I admit that I didn't catch on the hbo's Rome til years it had ended, it was one of those shows I discovered by mistake and just couldn't get enough of. The show was split between the story of the two Caesar's Julius and Octavian each getting a focal point in each of the shows two seasons. Julius played by Ciarán Hinds set the tone from the opening scene of the show that this was not some half attempt to tell the story of one of the most tumultuous periods in Roman history. One of the best parts of this show is that every character on the show had a supporting character, Julius had his wing man Mark Antony phenomenally portrayed by James Purefoy who set the two of a batman and robin sort of relationship. Lucius Vorenus played by Kevin McKidd had Titus Pullo played by Ray Stevenson who mixed well as complete opposites in every regard beyond the similar love for their republic. This formula of matching two great characters kept the show from becoming too bland as other roman period pieces tend to suffer. The show was well paced for the first season in a fashion that you looked forward to each episode with the same excitement you shared watching the one that just ended. Watching Julius' rise to prominence in his battle with Pompey was beautifully arced and filmed in a way that showed each man's strengthens and weaknesses. Spending time between Julius, Mark, Lucius, and Julius' niece Atia of the Julii kept the show fresh and engaging. Each characters actions seeping their way into the outcome of each others fate.
The show did a great deal to teach us just how cutthroat the senate of Rome truly was and did an even better job showing us just how bad slaves and servants had it an era where class was everything. Between the debauchery, politics, war, and chasing of power the show did a great deal of weaving in and out of each topic with relative ease. Sadly the cost of the show made it hard to keep going on HBO's end so we got a second season post Julius that seemed to dash for the finish line at a dizzying pace. Personally I wish they had extended Julius' story beyond the first season, Hinds delivered an air that fit the role unbelievably well and had the pace for his story been drawn out a bit more some of the crucial lesser known details of how Julius defeated Pompey could've been better told. The journey into Egypt was a lengthy one for Julius and the show summed it up in a matter of two or so episodes only addressing minimal detail of Egypt's own climate at the time. The focus was on establishing the story line of Cleopatra that then ties into that of Mark Antony but failed to deliver the power Julius had to enforce in Egypt to make this happen. Outside of those few hiccups the show was fantastic and it's why I have rewatched the seasons countless times. For me the relationship of Pullo and Vorenus is what steals the show, two characters who you never expected to evolve as they did carry it well throughout both seasons and create our biggest emotional attachment to any of the characters of the show. Vorenus a brooding legionnaire who lives his life by the book and chases victory for the republic at all costs and Pullo a soldier who loves the drink, the brothels, and not living by the rules. It still shocks me how they wrote these characters to be so enjoyable and so complicated without making the act boring.
The second season of Rome is post Julius' demise on the floor of the senate and the rise of his heir Octavian who seeks revenge for his fallen uncle and to destroy those who stand in his way. Sadly Octavian's long story is summed up into one season as well, he ruled Rome longer than the story lets on and gave birth to one of Rome's greatest periods. His iron will is caught well on film but it also presents him as a man disconnected from normal emotions in pursuit of glory. Octavian plays the role of sympathetic horribly which is realistic to the story of the man and the actor who plays him has a dead pan expression pretty much all the way through that lends heavily to this fact. All in all the show is one of the best pieces HBO has ever put out and I could drone on and on about it but the reality is that you should watch it yourself and see for yourself why 8 years later this show still holds up exceptionally well.