Spartacus: Gods of the Arena ep 1

spartacusAs a huge fan of Lucy Lawless and Xena: Warrior Princess (see website name!) it took me a while to get into Spartacus: Blood and Sand last year. While I might love Lucy, I was not a fan of the movie 300 and found the first couple of episodes of Blood and Sand just grotesquely violent and the nudity and sex rather gratuitous. However, after hanging around on my hard drive for a while I though, as a true Lucy Lawless fan, I should try and get beyond episode 3 and I was glad I did. The epic drama and fascinating treachery that built as the series went on was really gripping! The violence was still bloody, but appeared to have a purpose. Ditto with the sex, that seemed to be about more than pure titillation.

The series built to a brutal and inevitably bloody climax, leaving our favourite schemers Batiatus (John Hannah) and wife Lucrectia (Lucy Lawless) mortally wounded as Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) appeared to be becoming the slave revolt leader history remembers.

Since season 1 ended, tragically Andy Whitfield has had to drop out of the show due to serious illness. Initially, it was hoped he would return for the second season, so this mini-series, a six episode prequel was made. Sadly, Whitfield’s illness returned and another actor has been cast in the role for season 2 of Blood and Sand. A shame as Whitfield brought a lot of integrity to the role. It will be tough to root for another actor as Spartacus, although the second series is inevitably, given the events of the season finale, going to be very different.

Here we go back five years to the early days of Batiatus’ gladiator school as he is trying to establish himself as a presence in the town. We meet a younger John Hannah (ok, his hair is brushed forwards) and Lucy Lawless (much better hair than last year, she looks fab for 42!)  who are less cynical and more in love. However, the suspiciously minx-like Gaia (Jaime Murray) has just buried a husband and is on the prowl, starting with getting ‘close’ to Lucretia!

In some ways this was like a return to the excesses of the early Blood and Sand episodes. More gore and blood, Batiatus gets peed on, orgies for the gladiators, naked female slaves stand around on the street and as usual the expletive count is somewhere in the 3 figures (only a slight exaggeration!) I was also quite surprised to see Lucy get quite so much action! Lucretia and Batiatus get all couple-y with the Lucy boobs showing impressive perkiness for a woman of her age! Then its sex and drugs as Gaia breaks out the opium and the two ladies get down and dirty – in an L Word level of explicitness!

I find Spartacus compelling viewing, mainly in an ‘oh my God, I can’t believe they went that far’ way, but the brutality and callousness of their word is not exactly fun. I hope we get some of the complex drama of the past and not just sex, swearing and violence!