If you like gratuitous violence and boobies, and I mean really like them, then I have the show for you! Spartacus is a highly stylized Starz show, the networks most successful and the only one to last more than 2 seasons. Sadly, but smartly it’s coming to an end in 3 weeks with it’s current season. Based on the Thracian gladiator, Spartacus leads a slave revolt against the Roman Empire. The story follows historical events as best it can, as the historical record of the person is incomplete, save for a few known events.
Each season has it’s own subtitle, the first being Blood and Sand, running for 13 episodes. The story begins with an unnamed Thracian, enlisted as auxiliary of a Roman army lead by Claudius Glaber. Glaber breaks from the conflict to find greater glory in Asia Minor. The Thracian, opting to protect his homeland, leads a mutiny. For this, his village is burned, his wife condemned to slavery, and he is doomed to die as a gladiator in the ring.
The training camp, or ludus he is put into is run by Lentulus Batiatus, played by John Hannah. Yes, the goofy brother from the Mummy movies. I can’t describe how perfectly he nailed this roll. Best TV villain, and one of the best in any format I’ve seen. This show has superb scripting, heightened drama, and amazing plotting and scheming; but to see the machinations of good Batiatus and his wonderful execution, I think he’s the main reason the show succeed out of the gate. It’s a minor, but logical SPOILER to say that he dies at the end of the season. He was such a good antagonist I think the show suffered in season 2 from his absence.
Batiatus’ wife, Lucretia, is played by the still ravishing Lucy Lawless of Xena fame. If you have a crush on her like I do, and you’re wondering about her presence against the opening line of this post, the answer is yes. Regardless, she proves to be just as manipulative as her husband with her own schemes.
Other historical characters make their appearance as well. Spartacus’ eventual generals, Crixus and Oenomaus are present, while Gannicus is mentioned. The later had earned his freedom in the ring and isn’t seen this season. Crixus though, is the current champion of the ludus and opposes Spartacus at every turn, while Oenomaus is the harsh trainer for the gladiators.
Every episode contains some very bloody violence or gratuitous sexy. If either of these bother you, the show might not be up your alley. However, if you like or don’t mind either, I strongly recommend this show. Most of the show is set against a green screen, allowing for all manor of special effects and backgrounds. Considering the typical budget limitations of televisions shows, it was surprising to see just how convincing the effects were. Some of them for me did falter, specifically with some of the blood splashes, but not enough to weaken my overall opinion.
I don’t want to say that it was all down hill from here, but the first season of the show as certainly the strongest. Due to the loss of Batiatus, and some uncontrollable behind the scenes changes (more on that next week), the show did lose some of it’s initial charm. Still worth following though.
What did you think of the first season? Wasn’t John Hannah freaking amazing? Comment or tweet!