Cast: Liam McIntyre, Manu Bennett, Dustin Clare, Simon Merells and Todd Lasance
The writers of Spartacus have finally reached the ending of the story they began telling back in 2010 and were now given the tricky challenge of writing a faithful ending to the glorious story. If they chose to follow history, their hero, and most of the principal allies, would have to be killed off and the bad guys get away with it. That is a grim way to end the show, yet it was a task that the producers knew they were facing when they first accepted the challenge of writing up this historical action drama.
It is a different style of show than it was when it first began. No longer are these slaves gladiators or even a small-time rebellion. In the first two episodes, Spartacus and his men take over a small Roman city and we get a sense of how large his army has grown. The characters take a darker route and we are no longer sure who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. We cannot help feeling sorry for Anna Hutchinson’s character, who plays the innocent Roman woman caught up in Spartacus’s blind quest for vengeance. For most of the season, I am left wondering which characters I want to make it out of this season alive. There are some points when Spartacus is so merciless, I want Crassus to come and take him out, a few episodes early.
For the most part, I found this season pretty disappointing. Compared to the other two seasons, not a lot happened during the midway section of the season. The writers seemed so impressed they could write in a Shakespearean-ish language that they constantly repeated facts with a different set of phrases. I couldn’t help get frustrated that we were spending another five minutes relearning that Tiberius wanted more power or Gannicus didn’t want a position of power in the group. In the last season, every episode ended on an important plot point, yet in this season, not a lot happened. It was if the writers were just hanging on for the final battle. Don’t get me wrong: stuff happened, but it kept failing to grab my attention.
Also, the nudity. It got a bit much. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with nudity in itself, yet when it gets in the way of the story it is time to call it a day. In the first season, it was nothing more than a gimmick to draw in the audience. It said more about the viewers than it did the writers. However, in this season, it was crammed in whenever it could be. One of my favourite characters in the last season, Saxa, was reduced to little more than a porn star, occasionally coming into the plot to have sex with Gannicus. Her character stopped being developed, stopped coming across as a cool, independent character and the season felt cheaper.
Let’s talk about the villain of the piece: Crassus. Don’t get me wrong, Crassus is a great character. He took the best points of Batiatus and Glaber and added to it. He respected Spartacus, which was his main advantage as a bad guy. He was cool, strong and we actually were anticipating the moment when he and Spartacus met on the battlefield (and when they did, we were not disappointed). The problem with Crassus, his not his character, but the setting he found himself in. Batiatus and Glaber both had to deal with Roman politics and that side of them was feisty, fun and what I enjoyed seeing the most. Crassus was taken away from that side of the series and put in a battlefield, where he only had Caesar and Tiberius to act against. This weakened the potential of the character, and the season as a whole. Crassus’ wife was introduced in the first episode and she seemed like a character who would grow into a good political villain. Yet after the second episode, she was never mentioned again. It felt like a missed opportunity.
However, despite all of the flaws of the season, when it got to the final three episodes, we were back to the Spartacus we had been waiting for. Important characters were killed left, right and centre, twists were thrown at us from every angle and the action felt less gimmicky with slow-mo violence and more about epic sword fights. Character arcs were given the send-off they rightfully deserved. It felt more like the show I originally fell in love with. I am glad I stuck with the show for the final ending, but I felt that if I didn’t know it was the final season, I would have given up on it, long before it got back to the expected standards.
Final verdict: The most disappointing season yet, but it still gave a good story a great send-off.