What initially started out as a six-part stopgap, while Andy Whitfield recovered from cancer treatment, has become an epic example of how a prequel series should be done. Not that Whitfield's absence hasn't been missed, but the new characters, twisting plotlines and the series' unbridled passion for sex and violence have shown why it has developed legions of fans.
As the final episode draws to a close, not only are all the storylines nicely wrapped up, but future character conflicts are expanded upon, past differences resolved and the seeds for an epic 'second' season are planted.
At the end of the last episode, the deaths of Titus and Melitta had shaken the House of Batiatus to its foundations. Not only was Batiatus set on vengeance, but he now had the backing of the fearsome and grief-stricken Oenomaus and Gannicus. But how would his revenge best be served? As this is Spartacus, the result was always going to be bloody.
One of the ongoing storylines in Season 1 was the rivalry between Batiatus and Solonius. But as the two were shown as friends at the start of the prequel series, it was inevitable that an epic fallout would occur. As usual, the writers of Spartacus lead you down one path, thinking you know exactly what is going to happen, before delivering a twist that leaves you genuinely surprised. Solonius has always been a slippery bastard, and betraying Batiatus to Tullius seemed like the most obvious explanation for the mutual hatred between the two ludus owners. However, the writers had another, much better idea.
Once Tullius is expertly dispatched and entombed in his own creation, Solonius, fed up of forever being in everyone else's shadow, especially his friend's, takes the initiative to secure his own future. It's a fantastic bit of double-dealing and what is even more surprising is that, as a viewer, you don't begrudge him his little victory. After everything he has done for Batiatus, you almost feel happy he gets his reward.
However, if there was a problem that I had with this episode, it was that of Solonius letting Vettius go. If ever there was a loose end that needed tying up, it was Vettius. Still, while it was not shown on screen, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Solonius had Vettius killed a few days later. After all, he has learnt a lot from Batiatus over the past six episodes, namely how to secure your own future. Either way, it is clearly why conflict existed between the two in the future.
Speaking of conflict, it is something the finale is not short of. In the words of The Simpson's Hans Moleman, "We paid for blood" and that is exactly what we got this episode. With the opening of the new arena, the scene is set for an epic showdown between the House of Batiatus' gladiators and the gladiators of Solonius (formerly of Vettius).
In one epic battle, a number of loose ends are expertly handled, including he conflict between Ashur and Dagan, Ashur's injuries in the future, Crixus becoming the House's champion, and the fate of Gannicus. In fact, Gannicus' final battle is not only stunning to watch, but it features quite possibly the greatest and goriest kill in the series' history.
The former champion of the House of Batiatus has quickly become a fan favourite, thanks to actor Dustin Clare's charismatic performance. It seemed inevitable that Gannicus would die due to his lack of appearance in Blood And Sand, but thankfully, the writers realised that there is a lot of potential left in the character. By having the gladiator win his freedom, the stage is set, not only for his return, but for him and Crixus to clash when it comes to the running of the slave army (not to mention the goals of Spartacus and Oenomaus).
However, this series has always been about John Hannah and Lucy Lawless. The show will really miss the characters of Batiatus and Lucretia, as their double-dealing and complex relationship has been one of the best aspects of the show. But there was nowhere for them to go once the slaves revolted. Still, this series has been an excellent swansong for the two, and while they will be sorely missed, the future is bright for the show, if this prequel series is anything to go by.
Spartacus: Vengeance will not start till September, but the producers are already dropping hints about what we can expect. Showrunner Steven S. DeKnight said Season 2 will see the new Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) and his band of warriors as a "very dysfunctional family".
"[In] most interpretations of Spartacus, they break out, and it's like Robin Hood and his merry men," DeKnight said. "They're all together and fighting the system. In our season two, they are not getting along. They all have different agendas [and] they all think [the uprising] should be done a different way, which is historically accurate."
He has also confirmed that the 13-part series will explore "the beginnings of the war" between Spartacus and the forces of Rome.
I, for one, cannot wait. Kill them all!