The age of Spartacus is over – after three series full of blood, guts, sex and awesome action, the American TV series finished on April 12 2013. It’s had its ups and downs as a franchise, not least because of the tragedy surrounding lead actor Andy Whitfield, who sadly died of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma on September 11, 2011, necessitating a change of focus for the series and a new actor in the shape of Liam McIntyre.
McIntyre took on the second season Spartacus: Vengeance and the final series Spartacus: War of the Damned, which brings us onto our review of this final episode – and it’s not without sadness that we write this. Spartacus has become a perhaps unlikely classic that will be re-watched time and time again. It’s a great, visceral, absorbing series that manages to balance blood, gore and beauty with some rather effective writing and character studies.
All in all, we’re sad to see it go. But how did the last episode fare? It starts with the final battle for the rebel slaves, who fight the Romans with the famous battle cry “I AM SPARTACUS”, partly to shield his whereabouts and partly to show their allegiance to the man and their shared cause. They are one, they are all slaves and they are all fighting back.
One of the pressures of the final episode of a well loved series is that the legacy of the entire programme can rest on this – they effectively have one shot to please everyone. And we think they managed it. One thing to note is that there were no twists. There were no happy endings and there were no cop outs. The deaths of the main characters are dealt with in a brutally realistic fashion and there is no sudden happy ending as such.
The story arcs were tied up – for example, Caesar and Core telling Crassus the truth about his recently deceased offspring and Crassus and Spartacus meeting to try and come to a compromise before battle.
The characters all went down fighting – Kore, Saxa, Lugo – but there was no glory in their deaths, they just didn’t win through. Spartacus himself one upped Crassus in one to one combat (of course) but met his end in a similarly ignoble way. A bunch of Roman soldiers showed up and speared him to death – a metaphor for the entire uprising perhaps? After all, what chance did the rebel slaves ever have against the might of the Roman Empire? But a personal and moral battle won by Spartacus and his comrades.
Spartacus dies yet his story lives on whereas Crassus, although the victor, finds that he has lost almost everything. His son and lover are dead and his career has gone to rival Pompey who steals the glory for ending the rebellion. For a series that started out as seemingly out to shock rather than anything else, Spartacus ended up as a rich narrative – a classic story told well and we think it will leave far more of a legacy than anyone initially suspected.
If you’re feeling sad about the end of Spartacus, and you need to placate your gladiatorial leanings make sure you buy the box set so you can watch it whenever you feel the need for an injection of Roman history. Or you could always play gladiator movie slots now, to compensate for the loss of the show. It’s somewhat surprising that Spartacus the TV series genuinely holds up to this classic film in its stylistic depiction of the brutality of a long ago era that will forever capture our imaginations.