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Spartacus: Season 1 (2010)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
Genres:
Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Prime-Time Drama, Sword-And-Sandal

8.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Mojokc
Added: May 19, 2011
There are few things on this shitty little planet of ours that I love more than a night in front of the tube watching a great show. For me, a show must contain characters who have more personality than a cardboard box and a plot that isn't picked from the brain of a homeless person who's been given ten dollars and a bottle of booze for inspiration. Most prime time TV shows fail to meet these two simple requirements and end in a yawn, followed by a quick channel change. On the other hand, if a show can meet those two requirements and also give me nudity, blood, gore, and enough foul language to make Sam Kinison blush -- you have me hook, line, and sinker. Spartacus delivers in spades on all accounts.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is a series inspired by the historical figure of Spartacus (Andy Whitfield), a Thracian gladiator, who from 73 to 71 BC led a slave uprising against the Roman Republic. As far as the actual historical accuracy of characters and events, I would have to imagine that most of them are merely for the entertainment of the audience. I am by no means a history buff. The only reason I know anything about Spartacus is because of a measly little morsel of knowledge gleaned from history class, and the rest I looked up on Wikipedia. Historical accuracy aside, we have a great historical-action-drama that keeps you in front of the tube episode after episode.

Our story starts with Spartacus and his fellow Thracians making a deal with a Roman Legatus named Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) to help the Romans in their war in exchange for the Romans ridding the Getae menace from Thracian lands. After said agreement is made, the Legatus quickly backs out on his part of the deal, in order to seek greater glories than hunting down barbarians. This leads to the Tracian auxiliary deserting the Romans, and our hero finding his way back home to his wife. Obviously, this wasn't looked upon favorably, so the Legatus hunts down the Tracians and captures them, along with Spartacus's wife Sura (Erin Cummings). Sura is sold into slavery and Spartacus is condemned to execution in the gladiator arena for his crime. He survives his execution and is then sold to a local Ludus to become a Gladiator. The ludus is owned by Quintus Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless). After Spartacus becomes part of the Ludus, we see his transformation from slave to gladiator to rebel leader happen over the course of the thirteen part series and the many twists and turns involved within.

There are, quite obviously, a great deal of influences in the filming and production of this series. Most notably, the blood and gore aspects are reminiscent of the movie "300" with a little Gladiator thrown into the mix. Blood flows, entrails spill, and heads roll in the Arena battles and various other nefarious deeds that happen behind closed doors and in dark alleyways. Many of the blood and gore effects are done in CG which are quite obviously fake - but seem intentional in order to add emphasis on the deaths. One scene in particular is during Spartacus's arena debut / execution sequence. When he delivers the final blow, CG'd blood splatters all around him and his victim in an almost comic book style. This is how a lot of the blood flows throughout the series, and while obviously fake, never really feels out of place.

The overall look and feel of the world we're shown is very reminiscent of Roman society but shown from the lower ranks of said society. We see how the slaves were treated and how the gladiators were not only idolized, but chastised and humiliated, all in the name of the masters they served. Slaves are both praised for pleasing their masters and handsomely rewarded, but should one fall out of favor, we see the darker side of punishment - from a simple slap on the hand, to death and everything in between.

The adult factor in this series is off the charts. We are treated to enough nudity and foul language to make a softcore porn movie from clips alone. The Roman empire was a hedonistic society built on the backs of slaves and military might, and the producers hold nothing back. From blood filled arena fights to sexual affairs, murderous power struggles, and even the orgies of old, nothing is held from us - and I couldn't have been more delighted. Obviously, this is not a series to be watched if you're easily offended or a little timid when it comes to nudity or language.

In regard to the acting we see in this show, not one character felt out of place or simply shoved in for filler or fluff. Everyone has a role, be it small or large, and not a single one lets you down with their performance. Every character is layered and complicated, each with their own issues and problems, hopes and dreams, grudges and goals. Character plots are given to you, then set into place, altered, and ultimately removed or stroked to a brilliant conclusion. Not one character fails to deliver on entertainment value. Each character makes you feel their pain, their frustration, or their joy. In the case of our villains, so to speak, you genuinely feel like they got what was coming to them.

On a side note, I felt that John Hannah performed his role to the maximum. He really surprised me in this series in his role as Batiatus. He poured on the charm when it was required and then gave us pure venom in the scenes where he was showing the darker side of his character. Not only was his performance perfect, but his character had the most memorable and quotable lines from the entire show, the most notable quote being "Once again the gods spread cheek to ram cock in ass!" Oh, how I laughed at this line when delivered.

In closing, I remember seeing previews for this show and was mildly curious and figured I would give a single episode a try. Boy, am I glad I did. I would highly recommend this series to anyone and everyone. The plot is superb, characters are enjoyable, and the action is over the top. Even my church-going wife who is fairly easily offended enjoyed this series, which was a bit of a shock. Overall, I give this series a 10/10. I found no fault whatsoever with any aspect of this great series, and look forward to Season 2 and the six-part prequel series: Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.
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Tired Tigress #1: Tired Tigress - added 05/19/2011, 03:07 PM
I couldn't have said it better myself. A 10/10 from me as well, and this is coming from a girl who is completely jaded by today's unoriginal and terrible television standards.
shaughnn #2: shaughnn - added 05/19/2011, 11:13 PM
10/10. How can you rate this series any less.
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