TV REVIEW: Spartacus: War of the Damned Episode 1 – “Enemies of Rome” (Spoiler Free)

SpartacusWOtDThe time is almost upon us! Spartacus: War of the Damned premieres this Friday on Starz.

If you just can’t wait until then, have this spoiler-free review of the first episode, and take comfort in the fact that it looks like we’re in for a great season.

 

With the epic finale to Spartacus: Vengeance, one might be concerned that War of the Damned might take a while to ramp up to that level of intensity. Thankfully, it does not.

Since Glaber’s defeat at Vesuvius, the rebel army has grown immensely, with slaves heartened at Spartacus’s victory and taking up arms to join the fight. Spartacus is now commanding an army of 30,000+. This is no longer Spartacus leading a group of slaveson the run: this is an army preparing for all-out war. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to do it on his own – he has help in the form of his generals Crixus, Gannicus and Agron. The Romans, on the other hand, have grown desperate at the rebels’ progress, and turn to Marcus Crassus, one of their wealthiest citizens, for help.

The opening sequence quickly sets a brutal and bloody tone, one which I am sure will be revisited often throughout the season. You definitely get the sense right away that the momentum has shifted in favor of the rebel army. They’re not running away anymore – they’re being bold, strategizing and taking the offensive. Spartacus really starts to showcase his leadership here; he’s the leader on the field, but he’s also in the camp listening to the masses. Liam McIntyre has really come into the role – he’s got a charismatic kind of intensity about him that’s compelling to watch. It’s not at all hard to believe that thousands would follow him in what started off as a suicide mission.

On the other side, we get our first glimpse at Simon Merrells as Marcus Crassus. Steven DeKnight has always been good at writing characters that refuse to be pigeonholed into the “good guy” or “bad guy” category, and Marcus Crassus is no different. Your first instinct is to dislike him, because he’s going to be going up against Spartacus. But it’s not that simple. He refuses to underestimate Spartacus, a mistake which many before him have paid dearly for. He’s clearly a tactician, and does not like giving anyone credit or accolades that they have not earned – this applies to himself as well. Yet he’s not above getting dirty to get what he wants. Certainly a complex character, and one I suspect I will end up liking despite my best intentions.

Another standout performance comes from Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Naevia. She’s come a long way from the broken, frightened slave she was when the rebels rescued her from the mines in Vengeance. She’s fighting side by side with the boys now, and kicks some serious butt in this episode. She’s joined by fellow woman-at-arms Saxa, played by Ellen Hollman. Between the two of them, I suspect fans of the female warriors will have plenty to cheer about this season.

In short, the season opener is bloody, sexy and action-packed – everything we’ve come to love from this show. Throw in some new, interesting characters (and wow, I cannot wait until Caesar shows up), and it looks like we’re in for a great season.

 

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Mirjana

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One comment

  1. Thank goodness Naevia isn’t the wimp she was last season (know it’s her arc, but it wasn’t overly enjoyable to watch).

    Crassus looks badass. Can’t wait until he and Sparty go head to head. In our review, we talk about how well suited they seem to be for one another, though we’re keeping an eye on the son, Tiberius, since he may cause some problems along the way.

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