Spartacus: War of the Damned, the third and final season of Spartacus: The Show with Constantly Changing Subtitles, premiered in the US last Friday and is coming to UK screens on 11th February, and I'll be recapping/reviewing it here as usual. This is the season that promises us Caesar and Crassus, death and glory, and hopefully one heck of a finale.
It may be that some of you have yet to try Spartacus: Make Up Your Own Joke Here, perhaps because it's on too late, perhaps because the 300-style graphics are off-putting, perhaps because the ending is, it has to be said, something of a foregone conclusion. Spartacus is loud, brash, sweary and ridiculous, its depiction of sex and violence not so much 'graphic' or 'realistic' as 'what we'd get if Quentin Tarantino remade Caligula,' but it is also loads of fun. What other programme would give us a completely realistic depiction of a Roman toilet?! The characters are compelling, the scripts and both gripping and witty (I will not watch a show with no sense of humour) and the drama, while extreme, is also very human. If you haven't yet given it a go, and as long as you can tolerate cartoon-ish violence and graphic sex scenes, I'd urge you to tune in for its swansong.
Unlike other shows, Spartacus will be easy to join for its final season, because we already know what's going on with Spartacus and his rebels (they escaped slavery and are roaming the countryside) and because - spoiler alert! - all the the Roman characters are new, since the old ones all died. I'm really excited to see what this show does with Caesar and Crassus, and now is, I'm sure, as good a time to jump in feet first as any.
If you're thinking of trying Spartacus out, this list should give you a sense of whether or not the show is for you, and if you're a fan gearing up for the new season, here are five reasons to be excited about it.
5. Spartacus and Crixus take down Theokoles, 'Shadow Games'
Who's being awesome? Spartacus, Crixus and, to be fair, Theokoles, the 'SHADOW OF DEATH!'
Why are they being awesome? Pretty much in the course of being gladiators, paired up together against an opponent who has killed every man he has ever fought except for Oenomaus.
How awesome? Pairing up two men who hate each other against a stronger enemy is hardly a new idea but it's done well here. Spartacus and Crixus will never quite reach buddy-movie levels of friendship but their mutual respect and their ability to work together throughout the rest of the series is built on this fight. It's also the first time we see Spartacus' trick of jumping off of Crixus' shield, which would reappear in the season finale.
Minor Awesomeness: Theokoles' ability to keep going despite multiple fatal wounds is... impressive.
Crowning Moment of Awesome: Crixus uses his helmet to blind Theokoles. Also Spartacus chopping off Theokoles' head to the roars of the crowd, of course.
Ilithyia: Do you fear being in the arena with Theokoles?
Crixus: I long for it.
4. The arena is burned down, 'Libertus'
Who's being awesome? Spartacus, Mira, Gannicus, Agron, Crixus, Oenomaus... basically everyone.
Why are they being awesome? Crixus and Oenomaus have been sentenced to death in the arena and have been given rubbish swords to put on a bit of a show. Their executioner is, of course, Gannicus, because Lucretia likes to mess with them. Meanwhile, Spartacus and Agron sneak in to rescue them and Mira sets the (historically accurately wooden, temporary) arena on fire.
How awesome? This is the last episode to feature our heroes fighting as gladiators, and it ends in spectacular and symbolically appropriate fashion, with the the arena collapsing around them while their loyalties and tested and re-affirmed.
Minor Awesomeness: While all this is going on, Spartacus kills a particularly unpleasant character from Gods of the Arena and Glaber smashes his irritating father-in-law's face in, which is nasty but quite satisfying.
Crowning Moment of Awesome: Really any shot featuring the fall of the burning arena.
Gannicus: I am for wine, and the embrace of questionable women (that was earlier in the episode, but it's a great line).
3. Naevia kills Ashur, 'Wrath of the Gods'
Who's being awesome? Naevia. Crixus and Spartacus offer moral support.
Why are they being awesome? I'm not usually a fan of rape-revenge dramas, but Naevia slicing Ashur in the balls is extremely satisfying.
How awesome? Poor Naevia was somewhat victimised for much of Season 2, with Mira taking on the Action Girl role. But in this moment, with Mira dead and having persuaded Crixus to train her, Naevia becomes a force to be reckoned with in her own right. Yes, Ashur is injured, but that just keeps it plausible (since he can apparently take on several Roman soldiers by himself).
Minor Awesomeness: The looks on Crixus and Spartacus' faces as they watch the fight unfold and resist the urge to help are wonderful.
Crowning Moment of Awesome: After telling Ashur what's what, Naevia hacks at his head until, eventually, it comes off. The balls-slicing moment is also pretty awesome.
Ashur: My death will not heal the scars you bear...
Naevia: No... but it is a f*cking start!
2. Lucretia reveals her nefarious plan, 'Reckoning'
Who's being awesome? Lucretia, in a Magnificent Bitch sort of way.
Why are they being awesome? Because she's a Magnificent Bitch.
How awesome? Lucretia is a softer character for much of Gods of the Arena, and one of the fun things about the prequel series is seeing her become the ruthless person that she is in Blood and Sand. It is in this moment that she reveals that she has always been a schemer, a wicked female poisoner in the grand TV-Roman tradition. Here, she shows just how far she is willing to go, explaining to her father-in-law that she made him sick when he lived with them, and that she has stepped up to murdering him in order to frame Tullius and avenge the death of her friend Gaia. The scene is beautifully played between the two and could almost be a scene from I, Claudius - high praise indeed.
Minor Awesomeness: Titus' death is inter-cut with the sudden, shocking and tragic death of Melitta - not awesome from the characters' point of view, but a great piece of writing and direction.
Crowning Moment of Awesome: See Quotable.
Titus: Tell me you're not the serpent I thought you to be.
Lucretia: I am not. I'm far worse.
1. The climax of 'Kill Them All'
Who's being awesome? Everyone, but especially Andy Whitfield's Spartacus.
Why are they being awesome? This is the event the whole of Season 1 has been leading up to - the rebellion and escape from Batiatus' ludus.
How awesome? Where to start? Crixus stabbing Lucretia in the abdomen, given that she's pregnant, is more unpleasant than awesome, but pretty much everything else from Spartacus' super-human leap from Crixus' shield into Batiatus' balcony to the final moments is awesome. After thirteen episodes of building tension, the entire audience knowing that this was what it was all leading up to, the execution of the escape/massacre is brutal, bloody and thrilling.
Minor Awesomeness: There's lots of awesomeness going on, but Aurelia murdering the little snot who had her husband killed deserves a special mention.
Crowning Moment of Awesome: Covered in blood, the slaves walk, determinedly but not hurriedly, out of the ludus and off into freedom (in different directions).
Spartacus: Various Subtitles reviews