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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Historical > Cable TV > Rome: The Complete Second Season + Deadwood: The Complete Third Season (HBO DVD Box Sets)

Rome: The Complete Second Season + Deadwood: The Complete Third Season (HBO DVD Box Sets)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B/B-     Episodes: B+/B



HBO for the past decade now has managed to produce an amazing amount of interesting and creative series.  While most networks create 10 failing series for every 1 successful venture, HBO delivers hit after hit.  After the success of series like Oz and The Sopranos two newer series surfaced on HBO that utilized the past to bring entertainment to the present.  Rome is a series that dramatically focuses on a time of civil war, unrest, social and political decay, and the men and women that made it all happen.  Deadwood also has a strong dramatic element in its 1870’s South Dakota setting that like Rome uses both historical truths and fiction to draw inspiration.  Both Rome and Deadwood have since the time of their respective DVD releases have, sadly, been canceled with no future plans to resurrect the series.


Though there has never been a public statement as to why the popular series were axed, many speculate that it was due to expiring contracts as well as the astronomical filming costs.  Both series mix in a fair degree of mature material (sexual content and adult language) to heighten the intense and shocking nature of many of the series factual and fictional elements; the language of the cast on Deadwood could easily hold their grounds with the likes of Scarface and Good Fellas.  Though the series are now in the HBO history books, they still have a lot to offer in the form of entertainment and fans will be more than pleased with their final seasons.


Rome’s second and final season mainly centers on the power struggle between Octavian and Mark Anthony after the tragic assassination of Julius Caesar in Season One.  With Caesar no longer keeping order in the lands, civil war is constantly threatening to destroy the Republic.  As both men and women come out of the woodwork in the clamoring for power, Mark Anthony ambitiously attempts to assure his place of power in the new empire by aligning himself with Atia, but finds his ambitions challenged when Atia’s son Octavian becomes wise to Anthony’s conniving ways.  Octavian has been named Caesar’s only son and heir and is not about to give up that power.  Powerful public figures from Season One like Brutus have fallen from grace, now branded a murderer and struggles to regain the publics’ favor and trust.  While Brutus is struggles with his own demons, his mother (Servilla) is making sinister plots of her own.  The bulk of Season 2 takes place between 44 BC with Caesar’s death and 31 BC, while Mark Anthony and Octavian fight for their places of power in the new empire.  With the masses aggressively fighting for positions of power in Rome, only time can tell who the winners and losers will be.


Deadwood, as previously mentioned, is another historically based series from HBO that takes place in the South Dakota Territory in the 1870’s and chronicles the growth of a society as it goes from a simple base camp to a full thriving town.  In Season 3 the year is 1877 and whereas in Seasons One and Two lawlessness and chaos ruled the growing town, the law and civilized society is slowly arriving and it is apparent times are about to change.  In this time of change Deadwood sees its first elections and an ever growing power struggle.  People are brutal, the town is in a state of unrest, and the fate of the floundering town seems to rest in the hands of a select few.  George Hearst (Gerald McRaney of Simon & Simon) arrives in Deadwood as a ruthless businessman who has plans for the town that would reshape it to best fit his wants and needs.  The deranged Hearst will stop at nothing to gain power, including killing his own workers, causing the town to split up into an array of alliances.  The law, the towns’ folk, and even the cutthroat bar owner all must pick sides and form a strategy to survive.  With murder, drugs, sex, kidnappings, and turmoil running rampant through the streets of Deadwood some say only the strong will survive, but sometimes the bigger they are the harder they fall.


Both series, Rome: Season Two and Deadwood: Season Three are extremely entertaining, well cast, well staged, and well written.  The series both make the viewer want more and more; making it even sadder that both series are now defunct.  Both series do not rely too heavily on an all star cast to take the writing to the next level, but instead utilize raw talent and a degree of grittiness to promote the realism and emotion that is brought to the table.  With emotion and intriguing storylines bursting at the seams on Rome and Deadwood it is tremendously surprising that HBO did not give the series a better chance at sticking around; especially with their golden goose (The Sopranos) now gone.  Many criticize the series for ‘overusing bad language’ and sexual explicit content, but this reviewer thinks the adult content is effectively used and whereas maybe unnecessary at times just thinks that people are being a little too uptight; it is an HBO series after all, not ABC Family.  Both series are a must see and will not disappoint.


The technical features are excellent on both box sets and deliver the quality that fans of HBO have come to expect.  The picture on both sets is presented in a 1.78 X 1 Anamorphic Widescreen that is enhanced for 16 X 9 televisions that is fantastic with bright colors, a crisp image, and an admirable level of clarity.  For darker series there seem to be no light/dark issues and minimal contrast inconsistencies.  This reviewer can’t wait to see the series in a higher definition format.  The sound is almost equally impressive in its Dolby Digital 5.1 surrounds on the sets, being booming and clear most of the time, only having issues in the quitter dialogue scenes where this reviewer had difficulty hearing what was occurring.  The extra features are very, very nice on both sets.  The special features for each respective set include:




Rome: Season Two

  • 4 Featurettes

A Tale of Two Romes (20:30)

      • A featurette that describes the different classes in the Roman Empire and how they all functioned together as one society.

The Making of Rome: Season Two (22:52)

      • Your basic look into the series with costumes, sets, and the more epic battle sequences.  A very nicely done featurette for a fan favorite series.

The Rise of Octavian: Rome’s First Emperor (20:44)

      • A historical look into the cunning heir to Julius Caesar that fought his way to the seat of power in Rome.

Anthony & Cleopatra (14:48)

      • A historical examination into one of the most powerful love stories in history that in many ways shaped history and empires.
  • 5 very well done Audio Commentaries with the cast and crew of the series




Deadwood: Season Three

  • 2 Featurettes

Deadwood Matures

The Education of Swearengen and Bullock

  • 4 in-depth Audio Commentaries with the series creator, executive producers, and cast and crew.
  • A Photo Gallery of Historic Deadwood



In the end, this reviewer highly recommends both series.  Though they are not always historically accurate and incorporate a degree of ‘shock factor’ and smut to pull in the audience; it is also not hard to see that history is truly plagued with power struggles, cutthroat characters, and a level of debauchery that incomprehensible.  It’s like they say, no one could make this stuff up.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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