Spartacus premiered in January 2010 and ended in April 2013 after 3 seasons and a mini-series prequel.
Spartacus was created by Steven S. DeKnight and Robert Tapert for Starz channel.
The show became famous for its fights and the use of slow motion, blood, nude and sex scenes and strong language. Personally I think this things help to make the show feel more honest and true to its premiss.
Blood and Sands:
The story begins with an unnamed Thracian’s involvement in a campaign against the Getae (Dacian tribes, in what today is Romania) under the command of the legatus, Claudius Glaber. In 72–71 BC, Roman general Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, proconsul of the Roman province of Macedonia, marched against the Getae, allies of Rome’s enemy, Mithridates VI of Pontus. The Getae frequently raid the Thracians’ lands to the south, so the Thracians are persuaded by Glaber to enlist in the Romans’ service as auxiliaries. Glaber, persuaded by his wife Ilithyia to seek greater glory, decides to break off the Getae campaign in order to confront the forces of Mithridates in Asia Minor. The Thracian preferring to protect his homeland as promised, feels betrayed and leads a mutiny against Glaber, but returns to find his village in flames. The Thracian finds his wife Sura, but they are captured by a vengeful Glaber the next day; the Thracian is condemned to die in the gladiator arena, while Sura is condemned to slavery.
The Thracian is shipped to Capua in Italy, a center of gladiator training. Against all odds he slays the four gladiators appointed to execute him in the arena and becomes an instant sensation with the crowd. Senator Albinius commutes the punishment from death to slavery. The prisoner’s true name unknown, Lentulus Batiatus, the owner of a ludus in Capua, suggests to name him “Spartacus”, because he fought like the ferocious Thracian king of that name. Noting well the Thracian’s fierce raw talent and popularity with the masses, Batiatus purchases him for training within the walls of his ludus under the tutelage of the doctore (or instructor) Oenomaus, a former gladiator and fellow slave. He is befriended by Varro, a Roman who sold himself into slavery to pay his debts and support his family. He is harassed by more senior gladiators, notably Crixus, an undefeated Gaul, and Barca, a Carthaginian. Spartacus soon learns that Sura was sold to a Syrian slave trader. Batiatus, who has been unable to control Spartacus during his first days of training, returns a makeshift garter of hers, and promises to find Sura and reunite them in exchange for his cooperation in the arena.
After many near-fatal ordeals and much further training Spartacus attains the status of a living legend and is named the “Champion of Capua”. Batiatus arranges the purchase of Sura, but she is delivered mortally wounded, supposedly having been waylaid by bandits en route. Her murder was secretly ordered by Batiatus to keep Spartacus loyal and focused. Spartacus casts off his heritage as a Thracian and forgets his dream of freedom, becoming content with life as champion.
The turning point comes when Spartacus is set to fight his only friend in the ludus, Varro, in an exhibition match celebrating the coming to manhood of the Capua magistrate’s son, Numerius. Ilithyia, who has hated Spartacus since he embarrassed her husband Glaber by his mutiny, seduces the young man and convinces him to demand death for the loser of the match. Spartacus wins (as expected), and when the young man gives the “thumbs down”, Batiatus, wishing to ingratiate himself with the boy’s powerful father, forces Spartacus to comply and kill Varro. Suffering from both a wound received during the match and his remorse over having to kill his friend, Spartacus has feverish dreams that lead him to suspect that Batiatus arranged Sura’s death. He is later able to confirm his suspicions. Knowing that it is all or nothing when it comes to resistance of his enslavement, he resolves to “kill them all” and lead a revolt against the ruling house he once fought for.
In order to get his revenge, Spartacus enlists the help of Crixus and the rest of the gladiators to defeat the house of Batiatus once and for all. A battle to the death between Crixus and Spartacus is arranged for the Capuan elite at the ludus. The doctore, Oenomaus, confronts Batiatus about Barca’s death and Ashur’s hand in it. Spartacus gains support from Mira, who agrees to surreptitiously open the gate to the villa from the training area. Crixus initially refuses to aid Spartacus in the hope of being reunited with Naevia. However, after learning during the fight that he has been deliberately drugged to ensure Spartacus’ victory, he helps Spartacus get within reach of Batiatus. At the first attack, the doctore Oenomaus prevents Spartacus from killing the lanista. In the ensuing chaos, the gladiators kill the guards and some guests. Crixus persuades Oenomaus to join him with Spartacus; Illithyia flees and orders her guards to protect her by sealing off part of the ludus. Oenomaus, fulfilling his word, tries to kill Ashur, but Ashur barely manages to escape. Crixus grievously wounds Batiatus’ wife, Lucretia, with a sword stab to her abdomen, piercing her womb and killing their unborn child. Aurelia kills Numerius after revealing to him that Varro was her husband and Spartacus finally kills Batiatus in front of the seriously wounded Lucretia. After the massacre, Spartacus vows to make “Rome tremble”.
In Blood and Sands we see how Spartacus started and the fall of the House of Batiatus.
Andy Whitfield is fantastic as Spartacus and the cast includes great actors like Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, Manu Bennett and Craig Parker among others.
The characters were interesting. They were all explored and we end up getting to know them pretty well. One thing I liked is how the writers weren’t afraid of killing people that off when necessary.
The show had great moments but the climax at the last episode “Kill Them All” is my favourite.
Gods of the Arena:
The mini-series features the bloody history of the House of Batiatus and the city of Capua before the arrival of Spartacus. Quintus Lentulus Batiatus becomes a lanista (manager) when he takes over his father’s ludus of gladiators. He has ambitions of stepping out of his father’s shadow by seeking recognition for his own name and achieving greatness for his house. By his side stands his beautiful wife Lucretia who will help her husband achieve his goal no matter what the cost. Batiatus puts all his fortunes on the man who will gain him fame and glory, his best gladiator, the Celt, Gannicus; a skilled warrior who wields his swords in the arena as if it were his last day alive; however, those who oppose Batiatus and his future champion(s) of Capua plot against him only to fail.
Purchased as an undisciplined and disheveled recruit in the first episode, Crixus the Gaul endures mockery and threats of death to become the greatest gladiator in the house after Gannicus. As Batiatus fends off repeated attempts by his professional rival Tullius to obtain Gannicus, his relationships with his father Titus and friend Solonius begin to suffer the strain of Quintus’ relentless ambition. Former champion gladiator Oenomaus reluctantly retires from combat to become Doctore, while Syrian recruits Ashur and Dagan become fierce enemies as Ashur tries to prove himself worthy of being a gladiator. Veteran gladiators Barca and Gannicus accept the rising star of Crixus but fear that their own careers will suffer, as the machinations of Batiatus and Lucretia to court Capua’s elite end in tragedy for several members of the household. Against all of this, the city’s splendid new arena nears completion and with it the opening games that will make men into gods. When the arena opens, Solonius’ and Batiatus’ gladiators compete with each other. Batiatus’ gladiators prevail in the contest. Gannicus again proves himself to be the champion of Capua and the god of the arena. By virtue of his win against Solonius’ gladiators, he gains his freedom and Crixus becomes the new champion of Capua.
With the health problems of Andy Whitfield the creators of Spartacus decided to make a prequel to the show to let Andy recover from his cancer.
Gannicus is the opposite of Spartacus, enjoying the fights, sex and wine. We also get to see how Crixus became the champion of Capua.
After the bloody escape from the House of Batiatus that concluded Spartacus: Blood and Sand, the gladiator rebellion begins to strike fear into the heart of the Roman Republic in Spartacus: Vengeance. Praetor Claudius Glaber and his Roman troops are sent to Capua to crush Spartacus’ growing band of freed slaves before they can inflict further damage. Spartacus is given a choice between satisfying his personal need for vengeance against the man who condemned his wife to slavery and eventual death, or making the larger sacrifices necessary to keep his budding army from breaking apart.
With the death of Andy Whitfield, Liam McIntyre was cast as Spartacus. I think it was a great choice for the role and he looks more threatening which suits the show but he is capable of showing emotion when needed.
Vengeance brings the show away from the arenas and gives new depth to the fights. We also see the arena of Capua burning down.
We see the number of rebels increase. In “Sacramentum” we see Spartacus and Agron rescuing a group of slaves from a ship that turned out to be Germans like Agron. That brought even more tension between the rebels since Crixus fears that these new rebels will follow Agron and not Spartacus.
I didn’t like Lucretias ending that much but watching Glaber being killed by Spartacus and Naevia decapitating Ashur was fun.
War of the Damned:
This season follows the final struggle between Spartacus and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Crassus pursues Spartacus as he struggles to feed his ever growing army of former slaves. Spartacus wins several victories against Crassus’ forces and continues to frustrate the Romans. The series culminates in a direct all out battle between Spartacus and Crassus.
During War of the Damned we see a constant battle between Spartacus and Crassus but also between Spartacus and Crixus culminating in a separation of the two in “Separate Paths” with Crixus going directly to Rome defeating several of roman army’s until being defeated by Crassus forces. In this battle we see Crixus being decapitated by Crassus son Tiberius, Agron is crucified alive (he is later sent back to the rebels camp) and Naevia is sent back with Crixus head as a message to Spartacus.
The final episode was one of the best of the entire series:
With discipline and morale among his followers breaking down, Spartacus turns his forces to face Crassus in a final last stand against the combined legions of Rome climaxing the slave revolt at the Battle of the Siler River. Prior to the battle, Spartacus meets privately with Crassus and the two come to a mutual understanding, but both agree to fight each other to the death on the battle field. Spartacus also reveals to Crassus that Kore killed Tiberius. Spartacus gives a final speech to his remaining rebels, and Agron creates a sword that will allow him to fight despite the critical wounds he sustained in the previous episode. In the beginning of the battle Spartacus and the rebels manage to kill several Romans, but Lugo is killed by a flaming projectile. A roman rider kills Castus who dies in Nasir and Agron’s arms. Saxa is fatally wounded by several Romans and dies in Gannicus’ arms after killing those Romans. Naevia and Caesar then battle, and Caesar slits her throat before killing her with a grin on his face. Caesar and Gannicus then battle. Gannicus wounds Caesar, but is surrounded and defeated by Caesar’s soldiers. Spartcus and Crassus engage in a bloody battle. Spartcus manages to defeat Crassus after the two exchange severe blows, but is mortally wounded by three Roman soldiers who appear behind him and impale him with spears. Agron then arrives and transports Spartacus away from the battle ground. Pompey arrives and steals credit for defeating Spartacus’s army. Gannicus is crucified and Crassus crucifies Kore next to him due to her association with the rebels. Spartacus dies in Agron’s arms and is buried under a red serpent shield.
Everybody knew when the series started that Spartacus and his army would be defeated and killed at the end and they make it happen in the best way possible. I also like the fact that Agron lived since he was one of my favourites since season 2.
Spartacus did something that a lot of other shows should try to copy. Spartacus told a story from the beggining to the end and didn’t lost they’re focus. Other shows in other networks would go and invent new plot lines to extend the show and give it 2 or 3 more seasons but Starz did the right thing and kept it short. Think of what Heroes or Prison Break could have been if they weren’t afraid of killing important characters and end the show sooner and with a high note.