Picking up where the first season ended, in his last moments, Batiatus' life flashes before his eyes taking us back to a time before Spartacus tamed the arena, a time of new champions, former friends and the lust for power and glory we've come to know and love from this beloved series.
I remember catching the first trailer for SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND at Comic Con a couple years back and thinking "that looks cool, but who knows." The original SPARTACUS film was something I saw in History class back in High School, which like most gladiator/Roman fare at the time, didn't really distinguish itself from the rest. GLADIATOR was a phenomenal update that ignited a fire inside me I hadn't felt in awhile. I was hoping HBO's ROME would further fuel this fire but I couldn't really get into it. SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND not only fuelled this fire, it gave it enough power to scorch the Earth itself as it soon became one of the best shows I've ever seen.
SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA didn't disappoint, but I had my doubts at first. After Andy Whitfield's stellar performance as Spartacus (not to mention the final episode "Kill them all", the absolute best finale of a series bar none), I couldn't wait for the follow-up, SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE. The sad news of Andy's fight with cancer (which unfortunately claimed his life a short time ago, may he rest in peace) caused STARZ to put the second season on hold in hopes that Whitfield would recover. They instead moved forward (or backward if you will) with GODS OF THE ARENA, a prequel that gave all our beloved characters further room to grow and bloom into the restless cast we've come to know and love. This was a gamble to be sure, but one that paid off in spades.
Like I said, I had my doubts, but they were soon put to rest as I began my journey backward with GODS OF THE ARENA. The epic blood bath battles are still here and never looked better, closing out with a battle royal between two houses that rivals anything that's come before it. The women, sex and seduction this series has become known for has certainly not gone modest on us, and why would it after all the praise the first series got as well as that of GAME OF THRONES. This series carves its own rules into the stone when it comes to sex and violence, but it's my opinion that it does so with a certain class and dignity the Roman empire would be proud of while at the same time not treading too far off the beaten path when it comes to the historical knowledge of the time period in question. Sure, we embellish here and run with it a bit, but I can hardly blame the good people at STARZ for giving the mob what they want to see.
SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA bridges the gap between BLOOD and VENGEANCE with tact and finesse, never overusing or overshadowing it's characters for the sake of "filler" story telling. I enjoyed a look at what trials and tribulations brought House Batiatis together, the feud that pushed Batiatus and Solonius's friendship to the brink, the rise of Crixus as well as the tale of Gannicus and Oenomaus. I missed seeing Spartacus sure, but I have to admit that Gannicus has become a new favourite of mine and I was happy as hell to see him pop up in the trailer for VENGEANCE as I prayed he would continue to be a part of this series. This show has had its share of ups, downs, tears and joy, but one thing I'm sure of is that this will go down as one of the best TV series' ever created with me being one of its biggest fans. Sigh...January feels so very far away right now.