Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Review: Spartacus: Blood and Sand

I’m quite into ancient history, and have a couple of books on gladiators, so I was hopeful this might prove quite enjoyable, and it was.

Sex and violence are popular, and Spartacus: Blood and Sand has lashings of both. There is not, I think, a single episode that lacks a gore-soaked orgy of death and few (maybe none) without sexual encounters (mostly heterosexual but with the odd spot of man-on-man action). This is not suitable for people who are even remotely prudish or squeamish (quite a lot is seen in both regards) but for adults who are neither of those things it provides plenty of exciting entertainment.

Whilst the plot will not rival the epic I, Claudius, it is nevertheless pretty good and fast-moving. Filler episodes there are not. The fall and rise of Spartacus and the woes and glory that befall him is well told, and feature a range of sly and loathsome antagonists.

The trials and tribulations of the splendid bastard Batiatus, the lanista (master) of the gladiator school to which Spartacus belongs are quite enthralling. John Hannah plays Batiatus to perfection, and he and Lucy Lawless as his devious wife Lucretia make a very good double act.

Many members of the cast (predictably given the nature of the storyline) end up dead, though not necessarily the ones that might be expected. The general quality of acting could be better, but it’s a series of sex and violence and this doesn’t detract from it much.

Whether someone who does not share my interest in ancient history or who dislikes oodles of blood and death will like it quite so much, I don’t know. But, for me, it was a surprisingly good series that I very much enjoyed.

Sadly, the lead (Andy Whitfield) will not be able to reprise the role due to cancer. He has given his blessing to Liam McIntyre who will assume the role in the forthcoming second (proper) series Spartacus: Vengeance.

There was a six episode prequel featuring numerous characters in Blood and Sand (though not Spartacus himself), entitled Gods of the Arena.


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