When the new season of Spartacus — Spartacus: Vengeance — starts its new season, we find many things the same and a lot of things changed. The big change this season is Australian Actor Liam McIntyre takes over the role of Spartacus. The late Andy Whitfield liked his performance so much that he gave his blessing before his unfortunate death. Knowing the history behind the cast change colors my opinion a bit.
There’s no denying McIntyre brings a different presence to Spartacus. It feels like when daytime Soaps would replace a beloved character without warning or notice, just takes awhile for them to grow on you.
At first blush he seems too small for the part, and he doesn’t have the same intensity level or guttural growl Whitfield had. The comparison probably isn’t fair because it will just take getting used a new person. McIntyre does not play the role differently he just is different. Its like when daytime Soaps would replace a beloved character without warning or notice, it just takes awhile for them to grow on you.
Other than McIntyre there’s a new addition to the cast Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Naevia, Lucretia’s (Lucy Lawless) former Slave who was banished and is Crixus’ (Manu Bennett) lost love. Speaking of Lucretia her survival of the massacre gives her cult like status amongst the people of Rome. It’ll be interesting to see how she uses this to her own advantage in gaining back her “lost” power.
Spartacus: Vengeance starts off with Spartacus dealing with being a leader of the slave rebellion. He has to temper his thirst for vengeance with doing the right thing by the people he leads. Glaber (Craig Parker) is tasked with capturing Spartacus at all costs. Ashur (Nick E. Tarabay) is slippery and traitorous as ever cutting deals with whomever he wants to save his own hide.
The Producing Team of Steven DeKnight (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Rob Tapert (The Grudge, Xena: Warrior Princess) and Sam Raimi must save a fortune on wardrobes since the cast spends half the time naked and put that money towards the buckets and buckets of blood that gets spilled. This show is not for the weak of heart, as it revels in unbridled, raw violence.
I’m not a squeamish person by nature and I love a good spot of harmless violence and sex as much as the next person, but, at times, Spartacus goes way over the top. I love the quiet moments when the story actually unfolds and the political maneuverings happen. The action and sex (there’s a graphic orgy of literal blood and sex in the first episode) gets a bit overboard.
There is no point in even mentioning how several sex scenes get broken up by a knife through the throat or an ax in a man’s balls (ouch!). What are they trying to tell the audience? Sex is bad? After awhile I found myself fast forwarding through some of the more graphic stuff. Did they use this much profanity in Ancient Rome?
The show looks like a million bucks, literally. Everything from the costumes, to the lighting, to the acting is executed flawlessly. The red and gold lighting scheme gives the dark tone of the story a deft touch that this show needs and makes the colors really pop off the screen. It looks like a major Hollywood Movie. I’m not sure how I feel about Spartacus, there is no denying it really is a well made, well acted and at times a brilliant spectacle — especially when you consider it is a “television show.”
One of the drawbacks of this show is that while the acting is good, the casting is a bit “suspect.” Everyone looks the same, have the same body types and it takes a while to tell who is whom. However, I will say if you didn’t watch Spartacus: Blood and Sand, it is safe to jump on-board now. There is not a whole lot of background history you need to know before diving in.
Fans of the show however will love the fact that very little has changed with the addition of McIntyre and, by the end of the second episode — in my mind — he becomes Spartacus. While I can appreciate this show’s “brilliance,” I’m not sure if this style of graphic sex and violence is something I want to watch on a weekly basis.
Spartacus: Vengeance returns to Starz January 26th, at 10pm – you can watch the Season Premiere online now at the Starz website.
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