Starz's Latest Spartacus Series Is a Gory Good Time

With its Spartacus franchise, Starz stumbled into something of a guilty pleasure goldmine. It’s a campy swords-and-sandals epic boasting equal parts violence, soft-core sex, and hammy dialogue. But there’s a beating heart pounding beneath it all, and that’s ultimately what holds me in. I seriously can't get enough of these shows.

For the uninitiated, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is a six-part prequel to the action of Spartacus: Blood and Sand—a vamp intended to delay filming on Blood and Sand while star Andy Whitfield received treatment for cancer. Whitfield’s health ultimately prevented him from returning; Australian actor Liam McIntyre will take his place. And though Whitfield’s presence will be missed, Gods still managed to come out of the gate swinging like a... well, like a gladiator!

Friday's season premiere began with a blood-drenched flash-forward to the Blood and Sand season finale, which showed us how gladiator wrangler Bataitus (John Hannah) will meet his gruesome end at Spartacus’s hand. But that was then, and this is now: Five years earlier, to be precise, where Bataitus and his eternally scheming wife, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless)—both looking younger and hungrier, like an early-’80s Donald and Ivana Trump—observe their rookie fighters duking it out at the local gore-atorium. Yup. Just another day at the Gladiator races.

Bataitus has taken over operations of the ludus, a.k.a. The University of Gladiator Studies (go Glators!). To show you just how different things are, his future rival Solonius (Craig Walsh Wrightson) is currently Bataitus’s total bro-fidante. (Solonius looks a lot like Roger Daltry with librarian hair. I guess that was the style back in the prequel days!)

While Bataitus has plenty of enemies who’d love nothing more than to see his Gladiator Emporium go belly-up, he also has an ace up his sleeve: Gannicus (Dustin Clare), a.k.a. Colin Farrell on Growth Hormones. Gannicus is an invincible brute who loves chopping up rivals almost as much as he loves getting wasted on wine and having sex with multiple women.

In related news, Gannicus’s mom smokes Parliament Lights and is really proud of him—but she’s tighter with his older brother, who’s a crack addict.

Over in the ladies’ quarters, Gaia (Dexter’s Jaime Murray) is a social climber with designs on Lucretia. She smokes her on some primo opium before putting on the lesbian moves. I’ve heard of Xena fan-worship before, but this is getting uncomfortable.

Not to be outdone, the gladiator quarters are more homoerotic-y than ever.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Auctus and Barca! Keep it in your loincloths!

Things end on a very exciting note, as Gannicus is forced to fight a man in a public square—while wearing a blindfold. He takes a Roman screwdriver to the neck, but in the end, makes mincemeat of his opponent.

In the final scene, Tullius (Stephen Lovett), who is sort of the Tony Soprano of ancient Rome, makes Bataitus an offer he can’t refuse: Give him Gannicus, or else. Amazingly, Bataitus finds a way to refuse the generous opportunity to part with his star gladiator. That earns him a serious beating, followed by Tullius urinating on his face.

[Screengrab redacted.]

Hey, if you wanna play with the big boys, you’re going to get brutally beaten and then peed on. That’s just the way it goes.

Did you watch the premiere of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena? (P.S. The episode is currently available online, for free, here.) What did you think?

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Jul 04, 2011
"Campy"? Well, I guess the violence could be described as, "campy", in a certain fashion. However, "campy" is one of those words which carries a certain connotation I would definitely not attribute to this Series. Alright... we know they spoke Latin (and variations of it; as well as all the bastardized forms of it that come with conquering most of their "known" World), but who can really say just exactly how they spoke? Their phrasing in this Series does seem a bit over the top, but it's not hard to imagine them speaking in the manner presented in this Series; not at all hard to imagine. They sure do get creative with their curses! I've caught myself laughing out loud more times than I can count... especially when Batiatus starts up. He is the unchallenged Master at "Cursing the Gods" in this Series!
I too, am addicted to this show. I just don't know that I would ever inject the word, "campy" into a description of a Series such as this. That's all I have...
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Jan 31, 2011
AWESOME! This series is one of the best in it's class today! I hope this franchise goes on as long as possible. This is Bloody Brilliant Entertainment!
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Jan 30, 2011
Wow!!! Dustin Clare is so fine!!! OMG!!! I hope to see more of him. Although the only way that I could is if there was frontal nudity as well. So much sexy goodness!
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Jan 30, 2011
awesome show, awesome cast, no doubt about it ! whoever says differently did not watch it.
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Jan 30, 2011
awesome fun
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Jan 29, 2011
Finally a network that is in touch with its viewers and has the balls to create programming that its viewers want and enjoy instead of penny pinching with cheap worthless "reality TV" crap programs.
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Jan 27, 2011
If this 6parter is as equal a hit as Spartacus S1 will the ptb be clammering for a way to return John Hannah to our screens in a Gods of the Arena S2 ???
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Jan 27, 2011
If someone doesn't give John Hannah an Emmy nomination for his revelling in playing the role of "Batiatus" than the world just sucks. Glad to have John Hannah back again and Nick Tarabay's "Asher" as gladiator is awesome as well. I see Steven DeKnight got Joss Whedon's brother Jed and sister in law on board this show now as writers and producers. When is Joss Whedon going to just do a cable show that is this good?
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Jan 26, 2011
Loved it!
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Jan 26, 2011
I was one of those people who initially avoided giving the original a try. Honestly, when I finally got around to it, the first few episodes seemed like a chore to get through at the time. At some unknown point within the fourth episode however, it dawned on me like an epiphany that I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I finally "got it" and I had an absolute blast watching the rest of the season.

This new series caught me off guard. After hearing that Mr. Whitfield had cancer issues, I put 'Blood and Sand' on the back burner of my mind and wasn't even aware that 'Gods of the Arena' existed until the day of its premiere when I saw a blurb about it on the bottom of the screen while watching one of the Encore channels.

For me, watching it was like re-living a Christmas day...just with alot more sex and violence.

I'll be happily riding this train to the end with bells on.
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Jan 26, 2011
Spartacus back in all it's gory glory. I love Starz for streaming this on Netflix or else I may have just missed on this show completely. The first season was some of the most entertaining TV in years and the prequel is already shaping to be fun times. Will miss Andy, but as long as the storytelling and action is still top notch I will still be a fan.
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Jan 26, 2011
love the show... can wait to see how it plays out...
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Jan 26, 2011
I love the show but could do without so much of the gorey details. Some are fine....just not so much.
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Jan 26, 2011
So pleased they have a prequel series. The demise of Batiatus at the end of Spartacus BS Season 1 was very disappointing as I thought his & Lucretia's conniving were the best part of the series. That said, I can't wait for Season 2. Spare a thought for Andy Whitfield, who really doesn't deserve such bad luck. He was a great Spartacus and will be missed.
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Jan 26, 2011
I forgot to ask (SPOILER ALERT) was I the only one really disgusted with the scene where Batiatus goes to take a dump and sits on a little hole where a guy just peed in AND THEN wipes himself with a stick that everybody else uses? lol...
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Jan 25, 2011
good show , i didn't like the re-back,bit still love the show
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Jan 25, 2011
I absolutely love this show. Can't wait for more.
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Jan 25, 2011
I love the scene (SPOILER ALERT) where Bataitus and Solonius walked past a group of naked women and were completely unfazed, yet when Gaia showed up fully dressed (perhaps flamboyantly in ancient-years) both men couldn't take their eyes off her lol
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Jan 25, 2011
Loved it...can't wait to see how it all plays out!
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Jan 25, 2011
It was in the same note as Spartacus: Blood and Sand, even better (the producers and writers have some experience in doing this...). I'll keep watching. I hope that Whitfield wins the "battle" with cancer.
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Jan 25, 2011
Definitely started strong, gonna continue watching. Finding the plot to be much more interesting than the first season, since we already knew what was going to happen then.
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Jan 25, 2011
Had my doubts, but it rocked.
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Jan 25, 2011
yes blood sex gore so we want more
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Jan 25, 2011
I wasn't expecting much (prequel, very little Spartacus) but it was awesome! Especially the final fight! Back with a thunderous bang!
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Jan 25, 2011
Great show hot bodies!

I'm looking forward to Liam McIntyre getting shirtless!

What is happenin with his new movie Frozen Moments that he lost a zillion pounds for an abduction scene. When is this on at the cinema???
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Jan 25, 2011
KILLER SHOW I loved every moment
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Jan 25, 2011
I like B&S, and I think that Gods is has great has the original!
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Jan 25, 2011
I liked the normal series, but i honestly was expecting this to be a piece of crap like just about every other prequel is, but this was actually pretty good. i think it's funny that the 5 years ago version of Crixus is basically exactly like Spartacus when he first became a slave/gladiator
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Jan 25, 2011
I watched, and I liked... I hate that Andy isn't coming back though. =X
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Jan 25, 2011
Better than even I was expecting but boy do I miss Andy as Spartacus.
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Jan 25, 2011
fight in the beginning sent me screaming lol totally up there with the original
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Jan 25, 2011
It was good. Once again, Spartacus exceeds expectations.
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Jan 25, 2011
Yeaah, this Tv show deserves many seasons !!
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Jan 25, 2011
The prequel season started off with a fun start. It's great seeing my favorite characters in different situations.
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Jan 25, 2011
it was amazing, the best hour of my life so far :P
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Jan 25, 2011
Super great show.
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