(Review originally published in Jan. 2011.)
I'll be honest... The first episode had me very worried. With the comic book feel, stop-action-for blood moments, and crazy camera angles, it was a bit too much like they were going 300.
Fortunately, the bloody stylized horse and pony show was only to grab attention for the opening episode to the series. Once we'd been dazzled by the blood-soaked sands, the real dramatic story could begin.
First of all, it's really nice to see Lucy Lawless playing a role in an action project where she's not swinging a weapon, and it's nice to see John Hannah in a role that doesn't have him acting like a bumbling, cowardly idiot. These two play wonderfully together as the owners of a gladiator ranch (known as a Ludis.)
Andy Whitfield plays the title character, and while he doesn't look like the typical candidate for gladiatorial combat, he is believable as the tragic hero-character. The cast is rounded out with an array of warriors, catty aristocrats, and sleazy characters that remind you that ancient Rome was not the best place in the world to live.
All of the characters are very intriguing, and even those who seem to have nothing but the best intentions show themselves to be capable of the most vile deeds. There are no clear-cut heroes or villains here, and that's what makes this cast of characters so interesting.
Yes, there is lots and lots of blood and sex in this show. Definitely not for the kiddies. Some of the situations may seem to be a little over the top, but then you are reminded that Roman debauchery knew no limitations.
Overall, an incredibly well-written show that dares to take its viewers into the sludges of Roman society rather than keeping their togas clean riding in a litter. The 300-esque style does pop up from time to time throughout the season, but takes a backseat to the incredible drama that plays out in the story.
I very much enjoy the series and look forward to the second season.
Info on IMDB: Spartacus: Blood and Sand