Monday, October 10, 2005

ROME Episode VII: Pharsalus

It has been several weeks since I wrote a review of HBO’s Rome.  That’s not to say I have lost interest.  In the weeks since my last entry, HBO announced ROME  would be renewed for a second 12 episode season and the first season of the show is moving along quite nicely.

I have to admit though at being at little disappointed with the overall direction of the series.  I don’t mean it as a deal breaker in terms of my liking of the show.  It is by all accounts, superior to pretty much every single recent historical epic put on film, and nothing on TV, save HBO’s Band of Brothers comes close to it as a historical drama.

That said, ROME suffers from a bit of an identity crisis.  On one hand, there are these great historical figures and giant battles that were fought between Pompey and Caesar.  And on the other hand, you have the two fictional characters of Vorenus and Pullo that has a more personal dramatic story.  The creators were going for the right mix of drama and historical storytelling.  In Band of Brothers, they ignored the historical giants of the time and focused on a company of soldiers.  In ROME, they try to focus on both aspects of the story.

On some episodes, especially the last couple of episodes leading up to Episode VII, I thought they had done a decent job of balancing the grand historical events and the fictional drama.   However, after all the pent up anticipation for the decisive battle, it is not shown in Episode VII.  It is rather anti-climactic that the episode entitled Pharsalus, doesn’t show the battle of Pharsalus, but rather the events right before and after the battle.

I was hoping for this show to be dedicated to showing the duel between Caesar and Pompey.  There needn’t be lots of digital ants and elaborate scenes where thousand men extras march towards war.  But Pharsalus itself was a battle where Pompey had a decisive advantage in military men and it had looked like he was going to win.  How he lost that advantage and how things went so wrong for him is important.  There is certainly abundant human drama to be told in the battle itself.  A series of vignettes showing Caesar and Pompey making the strategic choices on the battlefield, their reactions to each other and the ultimate outcome are things this episode missed out on.

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