“KILL THEM ALL!!” -Spartacus
“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” was a breakout hit for not only Starz, the channel that airs the show, but for burgeoning actor Andy Whitfield. Tragically Whitfield was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had to suspend his acting for treatment. Starz, not to be deterred, took some flashbacks from what was going to be the second season and extended it into “Spartacus: Gods of The Arena,” a mini-series that focused on the rise of the House of Batiatus that was featured in the first season. This was done to allow time for Whitfield to come back for season two. Alas it was not meant to be, as Whitfield got worse, he and Starz decided he should be replaced and together they chose Liam McIntyre to step into the sandals and armor of Spartacus. Andy Whitfield passed away soon after, but his mark on the show had been made.
It was with all of this hanging in the air and on the shoulders of the true second season of the show that “Spartacus: Vengeance” began an uphill journey. How would McIntrye’s Spartacus hold up to Whitfield’s? How would the show feel with a new lead? And where was the show going? All very valid questions, and I have spoiler free answers for you right here!
All eyes were on McIntrye when episode one first aired, and rightly so. Andy Whitfield did a stupendous job, and they were big boots to fill. Getting this out of the way I will say Liam McIntyre did a phenomenal job for what he had to do. Taking over the lead from another actor is a daunting task to begin with, and this was more so with how much people loved Whitfield in the role. I equate it to Michael Gambon taking over the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films from the late Sir Richard Harris. They play the part vastly different but one isn’t really better than the other, just different. The same can be said here. Another way to look at it is how my friend Virgil put it, Andy played the Thracean becoming Spartacus, Liam is playing Spartacus after the character has moved on from what he was before. It definitely helps when you think of these things while watching Liam McIntrye in the first few episodes.
With the biggest issue out of the way let’s talk about what you really watch the show for, the blood, sex, and drama! All here and accounted for. Though the locations are different and more open, though the Ludus of Batiatus does return, the story is just as stirring. The politics take a larger focus, as Spartacus’ rebellion starts to frighten and irritate the senate and the army. Familiar faces like Glaber (Craig Parker) and Ashur (Nick E. Tarabay) show up to menace our heroes. And speaking of the heroes, the bonds of brotherhood that kept the gladiators alive and sparked their rebellion are tested between major players Spartacus, Crixus (Manu Bennet), Onemaius formerly Doctore (Peter Mensah), and Gannicus (Dustin Clare) as their would-be army grows. The story just gets bigger and bigger until an explosive finale.
And lets not forget the lovely ladies returning in the form of Lucy Lawless’ Lucretia who barely survived the first season, and Viva Bianca as scheming opportunist Ilithyia, the now pregnant wife of Glaber. Death still comes swift, double-crosses are still around every corner, and the raw sexuality is still there for your carnal pleasure. “Spartacus: Venegance” is every bit as over-the-top as its first season and mini-series. What I truly liked about this season is we got to see the insight and driving force behind a lot of characters, new and old alike.
The Blu-Ray has a wealth of special features:
– Behind the scenes documentaries – Starz Studios –Spartacus: Vengeance and The Making of Spartacus: Vengeance
– Behind The Camera: Directing the Rebellion
– On Set with Liam McIntyre
– Burning Down The House: The VFX 0f Episode 205
– The Legend of Spartacus – Looks at the History of the character
– Famous Last Words – About character deaths on the show
– Spartacus: War of the Damned Teaser for Season 3
There’s also extended episodes and commentaries. All in all if you’re a fan of the show there is no reason to not own this. One of the best shows on television right now, it’s coming to an end in January so catch up on Spartacus with Season 1 and “Gods of the Arena” and then join the rebellion with Season 2 “Vengeance!”