Reviewer: Charity Bishop
I am not a fan of most HBO productions because they seem to take sadistic glee in including explicit content in their productions. Rome is no exception, and while the second season is less graphic than the first, it's still rampant with various unappealing attributes.
While the news of the brutal murder of Julius Caesar shocks the masses of Rome, his friend and follower Marc Anthony (James Purefoy) escapes into the household of his mistress, Atia (Polly Walker), in order to hide from the enemies that are determined to end his life as well. The Senate is in an uproar and the public are infuriated. The collaborators in this devious plot are convinced they have prevented "the dictator" from assuming power, but also are disconcerted in the knowledge that their actions are irreversible and may cost them their lives. In his will, Caesar named his nephew Octavian (Max Pirkis) as his heir, bequeathing his power as well as his name to the man he hopes will be the future ruler of the civilized world. Seeing the public outrage is enough to give Anthony the leverage he needs in order to take command of the senate, and offer them a tempestuous deal. He will make certain the masses do not riot and slaughter the senators, so long as they grant him power.
With the wife of Lucius Vorenous (Kevin McKidd) lying dead at the foot of the stairs where she flung herself in a suicidal rage, his children have returned from the market and believe he has murdered their mother. Vonrenus is still in the midst of a blood feud with a local slave lord and when his children go missing, is horrified and infuriated to learn that they have been brutally killed. Together with his best friend Pullo (Ray Stevenson), he slaughters those responsible and then throws himself into soldiering in the hope of forgetting the past. Little does he know that his children are live in a slave caravan, nor that they continue to harbor feelings of hatred toward his ruthless former actions.
Many fans found the second season of Rome to be far inferior to the first, and I must agree with them. The plight of the everyday man in this season seems much more boring and less intricate in the first. The first season did not have a huge amount of minor characters, but this time around we're forced to be preoccupied with the life of one of Atia's servants, whom she often hires for cruel punishments that involve torture or murder. He is a Jew and much time is devoted to the arrival of his brother from Jerusalem, and his attempts to persuade him to give up his Roman lifestyle for one more "pure." I didn't like the man in the first season, and had no interest in him in the second, so that sub plot bored me. The series does not become truly fascinating, in fact, until the last couple of episodes, when Marc Anthony takes up residence in Alexandria with Cleopatra, although it does have the added benefit of a grown-up Octavian (Kerry Condon) outsmarting everyone as he steadily takes power.
Scholars of the time or of scripture may be interested to know that Octavian became Caesar Augustus, the Caesar who was in power during the time of Christ. Given that Augustus was known for his impossible standards of morality, I find it hard to believe that he and this vicious and often twisted boy are one and the same. There's something creepy about him, especially when he informs the girl who is to be his wife that he will have to beat her sometimes, not because she has been bad, but because it "gives him pleasure." I have said as much before, but it's very hard to like anyone in the series, because everyone contributes to foul, degrading, and offensive behavior.
I would never recommend this series to anyone, ever. It's too graphic.
Full frontal nudity on men and women, numerous times. Crude sexualized sketches on the walls of Rome. A dozen graphic sex scenes that leave nothing to the imagination, including a homosexual love affair. Incest.
The f-word is probably used a thousand or more times, sometimes five or six uses in the same sentence.
The violence is about the same -- some of it is extremely gory, and consistent of heads being sliced off, or people being impaled. There's one particularly jarring scene of extreme torture and what makes it all the more sadistic is that it's a man torturing a woman, at another woman's request. Another woman is brutally strangled.