Oh, man — do you love intrigue? Long as it's intriguing, right? And violence? Long as it's justified by the intrigue (and stays on the screen rather than in your actual life). So I know we're in for a treat here, 'cause HBO is no slouch when it comes to good historical drama. First good sign: Everyone has a British accent, which nearly always signifies a class act — and oh, yeah, the fact that this is a coproduction with the BBC. Duh. But if anyone knows class struggles, it's the Brits. I mean, when Polly Walker
's Atia tells her servant she'll use the eyes of his children for beads if he doesn't bring her son Octavian back safely, can you imagine it coming out nearly so well from, say, the mouth of Julia Roberts
or Meg Ryan
Anyway, like any good epic, this one requires a flow chart, so I can't begin to summarize here. The most important bits: Caesar's been off commanding his victorious army for eight years, sending spoils back to the common people to build his popularity. Pompey, who's supposed to be in charge, betrays him, earning his wrath as Caesar turns his legions toward home, burning as they go. Nice. As for the details, you'll have to catch a rerun, but keep your eye on Lucius and Titus Pullo (he whose "simple tastes" number but three: killing his enemies, taking their gold and enjoying their women), the two soldiers sent on a fool's errand who uncover Pompey's plot and get lucky enough to rescue Octavian along the way. An entertaining beginning, and a neatly built foundation that leaves us all set for the political and literal mayhem to come.