Note: *Review contains spoilers*
Spartacus concluded its run with a great season and a superb series finale, that was perfect in every way. Spartacus was a joy to watch over the years. With episodes delivering a solid mix of violence and sex that left viewers fully entertained. The violence and sex is just icing on the cake. At it’s core, Spartacus is a great drama filled with great characters and some of the most memorable lines of dialogue on TV.
During its four season run, Spartacus has had some of the best antagonists on TV. Batiatus, Lucretia, and Asher are few among the many degenerates who made our heroes lives hell. This season was no different with characters like Crassus, Caesar, and Tiberius.
Crassus could have come off as just another cruel Roman but it was the fact that he had this admiration and respect for the slaves is refreshing. That isn’t to say that he treated them fairly or any different from other Romans but he understood them. He even trained in the gladiatorial arts to further his knowledge. He was not your typical Roman and that was great to see. Throughout the season, Spartacus and Crassus have faced off in this mental chess game and it was thrilling to watch these two men try to out think the other.
Caesar on the other hand is totally different. He is a skilled fighter, who never backed down from a challenge. He charged head first into action, whether it was on the battlefield or infiltrating the slave camp in the city of Sinuessa. He had this ferocity when they first introduced him. All his messy hair and cockiness, reminding me of Gannicus. It seemed that the writers thought the same thing because they fought each other often. They even had a final fight at the end of the season.
Lastly, there is Tiberius, who at first I didn’t think much off. Just another boy with daddy issues but after the episode, “Decimation” he became a changed man. Having to brutally beat his best friend to death, in a punishment handed down by father. That moment also spoke very loudly of who Crassus was and would dictate many of his decisions as the season went on. Tiberius, on the other hand, became an even bigger prick and I hated more than I’ve hated any other character on this show. He belongs in the category of “biggest piece of shits on TV” along with Joffrey from Game of Thrones. Tiberius differs from Crassus and Caesar, in that he began to get more twisted due to heartbreak and his lust for power. His father was trying to teach him a lesson but it only made him more cruel. It was fun watching this character grow…or become worse as a human being.
After setting up all these villains and leading our heroes to the port city of Sinuessa, the show exploded in brutal and sexy violence. With great action sequences and character conflict. Sinuessa became a powder keg as Caesar infiltrated and started manipulating the slave rebellions. He planted doubt, he twisted fact and he turned them against each other. This resulted in Sinuessa exploding in glorious fashion, as friends turned against one another, with the Romans using this as an advantage.
Last season, the writers showed how wild and unorganized the rebels were and began to show them train and build a bond. The writers again tested that bond but this time made the rebels question Spartacus’ leadership. Leading to Crixus, his closest friend to disobey his orders. His disobedience and everyone turning on one another felt natural and didn’t feel forced or random. It seemed logical given the circumstances, that they are all cooped up in this city and the Romans had them surrounded.
The one problem is that I felt that whole Sinuessa storyline might have gone on too long. There were way too many episodes with people just talking about how much they hated things. Nothing happened until Crassus made his move. It started to feel more like filler because of it.
Spartacus not only had to face the Romans and the unhappy rebels but there was a problem of the lack of food, and ensuring that everyone had some, including his Roman prisoners. Small problem but led to big moments as the season went on.
When the Romans do attack Sinuessa, the fight that ensues is terrifically choreographed. That said, all the fight scenes are terrifically choreographed. This show has always been able to think of creative ways of killing people and this season was no different. Throwing out brutal and unique kills. Who knew you could kill people that many ways with a sword or other sharp objects.
I loved the episodes that followed their escape from Sinuessa more because this is the final season and history has already dictated what happens to the slave rebellion. The slaves are on the run and at one point literally have their backs against the wall. This makes for exciting TV, since this is the end game and anyone could die at anytime, it makes watching any scene all the more gripping.
The last three episodes of the season, “Separate Paths”, “The Dead and the Dying” and “Victory” are easily the best episodes of the season. These last three episodes were intense, action-packed, and emotionally exhausting. Whether you know what happens at the end because of the movie or history, this show will make you cry for these characters. They go through hell and you go through emotional hell.
Especially that finale. The finale was the perfect. I don’t think it could have ended any better. From the opening shots of everyone screaming, “I am Spartacus” to the finale farewell. Every moment was perfectly paced, every death beautifully felt. Spartacus gave us closure to all of its characters. I should add I’m fine with everyones end. I was glad a couple on the show got out alive. Someone had to go up on the cross and Gannicus seemed like the perfect choice, considering he joined Spartacus’ cause only after seeing his prostitute friend crucified. Historically speaking, Spartacus’ body was never found and showrunner Steven DeKnight answered that beautifully, by having Spartacus be moved and die with the slaves that were able to escape. Showing Spartacus that he had some success, while strengthening the legend of Spartacus.
Before I wrap up, I have to discuss a few of the couples and why they did not work for me this season. They just felt cold, like there was no actual chemistry or maybe there was not enough time for them to fully develop and end up caring for them.
The first was Spartacus and Laeta. I never bought into their attraction. They were always at odds with one another and there never seemed to be a reason for them to love one another. Even when she was cast out by Crassus, them getting together felt forced. There was no moment where I was able to understand why they were attracted to each other.
Another couple is Sibyl and Gannicus. I really didn’t like him just ditching Saxa like it was nothing. I found it out of character. Also I never bought into Gannicus liking the quite and shy Sibyl. Especially, if you consider the women he has slept with in the past. She is beautiful for sure but that can’t be the only reason? Did she remind him Miletta or what? The show never quite answered that.
Also, I never understood Agron’s jealously towards Nasir’s pirate friend. It’s not like he caught them doing anything. It also ended up being randomly dropped as the season went on, which was weird. It seemed like a big issue but I guess not. I’m glad it ended there and these two characters were able to ride off into the sunset.
The one relationship that did work and it was a new one this season was Crassus and Kore. Their relationship was so important that it affected numerous characters and led to many big plot moments. Furthermore, you could feel that they genuinely cared and loved each other. This made the ending even more heartbreaking to watch. Seeing Kore on that cross was Crassus being true to character but also concluding their story in such a tragic way.
You shouldn’t judge Spartacus based on the sex and violence. It’s a story for adults, it is designed that way. Yes, the slow motion sometimes feels like its overused and there is tons of blood and gore but the show never relishes in it. The violence is meant to disturb and show you how graphic and brutal this place and why men and women would want to rebel and turn against the Roman Empire.
Spartacus got his vengeance against the man that killed his wife, this season was the war of damned. The title alone doomed them. You couldn’t ask for a better ending to this show. Within it’s 39 episode run Spartacus has given you all you could ask from a show like this. Although I’m sad that the show is over, I’m more glad that it’s not outstaying it’s welcome. I love shows that can entertain but also tell an emotional story with great characters, Spartacus is that show.
Goodbye Spartacus, I will miss thee.
Score: 8 out of 10