Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Monday, April 22, 2013

It... Was... SPARTACUS!

R.I.P. to Andy Whitfield, the show's amazing original Spartacus

It's taken me a little over a week to get to writing this blog looking back at Starz' hit Spartacus show, which is actually fitting as it took me awhile to give the first season, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, a chance. Initially I thought the show was little more than an excuse to have an hour each week filled with sex and overly-stylized violence; don't get me wrong now, I have nothing against either of those things, but I need more from a show than that and that's all I thought Spartacus was.

You'd think, as an avid reader and writer, I'd know not to judge a book by its cover.

The show's second season, a prequel series, introduced my favorite character, the awesome Gannicus

The Spartacus series was about so much more than sex and violence. It was about deep characters on both sides, the mostly heroic slaves and the mostly despicable Romans. I qualified both camps  with "mostly" because they were each filled with characters that were both complex and richly developed. While we knew that, to their slaves, the Romans were vile taskmasters, but to the Romans, that was society. They didn't know any better. Sure, some of them were absolutely vile... like the entire house of Batiatus as seen throughout the first season and the prequel second season, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena... but they loved and they hurt and they were flawed. Some of them, like Crassus in the final season, Spartacus: War of the Damned, was noble to a fault, something that was easy to both hate and respect. Likewise, while the slaves were easily the heroes of the piece, they weren't always noble and lovable, oftentimes submitting to their bloodlust and thirst for vengeance in truly horrible ways. It seemed to me especially that one of the themes of the final season as well as the third season, Spartacus: Vengeance, before it was how far could the rebellion of gladiators and other slaves go before they became just as bad as their former taskmasters. Complex and compelling characters on both sides of the aisle is definitely a key ingredient in great television, which Spartacus was.

Liam McIntyre stepped into Spartacus' sandals started in the third season and did a phenomenal job

I would be remiss in talking about Spartacus if I didn't mention my absolute favorite part of the show: the language. When I first started watching it in my erroneous first attempt at viewing, I found the language, which to me, having taken years of Latin in high school, sounded very much like an overly literal translation of Latin to English, to be very clunky. Again, though, I stood an idiot, brain addled by quick judgement unduly harsh.

That last sentence was an example of how dialogue was spoken on Spartacus. When you really look at it, it's beautiful; there's a very poetic aspect to it both in the word choice and cadence, and the way it's shaped without excessive articles gives it the feel of urgency. it gets right to the point, showing more emotion without all the fluff. Here are a few examples from the show itself:

Split heavens with the sound of his name! Let it carry to Crassus and Pompey as distant thunder promising storm and blood!

Time conspires against will of the heart. We shall break words again when battle is won.

Once again the gods spread cheeks and ram cock in fucking ass!

I just had to include that last one... for an evil prick, Batiatus was awesome.

Much has been taken from us. Soon we will face the legions of Rome and we will return bitter favour.

It isn't easy to fictionalize real historical characters and events, but that's what creator Steven DeKnight and his incredibly talented crew did here with a cast that included such figures as Spartacus, Crixus the Undefeated Gaul, Gannicus, Crassus, Pompey, and even Gaius Julius Caesar himself. It can be difficult to make events like the Third Servile War whose outcomes are already known thrilling and suspenseful, and even more difficult to get people emotionally invested in characters whose fates are known from the start (although judging from the number of people on Twitter shocked and outraged that Spartacus and friends pretty much all died in the series finale makes me seriously worried about society...). Despite knowing that Spartacus' fate was sealed from the moment he became a slave in the first episode, we rooted for him and the rest of the slaves; we felt their every battle and their every love, and we experienced their hard-won freedom with them, regardless of how it ended. As I always say about TV shows when they end and, I suspect, even life in general, it isn't the end that matters but the ride.

Any show that could make us feel that much along the ride when we already knew how the ride was going to end deserves a place in television history. Or, as Spartacus' trusted lieutenant said,

One day Rome shall fade and crumble. Yet you shall always be remembered in the hearts of all that yearn for freedom.

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