If you’ve never seen the Starz historical drama (emphasis on the drama, less so on the historical) “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” then you are, by definition, not being entertained nearly enough. Not even close. While it does traffic in the same sort of fantasy violence and unabashed nudity as HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” “Spartacus” is closer to the energetic 300 than the relatively stately A Song of Ice and Fire adaptation. Actually, comparing the TV show to Zack Snyder’s movie is unfair. “Spartacus” is far superior to 300 in every imaginable way, and that isn’t just because of the equal opportunity flesh on display.
The show is better, and better than it really has any right to be considering it’s from the creative geniuses behind “Hercules: The Legendary Journey” and “Xena: Warrior Princess,” because you actually give a damn about the characters, even the ones you hate. Scratch that, especially the ones you hate. While the acting outside of Lucy Lawless and John Hannah is not always stellar, it is just good enough not to be embarrassing, and more than enough to connect with the characters. Nothing comes close to the mise-en-scène mastication of Gerard Butler, and the show’s writers help by not giving the gladiators too many complex emotions to play at any one time.
Naturally, when watching quality television, viewers can grow attached to the actors playing these roles, so when the main character has to be replaced due to health issues it is more than understandable to be concerned for the show’s future. (That illness also set this season back a full year, a year that provided us with the fun, but less consistently awesome “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”). Thankfully, from what can be gleaned here, neo Spartacus Liam McIntyre seems to be acquitting himself well in Andy Whitfield’s loin cloth and sandals. The two men are also nearly dead ringers for each other, which is hopefully a bonus and not the sole reason McIntyre was cast.
Regardless, I love this not-your-Kubrick-much-less-Plutarch version of the Third Servile War, and I can’t wait for this show to be back on the air even if I have to wait until January 2012. I’d almost forgotten I missed it, but the trailer reminded me just how much I need this blood, sex, and tears soaked canvas in my life.
Here’s the trailer, so you can be as excited for the series’ return as I am (possibly NSFW for a few seconds of gore, but unfortunately no nudity):
Seriously, if you haven’t seen the first season, you should stop what you’re doing right now and find a way to watch it (I did via Netflix View Instant). You probably won’t regret it, and you will definitely be entertained.
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force, co-hosts the internet radio show We’re Not Fanboys, and can be fed to lions on the Twitter @RobOfWar. He often wishes he could travel back to Ancient Rome, but never more than when he watches gladiator movies. But not that kind of gladiator movie.