Domina tells the story of Livia Drusilla (starting as Nadia Parkes, before moving on to Kasia Smutniak), who in an opening voiceover tells us she’s killed many people, and that the first rule of power is survival.
She takes her first life – in a very brief clip, and then time rewinds back to what’s driven her to this. Before the episode is out, the blood will flow and the BBFC will have an easy day just applying an 18-certificate to the boxset.
But before she can become the Roman equivalent of Lara Croft, Livia is preparing for her wedding to Tiberius Claudius Nero (Enzo Cilenti) by having all her body hair painfully waxed off by companion – and slave girl at her father, Livius’ (Liam Cunningham – The Guard) bidding – Antigone (Colette Dalal Tchantcho).
Despite Livia being about to lose her virginity, everyone else is sleeping around like there’s no tomorrow, with lots of offscreen sex, and when people walk in, women cover up their breasts from the camera because it’s 2021… well, you get the idea.
In fact, for Livia’s first time, the men in this drama are not the most gallant of creatures, so don’t expect any words of affection before the train enters the station…
And those men include Gaius (Matthew McNulty – Deadwater Fell), who seems completely unperturbed about death of Daddy, Julius Caesar, who’s been murdered prior to the events of this series.
Then again, everyone has modern-day mannerisms, the only difference from reality being that all the men have terrible haircuts.
It takes around 3/5 of the way through episode 1 before anything really seems to happen, as blood starts to flow in the manner we expect from harsh Roman times, whilst everyone’s names and in “ius”.
Not knowing exactly what happened at the time, I had to look this up and I grasp that the first episode is depicting the Battle of Philippi, in 42BC, the final battle between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian, and those who bumped off Caesar – Brutus and Cassius – alongside Livius.
However, it just seemed like less of a war and more like five minutes of “hack ‘n’slash”, and I was left adrift wondering exactly what was going on without a bit of online investigation.
So far, I’m not really ‘getting’ this so far after both the opener and episode 2 (which continues the tradition of being way too slow), but everyone filming this seems to be enjoying themselves, and given that I didn’t get 2005’s Rome, nor 2018’s Troy: Fall Of A City, so it could be me. I might try a second episode before making a final decision, but I’ll see what the general consensus about this series is before ‘roaming’ beyond that.
Domina begins on Sky Atlantic on Friday May 14th at 9pm, but is not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. All episodes are available on demand from day one. All episodes will be available from day one.
Episodes 1 and 2 Score: 4/10
Series Directors: David Evans, Claire McCarthy, Debs Paterson
Producer: John Phillips
Writer: Simon Burke
Music: Samuel Sim
Young Livia Drusilla: Nadia Parkes
Livia Drusilla: Kasia Smutniak
Livius: Liam Cunningham
Tiberius Claudius Nero: Enzo Cilenti
Thelus: Roland Litrico
Balbina: Isabella Rossellini
Tycho: Alex Lanipekun
Libo: Peter Campion
Agrippa: Ben Batt
Drusus: Ewan Horrocks
Marcella: Alaïs Lawson
Gaius: Matthew McNulty
Antigone: Colette Dalal Tchantcho
Vinnius: Kevin Lettieri
Corvinus: Anthony Barclay
Scribonia: Christine Bottomley
Young Antonia: Emma Canning
Octavia: Claire Forlani
Julia: Liah O’Prey
Marcus Antonius: Liam Garrigan
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.