to happen to Caesar…it is just a matter of when.
Fortunately, the cast does excel. I do get a bit tired of the subplot involving Atai and Servilia, but for the most part, all the characters and the actors that portray them do a good job. Ray Stevenson’s unbalanced Pullo is a scene-stealer as the wild card of the series, but Kevin McKidd’s levelheaded Vorenus is also good…especially his troubled relationship with his wife played by Inira Varma. Ciarán Hinds is a good Caesar, and I will miss him in future seasons. I enjoyed the Egypt episode and would watch a whole spin-off series involving Cleopatra and her creepy child-king brother.
As mentioned, the series looks great. The set was one of the largest on record and parts were later reused for Doctor Who’s Season 4 episode “The Fires of Pompeii”. The lavish sets do help set the tone of the series and even location shootings really make this a classier production than a lot of period pieces.
Rome is a good series that is only hindered by itself. It is unfortunate that Rome couldn’t have had a longer life. I look forward to season 2 because it is a bit more open and less confined by historical events that everyone knows. The post-Caesar Rome will be interesting, and I look forward to get lost in the city.
Rome—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:
1.1 The Stolen Eagle Airdate: 08/28/05
Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham) and Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) rule Rome together though Caesar’s popularity is growing among the people due to his leadership in battles. While defeating the Gauls, Caesar receives word from Pompei that his daughter and Pompei’s wife has died in childbirth. Pompei finds himself defending Caesar back in Rome from people claiming that Caesar is trying to destroy the Republic by becoming a king among the people though secretly working against Caesar. Atai of the Julii (Polly Walker) sends her son to Gaius Octavian (Max Pirkis) to Caesar’s camp with a stallion gift for her uncle, but the group is intercepted by assassins. Atai of Julii is asked by Caesar to find a wife for Pompey, and Atai orders Octavia (Kerry Condon) to divorce her husband Glabius (Robert Purvis) to marry Pompey…but Pompey has other plans. When Caesar’s golden Eagle Standard is stolen from the camp, Mark Anthony (James Purefoy) is charged with trying to retrieve it by using two soldiers Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) to locate it. Lucius and Titus find the Eagle and Octavian while uncovering that everything between Caesar and Pompey might not be perfect.
1.2 How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic Airdate: 09/04/05
As Caesar prepares for a potential war against Pompey, he faces men leaving camp as his term nears an end. Marc Antony is sent back to Rome by Caesar and is accompanied by Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus and Gaius Octavian. Titus and Lucius return Octavian to Atai and reveal their political differences. Lucius’s wife Niobe (Inira Varma) learns that he’s alive, and Lucius finds an awkward homecoming. Titus sets out for a night of women and rabble rousing and finds himself in danger deep in Pompey territory. Antony meets with Pompey at the home of Atai and reveals that Caesar is threatening war unless he gets his way. When a motion in the Senate come up for vote it appears that Caesar might become a wanted man unless Marc Antony raises a veto. Titus Pullo encounters one of his attackers in the streets, and a fight breaks out which seals Caesar’s fate in Rome.
1.3 An Owl in a Thornbush Airdate: 09/11/05
Caesar is advancing on Rome with Vorenus and Pullo leading a scouting party ahead of him. As news of Caesar’s approach reaches Rome, Pompey and his allies realize retreat to Corfinium could be the best option, but a mission to claim the treasury’s gold could pose a problem for Pompey and test his ally’s loyalties. Atia learns of Caesar’s approach and finds it could be a means to her own problem with her daughter’s love. Vorenus’ wife Niobe debates revealing the truth to Vorenus about her baby and her true feelings. A woman named Eirene (Chiara Mastalli) suddenly finds herself a slave but her discovery by Pullo could mean a change in fortune.
1.4 Stealing from Saturn Airdate: 09/18/05
Caesar has taken Rome without a fight but is struggling to pay his soldiers with the depleted treasury. Pompey also suffers from the lack of money but sends his son Quintus Pompey (Rick Warden) to locate the missing funds. Vorenus tries to live life outside of the army by starting his business but finds ill omens while almost discovering his wife’s secret affair with her brother-in-law Evander Pulchino (Enzo Cilenti). A party by Atia for Caesar provides him a means to reach out to allies, but Caesar’s great-nephew Gaius Octavian (Max Pirkis) is about to learn a secret about his famous uncle. Pullo’s recent boon is revealed, but it could mean a reversal of fortune when Vorenus learns of it. Brutus’ mother Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) finds herself reunited with her lover Caesar.
1.5 The Ram Has Touched the Wall Airdate: 09/25/05
Pompey tries to find a way to accept Caesar’s offer of a truce…but learns Caesar might have other plans. Atia tries to determine Caesar’s weakness from her son Octavian but learns of his affair with Servilia. Vorenus deals with his failing business and realizes he must have to take Marc Antony up on his offer. Called in to train Octavian, Pullo and Octavian set out to find the truth about what Vorenus’ wife is hiding. When their affair is publicly exposed, Caesar must end his relationship with Servilia leading to a search for retribution from Servilia. Pompey makes his next move in his conflict with Caesar.
1.6 Egeria Airdate: 10/02/05
Caesar has pursued Pompey to Greece leaving Marc Antony in charge in Rome. The disappearance of Evander has left both his wife and Vorenus’ wife devastated but the disappearance has brought Niobe and Vorenus closer together. Pullo is ordered to “make a man” out of Octavian leading to a visit to a brothel…and a big change for Octavian’s future. Atia realizes that Caesar could lose and attempts to hedge her bets in deals with Antony and Servilia. Anthony is ordered to join Caesar in Greece which means Vorenus must leave once again.
1.7 Pharsalus Airdate: 10/09/05
After evading death at sea, Vorenus and Pullo find themselves stranded on an island…but getting to shore could lead them to a bigger surprise. Octavia (Kerry Condon) is forced to continue to see Servilia by her mother, but news from Greece could bring the two closer together than ever. It’s the final showdown between Caesar and Pompey’s men and only one can claim to be the ruler of Rome!
1.8 Caesarion Airdate: 10/16/05
Pursuing Pompey to Alexandria, Caesar finds Egypt in turmoil as King Ptolemy XIII (Scott Chisholm) with Cleopatra (Lyndsey Marshal) challenging his rule. With a need to stabilize Egypt for its food supply and show his displeasure over the killing of Pompey, Caesar works to put Cleopatra into power. Vorenus and Pullo have their own encounter with Cleopatra and Cleopatra proves that she also realizes she needs to prove invaluable to Caesar…at any cost.
1.9 Utica Airdate: 10/30/05
With the last opposition crushed, Caesar and his army returns to Rome after two years. With Octavian home from his studies, Servilia tries to use her relationship with Octavia to learn Octavian’s secret about Caesar…which could backfire. Vorenus finds himself at odds with Erastes Fulmen (Lorcan Cranitch), but an intervention by Caesar could change his fortune.
1.10 Triumph Airdate: 11/06/05
Caesar has declared himself ruler of Rome with the forced approval of the Senate, but not everyone is happy. Vorenus begins to try to his own political ambitions as Caesar’s hand-picked man, but finds it more challenging than he believed. Servilia works to recover from her attack, and Octavian tries to retrieve Octavia from the Temple of Cybele. Pullo finds being a veteran is more difficult than he believed but plans to free and wed Eirene might not be the solution. Brutus finds his mother has used his name to sow dissent and tries to prevent damage to his name with Caesar.
1.11 The Spoils Airdate: 11/13/05
Working as an enforcer for Erastes Fulmen, Pullo has made a mistake that could cost him his life. Vorenus adjusts to life as a magistrate and ordered to broker a deal with angry members of Caesar’s army who demand payment. Brutus finds his named tied more and more to Caesar’s murder, and Caesar has noticed. With Pullo caught in a deadly political trap, Vorenus must decide where his loyalties lie.
1.12 Kalends of February Airdate: 11/20/05
Vorenus and Pullo’s action in the gladiator arena have made them heroes as Pullo clings to life. Vorenus finds his life changing once again when Caesar gives him an unexpected job. Caesar’s ambition and plans continue to worry the Senate and lead Brutus to help consider a dangerous plan. Servilia helps her son plot against Caesar and Vorenus finds himself caught up in the plan with deadly consequences.