Game of Thrones is without a doubt HBO’s most popular show ever. By “telling human stories in a fantasy world,” Game of Thrones has become the obsession of fantasy enthusiasts and laymen alike. The new season is finally here, but the week long wait between episodes can feel just as painful as the yearlong gap between seasons. We’re supposed to see Melisandre’s true form and just wait until next week??? If Thrones fans are going to maintain even the slightest bit of chill (which they are not exactly known for), they’re going to need something to fill their evenings as they wait to find out whether or not Jon Snow will rise again.
Enter Rome. A swords and sandals epic of the highest order, Rome was the very expensive jewel in HBO’s crown from 2005-2007. Covering the tumultuous period in which Rome transitioned from Republic to Empire, the series let viewers experience this war-torn time through the perspective of two Roman soldiers, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson). While it was canceled after two seasons and rumors of a film have so far led nowhere, HBO GO and Now have made the series more accessible than ever. While we wait to see Sansa take control of the North, Rome has more than enough similarities to Game of Thrones (and merits of its own) to warrant a binge watch.
While everyone loves the dragons and giants, part of the appeal of Game of Thrones is the scheming and courtly machinations that occur off of the battlefield. Kings ascend and descend quickly, political marriages are brokered and broken, and the scheming never, ever stops. Similarly, Rome shows the wheeling and dealing required to keep an expanding empire afloat. As the senate explodes and divides between backing Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds), man of the people, and Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham), champion of the patricians, one cannot help but see the Lannisters, Starks, Baratheons, and Targaryens in the details.
Additionally, before there was Cersei Lannister (onscreen), there was Atia of the Julii (Polly Walker). Ruthlessly ambitious, Atia will do whatever it takes to survive the ever-shifting power struggle, even if it means marrying off her daughter to make uncomfortable alliances and setting her cold and calculating son, Octavian (Max Pirkis and then Simon Woods) to be the Caesar’s successor. Octavian may not be as sadistic as Joffrey, but there are shades of Lannister in his offhand cruelty and singleminded focus on ruling.