‘Spartacus: Vengeance’ Season Premiere Review & Discussion

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Katrina Law Liam McIntyre Peter Mensah Manu Bennett Spartacu Vengeance Starz Spartacus: Vengeance Season Premiere Review & Discussion

After a very lengthy delay, Starz has launched the next chapter in the network’s sword and sandal epic: Spartacus: Vengeance. While the program’s return is marked by considerable excitement amongst its fans, the circumstances that led to the delay have tempered the event with a note of sadness.

With the untimely passing of Andy Whitfield, his replacement, Liam McIntyre, will certainly be met with hesitation and resistance on behalf of devoted fans of the series. But after watching the second season premiere, all concerns regarding McIntyre’s ability to step into the role should be put to rest.

In his role, McIntyre is (thankfully) not seeking to mimic Whitfield’s star-making performance as the titular Thracian. Instead, the new lead is making the character his by ever so slightly redefining who Spartacus is in this second season.

Whereas Whitfield played Spartacus as a rage-filled, roguish character who delighted in his own shrewdness, but could also count on his steely resolve to get him out of tight situations, McIntyre is, in many ways, taking the role in the opposite direction. In Spartacus: Vengeance, what we get is a more solemn, woeful hero who is burdened by the responsibilities that come with leadership and in caring for the lives of those he may have thought little of just weeks prior. The turnabout in character coincides well with the current direction of the series, and also provides something of a clever and tasteful reintroduction to the character.

Considering the second season picks up just weeks after the events of the season finale of Spartacus: Blood and Sand – which ended with a massacre at the House of Batiatusthere would be precious little time to give much in the way of a recap – and besides, fans have been waiting almost two years, so series creator Steven S. DeKnight and his team of writers have done what is most sensible for the series, which is to simply push forward.

And push forward the series does.

Given the rebels’ current predicament, one might suggest that Spartacus’ actions have taken the band of former slaves and gladiators from bad to worse. Struggling to find food and weapons, and living under constant threat of being found, the small party is simply not enough to enact the revenge on the Romans and, to be more precise, Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker, Lord of the Rings), the Thracian so desperately craves.

After his name was found carved into the body of an assassin tasked with ending Spartacus’ endeavors, Glaber finds himself sent to Capua in order to deal with the rascally Thracian and put to rest the fears of an all out uprising against the Roman Empire. Glaber is joined by his wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca), despite her protests against returning to the now bloodied House of Batiatus.

Lucy Lawless as Lucretia Spartacus Vengeance Starz Spartacus: Vengeance Season Premiere Review & Discussion

Of course, upon her arrival, Ilithyia is the first to be greeted by Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), who was thought dead – struck down by Crixus (Manu Bennett) during the massacre, although she was carrying the Gaul’s child. Lucretia’s mental state is almost as much a cause for concern to Ilithyia as is her survival, considering she’s privy to secrets Ilithyia would like to keep hidden.

With Glaber and his wife taking the role of villain this season, it will be useful to have Lucretia around to help add some depth to Ilithyia’s storyline, as Glaber will most certainly have his hands full with Spartacus and his growing band of rebels.

The fall of the House of Batiatus did more than set up the premise of Spartacus: Vengeance; it created a void in which one of the most exuberant characters was lost to the show. Without John Hannah’s Batiatus, there now is a search for a truly commanding presence on screen that the audience can despise, but still find it in their hearts to enjoy. One of the appealing aspects to Batiatus was his desperation to rise above his station in life, and his willingness to do almost anything to achieve such a lofty goal. Perhaps with Glaber being knocked down a peg, and forced to return to Capua to put an end to an uprising he unwittingly created, we will begin to see a similar kind of characterization that made Hannah so intriguing to watch.

Mostly, ‘Fugitivus’ serves to update the audience on the shifts to the series’ status quo, and, as mentioned before, some of the biggest shifts come from Spartacus himself. In the end, we see a willingness on behalf of Spartacus to put aside not only petty rivalries and thoughts of glory, but also his entire reason for living – which, at the moment, is to kill Glaber – for the safety of his followers and to prepare for a long-term battle that will require as much cunning and intelligence as it will brute strength.

It is an excellent set up to a series that has, time and again, proven itself to be much craftier in its storytelling than its onscreen obsession with sex and violence would lead a casual viewer to believe. DeKnight has carefully constructed a program that is not merely a visceral feast of blood and nudity – though there is still plenty of that here in Vengeance. Spartacus often rises above the level of pure pulp by offering some interesting insight into the characters, and especially the world in which they live; often touching upon the Roman political system and its internal dramas and squabbles therein.

Manu Bennett Liam McIntyre Spartacus Vengeance Starz Spartacus: Vengeance Season Premiere Review & Discussion

It’s not Rome, but, then again, with its storytelling roots so firmly placed in comic books, video games and films like 300, Spartacus never intended itself to be any sort of political drama. Somehow, though, the series has shed its campy outer layer and revealed an intriguing tale within. The visual aesthetic of the series likely came first, but the fact that DeKnight is capable of telling a well-written and engaging story simply feels like the icing on a very decadent cake.

Thankfully, that signature visual style has not been lost with the new season. In fact, after the attack on the brothel, Spartacus: Vengeance may have raised its own bar on orchestrated chaos. Everything in the series – from the outrageous blood-spewing battles to the ever-graphic sex – is handled with such an exquisite and deliberate choreography that it is hard not to appreciate the time and effort put in creating and delivering such a spectacle. The gladiator battles of the first season and the prequel miniseries, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, were impressive, to say the least, but these wide-open, multi-leveled action sequences featured in the season premiere have certainly brought something new and interesting to the future of the series.

While the differences may be off putting to some, Spartacus: Vengeance succeeds in staying true to the groundwork laid out in the first season. Let credit fall to McIntyre for his depiction of the title character, but also to actors like Manu Bennett for easing the transition by creating an instant and believable chemistry with his new co-star.

It’s been something of a bumpy road, but Spartacus is finally back.

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Spartacus: Vengeance airs Fridays @10pm on Starz.

TAGS: spartacus

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  1. I agree with everything that you typed.

    It’s still going to take me some time to get used to the “new” Spartacus. Liam definitely brings something different than Andy did but, at this point, I’m undecided about how to take it. Dustin Clare’s character in Gods Of The Arena was something I got behind almost immediately because of the similarities between Dustin and Andy as far as on-screen charisma goes.

    Maybe it’s just me when it comes to that but I’ll give it a few more episodes before I place a final opinion on Liam. Other than that, I enjoyed the first episode and it sets up lots of directions they can take it. Can’t wait to see Gannicus back in the mix either.

  2. I fully agree as well.
    The only thing offputting for me was the grandiose spectacle of gladiators being petty thugs now, living in a sewer. I can’t complain, because that’s the story; i just miss it.
    I trust the series will become incredibly exciting as Spartacus builds his army.
    Thrilled its finally back!!!

  3. I was also missing Andy but that soon passed once I saw Spartacus go after Glaber and I realized that I had already invested too much time in the show to just quit watching because of something minor. Plus I started thinking of all the new adventures to come and I got excited;)

  4. Use Andy’s stunt double!!!!
    The “new” Spartacus doesn’t look like he has the same passion as Andy. I guess Andy set the bar so high no one can reach it.

    • I dont think its his passion. At least I hope not, you would hope he attacked this character with geat vigor like Andy. However he has the unfortunate position to follow a GREAT lead like Andy.
      My only complaint (I guess you could call it that) is that Liams Physicality doesnt match his predecessor’s. He also sounds a bit soft too. This part needs someone gruff and Andy met that standard.

      • Exactly, he does not look nearly as athletic as Andy. or have the charisma that he did. Why did they not have Dustin Clare come back and play Spartacus?

        • because Clare is in this series later on. I don’t think people should complain about how he looks, that’s not as important as how he acts the part, which I think he did pretty well. It annoys me a little that people expect him to be exactly the same as Andy was. Does he portray Spartacus how Andy did? No, but that’s because he is a different person, no two actors are the same, no matter how hard you try.

  5. I found this episode as “pretty good”. Not amazing but still rather enjoyable, however I’m optimistic that this season will continue to get better and better.

  6. I have been a fan of spartacus since it started like everyone else i agree that no one will fill andy withfield shoes but i do think they made a good choice with the replacement. I also have invested to much not to see how it unravels people liked andy because he had a good balance between heroin and cockyness and how can we forget that accent. However is it just me or is it intresting that Ilithyia is pregnant and in the first show she thinks back about her and spartacus having sex call me crazy it is his son and some crazy stuff will go down in this season hope he sticks his knife and kills her like crixus tried to do to lucretia and she dies.

  7. I thought it was a great episode. I quickly stopped comparing the two leads, though it was hard at first. Liam emulated the signitare Spartacus fighting style, and vocal roar in the opening sequence, and it felt natural. Love the story telling and visuals. Spartacus remains my favorate show. Can’t wait to see Spartacus, Crixus, Doctore, and Gannicus on screen together….who in their right mind would want to square off against that quartet?

  8. In a word, Spartacus: Vengeance was Boring. The actor playing Spartacus changed, but the writers completely changed his character as well. What?!? Where’s the anger? The rivalry between him & Crixus? The wit? The sarcasm that Spartacus so often displayed? The undying passion for his dead wife (so that he wouldn’t even have sex with Mira until she “forced” him by asking it in return for a favor he wanted her to do). All those aspects of Spartacus’ character/nature must’ve been the writers, not Andy Whitfield (RIP). I feared the show would degenerate into nothing but battles between the Romans and the escaped slaves. It was worse: the characters became flat, uninteresting, with totally different personalities. And the brothel scene was gratuitous and egregiously violent. (This from one who adores seeing Lucy & Viva nude, and seeing well done nude scenes, but that brothel scene: what was the point? Shock value? Boring… Such a disappointment. And I’ve waited so long for this season. Unfortunately, it was even worse than I feared it would be. It didn’t just degenerate into battle scenes: the characters got flattened and dull as well.

    • i some what see where your going.

    • yeah its like the writers tried to hard and didnt let it flow …… im really bothered they didnt even look as in shape as they should have been the whole thing seemed forced and liam’s performance was horrible to me that is his fight scenes were very choppy and his emotional transference was very weak …. andy set the bar liam as per episode one failed to reach it in my opinion and john hannah (wow) he even was sorely missed i feel the two really made the show and unless someone steps up this season as a character we can’t live without i think the show will be in trouble

    • Agree totally. Boring. Poorly written. The violence was meaningless.

      And… it failed to answer a basic question: How did Lucretia’s survival go unnoticed until now? There were no rotting corpses around the house of Batiatus. If the gladiators disposed of them (and we know they didn’t. They ran), they would have noticed that Lucretia was still alive. If Romans handled the disposal, how could they have missed Lucretia hovering around the halls? It took Illythia all of about two minutes to find her.

      .

      • I totally overlooked the whole rotting corpses thing

    • I agree, its just not the actor that changed, the entire history has changed, like its a new series all together. We cant see the past season history in the character’s.
      Another strange things is the shooting of the series, Its seems like there is not continuum, they just made some separate scenes and joined them in the end.

    • Agree boring so far and the charactor is nothing close to Andy. Really disappointing.

  9. As always…There’s fans so commited to some actors that they just can’t see anyone else doing roles that their favorites did…..Personally…I never gaves it a second thought…You know why? I was interested in being entertained with a story I’ve come to enjoy. Frankly this Spartacus resembles the original enough that I really never thought of him as not the real Spartacus. I judge how well I like the segment by how disappointed I am that it’s already time to run the credits…..And I was deeply disappointed.
    when
    Does it seem to anyone else that every year when they come back that they seem to try to make the blood gush bigger and more spectacular than the previous season? I swear some of those are starting to look like those old films of oil gushers……If they do much more it will sort of become lampoon like. I hope they back it off just a little.

  10. I had a spartacus marathon last week in preparation for the new season. I had forgotten how good S1 was. I saw it when it first aired and enjoyed it for the novelty. Watching it again, wow. Andy and crew told a great story. Now with Liam taking over I was nervous. But i think liamis playing spartacus as someone who left the house of batiatis in rate and now sees what he has done to the lives of those freed slavesaround him. Which makes him calm.down,focus more,and think more about his actions. I like the rest of us, will very much miss andy and would have liked tobhave seen how he would.have played this character out. But by the end of the episode, I likedbliam and I am hoping he does the character right. But with Asher still free, gannnicus outbthere, I cant wait for.this season. The building of the army is gonna lead to.a.huge battle.by seasons end.

  11. yeah i was shocked to see that sptaracus and mira are some what together odd they should have maybe added it in the middle of the season.

  12. Total disappointment ….. i mean none of the grit that was clear through out season one was even remotely evident in this episode … liam is NO andy first off i found his imagining of spartacus was very weak he wasa cry baby and he def didn’t embody andy’s physicality as spartacus his movement was choppy his line delivery seemed forced i’m really sad about this i was really excited …. but even the writing seem way off it seems like they decided to go for shock value rather than a substance filled episode i mean lucy lawless was excellent (but then again she’s a terrific actress) but its sad to say but i guess andy whitfield , john hannah , really set the bar and made the show perhaps it will get better but the show is clearly lacking as of now Rip andy

  13. I would have to agree that the opening scene of Spartacus was a choppy fight scene at best, but realizing that Liam was thrown into the role and filmed within a few weeks after getting the part seems understandable. By the end of the show you can see that business will definately pick up and people will like Liam for his version of almost as much as they love Andy’s. I look forward to the season and the surprises that it will bring like the return of Gannicus and Ashur. Still feel like no one will be as brilliant in the show as John Hannah was.

  14. Oh… and let’s not forget the moment when one of the gladiators tells Spartacus “you had me at hordes.”

    A Jerry McGuire reference? I haven’t cringed like that since Jar Jar Binks said “Exsqueeze me?”

    Horrible. The worst episode of the series by far.

    • I believe he said “whores”

  15. I am yet to see it. But I will say this, give the guy a chance. Give the show a chance and let it find it’s footing again. It was knocked for a six when Andy passed but he did give Liam his blessing and bagging out his performance only diminishes the blessing that Andy gave. When they change James Bond every handful of films does anyone really care? It’s just excepted and people watch it and after a while we forget that the change ever took place. I mean we all have favorites but stuff happened and it was either replace Andy or cancel the show. I’m glad it’s still going and I for one am going to give it a chance coz that’s what Andy would have wanted. RIP Andy you WILL be missed.

  16. I did find the substance a little blah. I do believe there is great room for development. please remember the beginning 2 or 3 episodes were OK then… it took off! i think the same will happen here (at least i am really hoping it does). after such a long layover it is understandable. It is incredibly hard to jump into a roll and make it your own, imagine how difficult it is to make a dedicated fan base believe u are actually owning that roll. I am very excited.

    HOWEVER the one thing that REALLY bothers me is Liams physical built. I keep looking at his thighs, they are soo skinney. he doesnt give me the masculine, leader, gladiator look as the rest of the men. I really think he needs to bulk up because it is very distracting to believe what he is saying when he looks like a 10 yr old boy!

  17. Just premiered here in the UK and I must say that I was a little worried as to if it would live up to expectations.

    After the initial opening scene I wasn’t sold, but watching the whole episode I’m happy to say I totally enjoyed it. Liam was good I thought and by the end of the episode I had warmed to him. He has taken the character in his own direction. Andy was great and will be missed, but let’s give Liam a chance.

    All in all I enjoyed the first episode, let’s see if the series maintains what I thought is a good start.

  18. I thought it was a really good premiere, I guess my only disappointment was that I expected the new Spartacus to be in at least the same physical condition as Andy Whitman was when he played Spartacus. This new Spartacus played by
    Liam McIntyre, isn’t as defined, as muscular, something you would expect from that kind of training that you would be going through as a gladiator. He seems a little soft physically for the role, he needs to be spending a little more time working out so that the physical presents matches the personality of the leader Spartacus.

  19. I agree he does a good job but really needs to get bigger and in better shape, still love it though!

  20. I like the transition of the character of Spartacus and Doctorae. Both affected by the rebellion with Spartacus trying to become a leader and Doctorae seeking honor for what he partook in.

    They kept the strange dynamic in the relationship of Varo’s wife and Spartacus. Her final words to him were unnerving

  21. Overall it was very promising.

    It did move along at a brisk pace, and the episode was caught between referencing what happened before and progressing to what happens next. It was a lot to cram in for a season premiere, but its clear that the writers want to get things moving , especially as we only have 10 episodes this time.

    So how did Liam do? I thought ok to good. He was actually more convincing in the quieter scenes – especially with Aurelia. He displayed the pathos,and regret side of Spartacus quite well. Agreed with comments that he was lacking physically – when compared to the other slaves. Whitfield’s image was of a more lean, meaner fighter. Rightly or wrongly – i can’t help feeling that Andy being there would have made this even more awesome.

    The fighting choeorgraphy was great as always, and the brothel scene will definitely be one of the standout this season. Having the slaves out in the open gives greater scope for the fight sequences.

    The high point without doubt was the fate of Aureila. Evoking memories of Donna’s end in GOTA – her demise was truly horrific and the fact she was so frail made it even more difficult to watch. These scenes were the most powerful of the episode.

    Oenomaus is without doubt the ultimate badass. He is every bit to this show what Piccolo is to Dragonball Z. Those fools really should’ve known better than to mess with him.

    And there’s Katrina Law aka = hot, hot, simmering hot.

  22. I also miss Andy like everyone else, but I think they did a pretty darned good job. I guess what this episode reminded me of was that I like this show for so many other elements and characters besides just spartacus. I mean how many times have you just found your mouth hung open from something unexpected to happen.(example:varro’s wife getting caught)

  23. The fight scenes hold nothing to season 1. Think back to when Spartacus saved Quintus Batiatus from assassination in the pit. That was one of the best fight sequences I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t help but to long for the old days and cringe at the poorly executed fight scenes in this episode.

  24. I DVR the series and tried to watch…I turned it off 5 minutes into the opening scene. I just can’t do it. Imagine trying to watch the Godfather 2, If Al Pacino was no longer playing the role of Michael. I tried comparing Spartacus to the ” James Bond ” movie franchise, except with JB they waited as long as it took til they found the perfect replacement for Sean Connery, to Roger Moore to Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig. Each of those actors possessed something unique yet familiar that made the fans want to invest something into those actors. I don’t see it with this liam dude..I’m sure he’s a good actor but he’s missing that ” intangible” quality that Andy possessed and brought out with the Spartacus character.

  25. Im sorry to say this about the new guy, but he is unwatchable. His voice doesn’t seem natural and he chops up his sentences like a robot. He doesn’t flow and he comes off dull. I remember the days when I would rush home to watch this show. Now when he starts talking I yawn and hope to maybe watch it later on dvr.

  26. Miss Andy. Liam not nearly as sharp of character as Andy was. I will watch because still vested in Gannagis and a couple of other characters.

  27. The “new” Spartacus Liam is a quality actor but he is not good in this role… Just the wrong choice…his personality and physicality is too weak. The individuals he hopes to lead are far more imposing and it takes away from the believability of the show . Andy’s “Sparticus” was strong and passionate in all of his actions. That having been said I still enjoy the show but miss Batiatus (John Hannah). However, I now watch the show not as much for Spartacus but for the Lucretia & Ilithia storyline as well as that of Oenomaus.

  28. Ok so the only intrest i have right now is lucretia i used to watch to know what spartacus was going to do next im not going to say i am going to stop watching completely because season one started off slow and got extremely better im hoping for the same. i hate ilithyia but she even is better to watch at the moment then spartacus.

  29. gerald agree with you a 100 percent.

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