Rome: The Complete Second Season – DVD Review

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Bruno Heller
John Milius
William J. MacDonald


Kevin McKidd ………. Lucius Vorenus
Ray Stevenson ………. Titus Pullo
Max Pirkis/Simon Woods ………. Gaius Octavian
Ciaran Hinds ………. Gaius Julius Caesar
Kerry Condon ………. Octavia of the Julii
James Purefoy ………. Mark Antony
Polly Walker ………. Atia of the Julii
Lindsay Duncan ………. Servilia of the Junii
Tobias Menzies ………. Marcus Junius Brutus
Indira Varma ………. Niobe
David Bamber ………. Marcus Tullius Cicero
Lee Boardman ………. Timon
Rick Warden ………. Quintus Pompey
Anna Fausta Primiano ………. Vorena
Esther Hall ………. Lyde
Paul Jesson ………. Metellus Scipio
Lorcan Cranitch ………. Erastes Fulmen
Guy Henry ………. Cassius
Nicholas Woodeson ………. Posca
Lyndsey Marshal ………. Cleopatra

The Show

HBO has made a name for itself for its original programming in recent years. Most every show they create has been critically acclaimed and has had nothing but the best production values. Some might argue that their biggest television achievement to date was a show based on real-life historic events.

A few years ago Rome hit HBO and was a grandiose spectacle and made for definite prime-time viewing; it was another in a long line of shows to be a hit for the network. The first season chronicled the life and death of Julius Caesar, which was legendary. But without Caesar would there be a drop in quality?

The second season picks up where the first season left off. It’s the year 44 B.C. and Julius Caesar was just betrayed and killed by his “friends.” The power struggle for Caesar’s throne begins. The leading candidates are Mark Antony and Julius’ young great nephew, Octavian Caesar. In fact, their stories are the main plotlines of the season. But there is equal time given to the stories of Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo just like the first season; these two ordinary soldiers are still more of the interesting characters on the show. But the overall theme, though, for season two is power and revenge.

Much like its premiere season, the characters and setting make the series. Rome is not presented as this “epic environment.” It is presented in its raw state. Most of the actors reprise their roles with a few new additions. There is really no drop in quality – the acting and attention to architectural design is as good as any blockbuster film.

The character Octavian, who was a young the previous season, has to grow up to be a man. The young actor Simon Woods, the actor cast to play the older Octavian, does a good job of taking on the mantle of Octavian Caesar.

If a swords-and-sandal television program is not appealing to you, avoid Rome: The Complete Second Season. Except for the plot, it’s still ancient Rome. Yes, the sex and violence is back. And again it is likely to detract viewers. The show’s pace lingers and its slowness can be boring to those who do not like history (or named Indiana Jones).

But, if you enjoy characters and how they develop over the course of a season, this is definitely a program to enjoy. For this final season, the creators managed to present top-notch programming that surely won’t be matched. That is, until The Pacific mini-series comes to fruition.


Disc One:

Episode 1 – Passover
Things pick up shortly after Caesar’s murder. Octavian wants to keep his family from fleeing the city so he devises a plan. News of this makes Antony happy so he tells Brutus. Vorenus mourns Niobe’s death but casts aspersions upon his children.

Episode 2 – Son of Hades
Cleopatra arrives in Rome to pay homage to Caesar, and to seek legitimization for Caesarion. Egypt’s queen causes further complications between Anthony and Atia, who still struggles with Servilia. Timon’s brother arrives from Jerusalem. The death of Erastes throws the underworld, and Rome’s river commerce into chaos, and Pullo and Vorenus step into the gap. Octavian and Anthony begin a long and bitter rivalry with a dispute over Caesar’s will and sharing of power.

Disc Two:

Episode 3 – These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero
Brutus and Cassius struggle to raise foreign armies to oppose the Cesarean party. Mark Antony’s plans to change his post-consul proconsular governorship from Macedonia to Gaul are derailed when Cicero delivers an in-absentia message to the Senate, and throws his support behind Octavian. Vorenus struggles to contain an all-out gang war in the Aventine Collegium, of his own making,that he blames on Pullo. In the house of the Julii, Octavia passes the hours in a drug induced daze, while a duplicitous youth named Duro, planted amongst the Julii by Servilia, looks for the chance to set a deadly plan in motion.

Episode 4 – Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare)
Pullo races to find Vorenus with news of his family’s fate. Servilia’s plans to eliminate a rival exact a high price from her. Cicero is astonished when Octavian sends word that his victorious legions are coming home to Rome. In Rome, Timon finally grows weary of Atia’s bidding.

Disc Three:

Episode 5 – Heroes of the Republic
Despite Pullo’s advice, Vorenus and his family return to the Collegium with his family who is reunited, and cleansed of their ordeal. Octavian is denied a triumph and urges Cicero to endorse his bid to be made Consul in exchange for an agreement to allow Cicero to veto his actions. Octavian and Atia and Octavia are reunited. although Octavia disapproves of what her brother has become. Octavian takes both Cicero and the Senate by surprise with his first Consular act. Vorenus attempts’ to make peace with Memmio and Cotta create suspicions that he has gone soft. Two adversaries patch up their differences in order to deal with Brutus and Cassius’s army.

Episode 6 – Philippi
Vorenus receives orders to plunge Rome into a bloodbath the likes that have not been seen since the dictatorship of Sulla. Octavia reveals her secret to Atia, and the armies of the Liberators and the Caesarians clash for the last time, with the fate of Republic in the balance.

Disc Four:

Episode 7 – Death Mask
Antony’s nature reasserts itself, and challenges his alliance with Octavian. Timon and Levi set themselves against Herod’s plans. Servilia’s public displays of grief leave Atia unsettled. Gaia uses Pullo’s punishment as a weapon against him. His daughter’s sudden interest in business matters arouses Vorenus’ suspicions. Posca gets married.

Episode 8 – A Necessary Fiction
Octavian proclaims a new era of virtue in Rome, a program that his family and subordinates find impossible to obey. Vorenus is sent on a mission after a missing shipment of gold to discover who mysteriously hijacked it on its way to the Roman treasury. Pullo’s loss and rage are channeled against Memmio, Omnipor and their henchmen. Octavian pursues Livia as an “appropriate” bride, and issues Mark Antony an ultimatum he knows he can’t refuse.

Disc Five:

Episode 9 – Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus (No God Can Stop A Hungry Man)
Fresh hostilities break out between Octavian and Mark Antony when Rome’s grain supply is threatened.

Episode 10 – De Patre Vostro (About Your Father)
Following his naval defeat at Actium, Marc Antony returns to Egypt, where he and Cleopatra settle into a world of debauchery. Octavian tries to use Pullo as leverage to Vorenus to gain acess to the palace, but Vorenus stays loyal to Antony. Finally, it is Cleopatra who dupes Antony,saving her own life by sacrificing her honor. Ceasar Augustus triumphs in Rome.

The Video:

The video is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Transfer is great with minimal distortion. Because of the attention to detail and production design, this show looks more like a movie than a TV show. But then again, it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

The Audio:

The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound, English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound, and SPanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. There is an option for English, Spanish, and French subtitles as well. The 5.1 audio kicks and both the dialogue and music are easily discernible from one another.

The Extras:

Audio Commentaries
There are five of these featuring various members of the cast and crew of the show. Bruno Heller (creator/writer) and Jonathan Stamp (historical consultant) provide comments on the “Passover” and “De Patre Vostro (About Your Father)” episodes. John Maybury (director) and Lindsay Duncan (cast, Servilia) comment on the “Death Mask” episode. Carl Franklin (director) and Jon Melfi (executive producer) comment on the “A Necessary Fiction” episode. James Purefoy (who portrays Marc Antony) comments on “Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus (No God Can Stop A Hungry Man).” Once again the most informative and interesting ones, as far as production, are those with Bruno Heller and Jonathan Stamp on the mike.

All Roads Lead to Rome
This is an interactive on-screen guide prepared by Jonathan Stamp, the series’ historical consultant. It basically functions like subtitles for each episode, but it gives you more information on what was really happening here in terms of history. Think of it is a commentary that is written, not spoken. It really fills in the blanks with background information you may have not attained during your World History classes in high school.

“A Tale of Two Romes” Featurette
This featurette is all about how ancient Rome was two different cities for two different classes of people. This tells you how the patricians and plebs differed in all aspects of their lives.

“The Making of Rome: Season 2” Featurette
This is the standard “behind-the-scenes” featurette for the second season. We take a tour of the production sets, see the making of the costumes, and special effects involved on the show. In addition, we go behind the scenes of the big Battle of Philippi.

“The Rise of Octavian: Rome’s First Emperor” Featurette
This featurette is about the “larger-than-life” story of the cunning boy who became the most powerful man in Rome. Pretty interesting stuff.

“Antony & Cleopatra” Featurette
This featurette is all about the relationship between Marc Antony and Cleopatra. It’s one of the most famous love affairs of all time. Another interesting one.


Flashback to the real Rome once again. If you are a fan of history, then you must watch both the first and second seasons of Rome. It will jade some viewers, but it remains another quality program from HBO.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Rome: The Complete Second Season
(OUT OF 10)






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