Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ear, I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Wait a second, no, that’s not right. I’ve come here today to praise Caesar, or actually, praise his show. For the uninformed, I’m aptly segueing into my review with a famous Shakespeare quote. The title in question, HBO’s Rome. A show that only lived for two seasons but a show that is one of my all time favorites.
Brilliant in every area and fully compelling, HBO’s Rome Season 1 and Season 2 have both arrived on Blu-Ray and for the sake of not seeming redundant, we’ve decided to combine both titles into one review. Virtually, both packages are the same. Both seasons are equally as good and both discs look and sound the exact same, which is fantastic. So aside from a few special features, there is not much that differs. And thus, I’ve decided to combine the two into the same review.
Cancelled due to cost/contract issues (it did well with ratings), there have been rumors of a Rome film. Even if it does get made, it will be a long time before we see it. So for now, to get our Rome fix we have seasons 1 and 2 on Blu-Ray. Now the series has been released on Blu-Ray before but it was released together, not separate. What we have now is essentially the same thing just in separate box sets. So yes Rome: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray is identical to what you get if you buy Rome: Season 1 Blu-Ray and Rome: Season 2 Blu-Ray.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it takes place in Ancient Rome circa 49 BC. Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) and Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) serve as our main characters and we follow them as they watch their republic turn into an empire under the command of Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds).
The first season charts the rise and subsequent fall of Caesar. It introduces the various characters and establishes who they are and what their role in the shifting political landscape of Rome is. With the second season, the show gives us a look at the aftermath of Caesar’s fall and how Rome reacts to it. If you’re at all familiar with ancient history, the story should already be pretty familiar to you.
To go any further would be far too confusing for you the reader. There are a ton of storylines going on here. We are introduced to a whole handful of characters with confusing names and everyone is connected somehow. There are alliances, betrayals, backstabs, pacts, coups and truces. To start talking about the plot any deeper would seriously be a disservice to you. There’s a lot to keep track of, that’s for sure, but it’s a fantastic story the whole way through. Completely captivating and absolutely mesmerizing. It’s never too hard to keep track of everything and every episode is tension filled and fascinating.
Being HBO, the show doesn’t hold back on anything. Blood, gore, sex, violence, language, nudity etc, it’s all here and none of it is toned down. Ancient Rome was a wild place, where just about anything was allowed. The creative team behind the show knows this and they give us a no holds barred look at the once mighty civilization. And while at times the sex and violence may feel gratuitous, keep in mind that times were very different back then and a lot of that stuff did really go on.
While haters may call it a glorified soap opera, HBO’s Rome is so much more. It’s as epic as any feature film and as engrossing as any television show out there. All the characters, even the supporting ones, are all fully realized and fleshed out. Each one is given well written storylines and no one feels unimportant or useless. Plus, every single actor involved with this show gives off a spectacular and often powerful performance, which makes it hard not to become totally invested in all the characters.
As mentioned before, the show was incredibly costly (which led to its demise), but it sure used its budget well. The team on Rome have marvelously re-created Ancient Rome. Everything from costumes to sets to props and everything in between, it’s all done with absolute perfection, turning the show into a visual marvel. The show is also incredibly well researched, making for an even more authentic experience.
Rome is a visceral television experience. Top notch scripts backed by superb acting make for an absolutely tremendous series. I don’t throw the word masterpiece around too often but Rome deserves it. It’s a cut above just about any other television program I’ve ever seen and if you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, you owe it to yourself to pick up these Blu-Ray sets.
The gorgeous sets shine on the Blu-Ray with a strong video transfer from HBO. Deep blacks and lush colours catch the eye while fine detail appears all over the image. Whether it’s the armour of the Roman soldiers, cobblestones on the street or ruins around the city, detail is great. Contrast is excellent as well and aside from a bit of artifacting, this is a pretty strong transfer. It also helps that the show is beautifully shot.
On the audio side, sound design is fantastic and comes through wonderfully. Chaotic battles sound authentic and clarity is exceptional. Dialogue is always well prioritized and ambient noises bring the city to life perfectly. Granted, a lot of the track is just dialogue but the heavier scenes that we get all sound fantastic.
In terms of special features, we actually get quite a lot and most of it is pretty worthy.
- Interactive Bloodlines
- All Roads Lead to Rome
- Friends, Romans, Countrymen
- The Rise of Rome
- Shot X Shot
- Shot X Shot, Gladiator
- When in Rome
- Audio Commentaries
- Interactive Bloodlines
- All Roads Lead to Rome
- A Tale of Two Romes
- The Making of Rome: Season II
- The Rise of Octavian: Rome’s First Emperor
- Antony and Cleopatra
- Audio Commentaries
Both discs feature audio commentaries which are informative and worth a listen, despite feeling a bit dry here and there. We learn about not only the production of the series, but also hear about some historical information. We get a number of commentaries and not all of them feature the same people. Overall though, I’d say these are all worth a listen, especially if you’re a fan of the show.
Interactive Bloodlines is a text based feature that gives information on each character and how they’re all related/connected. All Roads Lead To Rome is a trivia track that shares some interesting tidbits that most will find interesting. Friends, Romans, Countrymen is an EPK type feature that looks at the characters and plot of the show while The Rise Of Rome is 25 minute behind the scenes look at the show. We get everything you’d expect, from production to costumes to sets etc.
The Shot X Shot pieces are interesting as they both are documentaries devoted to just one scene. They are pretty interesting, especially for those interested in filmmaking and are both worth a watch. When In Rome talks a bit about the historical aspect of the show as does A Tale Of Two Romes. The Making Of Rome: Season II is another behind the scenes look at the show and The Rise Of Octavian: Rome’s First Emperor is once again a bit historical, looking at the character of Octavian. Finally, Anthony and Cleopatra looks at the famous couple and gives us some background on them.
HBO has put out another top notch package with Rome. This is one of television’s best shows and is another example of a brilliant show that saw its death far too early. Whether you’ve seen it already or not, this is a must buy. Television doesn’t get much better than this.
Rome is a brilliant TV show. Excellent acting and writing, astonishing accuracy and fantastic sets, costumes and props make this one to watch.