"For fans of Spartacus this Blu-ray is a must buy. It is a solid conclusion to a grand and epic saga."
Blu-Ray Boxset Review
Title: Spartacus: War of the Damned
Distributor: Anchor Bay
Show Creator: Stephen S. DeKnight
Cast: Liam McIntyre, Manu Bennett, Dustin Clare
Length: 10 episodes/562 Minutes
Number of Discs: 3
Rated: Not Rated
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Reviewed by: Aaron Bala
How do you end a TV series? Think about all the shows that get pitched to a network, only to never move forward. Then there are the shows that get made only to be cancelled during or after the first few seasons. Finally there are the shows that overstay their welcome, and when the time comes to end it, no one cares. Rare is the show that has a dedicated fanbase, a compelling story and a good sense to end it before both vanish. The Spartacus series elected for this to be their final season to bring its story to a close and in this review we’ll see how they tackled it.
NOTE: This review has SPOILERS regarding previous seasons, so if you have not seen them on TV yet do not read anymore of this review!)
Spartacus: War of The Damned picks up months after Spartacus: Vengeance. Spartacus wears a new mantle, referred to as the Rebel King as their ranks have swelled to around 70,000. But being king brings on a new set of challenges he had never imagined when he was just a simple slave in the lannista. Escaped slaves run to him for freedom and safety, and he must find a permanent home for them before they starve.
Rome has grown weary of Spartacus’ continued victory over them and sends a man to end the war once and for all. Marcus Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome, can fund an army equal in size to Spartacus. He takes up the challenge of bringing down the Rebel King and seeks out a young Roman to aid him, who has started to grow quite popular, Julius Caesar. Spartacus must find a way to gain victory over the Romans and his people, especially as cracks start to form with his right hand man Crixus over how to lead the rebels.
Spartacus has always done well in having taut storytelling, and though the same is true here, it feels the least connected to the rest of the series. Spartacus has long been about one man’s journey to avenge his wife’s death. He killed Batiatus in Blood and Sand, and Glaber in Vengeance, but here Spartacus fights against an institution. He rails against every Roman for supporting slavery. It is a large and nebulous goal, and one that will rear its ugly head again in the finale, because the history books don’t lie. Finales are typically divisive but I found it hard to truly believe this was the ending the entire season or series had been building up to. Not to say it wasn’t a fun and compelling journey, but it lacked the same pop as the previous seasons.
Spartacus has long been Starz’ tentpole series, and arguably their prettiest. You can see the dirt on the character’s faces, you can hear the clash of swords, and no expense has been spared to make this truly feel like ancient Rome. Additionally the camera work is incredible. The crew had a lovely new toy, setting up a camera array, allowing for a bullet-time effect, which lets you see a moment from so many different angles, it’s incredibly nifty, and features in a lot of episodes. The editing is top notch and fast paced, rarely giving you a moment to look away, and as always the dialogue is an absolute joy. No show on television sounds like this outside of a Shakespearean adaptation.
The blu-ray features extended episodes, audio commentaries and six featurettes that take viewers behind the scenes in the making of the show. Featurettes revolve around the special effects, wardrobe, and fitness routines, as well as a can’t miss retrospective of the series as a whole. Certainly enough to keep fans happy. If only their menu screens didn’t look so downright boring.
For fans of Spartacus this Blu-ray is a must buy. It is a solid conclusion to a grand and epic saga. This new golden age of television has allowed genres typically relegated to the movies to find a new voice on the small screen, The Sopranos was a long form mob story, as Spartacus is a long form sword and sandal epic. Spartacus is a fine adaptation that should stand shoulder to shoulder with the some of the greatest shows in this era. It is arguably the best TV show Starz has ever made, and may ever make.