Spoiler alert. This article doesn't reveal anything from the series that isn't known from the story. Da “Domina” sticks to the tradition and just paints it. But if you don't know anything about the Julio-Claudian dynasty, you'll find out a lot that might surprise you.
Julius Caesar, Octavian Augustus, Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Antonius – these names have stood the test of time. We associate them with the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Imperial Era. Then Claudius, Cato, Nero, Brutus, Cicero. The only woman to appear in the men's club is the Ptolemaic Cleopatra - not a Roman. And a tragic figure whose ambition far exceeded the real possibilities, so that suicide was the only option.
But Rome was actually ruled by a small group of women at the time. The TV series "Domina" is about the most important: Livia Drusilla, wife of Augustus Octavian, the most powerful woman in the world. Through their marriage, Caesar's successor linked himself to the oldest and most respected family in Rome. Augustus would have been nothing without his companions. Gaius Maecenas, who raised the money for him, Agrippa, who won the battles, and Livia, who dominated Roman politics. Maecenas and Agrippa were always content with a place behind their friend and “brother”. Not his wife Livia, the two were united by their unconditional desire for power.
The second season begins where the first one left off. Augustus had founded a world empire and replaced the corrupt scheming of the Senate with a family dynasty. Family was a much larger construct back then than it is today. Marriages were concluded for political reasons and – unlike in the Christian era – dissolved just as quickly. Three or four marriages were not uncommon. They created complicated patchwork families. Added to this was the common practice of adoption. Augustus used these opportunities excessively to make his family ever more powerful and larger. He didn't care about the feelings of the young women and men he moved on the marital chessboard. But in Domina we see the suffering of the unlucky lovers, the mutual contempt of those who were forced to bond, and the bitter sadness of the remaining women who could no longer bring political capital into a marriage.
The inexperienced viewer will have difficulty placing the people correctly in the family tree. With the concept of his confusing mega-family, Augustus overlooked a problem that will drive his dynasty to ruin. After all external rivals were eliminated, the women continued the civil war within the family. Her power within the House of Augustus was based on her intrigues and the advancement of her children. Season 1 ended with Livia poisoning her husband's successor and nephew. In doing so, she cleared the way for her two sons from her first marriage, Drusus and Tiberius. But she earned the eternal hatred of the dead man's mother. Octavia, the ruler's sister, who was closer to him than any other person.
The first season showed Livia as an energetic woman who ensured her continued existence in murderous times, who enabled her children to survive and who had an eternal friendship with the released healer and poisoner Antigone. In Season 2, the negative traits of dominatrix domination are now coming to light. As a young woman, she swore to her dead father that she would do anything to restore the Republic. This lofty goal justifies every crime, such as having your childhood best friend walled in alive. In Season 1, this feminine monster of power already appeared. But now the boundaries between sinister character and personal ambition are rapidly disappearing. The central female characters are Livia, Octavia, the sister of Augustus and his daughter Julia, and Antonia Minor, the daughter of Marcus Antonius and a dominatrix of the next generation. Below them, the boys Drusus and Tiberius grow into men.
The second season is staged in the style of the first. The center is the families, the houses, there are no big Roman battles. As is often the case in film adaptations of Roman history, all the characters seem more British than Roman. The male roles, including that of Augustus, mostly remain clumsy and awkward, probably to give the women more space. This series is dominated by women. Livia (Kasia Smutniak) and Octavia (outstanding Claire Forlani) are now joined by the wives of Drusus and Tiberius, Antonia Minor (Hannah Chinn) and Vipsania Agrippina (Joelle). Hannah Chinn plays Drusus' wife as a teenage, clever girl. Consumed by worry about her unstable, risk-taking husband. Later, the historical Antonia will lock her own daughter in her house and let her slowly starve to death.
Joelle embodies the tender and also twisted love of Vipsania Agrippina and Tiberius. Without her wig, the bald Vipsania transforms into an ethereal being who takes on the form of a dominatrix during sex and tames the "evil Tiberius" in the form of a mother-in-law. Benjamin Isaac plays his mother's upcoming opponent convincingly. He doesn't have to do much; his expressionless, thoughtful face is a mask behind which one glimpses the dark, real Tiberius. The youthful Ewan Horrocks plays Drusus, the star of Rome, the favorite of his legions and the heart of his wife Antonia, vital and full of life. And he too is deeply damaged by his monstrous mother. Among the other roles, Ben Batt stands out as Agrippa, a man whose guaranteed violence and dangerousness is immediately apparent.
Naturally, the series doesn't have any big surprises in terms of content. With the "Titanic" it is clear from the start that the ship will sink. So the viewer also knows that all potential successors will die in one way or another until only the unloved Tiberius remains. What Norman Bates was to Psycho, Tiberius is to Roman history. With no affection from either his mother or his stepfather, the boy grows up on the sidelines. A man who would have preferred to become a philosopher and privateer, but is then forced into politics. The viewer suspects that blood will flow when the disrespected boy stands against the wall and hits his fist against a pillar as if in hypnosis. It is difficult to say whether the real Tiberius was such a vicious person from birth, but what is certain is that he faced the intrigues and murders of historical Rome and its dominatrixes with vindictiveness and hatred. The real Tiberius is known to have committed numerous murders for political and very personal reasons, and he is also said to have had horrific sadistic perversions.
In the series, Drusus alone realizes that an "evil Tiberius" lives inside his brother and is just waiting to come out. His anger when his first wife, the vulnerable Vipsania Agrippina, is taken from him is reinforced in the viewer by the knowledge that Tiberius will love Vipsania for the rest of his life. A dark love. Vipsania's second husband is spared for a long time by Tiberius for her sake. But when Vipsania died, Tiberius imprisoned his rival and starved him to death. A dark shadow also hangs over the fun-loving and baseless daughter of Augustus, who was the forced second wife of Tiberius. As a young woman, she is the splendor of the house and will later starve miserably on the streets. For fear of the sinister Tiberius, no one dared to give her even a loaf of bread.
“Domina II” runs on Sky from September 7th at 8:15 p.m.