Reviews: Spartacus Blood And Sand

A glorious series from start to finish

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.

Worth the Wait

The show has matured A LOT since the last reviewer commented on it. At first glance, Spartacus is mostly sex and violence, but as the story it developed, it also began to tell a compelling narrative about freedom, choice, power, politics, friendship, autonomy, and more. Now, it's one of the most progressive and well-developed shows on television. It treats rape storylines with the utmost respect, takes the time to develop its female characters, and includes queer characters in every season. The production team is amazing, as is the costume design, which draws heavily on Roman style and symbolism, and of course the acting and writing is superb. The show begins to hit its stride midway through Blood and Sand and reaches its full potential in Vengeance. As someone who loves Roman history, appreciates well-written fiction, and is exasperated with modern television's treatment of non straight-white-male characters, I can say that I truly enjoy and appreciate this show.

Guilty pleasures with an insane HSQ

This show isn't deep, it doesn't dig into Rome and the reality behind the Republic and Empire. However, the show is capable of delivering the guilty pleasures of blood, violence, slo-mo insanity, nudity, nipples, Lucy Lawless naked... while also delivering several interesting insights into Rome.

The show does start out slow and simple - Blood blood blood sex blood sex blood. But around the 6th episode, the pace picks up and you get a little bit deeper. This is also about the time the HSQ picks up - Surprising deaths, manipulations, things you honestly wouldn't expect to happen occur and literally make you go Holy Crap!

Good show - Not deep, just fun.