Here at Must we’re all in favour of high-class telly, the type you finish and feel like you’ve learned something, or engaged with TV in its artiest form. But you know what we’re also all up for? Glorious, fantasy ridiculousness, with camp costumes and improbable plot lines that have you thoroughly engaged and entirely detached from reality. And this escapism is exactly what Sky are serving with this romp through ancient Rome in Domina.
The standard for fantasy is high these days – we go in expecting never ending battles and blood, a healthy amount of shagging and betrayals around every corner. So, this one set in Ancient Rome has great potential. We join the story just after the assassination of Julius Caesar, which triggered a period of unrest, chaos and backstabbing, where every man with a little bit of status is vying for power or revenge. But in Domina we aren’t following these power-hungry men around. We’re keeping an eye on Livia Drusilla. When we first meet her, she’s a naïve teenager who has been promised to Nero – who is a proper lout – but as the series moves forward we watch her turn into a cunning and intelligent woman, using her sexuality and prowess to manipulate her rise up the social ladder in a male-dominated society, to eventually become empress.
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We’ve seen this kind of story before – young, hurt girl who turns into a fierce warrior will bring only one character to the minds of fantasy fans. With bucket loads of sex, and fewer battles than Game of Thrones Domina tells the story of Rome via the boudoirs rather than the battlefields, and it’s mighty entertaining.
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This series doesn’t take itself too seriously, and for some viewers it might feel a bit low budget compared to other fantasy series we’ve enjoyed over the last few years. But if you want a bit of sexy, period escapism, then this could be right up your Roman road.
In his review in The Guardian, Joel Golby says “Domina has an excellent…as well as a decent budget and carte blanche to be both gory and horny, and frankly that’s what anyone with a Game of Thrones-shaped hole in their life is looking for.” And the Financial Times’s Suzi Feay can’t help but compare it to Thrones, too, saying “It’s basically Game of Romans. Two-tier names are flung around like body-parts in an amphitheatre, and everyone untrustworthy has a posh British accent. The script would be half the length if everybody stopped swearing.” But does it stand up to the epic, and much loved George R R Martin series? The Telegraph’s Ed Power doesn’t think so. He says: “for all the gore and the romping, this was still a cheesy swords-and-sandals caper – more Wake Me Up Before You Toga than Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. It was fun but it felt a minor miracle that everyone involved managed to keep a straight face.”
First shown May 2021. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.