A Season with: Romulus – Season 1 (2020)

Review Romulus Season 1
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Review Romulus Season 1 on Mola TV

What if Game of Thrones is made in Italy to tell the Roman mythology about the founding of Rome? The result is Romulus, a 10-episode epic series centering on the origins of Rome. Instead of taking on a full mythological approach in portraying the renowned tale, showrunner Matteo Rovere and the writing department devised a more subtle and realistic rendition of the tale, making it more political even when the whole narrative leans toward action-adventure genre.

Romulus wears its ambition on the sleeve with extensive inclinations to authentic details. Massive production designs reconstruct the ancient city of Alba Longa and pre-Roman tribes along with the people. In one of its boldest moves, the series is discarding heavily accented English that has become the lingua franca of modern-time epic or historical stories; instead, it takes an approach that was once used in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto. While the former uses Aramaic and the latter uses Yucatec Mayan language, the series writes the whole on-screen dialogues in Archaic Latin, a dead language from 8th century BC.

It’s never the exotic story of the twins, Remus and Romulus, cared for by a she-wolf, before growing up and reclaiming their birthright and building a new city that would eventually become the Rome we know. Romulus instead takes a more dramatic yet realistic approach to the tale. The story is told from the perspective of three characters, who might not sound familiar to the legend, but represent crucial elements to the dramatization of the myth. Italian actors, Andrea Arcangeli, Francesco Di Napoli, and Marianna Fontana respectively portrays Yermos, Wiros, and Ilia, the three characters through whose perspectives are borrowed.

While they sound unfamiliar to the usual story, their arcs are based almost religiously to the legend even when the series takes a more realistic approach. Aside from them, other characters also take a more humane approach to portray. The pivotal she-wolf, for instance, is not a real wolf; she is instead a ferocious rebel leader terrorizing the established power. The monumental suckling of the twins is symbolic; instead of a literal suckling, the event is depicted as some kind of mentorship relationship. It’s almost obvious that Romulus models its narrative to series like Game of Thrones where political maneuvers are as important as the action sequences. The Archaic Latin dialogues might sound alienating at first, but eventually, bring out an immersive feeling that lingers. With twists and turns elaborated from a story so well-known like biblical stories, it’s enticing to see where the series will lead to in the future.

Review Romulus on Mola TV

Romulus first aired on Sky Italy on 6 November 2020 as one of its original programs. It premiered at the Rome Film Festival in October 2020. The epic series is produced and created by Rovere and Groenlandia with RAI Cinema, in association with Roman Citizen and Belgian Gapbusters. For viewers in Indonesia, Mola TV has acquired the rights to stream the entire first season, with the pilot episode labeled for free-streaming. 

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