Game of Thrones may be one of if not the best show currently on television. It makes Watson, Gabbing Geek’s notorious hater of television, watch regularly. But the current season is over, and it may be time to focus on something new.
Or many somethings.
This week, I’m starting a weekly TV schedule for shows that each in some way match up to Game of Thrones. There will be a different show covered for each day of the week, with one episode every week or until I get tired of this.
Hey, I’m still writing Simpsons write ups. You never know.
For now, Mondays are for HBO’s Rome.
I gave myself some rules for this project. All shows would be hour long dramas. All would have a reputation for some level of quality. And all of them would be mostly new to me. That means Breaking Bad is out since I’ve seen it already.
Rome ran on HBO for two seasons, making it the shortest run of the stuff I decided upon. Like Game of Thrones, Rome is an obviously expensive program set in a less civilized world. The series also apparently had no issue with nudity or violence. HBO canceled Rome earlier than the producers had hoped, but the show has its devoted fans, and HBO Go keeps advertising it before other programs. Like Game of Thrones, politics plays a crucial role in the series, and I generally dig that sort of thing in fiction. I’ve never really seen it before, so this seemed like a good time to jump in.
“The Stolen Eagle”
Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds, GoT‘s Mance Rayder) is wrapping up an extensive campaign in Gaul. Back home, he’s now more popular with the regular citizens than his co-consul Pompey the Great, and as an aristocrat born, his potential ambitions scare the Roman Senate as well as Pompey. Pompey had been married to Caesar’s niece, but the girl dies in childbirth. Though publicly still friends, Pompey is already plotting to remove his future rival from power before Caesar tries to name himself king.
A plot is hatched to steal Caesar’s Eagle standard. Loss of the standard can make Caesar appear weak to his own troops, as reported by Caesar’s good friend (and son of his mistress) Brutus. Meanwhile, various power brokers in Rome are attempting to find Pompey a new wife. Among those plotting is Atia, Caesar’s niece, who offers Pompey her just-divorced daughter Octavia. Yeah, it was Atia’s idea Octavia divorce. Atia looks to be a very savvy political thinker, and I think I’m going to enjoy watching her do her thing. Maybe she didn’t need to show she doesn’t mind walking around naked in front of her son Octavian, but she’s clearly a mover and a shaker, and as written in the script and played by Polly Walker, she isn’t really a villain. It would be easy to classify her that way, but the series doesn’t do that. Good for them.
Atia also sends her nephew, the aforementioned Octavian, to see Caesar astride a white horse. Pompey was looking to buy that very horse, so symbolically Caesar keeps getting the things Pompey wants for himself. Pompey even says so. As such, he decides to try and kill two birds with one stone.
That means shortly after the Eagle is stolen, Octavian’s party is ambushed and he’s kidnapped on top of everything else.
Now, my knowledge of Roman history is admittedly limited. Most of what I know is common knowledge stuff, and a bit from various works of fiction, like William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, plus the BBC mini-series I,Claudius. I have no idea how historically faithful this narrative is. Perhaps not very, because the two main characters appear to be two relatively minor figures from history tossed together on a mission.
One would be upright Centurion Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd). He’s a noble man of honor and integrity from all indications at this point. His idea to crucify locals until someone coughs up the location of the Eagle gets some results, and he’s sent off with a fellow of his own choosing to find said Eagle. That fellow would be Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), a drunk in the brig for dishonorable behavior during the opening battle. Vorenus knows if he doesn’t find the Eagle, he’s a dead man, so bringing along a condemned prisoner who will get a pardon if the two are successful is a good option. Vorenus and Titus are about as far from alike as two men can get. If they both weren’t in the same army, it’s hard to imagine the two working together at all. They certainly won’t be friends any time soon. Not when Titus loots corpses and such.
As it turns out, the two men are successful and then some. They find Octavian, and the men who kidnapped him also have the Eagle. And it turns out Octavian is more than just a quiet kid who looks worried and introverted all the time. He’s very canny politically, and points out quite accurately that Pompey made the move, and it can’t possibly work because the best the move could have hoped for was a symbolic victory that would have cost a pragmatist like Caesar nothing in reality.
Instead, Caesar is marching his Legion back to Rome to finish what Pompey certainly started.
Meanwhile, Octavia is not only divorced from a man she actually loved, but Pompey marries someone else. Sucks to be her.
But who’s more dangerous, Caesar or Atia?
The episode opened with a rather impressive battle. Though filmed mostly up close, all the better to hide what was probably at most fifty actors in the scene, the scene does show off Roman discipline. The episode also features Senate debates with familiar-to-history-major names, animal sacrifice, Roman theater, and other signs that the people making this show probably did a lot of homework to get Rome as “authentic” as possible. Plus, the cast all came from the British Isles, so Americans like me will automatically assume they sound right in a period drama.
I think I’m going to like Rome.
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