When I first heard mention of a Spartacus TV show being made, I had my reservations. I thought, is there enough factual history to make this a compelling show to watch? Could anyone come close to matching the 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas, directed by Stanley Kubrick? I mean, the film did win 4 out of 6 Academy Awards it was nominated for. This was going to be a feat for the people at Starz.
Enter Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Yes, it was bloody and violent. Yes, it had a lot of nudity and sexual situations. Yes, the language is offensive at times. And, yes, executive producers Steven S. DeKnight and Robert Tapert succeeded. With a not so well known cast, and a budding star in Andy Whitfield, they crafted a beautifully violent and over the top retelling of Spartacus’ early life and how he came to be captured, sold and eventually of how he led his rebellion.
Andy Whitfield played Spartacus in the first season, and it seemed as though he was born to play the part. After seeing the first couple of episodes, I confided to some friends that he was indeed Spartacus. He was just that good in the role. Sadly, Whitfield lost an 18 month battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and passed away far too early. Many fans assumed Whitfield would recover and resume his role in the announced second season. Starz intended to make a single “prequel” episode while waiting for Whitfield to recover, however once it became clear Whitfield would take longer than expected, they decided to continue the prequel and introduced us to Gannicus, played by Dustin Clare. While I was disappointed to hear Whitfield would not be around for this season, I decided I’d check it out, and see what they would do with the show now. Calre portrayed a much different leading man than Whitfield had, and I was impressed with the character of Gannicus and his skill with his dual swords. It also explored the origins of Crixus and fleshed out the character of Oenomaus. By the end of the season, Whitfield had died and so had any hopes I had for this show continuing. For as much as I liked Gannicus, I wasn’t sure they could continue this show without the man who made it a hit. Lucky for me, I was wrong.
Starz chose to replace Whitfield with Liam McIntyre in the starring role with the beginning of season 3. Now, I admit I did not take to McIntyre at first. I couldn’t stop comparing him to Whitfield. Perhaps, I was unfair. I decided to give it a chance anyway, and I am glad I did. They crafted yet another compelling tale in the history of Spartacus. While I grew to like McIntyre, I still believe Whitfield was the best Spartacus to date. However, McIntyre proved himself a good addition to the cast and continued the legacy of the Thracian turned slave turned gladiator turned rebellion leader.
Finally, we approach the series finale. At the time of this writing, the show has 4 more episodes left and I find myself glued to the TV every Friday night. I know how the history books say it ended, but I can’t help but wonder how the creative team at Starz will end their epic story. I do not know what they have in mind for some of my favorite warriors like Spartacus, Gannicus, Crixus and even to see the fate of the superb villain of the final season Marcus Licinius Crassus, played masterfully by Simon Merrells, but I absolutely can not wait to see it play out.