I watched the first episode of Season 2 of HBO’s Rome and am happy to see that its record of violence, sex and plotting still stands. The entire cast is back (even Ciarán Hinds as Caesar and Indira Varma as Niobe though the characters are deceased – something Varma is doing quite often see Torchwood) and obviously loving what they are doing. It’s also great to be able to point to events in the series and know that it (according to records) actually happened, and a pleasure to watch the fictionalised parts between unfold.
When Season Two was announced, I wondered at how they would be able to carry the series without the powerful presence of Ciarán Hinds. His Gaius Julius Caesar was, rightly, the figurehead of the first season and his strong screen aura was felt at all times even when he wasn’t on screen. James Purefoy (Marc Antony) and Max Pirkis (Octavian) did not seem strong enough actors to move into the lead roles that would be demanded of them as they would battle over rule of the Empire – especially Pirkis, who was quite wooden in the first season and continues the trend here. Purefoy, however, seems to relish the idea of “stepping up” and is the firebrand we expect.
Kevin McKidd (Lucuis Vorenus) and Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo) return as the soldiers, now brothers in blood, but we see how their original roles (one as calm, strong leader and the other as violent, vicious hothead) are now reversed. Vorenus, his wife dead and his children taken, descends into despair and finally, bloody release. Pullo meanwhile is the loving, doting husband who becomes Vorenus’ rock, protecting and supporting his “brother” as Vorenus did him last season. The change and growth in these characters is good to see, even if it is all fictionalised.
The true revelation, at least for the first episode, is Tobias Menzies as Marcus Junius Brutus. His agony at having to kill his friend and mentor, for the good of the Republic, turns him from the whimper of last season into the powerful character he should be. I will be pleased to see how he develops.
All in all I am excited to see Rome has returned. Its dedication to authenticity is a delight, its scripts are powerful, and its mix of truth and fiction is well handled. This is a series for the DVD collection.