If you seek historical drama with stunning cinematography, gorgeous sets, and an array of excellent actors, then put on your toga and binge-watch “Rome.” “Rome” offers a gritty, gripping take on the power, passion, and violence of Rome’s imperial dawn.
Year it began: 2005
Where it can be seen: HBO; BBC; Amazon
Who’s in it: Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Polly Walker, James Purefoy, Ciarán Hinds, Indira Varma, Lindsay Duncan, Max Pirkis, David Bamber, Simon Woods
Typical episode length: 55 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 22
Brief plot description: While Julius Caesar struggles with his rival Pompey, and the Julii family competes with the Junii family, the soldiers Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo try to bring order to their personal lives. Later, Octavian wars against Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
Why it’s worth watching: While “Rome” sometimes takes liberties with its close-up view of Caesar’s spectacular fall and Octavian’s imperial ascent, the show gets a lot right while making us feel as if we are eyewitnesses to those tumultuous times. The show, which features superb cinematography and an array of high-quality actors, provides a vivid look at Rome’s private and public worlds. At the show’s core lies one of television’s greatest bromances – between Lucius Vorenus, a stoic centurion family-man who deeply respects Roman tradition, and Titus Pullo, a boisterous soldier with chaotic, thrill-seeking habits. As we watch Vorenus and Pullo’s friendship develop, their position within the worlds of the Caesars syncs their personal lives with the action on the larger imperial stage. Walker’s performance as Atia of the Julii is a revelation: her ability to be seductive or fierce at need and her intense social intelligence offer a fascinating image of the mindset helping nobles hold their position atop that violently hierarchical, slave-owning society. Other standout performances include Purefoy’s cocky populist Antony; Bamber’s nervously honey-tongued Cicero; Pirkis’ precociously cunning Octavian; Duncan’s imperiously noble Servilia; and Hinds’ convincingly calculating Julius Caesar. The show’s greatest strength is to provide a rich sense of the lives of such ordinary figures as slaves and soldiers, while also satisfying our desire to see the worlds of such legendary personages as Brutus and Cleopatra.
– Randy P. Schiff