Spartacus: Blood and Sand gives viewers pretty much everything they could want: cheesy fun, mixed in with a ton of blood and a lot of nudity, along with some pretty solid story lines to keep the whole thing moving forward.
The story is centered on the lead-up to the events that we know are going to happen with the legendary gladiator Spartacus, and his leading of a slave rebellion during the time of the Roman Empire. In order to get there, Spartacus takes us back to the beginning, from when he was captured, trained up as a gladiator, and makes his legendary name in the arena.
Around these central events are all of the intrigue in the smaller Roman town of Capua, where there are plenty of good guys, and many more bad guys and gals, in a similar vein to what transpires in King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. Everybody is after somebody, and there is revenge and plots all over the place. They are pretty entertaining in Spartacus, however, and keeps us coming back for more.
As for the violence, well, it is definitely there, but in a manner that I was not expecting. It is far cheesier and more cartoony than I would have expected. Some of the scenes in the show border on the ideas presented in a film like 300, with the gloomy backgrounds and people superimposed in front of green screens. But for some of the more real shots, the blood is obviously (painfully so) fake, making me wondering if that was a conscious decision, to bring a little levity to the intense battle scenes, or used as a cost saving measure, or what. It doesn’t look good, but it doesn’t take away from the very strong action scenes in the show. In fact, after a couple of episodes wondering if they are going to up their CG blood budget, you just kind of get used to that kind of blood being spilled, and learn to accept it.
With any show set during Roman times, you’re going to need a lot of nudity. And Spartacus: Blood and Sand delivers this in spades. There is no shortage of cleavage, an astronomical amount of naked breasts, some full on orgy scenes, a casual amount of full frontal nudity, and plenty of men running around in next-to-nothing, or simply nothing for a few scenes.
The show has a very good looking cast, both males and females, and there is plenty there to keep the casual viewer entertained. The females, led by Lucy Lawless (Xena!), play games with one another in order to rise through the ranks of Roman society. They are as backstabbing as the men are, and can often be even more vicious. If you have ever felt like you wanted to see Xena in the nude many times, then Spartacus may just be the one for you.
One of the strengths of the show is that it consistently gets better as the season rolls along. While it starts off as a one of those shows where you wonder if it is going to be worth soldiering on through, it gets better and better as the characters are able to come into their own, and begin to own the fancy dialogue written for them. It takes a while to get to know everybody, and get to the point where we somewhat care for them, but when it does, the show really takes off. The second half of the season is significantly better than the first half, making it one well worth sticking to until the end. The treachery gets more intricate, and it gets better.
One of the more unfortunate things about the series, of course, was the death of its star. Andy Whitfield, who played Spartacus increasingly well as the series progressed, died of cancer before they were able to make the second season with him. By the end of Blood and Sand, he had really become Spartacus, and definitely excelled in the role. I wonder if I will continue to watch the series past this first season, simply because I know that he is no longer around.
Spartacus is a fun watch. There is enough of everything that it can keep people going back for more, or just letting Netflix run with it, in order to binge watch the first season. This is an interesting show, and even the perceived weaknesses get better as you move forward. Well worth a watch.