Spartacus:War of the Damned Mid Season Review

war of the damned spartacusAs this may well be the series’ last season, I can’t help but be awed by this cable show’s commitment to push the envelope. When the third season ended, I was thinking that the show might as well close its doors as all stories have been told, but with the opening of Spartacus:War of the Damned, yet another enemy is pitted against the champion of Capua, an enemy that does not seek fortune and position unlike previous villains in the series. This time, the wealthy and powerful Licinius Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrels) commands an army of 10,000 against Spartacus’s ragtag group of slaves for the glory of defeating the legendary hero. And he has employed an ally who is as cunning as he is skilled in the art of war, Gaius Julius Ceasar (Todd Lasance). The plot thickens with each episode.

Spartacus never ceases to amaze me. When Andy Whitfield, the original actor who played the title role succumbed to cancer after the show completed its second season (Gods of the Arena, a prequel), showrunners placed their bets on a younger actor (Liam McIntyre), who commanded a more compassionate vibe for the battle weary gladiator. What’s amazing is that writers continue to progress the story at the same pace as before yet the plot is tailor fit for the new Spartacus. This time, rebel leader is not only challenged as a warrior but his morals are also put to the test, his compassion and his determination to not become the thing he most detests.

What I like about the first five episodes is that there is a clear establishment of the battle lines, strategies, and conflicts in the two camps — Crassus’ and Spartacus’. There are similar issues being faced by the two leaders as they try to stay on top of the game and anticipate each other’s movements. But what truly got me was the character of Julius Ceasar, perceived by many as a douchebag of epic proportions in the last three episodes but is revealed to be a master tactician in the fifth installment, capable of compassion for his fellow Romans, and not just  concerned about his own ambitions. I think that he would prove a perfect foil to Spartacus’ honorable character, in skills as well as conviction.This budding rivalry is nothing short of brilliant as the parallelism between the characters are just so well laid out.

The conflict among the leadership of the rebels is also something to watch out for as Crixus (Manu Bennet) and Gannicus’ (Dustin Clare) grow hostile towards each other due to Naevia’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) irrational hatred for all Romans . I am quite unsure where Agron (Daniel Feueriegel)will side in all this as he is loyal to Spartacus but his beliefs are at one with Crixus. I have good reason to believe that plenty more blood will be spilled before this is all over, along with more betrayals, nudity, swearing, drinking and debauchery.

I have no doubt that this series will stay strong, and finish strong so long as the showrunners stay the course, and keep viewers entertained with plenty of great action sequences, and a solid story that gets them invested in the outcome. The finale is bound to be epic if the first five episodes are any indication. Kudos to Starz for never failing the fans of this franchise. Believe me, this is one show that seriously kicks ass.

To check out my review of the last season, Spartacus: Vengeance, check out these links: