- Written By: Steven S. DeKnight
- Air Date: 1/25/2013
- Directed By: Mark Beesley
- Starring: Liam McIntyre, Manu Bennett, Daniel Feuerriegel, Dustin Clare, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Pana Hema Taylor
- Guest Stars: Simon Merrells
The third and final season (or fourth, if you count the prequel series SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA) of SPARTACUS, subtitled WAR OF THE DAMNED, starts as you might expect. Gobbets of blood, tons of shirtless men, grime, roars and swords, splattering across the screen like a twisted Roman porno. If you’re not prepared for that type of hyped-up, steroidal violence in front of a backdrop of wonky history, then you’re watching the wrong show. Even so, the intro almost is TOO Spartacus-y, with such ridiculous feats of human accomplishment performed by Liam McIntyre in the title role that you’d think Spartacus had become an invincible God. For some reason, in the face of this lithe Thracian (he’s still far too scrawny compared to the rest of the rebels), Roman soldiers become pathetic and tactless. Then again, that is kind of the point. The commanders of the Roman army are fleeing, and Spartacus’ stature has reached heights beyond that of any mere mortal.
With victory piling upon victory, the rebel forces — which had been so few as recent as last season — have swelled to thousands upon thousands of freed slaves. We see swift cuts (and the slicing of heads and strewn body parts) of flashbacks, as we see Spartacus, flanked by his unholy trinity of death: the brutal but loving Crixus (Manu Bennett), the prideful yet loyal Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel) and the hard partying but lethal Gannicus (Dustin Clare), smash through Roman forces, freeing many slaves from the mines and other such pitiful occupations. He doesn’t lose, and his people love him. But, in series creator’s Steven S. DeKnight’s penned season premiere, we’re introduced to his toughest challenger yet, Marcus Crassus (an already commanding presence in Simon Merrells). Marcus Crassus is a member of the Senate, a Dominus of gladiators, and a fierce yet honorable man, hellbent on teaching his son Tiberius the absolute truths of life and how to become a man (his son is played by Christian Antidormi). He spars with Hilarus, an old hero of the arena, hoping to learn how the slaves fight. It’s clear that he’s the best man yet assigned to take down Spartacus, and high ranking members of the Roman council approach him about joining the fight against Spartacus. He is offered a third in command position if he would bring 10,000 men to Cossinius and Furius’ aid. It’s clear that Crassus deserves a better offer, that he’s spiteful that Cossinius didn’t come for his help, but he surprisingly takes the offer. His son spouts off, but it is Crassus who will have the last laugh.
The episode highlights the tactics and machinations of both leaders, with Crassus seeking more control and power, as well as glory for Rome, while Spartacus seeks to strike a decisive blow in the morale of the Romans, by killing Cossinius and Furius. It’s clear, that these goals actually align, and it’s a testament to the writing of the episode that it wasn’t plainly obvious what was truly taking place from scene one. Or maybe I was distracted by all the sex and blood. As always, SPARTACUS walks a fine line between awesome and farce and eye rolling, but even if it missteps, it’s always entertaining and captivating, with fantastically ribald and gruff speeches and more charisma than every CBS show put together.
In “Enemies of Rome,” Spartacus faces familiar obstacles, such as bickering in the ranks, his drunk yet powerful soldier and ally in Gannicus and where he fits in, and a new problem: of food and shelter for his growing horde of followers. The scene, sure to be bloody to the point of farce, has been set. The Gods have finally removed %$#@ from @$$ in allowing us to see the final days of SPARTACUS.