Domina Season 1, Episode 2 recap: Rise

Domina Season 1, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: © Antonello & Montesi
Domina Season 1, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: © Antonello & Montesi /

Domina Season 1, Episode 2 is titled “Rise,” for good reason. The first episode chronicles Livia’s fall and this episode sets up her new arc as she fights to reclaim her birthright and everything she’s lost after her father’s death.

The episode starts with the treaty finalized between Gaius and Sextus while Livia and Nero are taking refuge in Sicily. They’re finally free to return home, although the happy news isn’t quite as thrilling for Livia who discovers she’s pregnant with her second child.

We find out that Sextus and Livia had been having an affair while she and Nero took refuge in Sicily. It was Livia’s idea to force an amnesty clause into the treaty that would allow her and Nero to lose their fugitive status and be allowed to return home. Sextus would like Livia to stay in Sicily, but she refuses to be his mistress as he’s contractually obligated now to marry Scribonia’s niece as part of the treaty. Plus, Livia wants to reclaim her birthright and she can’t do that in Sicily.

The more pressing matter at hand for Livia is trying to find Antigone. Prima tips her off that Antigone was sold in the market because she was discovered without Livia and had nothing to show for herself. Livia ends up tracking her down to a brothel called the House of Beltina where Antigone is chained to the walls. Livia promises Antigone that she’ll free her before she’s forcibly removed by the guards.

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Scribonia later extends an invitation to Nero and Livia for dinner. The whole thing comes off as a petty power play since Scribonia is still bitter at the way Livia spoke to her and Octavia on her wedding night. Not only does she send Livia a new slave (who Nero sleeps with almost immediately) but the invitation feels like a way for her to gloat at all she has as Gaius’s wife while Livia and Nero remain penniless.

Yet Nero, foolish and unscrupulous, believes the dinner could be the best way for him to get his political career back. And he’s also secretly scheming to divorce Livia and find an obedient, docile wife with plenty of money.

Domina Season 1
Domina Season 1, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: © Antonello & Montesi /

Domina Season 1, Episode 2 recap: Livia convinces Gaius to divorce Scribonia and marry her.

Nero, however, underestimates Livia. She later decides to seduce Gaius into divorcing Scribonia, who is also pregnant, and marrying her instead. By marrying Livia, Gaius will be marrying into one of the five great families of Rome, an ancient patrician lineage that will buy him respect in the senate and all the glamour of her family’s history. In return, she wants her birthright restored.

Agrippa warns both Gaius and Livia that their plan is foolish, as it will ruin the treaty with Sextus and potentially cause war with several parties. But they both note that these things will happen anyway. The other problem is that Roman law states the husband can keep the children, so Livia will be giving up Tiberius and her unborn child, likely for good. Livia tells Agrippa she has already prepared to do so. As her father says, “If you want to watch the races, you have to pay at the gate.”

Ultimately, Livia and Gaius decide to wait until Scribonia gives birth at the end of the year to put their plan into action and seal the deal with a steamy sex scene (I hope the adult actors playing these characters have as much chemistry as these two!).

Harsh as it sounds, Gaius literally divorces Scribonia the same day she gives birth to their daughter, Julia! Even worse, Scribonia has to give her newborn daughter to Livia as she moves in. I can’t say I blame her for spitting on Livia after all she’s lost, although she certainly did some rude stuff to Livia as well. I loved their exchange, “Did you have to take my husband?” “Did you have to invite me to dinner?”

Domina Season 1
Domina Season 1, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: © Antonello & Montesi /

Domina Season 1, Episode 2 recap: Livia saves Antigone and Antigone gets revenge.

And Nero doesn’t take the divorce news well, at all. He threatens to forbid Livia from ever seeing her children again as long as he shall live, to which Livia says she’s prepared for that as it’s his right, “but nobody lives forever.”

Once Livia’s new position of power is established and she is restored as the Domina, she brings a group of soldiers to the brothel to rescue Antigone. Antigone also gets her own form of revenge on the brothel madame by poisoning her grapes and watching her die. Man, you do not want to mess with either of these women.

In the final moments of the episode, Livia also gives birth to her child, who I’m guessing will be sent to live with Nero along with their other son Tiberius. And when we return next week, Domina will skip ahead into the future as the story really takes hold and we get to see Livia’s journey as Gaius’s wife.

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New episodes of Domina air Sunday nights on EPIX.