review: Spartacus: Blood and Sand * * * * *
starring Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Daniel Feuerriegel, Pana Hema Taylor, Manu Bennett, Katrina Law, Viva Bianca
director various, Michael Hurst, among others
I don’t review tv shows very often. There are some good ones out there and they usually have the same things in common: well developed, interesting characters, a gripping plot, if it’s a crime series or horror, there is suspense and if it’s a good sitcom, there is a healthy balanced mix of funny, hilarious and emotional moments.
In fact, I have only reviewed one tv show so far and that was Supernatural. On this blog, Spartacus will be the first show I will write a review about. Because everything about it took me by surprise.
I knew about the show, of course. You cannot ignore all the commercials promoting it, especially when they always run on one of your favorite tv stations. I have seen the commercials for Season 1 as well as Season 2, albeit I was surprised that the main role was played by a different actor. I did not know about Andy Whitfield’s death back then.
Still, I had absolutely no interest to watch this show. Let me tell you why. I have zero interest in gladiators and Ancient Rome. It just isn’t my cup of tea, my interest lies rather in Ancient Egypt. Also, I don’t find tall, muscular, sweaty men appealing. Again, not my cup of tea. And to top it all: I really don’t want to see all the blood, gore and fighting. Also, you cannot impress or intrigue me with all the massive amount of sex that this tv show has. You see: None of the main elements of Spartacus could appeal to me.
I had almost forgotten about the show altogether when a couple of weeks ago (is it really only a couple of weeks? seems like ages to me) a gifset appeared on my dashboard. It showed two beautiful men not have sex, not fuck blindly, but make love, really. And I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It looked so real and there was so much emotion in it, you really had a hard time believing it was only acting.
I did some research and was more than surprised to find out that the scene in question was from Spartacus (War of the Damned). I also found out that the names of the two men were Agron and Nasir, respectively, and then I got deeper into it and learned about their back-stories.
I found out that in my country they showed Season 1 of Spartacus. I was a bit disappointed, because I knew that the love story between Agron and Nasir began in Season 2. But, I also knew that Agron could already be seen in Season 1, so I thought, why not, I’ll give it a chance. And that was basically it.
That was two weeks ago. I have so far seen four episodes of Spartacus, beginning with episode 7, and I am completely hooked. To a show that should not interest me at all.
Of course there is still the blood, gore and violence and I must admit that sometimes I close my eyes during the scenes in question because I simply don’t want to see it. But. It’s the characters of the show, how it treats them and the storyline itself that took a grip of me and wouldn’t let me go.
First of all: Almost none of the characters is easily labeled or put into a certain category. None of them is only bad, only good, or only innocent the whole time. They may be that at some point, but you never know and everything can change completely by the following episode. It would be easy to label, say, the Big Bad Batiatus simply an evil, rotten character, but he has his sympathetic moments. It would be easily to label some of the female characters shallow, evil whores, but they aren’t and may surprise you. And the gladiators are not the dumb killing machines that they are trained to be. They all have their stories, reasons, drama and destinies. I think this is what appeals to me most about the show: It takes every character seriously, down to the minor ones, gives them dimension and depth and unexpected depth, really. Also, the storyline is interesting and gripping, to say the least, and full of surprises.
A word about Nagron, as Agron and Nasir are lovingly called by their fans. It will probably take a while until I can see them in action, if I don’t buy Season 2 on DVD until then. But from what I learned about them so far thanks to Tumblr, I have to say it’s one of the most beautiful gay love stories I have seen so far and one of the best on tv. Here they are, in a lost world of testosterone, violence and uncertainty, where either of them might not survive the next day, and yet something incredibly beautiful blooms between them. I love how there is absolutely nothing sissy or girly about their love and behaviour. Both are tough men and excellent fighters and just happen to be in love with a man. No big deal. I love how they influence each other. Agron is usually that angry, aggressive warrior but when he is with Nasir, his quiet, emotional side comes out. Nasir balances him. On the other hand Nasir could easily be the defensive, weak former slave, but he is strong and he takes a level in badass and when he sees Agron, he glows from inside. That’s beautiful, brilliant character development right there. The show treats them with the uttermost respect. And, like I mentioned above, in a show where sex is mostly about power, dominance and games, it is almost refreshing but definitely touching to see a couple really make love, tenderly and emotionally, but not without lust.
My favorite character so far is Andy Whitfield in the role of Spartacus and it pains me to know that he will only be seen in Season 1. He adds many layers to his role and his performance is just beautiful. He is one of those actors who, in addition to be brilliant, really shine from within and fill their role with life. He IS Spartacus for me. He is that tragic hero at the beginning and you sometimes even dislike him for his selfish decisions, albeit you understand them. He then grows stronger and is an excellent fighter and intelligent man. I just cannot resist intelligence and compassion, so … I would also like to mention Lucy Lawless and her fantastic performance. Again: A character you cannot label easily. A true surprise was John Hannah. I remember distinctly two performances of his: In “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “The Mummy” and both are far from Batiatus, really. It was not always easy (I just perfer him in nicer roles) but definitely entertaining to watch him in this role. And it showed once more what a brilliant actor he is.
Well, I hope I gave you enough reasons to watch this show. To sum it up: It’s simply brilliant. And everyone has probably their own reasons why they watch it. Let me just say one thing: I am not easily impressed when it comes to tv and if Spartacus could blow me away, it may do it to you, too. Give it a chance, you will most likely not regret it. Five stars.