When Andy Whitfield died, everybody wondered what would become of the Starz megahit series Spartacus. Andy after all, carried the title role. Throughout his bout with illness, producers, writers and cast members left the door open for his return, coming up with a prequel (Gods of the Arena). After his passing, they stayed true to course and continued to tell the story of the champion of Capua, and his quest to liberate the slaves of Rome, long oppressed by their masters. Until the final episode of the final season, I could safely say that it was nothing short of genius.
The time has come for the final showdown. Spartacus and Marcus Crassus have both proven that they are an equal match in terms of military and combat strategy, with Crassus and his legions pressing closer to Spartacus and his band of slaves and warriors. On the other hand, Spartacus is also faced with the threat of another Roman general Pompei, who also commands a staggering number of troops under his name. Spartacus is determined to free the slaves and get them across the mountain to give them a chance at a normal life free from oppression, but he knows this must come at a price. With what remains of his generals and fellow gladiators, Spartacus faces the odds and calls on Gannicus, who has breezed through more close calls than anyone in the series, to “do the impossible.”
As the episodes continued to dwindle towards the series finale, I could not help but feel awed at the sheer brilliance of the writers of this series, for coming up time and again with ingenious twists and turns that would put any Roman general to shame. This, they managed to accomplish from building on the original Spartacus movie starring Kirk Douglas in 1960. The story that escalates at such a level that even when one has an idea of how a certain story would play out, he could still not be sure of what would actually happen. Each scene is charged with intensity, especially scenes involving Crixus (Manu Bennet) before they go to war. Dude is seriously kickass.
What I genuinely loved about this series was that despite the brutality and the graphic sex scenes, audiences connect to Spartacus and his people. Viewers who do not sympathize with their cause will be swayed by admiration for their ability to overcome the hurdles that cost them hundreds, thousands of lives. It can’t be helped.
The story progression from the time the Gladiators rebelled from House Batiattus and the time the series ended was astounding. The drama that happens within the camps of both Spartacus and whomever foe he is facing, also serves to enhance the suspense. For this particular season, I enjoyed the plotting and counterplotting between Spartacus and Crassus and the mutual respect they have for their opponent despite serving opposite goals. The parallel showdowns between the two, as well as the faceoff between Gannicus and Ceasar in this final episode were awesome.
Another thing that’s awesome about this series is the cast. When they scream blue murder, they really do mean blue murder. I’m kind of thankful that the original Naevia (Lesley Ann Brandt) was replaced by Cynthia Addai-Robinson because the girl seriously has some warrior genes running through her veins. Brandt played the part well but I doubt if she could have done justice to role of Naevia after she was discarded by Lucretia. And I must admit that while I had reservations about Liam McIntyre taking over the role from Andy, in the end, he really did do justice to the role. I also loved the evolution of the characters of Gannicus and Agron from a devil may care warrior tagging along because of his best friend Oenimaeus to one who dreams of a future, and Agron as a bloodthirsty slave out for revenge to a loyal general and brother to Spartacus.
I am super sad that this series had to end. This was one of the best I’ve seen “ever” because it was intelligently written, cleverly executed and it had a lot of heart. It dared to push the envelope and up the ante for other series in cable television. It was graphic, it was provoking, it was compelling. If there is one word to describe it, it was nothing short of EPIC. All hail the champion of Capua.
PS: I loved the end credits with the gaelic music as they paid tribute to cast members, past and present. I’m a bit put out that they didn’t reveal his true name.