Is it possible to overcome some impossible odds without becoming a casualty of war? That's part of the premise behind the final season of the Starz hit series "Spartacus: War of the Damned," which followed a group of rebellious slaves who managed to stay one step ahead of the Romans. The premiere might've been a little routine, but it also demonstrated some potential for a powerful series ending conclusion.
"Spartacus: War of the Damned" followed Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) who became a leader of a large army of rebel slaves that wanted revenge against the Romans. It was under Spartacus' leadership that allowed the rebels to defeat their enemy at every turn. He relied on a core group of fellow rebels to help keep everyone alive. This group had grown to include his former rival Crixus (Manu Bennett) and his equally lethal girlfriend Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who fought the odds to be together. Spartacus also leaned on two of his strongest soldiers in Agron (Dan Feuerriegel) and the fun loving Gannicus (Dustin Clare). What they didn't expect was that they would have to deal with a potentially lethal set of enemies that included a young Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance) and Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells) who were both eager to end Spartacus' rebellion once and for all. Unfortunately, Crassus was unaware of his son Tiberius (Christian Antidormi) was willing to do anything it took to impress his father, even if it meant going to harsh extremes to reach his goal. Will Spartacus be able to defeat his newest foes or will he die trying?
In terms of questions, "Spartacus: War of the Damned" has left its biggest one unanswered for the time being, but it will definitely be answered by the time the series finale gets closer. The premiere has foreshadowed that not everyone will be able to get the happy ending they want. Everyone was expendable when it came to telling a good story, even Spartacus if the timing was right. The show always managed to excel at delivering the right amount of carnage, passion and righteous anger when the time was right. Unfortunately, the premiere seemed to be suffering from a slight disconnect, which can be explained by the fact that the tone wasn't properly established. Was this season supposed to be about the war or was it simply an excuse for Spartacus to battle another Roman rival? It also didn't help that McIntyre's Spartacus seemed to be a little removed from the action itself. Sure, viewers were treated to seeing McIntyre's title character slaughter a lot of Romans within the course of the hour, but he seemed to be a little too focused on war and not enough on his own life. Let's hope that the show gives him a possible love interest or at least someone to have some fun with as a form of levity for the character. Only time will tell if McIntyre's tough leader will be to have the same level of fun as Clare's sociable soldier.
As for breakout stars, McInytre and Merrells proved to be headed for a major showdown that will only leave one of them standing. Given the right material, McIntyre's Spartacus has proven to be someone worth watching. It's too early to tell what the rest of the season holds for McIntyre's character just yet. Future episodes should iron out those details. While McIntyre's Spartacus expressed his anger through battle, Merrells' Crassus took a more intellectual approach in his battle strategy to get the results he wanted. Merrells was able to express his character's true intentions by showing his ulterior motives through the way that he handled himself in any battle. If Merrells' Crassus walked with a purpose or was too generous with an ally, he might be planning the ultimate takedown that no one expected. His most memorable scene came towards the end of the premiere when it was revealed that Crassus had set up the demise of two Roman allies in order to secure a powerful position. He didn't even have to say much to demonstrate his character's delight as he was able to get everything that he wanted. Merrells showed that he would make a great rival against Spartacus, especially when they have their first confrontation. That will definitely be something worth seeing when it does happen.
"Spartacus: War of the Damned" premiered on January 25th and airs Fridays at 9:00 PM on Starz.
Verdict: The show was off to a great start of the show's final season, which offered enough blood and sex to keep viewers interested.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)