Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire: Season 1, Episode 1

Nero (21 Sep. 2006)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama, History
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 101 users  
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In July AD 64 a fire, which lasts for six days, destroys almost all of Rome. Many of the senators think it would be impossible to rebuild the city, and suggest that the capital should be ... See full summary »



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Title: Nero (21 Sep 2006)

Nero (21 Sep 2006) on IMDb 7.9/10

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Episode credited cast:
Senator Natalis
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Trevor Cooper ...
Senator Scaevinus
David de Keyser ...
Hugh Dickinson ...
Alex Lowe ...
Stewart Permutt ...


In July AD 64 a fire, which lasts for six days, destroys almost all of Rome. Many of the senators think it would be impossible to rebuild the city, and suggest that the capital should be moved to Naples or Capua. Nero is irresolute and asks his mentor, the philosopher Seneca, about his advice. Seneca says that in a crisis great emperors rule as gods rule, and if Nero does that he can become a god himself. Nero decides to rebuild Rome and at the same time make the city more magnificent than ever before. He has a great vision of a city characterized by art and beauty, but the costs of such a project are enormous. Tigellinus, head of Rome's security force, advises Nero to robe the temples. For most Romans this is a shocking sacrilege, and when Nero starts it he gets into a collision course with the senate. In April AD 65 a group of senators plan to murder Nero, but a slave reveals the conspiracy, and all of them are killed. In one move all political opposition are wiped out, and Nero ... Written by Maths Jesperson {}

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21 September 2006 (UK)  »

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Nero: I'm a god, you see? Must be. Must be. I steal and destroy and nothing happens. I kill people. I killed people. I killed her and nothing happened. How can that be? If I'm not a god how can that be?
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Good for Crazy, Bad for Drama
5 April 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode starts with a bang, obviously intentionally. It's a lowlife part of Rome with a bunch of people walking around and a street corner musician making fun of the emperor. Then one of the men pulls his hood off and it's Nero himself (identified by text), in a really cheap looking wig. For shock value it works quite well. The only problem is that it never shows up again later. Why was he out trolling around the city in that getup? Why did he start a fight? Why was he laughing maniacally while getting beat up? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself after seeing this clip, and they'll never be answered. Unless you consider 'he's nuts' to be an answer. Essentially the most interesting scene in the movie comes in the beginning and it's never explained or alluded to later.

This episode follows the whole 'Nero was nuts' theory. It's been done to death and it would be nice to see them give a different take on the man, but as it goes it is a fun story. It is also the perfect opportunity for an actor to ham it up. They got Martin Sheen for Nero, probably the best actor in this and just before his career really took off. If you're looking for a subtle and restrained performance, then this isn't your day. But be honest, who'd want to see a subtle and restrained Nero? The man embodied excess in all its forms. And Sheen goes for it putting all his crazy on display. That said, this does take a more nuanced view of Nero than a lot of other fictional takes. Nero is vindicated of the accusations of fiddling while Rome burned. He's shown to be desperate to help and willing to use his own houses to help. In fact, that's the beginning of his madness. He goes so overboard trying to rebuild Rome that he convinces himself he's a god.

This episode would seem to be the signature one of the series. They put more obvious money into it than the others with a few nice vistas of Nero's building projects and an entirely pointless gladiatorial bout. I'm not kidding when I say it's pointless. It's a dialogue scene and anything that they had to say there could have been said in a room somewhere without it making a damn bit of difference. It is a fun episode, though again it suffers from the cheesy and oversimplified situations of the last one. Subtlety is not the strength of this show. Nero would seem to fit perfectly. There are a few pacing issues, and the supporting characters aren't great (again to insert my historical prejudice, I hate Seneca. The guy was even more of a hypocrite than most philosophers, yet he comes off as a wise old man. Probably won't bother anyone else) except for Tigellinus. I like how they make the man seem almost noble as he goes around killing people for their money. After all, he is loyal to his emperor until even he can see that the man is utterly off his nut. So overall, an OK episode. It would have been far less interesting if it wasn't for Michael Sheen's manic performance, and frankly it could have used a bit more of that.

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