Monday, November 27, 2006

Rome—Season One

Just in time for Season Two, which according to recent reports is set to start airing on HBO in January, I finally finished watching Season One of Rome. Since I wasn't able to catch it live, I Netflixed the DVDs instead.

Originally airing from August to November of 2005, Rome is a co-production of HBO and the BBC. True to its parentage, the show is beautifully put together. The production values are as high as or higher than any bigscreen production, the acting and writing nearly flawless.

Rome begins with Julius Caesar's return to Rome after the conquest of Gaul, and ends with his brutal murder on the senate floor. The story of his rise and fall alternates with the "smaller" stories of Marcus Verenus and Titus Pullo, two ordinary Roman soldiers whose fates become inextricably entertwined with Caesar's.

I was very impressed with the writing on this show. The story not only presents a series of complex plots, but also works hard to give us insight into an alien world which has been whitewashed and modernized by so many other fictional representations of it. It also takes full advantage of being aired on HBO, with explicit sex and violence and nudity and swearing. Everything about it, from the wrenching violence to the brutal emotionality, feels authentic, to the point where it's sometimes painful to watch. I found it involving, entertaining, heart-wrenching, and powerful. And, while being suitably appalled that the Romans entertained themselves watching people being hacked apart, I had to remember that I was entertaining myself by watching the same thing, even though it was, of course, all fake. In the end, are we really all that different?