Saturday, February 07, 2015

My Return to Spartacus

A few years ago, including HERE, I raved about Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I've never been into violence on the screen, but it sucked me in right away (even if some of the violence was way too much and I had to turn away.) And all the violence was balanced by the great John Hannah's Batiatus anyway. I watched the prequel 2nd season even though they'd lost Andy Whitfield to cancer becasue, well, Gannicus was pretty awesome and a younger Battiatus was even MORE awesome.

But when the 3rd season came around, the actual sequel to the first season, I didn't feel much interest, mainly due to Whitfield being replaced and John Hannah being gone. That was almost three years ago; this morning for some reason I picked it back up on Netflix and have quickly burned through the first half of the season. Whoever Spartacus is is no Andy Whitfield but he's good enough, but the plot twists and turns every corner, along with further development of more characters so we don't need so much Spartacus anyway (like that fucking rat Asher) are making this season, in a word, delightful. Yes, the fight songs go on and on way too long and are the exact same, but what the hey. The 5th episode felt like a season finale and we're only halfway through, which means we can expect the second half to be fucking bonkers. A la VULTURE:
In decrying the way that some shows string along viewers in the name of long-term payoff, I argued that pacing is often the problem that befalls lesser shows. By sticking the events of “Libertus” smack dab in the middle of the season, DeKnight honors the story he is trying to tell by cresting it at exactly the proper time. Too many shows arbitrarily stall their stories in order to squeeze out more hours for air. But “Libertus” is the logical extension of these first four hours. Had this been the ninth or tenth episode of the season, Spartacus would have turned into one of those puppeteers that affixes life-sized dummies to each side in order to make the Romans think the rebellion had more fighters still remaining. But in planning the season-long story, this show took pains to create mini-arcs inside each episode that pushed every single person toward a crossroads by the fifth hour.

Had he [Spaartacus] moped around for an entire season only to get some balls in the final moments, we would have probably grown sick and tired of scene after scene of emo doubt. Another four episodes of Ilithyia asymptotically approaching divorce would have been frustrating. Another month of Oenomaus bitching about women might have grown intolerable. But by placing all these concerns within a half-season arc that will lead directly into a new one in the back half of Vengeance? All these elements suddenly become not only more tolerable, but also more narratively justified.
Of course, the best thing of all is the shocking return of Gannicus, which feels like Elvis joining The Beatles.

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