Starz’ newest series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, is a difficult show to quantify in its quality. The show is about the rise of Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) as he’s taken from his wife (Erin Cummings) and people to be a gladiator in Capua. All of the major points of the classic story are there, but it’s not a show about a story. It’s an often silly orgy of blood, violence, and sex. The thing is, Spartacus is very good at achieving what it sets out to be.
Even after the first episode it’s clear that this is the most violent and bloody show ever to appear on cable television. Limbs are severed in the epically brutal final fight of the series premiere, a sliced neck pulses with bright red blood, and the 300 style slow motion fixation on key events ensures that every drop of ruby red liquid gets ample screen time.
These fight sequences are overwrought with violent intentions, but they lose much of their meaning by the fifth or so time you see them. Spartacus uses a desaturated color palette except for the blood, and it is indeed shocking to see how vividly detailed each sword strike is displayed. Until you’re just used to watching it happen.
As I said, things can get quite silly in the show. The characters make proclamations such as that the sacred ground they stand upon is watered with the tears of blood. Seriously, the “tears of blood?” Or you get to watch a woman wander throughout the gladiators with unrestrained lust. After watching one of the gladiators be made to have sex with a slave girl, doggy style and as explicitly as possible without hitting hard core porn, the woman salivates as she asks, “Can you make him do it again?”
There will be sex. Spartacus revels in sex at every moment possible. Lucy Lawless gets quite naked, and the brawling gladiators are not afraid to walk amongst each other making manly accusations of how they’ll kill someone in battle while their dangly bits flop around for everyone to see. By everyone I mean the audience, because this show doesn’t care what sex the character is, you’ll be getting full frontal on both accounts.
Despite all of the silliness occurring throughout the first few episodes I watched it’s clear that nothing is an accident in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. A man telling another that he “Smells like a woman” is treated with the same gravitas as if Jack Bauer had failed to save the day. Spartacus ties a ribbon around his wife’s thigh so that she’ll keep him close to her while he’s away at war. It’s all ridiculous, but in a deliciously enjoyable way.
Perhaps we are like the crowds of the ancient gladiatorial games, cheering for the blood and sex put on display. If so, Spartacus: Blood and Sand will scratch every itch you have.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand
Starring: Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett, Jai Courtney
Premieres: Friday, January 22 at 10:00 PM ET/PT on Starz.