‘Spartacus realizes that becoming the leader of a mass of freed slaves can be challenging and he struggles to keep the rebellious group intact when news of Claudius Glaber’s arrival in Capua reaches him.‘
Spartacus: Blood and Sand was one of the big surprises of early 2010. Unlike Starz’s other disappointing series Camelot, Spartacus‘ stylised combination of blood and sex served as the flavour of the show rather than the substance. Andy Whitfield’s titular character had great screen presence and a stellar supporting cast including the likes of John Hannah and Lucy Lawless which made for a riveting series of double and triple crosses that led to a satisfying and brutal finale. Unfortunately, it was announced during the gap between Season 1 and 2 that Andy Whitfield had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The show creators, rather than taking the easy route of recasting decided to shoot a prequel series – Gods of the Arena – that turned out even better than the original. Sadly, Andy lost his battle with the disease last September; he did however give his blessing to the man who is filling Spartacus’ big shoes: Liam McIntyre.
It will be the curse of this new season that the majority of the discussion will be around Liam McIntyre, and how he compares to Andy Whitfield. For my part, I feel that Liam gives a fantastic performance in this episode, and I wholeheartedly support casting him in the role. While there are obvious differences between the two men’s performances, Liam captures that intense fury that made Spartacus such an interesting character in the first two seasons. His chemistry with the rest of the cast is great, particularly with his brother in arms – Crixus (Manu Bennett). It will be interesting to see Spartacus and Crixus interacting with the other historical slave leader Oenomaus (who looks to have a good character arc in store).
Aside from McIntyre’s performance, Fugitivus was a bit of a mixed bag. The wonderful visual style of the show is still on display, but this episode seemed to be playing catch up for the majority of its runtime. Continuous quick cuts between scenes all over the empire helped to give a sense of scale and introduce new characters, but made the episode feel disjointed and incomplete. I can’t help but feel that a great deal of the first half of the episode could have been skipped without losing any important information. I’m sure that these new characters will be important throughout the series, but their introductions brought down what should have been a great season premiere.
The return of Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) as Spartacus’ nemesis was one particularly welcome aspect of this episode. Where Liam McIntyre perfectly captures the passionate desire for freedom and justice, Craig Parker does an equally impressive job of capturing the corrupt self-serving arrogance that characterised the Roman Empire. The sheer hatred these two men show for each other should make for some great conflict throughout the rest of the season as Spartacus and Crixus set off on their crusade to save Naevia and free the slaves.
One relationship in this episode that did feel a little out-of-place was that of Spartacus with the former pleasure slave Mira (Katrina Law). While the two had developed a close friendship at the end of the first season, it seems as if we’ve missed more than just a few weeks out of their relationship. It’s obvious that Spartacus hasn’t gotten over the death of his wife, but it looks like he is ready to move on. Given the events of this episode and the subtitle of this season, I would imagine that Mira will become more of a moderating influence over the course of the upcoming episodes. Katrina Law has been doing a great job in her role and I look forward to seeing her get some more screen time this season.
Overall, the season premiere wasn’t as impressive as the previous seasons, but it was carrying a lot of baggage. Hopefully the series will find its feet again next episode. All the elements are there for another fantastic season of television, they just need to fall into place.
What I Liked – Liam McIntyre’s performance filled the role well. Interesting direction for Oenomaus.
What I Didn’t Like – The continuous scene transitions made the episode feel disjointed. The relationship between Spartacus and Mira seemed to jump ahead.
Rating – 3.5 out of 5 (Enjoyable)
Next Episode – A Place In This World