History cannot be changed, so we all knew this day was coming. The series finale of Spartacus: War of the Damned (Starz, Friday, 9/8C) does, in fact, end with a lot of death – including the title character. That’s not a spoiler, that’s what happened. What remains to be seen is the manner in which series creator Steven S. DeKnight weaves the story. The finale is called Victory, so that should tell you something.
Following Crixus’ attempt to sack Rome, Spartacus’ (Liam McIntyre) army has been hounded by Crassus’ (Simon Merrells) legions and it’s come down to an inevitability. Life goes on, though, with the rebels still drinking and screwing and loving – with greater urgency as they milk life for everything they can squeeze out of it.
There really isn’t much I can say about Victory except that the series couldn’t go out on a better, higher note. The main players on both sides get their moments and DeKnight’s script references the Kirk Douglas movie (‘I am Spartacus!’) in a delightfully twisted way. The sex is sexier; the character beats sweeter, and the action darker and more plentiful.
Director Rick Jacobson takes DeKnight’s excellent script and gives it life. The odd rhythms of the dialogue have never been more poetic; the battle sequences more visceral. I especially like the brief truce that allows Spartacus and Crassus to speak before the final battle. In another world, these two might have been friends and treasured allies. Crassus would have preferred that; Spartacus, not so much.
Victory is the show’s biggest episode. To borrow a turn of phrase, everything is left on the screen. The core cast – McIntyre, Merrells, Dustin Clare (Gannicus), Daniel Feueriegiel (Agron), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia), Jenna Lind (Kore), Pana Hema-Taylor (Nasir), Anna Hutchison (Laeta) and Todd Lasance (Caesar) – is superb. McIntyre, especially, has grown into the role of Spartacus nicely – original Spartacus Andy Whitfield would approve.
Spartacus, in all three seasons and prequel, has been a show where everything was integral to the plot: sex, violence, violent sex, dialogue, seemingly throwaway bits of action – everything mattered; nothing was, quite, gratuitous. There was potential from the beginning for this to be a top flight series – potential that was realized, in full, this season. Few episodes contained dud moments and each successive ep built on the last until this final devastating flourish.
DeKnight and Starz made the right decision to end Spartacus after three seasons and a prequel. The show couldn’t have maintained this pace without going past its peak. Instead, it ends with an episode that comes as close to perfection as Spartacus’ love for Sura. You really couldn’t ask for more than that.
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Photos courtesy of Starz Entertainment