Historical dramas have become a favorite topic on pay cable TV channels, with shows such as Game of Thrones finding a huge, fanatical audience. While the Starz series Spartacus has never found quite that level of ratings success, it has become a critical hit and enough of an inspiration for the network to convince them to try other similar projects in the next year.
Andy Whitfield as Spartacus
Over its three seasons Spartacus has struggled with behind-the-scenes problems that would have sunk a lesser show. Actor Andy Whitfield had the lead role in the show’s first season. But he was diagnosed with cancer towards the end of season one and production on season two was delayed in hopes he would recover. To buy some time, Starz produced Gods of the Arena; a mini-series set several years before the arrival of Spartacus to the arena. When Whitfield eventually succumbed to his illness, the lead role was recast and Liam McIntyre took over for season two and the upcoming season three. This will be the final season and it will culminate with the final fate of Spartacus and his slave rebellion.
A Distinctive Look
One of the attractions of Spartacus is its very distinctive visual style. It has a slightly over-produced and flowery look similar to the style that was used in the feature film 300. The result is scenes that play out almost like art, with some of the violence of the episodes lost in the overall stylized production. It’s a very distinctive look and one that matches best with a historical tale set in ancient Rome.
Catch Up on Seasons Past
For those of you who want to play a quick catch-up, here are some of the highlights of the previous seasons:
Premiering in 2010, season one’s 13 episodes were aired over the moniker, Blood and Sand, and they followed the rise of Spartacus from a slave to the most famous gladiator in the Roman Empire. When he was captured by the Romans his wife was sold into slavery and as his fame grew he arranged to buy her freedom. But she was secretly killed by his owner Batiatus, who feared her presence would distract his champion. When Spartacus discovered the betrayal he vowed revenge, a decision that was only strengthened when he was forced to kill his best friend in the arena. In the season’s finale, Spartacus kills his owner Batiatus and as he escapes he vows to “make Rome pay.”
Season two picked up the story with ten episodes that premiered in January, 2012. The season began with the events just after Spartacus escapes from slavery in the arena and follows his attempts to raise an army of slaves and rebels to bring down the mighty Roman Empire. As the rebellion grows, a Roman Army is sent to battle Spartacus and his rebel group. The season’s theme is “Vengeance” and the episodes deal with the soul-wrenching consequences that can come from seeking vengeance at any cost. As the season ends, the gladiator is forced to choose between satisfying his need for personal vengeance or making the moves necessary to protect his army and bring down Rome.
In the 10-episode third season, War of the Damned, Spartacus and his army are at a crossroads. The famed Roman general sent out to bring down Spartacus has been defeated and his death has shaken the city of Rome and its Senate. Slaves continue to flock to Spartacus and his cause by the thousands and as his army moves closer to Rome its clear the fate of the empire will be decided by one last, massive battle. The Roman Senate turns to Marcus Crassus, a respected politician and the city’s wealthiest citizen. Crassus enlists the young Julius Caesar as an ally and they vow to stop Spartacus and his rebellion at any cost. That final battle will be played out over the last several episodes of the season, with the finale airing on March 15, 2013.