Domina (TV series)

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Domina
GenreHistorical drama
Created bySimon Burke
Starring
ComposerSamuel Sim
Country of origin
  • Italy
  • United Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes16
Production
Executive producers
  • Simon Burke
  • Faye Dorn
  • Claire McCarthy
  • Patrick Spence
  • Marcus Wilson
  • Nils Hartmann
  • Sonia Rovai
  • Cameron Roach
  • Serena Thompson
  • Cristina Giubbetti
  • Lucy Bedford
  • David Evans
  • Muirinn Lane Kelly
  • Carmel Maloney
Producers
  • John Phillips
  • Amy Rodriguez
Production locationRome
Cinematography
  • Denson Baker
  • Ben Wheeler
  • Nicola Daley
  • Tim Fleming
  • Sergio Delgado
  • Emiliano Leurini
Editors
  • Crispin Green
  • Isobel Stephenson
  • Mikka Leskinen
  • Benjamin Gerstein
  • Tom Henson-Webb
Running time48–55 minutes
Production companies
Original release
Network
Release14 May 2021 (2021-05-14) –
13 August 2023 (2023-08-13)

Domina is a British-Italian historical drama television series created and principally written by Simon Burke for Sky Atlantic (Italy) and Sky Atlantic (UK). Starring Kasia Smutniak as Livia Drusilla, it examines the power struggles of Ancient Rome from a female perspective.[1] The series premiered on 14 May 2021 in Italy and the UK. MGM+ renewed Domina for a second series, which premiered on 9 July 2023 in the United States. In April 2024, the series was canceled after two seasons.

Premise[edit]

The series charts the life and rise of Livia Drusilla, the powerful wife of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar.[2][3]

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Recurring[edit]

  • Kevin Lettieri as Vinnius (series 1)
  • Naike Anna Silipo as Prima (series 1)
  • Roland Litrico as Thelus (series 1)
  • Lex Shrapnel as Crassus (series 1)
  • Anthony Barclay as Corvinus (series 1)
  • Salvatore Palombi as Murena (series 1)
  • Ewan Horrocks as Drusus
  • Oliver Dench (series 1) and Joseph Ollman as Iullus
  • Alaïs Lawson as Marcella
  • Claudia Stecher as Fortunata (series 1)
  • Pedro Leandro as Aprio (series 1)
  • Yuliia Sobol as Gemina (series 2)
  • Mia Jenkins as Ursa (series 2)
  • Hannah Chinn as Antonia Major (series 2)
    • Emma Canning as Young Antonia Major (series 1)
  • Isabelle Connolly as Antonia Minor "Antonina" (series 2)
  • Ethan Moorhouse as Vistilius (series 2)
  • Elliot Barnes-Worrell as Vilbia (series 2)
  • Nathan Welsh as Musca (series 2)
  • Lilit Lesser as Aurelia (series 2)
  • Fabrizio Romagnoli as Strabo (series 2)

Guests[edit]

Series 1[edit]

Series 2[edit]

  • Alessandro Epifani as Aratus
  • Edmund Wiseman as Siculus
  • Edward Franklin as Elva
  • Wolf Danny Homann as Ballomar
  • Alex Walton as Gallus
  • Jack Brett Anderson as Gracchus
  • Eva Young as Aelina

Episodes[edit]

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1814 May 2021 (2021-05-14)15 May 2021 (2021-05-15)
289 July 2023 (2023-07-09)13 August 2023 (2023-08-13)

Series 1 (2021)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
series
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Fall"Claire McCarthySimon Burke14 May 2021 (2021-05-14)
Livia Drusilla, a young noblewoman, prepares for her marriage to Tiberius Claudius Nero, assisted by her enslaved friend, Antigone. Antigone is freed so that she can join Livia as her companion after she marries. The assassination of Julius Caesar still throws a shadow over Roman politics. Livia's father, Marcus Livius Drusus, a republican, covertly gathers support from other senators, such as his friend Piso. Gaius Julius Caesar, adopted son of Julius Caesar, and his friend Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa meet Marcus Antonius and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in secret. They agree to divide the empire between them and kill hundreds of senators and knights sympathetic to Caesar's murderers to raise money. Livia marries Nero but meets Gaius at the wedding and they are immediately attracted to each other. The proscriptions begin. Drusus flees to Brutus and Cassius. He later kills himself after the republicans are defeated at Philippi. Nero is ignored by Gaius and the other triumvirs but after his name is posted on a later list, he and his family go on the run. Gaius marries Scribonia as part of a deal with Sextus Pompeius, who holds Sicily and is protecting many refugees from the proscriptions. Nero makes for Sicily, but on the way, the family is attacked by bandits. Livia kills their leader, Nero knocks Antigone down and she is left for dead.
22"Rise"Claire McCarthySimon Burke14 May 2021 (2021-05-14)
It is 39 BCE. Gaius and Marcus Antonius celebrate their truce with Sextus; Antonius is now married to Octavia, Gaius' sister. Livia, Nero and Tiberius have taken refuge with Sextus in Sicily but an amnesty as the result of the truce means the family can return to Rome. Livia is horrified to find herself pregnant again. Back in Rome, Livia and Nero move in with Livia's new guardian, Libo. Nero considers divorcing Livia to improve his prospects. Livia returns to her family home, looking for news of Antigone; she learns that Antigone has been re-enslaved and sold to a brothel. Livia tries to free Antigone from the House of Balbina but is thrown out. Scribonia, Gaius' wife, sends Livia and Nero an invitation to dinner. The dinner disappoints Nero; Livia makes it clear to Gaius that she's looking for a new husband. Soon afterwards, Livia is invited to visit Gaius alone and she sets out the terms for their marriage. Agrippa fails to dissuade Livia from pursuing Gaius. Livia returns to the House of Balbina with a platoon of Gaius' soldiers and frees Antigone. With Antigone's help, Scribonia gives birth to Julia. Gaius divorces Scribonia the day after Julia is born in order to marry Livia, who has now also divorced Nero. As Livia gives birth to her second son, Drusus, Antigone takes her revenge on Balbina.
33"Family"Claire McCarthySimon Burke14 May 2021 (2021-05-14)
Eleven years later, the civil war is over. Livia is pregnant once more. On the holiday of Saturnalia, Gaius receives a delegation of senators at his villa, including Crassus, Morena and Corvinus. He is reminded that the triumvirate's mandate from the senate expired some years previously and is given an ultimatum to step down, as his position is now illegal and unconstitutional. Agrippa advises his friend that he should do no such thing as they have made many enemies over the years and this would only strengthen their hand. Livia initially tells her husband that after his great achievements he has nothing left to prove and should step down with honour and make history once again, this time as the roman who restored the republic, but hearing her husband's vision for the future, she offers her wholehearted support. Gaius asks Agrippa to resign as second consul so they might offer Piso the position to placate the old republican faction in the senate. Meanwhile a bitter enmity is forming between Livia's and Octavia's children fuelled by Scribonia. When Piso declines the offer of consul, Livia realises the way forward is simply to get the senate unwittingly to grant power to Gaius thus legitimising his position. In the senate Gaius outmanoeuvres his detractors by seemingly ceding all power back to the senate, but when a large faction, led by Livia's former guardian Libo calls for his continued leadership, he is immediately reinstated. At the tomb of the Claudii, Livia's waters break and she miscarries.
44"Secrets"David EvansSimon Burke15 May 2021 (2021-05-15)
It is 25BCE. Livia, pregnant once again, goes into labour, but the child is stillborn. On learning she cannot risk having any further children, she fears if Gaius was to learn that she could not sire him an heir, divorce would be an inevitability. Upon his return from campaigning in Hispania, Octavia proposes to Gaius that his daughter Julia, is married to her son Marcellus. Having overheard the conversation, Julia seeks comfort in the arms of Iullus. When Scribonia learns of Livia's inability to have any more children, she immediately informs Octavia, who in turn informs Gaius. Livia decides to divorce Gaius and leave Rome, but before doing so she visits Agrippa and offers him the opportunity of calling off the marriage between his daughter Vipsania and her son Tiberius, but he declines. Livia also lets it drop of the impending union between Julia and Marcellus, and her reservations about the match from a political perspective. Feeling both overlooked and disrespected by his friend, Agrippa confronts Gaius and the two men come to blows. Livia finds shelter at Piso's country estate, whilst Gaius finds himself increasingly isolated. Livia confides to Piso that she has been working towards a goal of restoring the republic, but now realises this will not happen during Gaius's tenure. She indicates that when Gaius dies, Drusus would be the natural candidate to complete her life's mission, but not without the assistance of Piso. The growing schism between Gaius and Agrippa throws Rome into yet another political crisis and Livia takes the opportunity to mediate between the two factions helping reinstate both their friendship and her marriage.
55"Plague"David EvansSimon Burke15 May 2021 (2021-05-15)
In 23 BC Rome is in the grip of plague. When Antigone tries to intervene in the treatment of a stricken Gaius, she is rebuffed by Octavia. With Caesar on his deathbed, the vultures start to circle. Livia plots to usurp Marcellus, who has been groomed to take over from Gaius. She favours Agrippa to step into the role of Princeps, but Marcellus, along with Crassus and Corvinus is plotting to kill Agrippa and disband the senate the moment Gaius dies. Antigone poisons Octavia and her doctor and once they are out of the way, attends to Gaius who is in a coma. The next morning when Crassus and a senatorial delegation arrive demanding news of Gaius and the appointment of a successor, Livia denies them an audience with her husband, fearing he may make Marcellus' succession official. She tells the senators Agrippa is the nominated successor and presents him with Caesar's ring of office. Once recovered, Agrippa returns the ring to Caesar, who is not pleased that his wishes were ignored by Livia. Antigone learns of the plot against Agrippa and Livia's sons from a spy in Octavia's household. She suggests to Livia they neutralise the threat Marcellus now increasingly poses by poisoning him and confesses to poisoning Nero, Livia's first husband, Octavia, her physician Musa and also Balbina, madam of the whorehouse where she was imprisoned.
66"Nightshade"Debs PatersonSimon Burke15 May 2021 (2021-05-15)
Caesar announces to the family that he intends to adopt Marcellus as his son and heir in the autumn. Knowing of Marcellus' plans to kill her sons and send her into exile, Livia outwardly agrees that he is the future of Rome, but secretly accelerates plans with Antigone to poison him whilst he is taking a sojourn in Baiae using Deadly Nightshade. Crassus and Corvinus continue to cultivate their relationship with Marcellus, but also plan to assassinate him when he is no longer of use to them. When the money Marcellus' personal slave and lover Aprio has been receiving for supplying information to Livia's household is discovered, Octavia's suspicions are raised and she travels to Baiae in order to get answers. Before she arrives however, word reaches Livia from Tiberius that Aprio's deception has been uncovered and fearing that he will reveal all under torture, Livia brings forward plans for the assassination, offering Aprio safe passage, manumission and a new life if he mixes the poison in with Marcellus' food. Faced with a choice of freedom and riches, or torture and possible death, Aprio acquiesces, but poisons everyone. His duplicity is short lived however as he himself is double-crossed and killed by Tycho on his wife Antigone's orders. Antigone manages to make Livia and Julia vomit by administering sea-water, saving their lives.
77"Treason"David EvansSimon Burke15 May 2021 (2021-05-15)
One year on, Livia receives a surprise visit from her cousin Porcia, who reveals her husband Marcus Primus, Governor of Macedonia, has been accused of treason by Marcus Licinius Crassus. Porcia indicates her husband was acting on the instructions of Caesar when he launched an offensive against the Danube tribes who had signed a peace treaty with the senate. Primus asks Marcus Messalla Corvinus, newly fallen out with Crassus, to defend him in court but Gaius also wants him gone lest he be implicated in public, so makes him an offer that would see him exiled, but with generous compensation. Primus declines, unaware of the fact that he is being used by Crassus and Corvinus in an attempt to once again destroy Caesar. Livia, loyalties torn between her cousin and husband, meets Porcia to tell her that there will be a trial but Primus must not under any circumstances reveal Caesar's involvement. Unbeknownst to Porcia, she and her litter are followed to Primus' safe house in the woods to the south of Rome and Agrippa is dispatched by Caesar to eliminate him soon after. Finding the safe house empty on arrival, Agrippa assumes he has missed his quarry, but he has been given the wrong location by Tycho at the behest of Livia. In court the next day Primus gives testimony that his orders to break the treaty came not from Gaius Caesar Augustus but Marcus Claudius Marcellus. The defeated conspirators decide a more hands-on approach to getting rid of Caesar is required, but are betrayed by Scribonia who has been the lover and confidante of Crassus. Caesar strikes first. In a final twist it is revealed that Porcia too was under the spell of Crassus.
88"Happiness"David EvansSimon Burke15 May 2021 (2021-05-15)
Marcus Messalla Corvinus is on the run with a bounty on his head. Aprio's remains and diploma of freedom are discovered in Baiae and transported back to Rome alerting Octavia to the possibility that her son's murderer may have been silenced. Scribonia reveals to Octavia that Marcellus had planned to kill Livia's sons and then banish her into exile, therefore should be treated as the prime suspect along with medicine expert Antigone. At the tomb of the Claudii, Livia brings her sons in on her plans for Caesar's succession and the restoration of the Republic, and although Drusus is open to the possibility, Tiberius outright refuses, leading to Livia disowning him. Octavia decides to approach Gaius with her suspicions about Livia, hoping to blindside her when she is finally confronted but Iullus intercepts Livia at the tomb of her forefathers and brings her up to speed with the latest developments. Corvinus is captured and incarcerated in the Tullianum, he tries to reason with Agrippa and offers to reveal Marcellus’ murderer but is garrotted before he can do so. Fearing what awaits them at the villa, Antigone and Tycho contemplate running away to Egypt but eventually decide to accompany Livia back home to meet their fate. When confronted by Octavia, Livia denies everything. Despite identifying Livia's means, motive and opportunity, their inability to provide any hard evidence or witnesses see Octavia and Scribonia outmanoeuvred once more.

Series 2 (2023)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
series
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date [4]
91"Conspiracy"David EvansSimon Burke9 July 2023 (2023-07-09)
It is nineteen years before the birth of Christ. Augustus and Livia have been away for three years in the Eastern provinces. On their return they find Rome in the grip of famine and on the brink of revolt. Unrecognised, Gaius drops into a whorehouse to eavesdrop on what the plebs are saying, only to inadvertently become involved in a brawl. Livia is separated in the melee and finds herself imprisoned by the nightwatch and almost sold into slavery, saved only by the timely intervention of Gnaius Calpernius Piso. They rescue a fellow prisoner, Ursa, who leads them to a stockpile of hidden grain. The grain prefects appointed by Gaius have been in league with their former army comrade and Octavia's new son-in-law, Domitius, withholding grain in order to manipulate the market price. As the net tightens, Domitius covers his tracks, but Livia remains suspicious about him. Meanwhile Drusus is in love with his German concubine Gemina and openly co-habiting with her much to the consternation of Olivia whose daughter he is betrothed to. With Antigone deceased, Tycho returns to the service of Livia despite being a freedman with his own estate. He is given the task of getting rid of Gemina and has her sold into slavery. Gaius summons Tiberius, Drusus, Iullus and Domitius, and indicates upon his death one of them will inherit his mantle and therefore Rome and the empire.
102"Wedding"David EvansSimon Burke9 July 2023 (2023-07-09)
A year later the wedding of Drusus to Octavia's youngest daughter Antonina approaches. Octavia, under the impression that her deceased son Marcellus has paid them a visit from the underworld to express his displeasure at the forthcoming union, convinces Gaius to postpone the wedding indefinitely. Unable to control his own family and thus appearing weak politically, Gaius orders his sister to send his niece to become a priestess at the Temple of Vesta as an ultimatum, hoping she might reconsider the marriage. Octavia flatly refuses to relent and digs in her heels. Livia learning of this new development from Tycho realises she has to act fast, as once an initiate has taken the holy vows, they cannot be rescinded. She pays Octavia a visit at her country estate in the Sabine hills and delivers an ultimatum, one that Octavia cannot ignore. Meanwhile, Gemina, now in the possession of Gaius, has been taking counsel from Scribonia.
113"Betrayal"David EvansSimon Burke16 July 2023 (2023-07-16)
Two months later, Gemina now pregnant with Gaius' child, is spotted by Livia, travelling in a litter. She despatches Tycho to ascertain who her new owner is. When Gemina reveals the pregnancy to Gaius he decides the time has come to end his trysts with her and remove her from Rome. He instructs Agrippa to find her a husband, one that won't ask too many questions. Scribonia suggests to Gemina that if Gaius was a widower her problems would be solved. The news of Gaius infidelity and Scribonia's involvement shock Livia and make her realise more than ever that one wrong move could spell the end for her. Summoned by Gemina, Livia meets with her without her guards and the two become involved in a fight to the death. When Gaius and Agrippa discover Gemina's body, Gaius puts a price on the perpetrator's head, but only Agrippa notices Livia's gold bracelet at the scene of the crime. Returning the bracelet to Livia, Agrippa confesses his unrequited love for her and offers her a deal for his silence. When Livia confesses all to Gaius, she suggests they are now even, but Gaius decides to quietly force her into exile. When her sons, now serving with the legions in Germania learn of this, they conclude they are only safe as long as Agrippa remains alive.
124"Exile"Sallie AprahamianSimon Burke23 July 2023 (2023-07-23)
Another year has passed, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus has been elected consul, but Iullus and Livia's two sons see his ascendency as a threat and make a pact to form a triumvirate in the event of succession. Marcella learns of Julia's years-long affair and reports this to Gaius, oblivious of the fact that the other party is her stepbrother and husband Iullus. Gaius summons Tiberius, Drusus, Iullus and Domitius and offers a bounty for the head of Julia's lover. Agrippa, incensed at the news of his wife's infidelity, tries to commit prolicide, but is brought to his senses by Octavia. Livia, still in exile, receives a visit from Vilbia, a roman businessman, at Piso's country estate. A bachelor, he offers his silence about her sons' various misdeeds in return for a betrothal to one of the aristocratic families of Rome. On the run and in fear for her life, Julia turns to Livia for help. Octavia fearing for the life of her stepson, swallows her pride and also approaches Livia. With the likelihood that Julia's personal slaves will give up Iullus's name under torture, Livia convinces Julia to return to Rome and confess. When pressed by Agrippa, she accuses Vilbia of cuckolding him. By murdering him, Agrippa makes an enemy of his brother. Gaius reconciles with Livia and she returns to the imperial palace on the palatine hill.
135"Sacrilege"Sallie AprahamianRachel Paterson30 July 2023 (2023-07-30)
Iullus and Domitius reach an understanding. Augustus arrives in Germany, and asks Drusus to take Germany for Rome. Livia obtains a copy of Gaius's will. Turia is killed without being touched or harmed.
146"Freedom"Sallie AprahamianSimon Burke6 August 2023 (2023-08-06)
Agrippa dies. Livia must make a dangerous choice. Augustus grows suspicious of Drusus. Tiberius makes a move against Livia.
157"Curse"David EvansSimon Burke13 August 2023 (2023-08-13)
Livia is in danger. Tiberius and Julia get married. Octavia dies asking Gaius to avenge Marcellus by killing Drusus or Tiberius.
168"Control"David EvansSimon Burke13 August 2023 (2023-08-13)
Drusus dies in war. Livia wants Tiberius on the throne after Gaius, but he does not want to restore the Republic. Marcella is killed and Tiberius kills the illegitimate son he had with Julia.

Production[edit]

Written by Simon Burke, the lead director is Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy. Filming for Domina resumed at the Cinecittà studios in Rome in July 2020 following delays from the initial start in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The show's title comes from the female version of 'Dominus', the Ancient Roman title for sovereignty, and from which the word 'dominate' originates. As pointed out by Nicola Maccanico (executive vice president of programming, Sky Italia), Domina is an international production with strong Italian roots. Ancient Rome is brought back to life, bringing together at Cinecittà the great international artistic values and the best Italian talents in the sector: the costumes were designed by Gabriella Pescucci, the production design is by Luca Tranchino.[5]

In February 2022, Epix (later renamed MGM+) renewed the show for a second series.[6]

In April 2024, it was reported that the series had been canceled after two series.[7]

Broadcast[edit]

The series was released in its entirety on 14 May 2021 on Sky Box Sets and NOW in Italy and the UK. It premiered on television the same day on Sky Atlantic (Italy) and Sky Atlantic (UK).[8]

In the United States, the series premiered on 6 June 2021 on Epix.[9] In Australia, the series is streamed on the service Stan.

The second series premiered on 9 July 2023 on MGM+[10] in the US, on 10 July in Australia,[11] and on 8 September in Italy and the UK.[12]

Reception[edit]

The series has received mostly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 82% based on 11 reviews, with an average score of 6.7/10.[13] Suzi Feay in the Financial Times dubbed the series "Game of Romans".[14] Historian Tom Holland in The Times agreed that "The echoes of Game of Thrones in the first two episodes are strong, and surely deliberate...the rest of the series approximates more closely to a political thriller". Holland praised the show "the meat of the show is so enjoyably done that the odd anachronism hardly matters. The 20s BC, sandwiched between the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra and the maturity of Augustus, have never before been the subject of popular drama, but Domina demonstrates to brilliant effect how unjustly neglected they have been... Part of the fun of the series is seeing characters who became significant players in the later decades of Augustus's life as teenagers".[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The truth behind Ancient Rome's most controversial woman". BBC. 7 May 2021.
  2. ^ "Sky Original series Domina set to air in May". Cineuropa – the best of european cinema.
  3. ^ Ritman, Alex (21 November 2019). "Sky Sets Ancient Rome Drama 'Domina' With Isabella Rossellini (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 10 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Shows A-Z – Domina on MGM+". The Futon Critic. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  5. ^ Grater, Tom (31 July 2020). "Sky's Ancient Rome Series 'Domina' With Isabella Rossellini, Liam Cunningham & Kasia Smutniak Resumes Filming At Italy's Cinecitta". Deadline. Archived from the original on 22 May 2021.
  6. ^ Hailu, Selome (3 February 2022). "Epix Announces Billy the Kid Premiere Date, Releases Development Slate". Variety. Penske Media Corporation.
  7. ^ Mitovich, Matt Webb (18 April 2024). "Inside Line: Scoop on Fire Country and NCIS: Hawai'i Finales, Homecoming, Elsbeth, FBI, Walker Spinoff Closure, Station 19, a Cancellation and More!". TVLine. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  8. ^ Carr, Flora (14 May 2021). "Domina release date: Guide to Sky's Ancient Rome drama series". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 20 June 2021.
  9. ^ "'Domina' to premiere June 6 on Epix". Epix. 26 April 2021. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021.
  10. ^ Domina Season 2 Trailer, retrieved 6 July 2023
  11. ^ "Domina". Stan. Stan Entertainment Pty Limited. Retrieved 7 July 2023.
  12. ^ Marland, Sean; published, Nicholas Cannon (1 June 2023). "Domina season 2: release date, cast, plot, first look and all about the return of the epic saga set in Ancient Rome". whattowatch.com. Retrieved 6 July 2023.
  13. ^ "Domina". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 9 November 2023.
  14. ^ Feay, Suzi (7 May 2021). "Roman series Domina on Sky Atlantic is action-packed". Financial Times.
  15. ^ Holland, Tom (2 May 2021). "Livia Drusilla gets the Game of Thrones treatment in Domina". The Times. Retrieved 20 June 2021.

External links[edit]