Before Game of Thrones popularised mainstream adult TV shows chock full of swearing, blood and nudity; there was Spartacus. A show that took it's over-the-top (im)mature 300 inspirations and proceeded to integrate amazing character performances, shocking plot swerves and thematic undertones.
Spartacus aims to unashamedly trump all peers in nearly all categories. It has a kill count well beyond Game of Thrones and incredible fight scenes that expertly incorporate MMA moves, swordplay and many other fighting styles with a slew of other visual effects. It's basically like Stallone vs Schwarzenegger in the 80s, leading to absurd escalations which means all the viewers win. Unlike many dank, dreary and greyed out TV shows like Falling Skies etc; Spartacus thrusts bright colours onto the screen and every shot becomes an optical cornucopia. The soundtrack is a varied mix of moving orchestral pieces and "hells yeah" guitar pieces that compliment the duality within the series.
The actual plot and characters is where Spartacus delivers it's truly gripping and emotionally moving qualities. From the heroes we have the titular hero played by the late Andy Whitfield who adds a more subtle and emotional performance and gets very strong character progression within Blood and Sand. They introduce us to the slightly cocky Thracian; brake him physical and emotionally, adding many highs and lows until he gains a clear purpose. That same journey is shared and played out with many of the characters in the show; both heroes and villains. Not all the characters get time to develop as much but even side characters like Lugo inject enough humour that they are fine as caricatures. The villains also get ample screen time to themselves but whether that's welcome depends on the villains in question. John Hannah's Batiatus is a boon to the series with his arrogant senator-wannabe attitude masking his cold and calculating nature that creates huge plot swings. Other villains such as Seppius have the same Roman arrogance but none of the wits to back it up, yet in the world of Spartacus it takes brains and brawn to make it through. The themes of freedom and liberty emerge after dabbling in glory-seeking and vengeance; once again showing the growing maturity in the show.
It might not be for everyone but Spartacus aims for TV greatness and in my eyes, it more than triumphs.