‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ Series Finale Review

Published 2 years ago by

Liam McIntyre in Spartacus WOTD Victory Spartacus: War of the Damned Series Finale Review

It’s hard to believe that a series which has had more than its fair share of struggles – both with the untimely passing of original series lead Andy Whitfield and the sheer amount of people who wrote Spartacus off early on, mistakenly believing it to be for purely puerile interests – actually made it as far as this program did.

But as we approached the final episodes of Spartacus: War of the Damned, the series easily illustrated how it managed to become one of the most consistently enjoyable, well-written and yet tragically underrated programs on television.

And as the series progressed toward the end – which will certainly be thought of as coming too soon – it was clear that even though the story could have been decompressed and drawn in smaller strokes, the road to ‘Victory’ had been given considerable thought by Stephen S. DeKnight and his team of writers. Which is why, even though the final hour of Spartacus would have an enormous amount of heavy lifting to do, the opening sequence (which also serves as a nice homage to another Spartacus) perfectly illustrates the message of the series and the legacy of all these characters we’ve come to know and feel something for.

Admittedly, in that opening moment when Gannicus utters the phrase “I am Spartacus,” it felt as though some trickery might be afoot. But rather than play games regarding the inevitability of their characters’ fate, the writers simply and effectively demonstrated how the name Spartacus had become something more important than a single man. The name Spartacus is something as powerful and laden with meaning as “the bringer of rain” was to Batiatus before it would become synonymous with his doom. The name Spartacus had been transformed into a symbol and a movement that could be embodied by all those thirsting to be free.

Dan Feuerriegel Pana Hema Taylor in Spartacus WOTD Victory Spartacus: War of the Damned Series Finale Review

That notion is made clear one final time as Spartacus and Gannicus have a quiet discussion wherein they discover how their radically divergent paths had come to an end in pretty much the same place: willing to die so that others could live to carry on and disseminate what the name Spartacus truly meant. The Thracian sums it by saying, “Life is what defines it. Not the death of Romans, nor ours, nor those that follow us into battle. But the life of Sibyl, or Laeta. The mother and her child…They are all Sura, and I would see them live.”

That establishment of the series’ intent and sharp delivery of the message allowed ‘Victory’ to gradually become an intense and breathless wave of action that gleefully toyed with the viewers’ expectations without disrupting the purpose and meaning of the inescapable climax. From the onset, it was clear how outnumbered Spartacus was, how silly it seemed for him to take a stand against the might of Rome, and in this instance we are reminded of how Crixus fell. And still, despite the insurmountable odds and the certainty of his fate, Spartacus puts on a brilliant showing, and for a brief moment the viewer is invited to believe that history can, in this instance anyway, be rewritten.

Spartacus’ cunning and relentless drive puts the Romans momentarily on their heels – especially when Gannicus arrives, dividing the army’s attention and narrowly missing Crassus and Caesar with a barrage of Roman spears. But as soon as Lugo starts (literally) swinging a flaming hammer of death, the momentum begins to shift and familiar characters are sent off to the afterlife. Whether we knew them from the first moments of the series, during Gods of the Arena, Vengeance or even during War of the Damned, as each character falls in battle, their death lands with astonishing impact.

Liam McIntyre as Spartacus in WOTD Victory Spartacus: War of the Damned Series Finale Review

But ‘Victory’ doesn’t settle for simple one-and-done confrontations. Instead, it delights with moments like Spartacus knocking Crassus from his horse then, after pursuing him atop a hill and slaying several of his men, halting Crassus’ signature technique and using it against him. It was like the battle itself: a losing endeavor, but one that was filled with some incredible and unforgettable moments.

And while the battle was won for Rome, (sort of) like history would remember it, the cost was great on both sides. Crassus would have his victory, but at the expense of total glory and worse, the life of Kore. Meanwhile, Gannicus found something worth living for and wound up crucified for it, but is greeted in death by Oenomaus and the roar of the arena he was once a god in.

‘Victory’ (and the series) ends with Agron, Nasir and the other survivors, looking back on the man who had shown them to their freedom, leaving Spartacus under a red serpent – as had been foretold when the series first began.

Drawing that kind of circle back to the beginning of the series was an incredibly effective way of ending Spartacus and it helped demonstrate once more just how far the series had come since its seemingly inauspicious beginning. This is the kind of series one hopes is not soon forgotten. Looking back on Spartacus as a whole, it seems impossible that it ever will be.


TAGS: Spartacus
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  1. Rip Andy! Gratitude

  2. I loved this show, it was not always perfect but it was probably one of the better written and consistent shows out there.

  3. They should keep going with more episodes but this time the story of Crassus and Caesar with a barrage of Roman spears, Until Caesar Falls. Same actors of course.

  4. Oh how I have loved watching this from the very start. We all knew how it would end but all the same you will it not to be so. Such a well written and wonderfully acted drama with an incredibly moving finale . Gutted that I won’tget to see any more series and shall miss it very much ,agree I would like to see a series based around Crassus and Caesar as has already been mentioned . Congratulations to Stephen S Deknight on a job well done ,highly entertaining stuff.

    RIP Andy Whitfield ,taken too soon.

  5. I actually cried at the end lol anyone else?

    • Me too but I can’t tell anyone :)

    • Admission: tears flowed down cheeks, chest welled up, emotional denial of unavoidable ending ever present. Must have DVDs for never ending replays now Starz no longer gives free offerings on viewings for coin ….

    • Yep, no shame in that.

  6. It was quite possibly the most amazing hour in recent television history.

    Many great shows have often never received the fitting ending they deserved. Quantum Leap was cut before it’s time. The Sopranos was the worst crime in television history. The likes of NYPD Blue , ER etc went for a more back to basics approach and both felt a bit underwhelming.

    Then there was Smallvile. An finale that hit many great heights but was ultimately undone by a weakly developed and unprepared final season.

    In Spartacus though, I think we finally got the near perfect conclusion to what has been a stellar season to further confirm a great show that doesn’t get the full recognition it deserves amognst much hyped up, overrated ones.

    So much could be written about this episode, it was simply a spectacle from start to finish. Some awe inspiring scenes as the rebels adopted several tactics to give them a fighting chance. The Romans falling under the submerging ground was jaw dropping to say the least. The producers continually toyed with your emotions, actually convincing me that they would go against history and have the rebels actually win.

    Gannicus final stand was amazing and of course it was right that Caesar would never best him one on one. The crucifixion was sad but so fitting to see Oenomanus standing there and then the cheering arena surrounding him.

    Then there was Spartacus vs Crassus, one of the best television fight scenes ever. Again realism was correctly enforced with Spartacus already weakened from fighting other soldiers. The sword choreography was quick and sharp without needless shaky cam. I absolutely loved those slo-mo shots of Spartacus roaring strikes inter cutting with the deaths of those most dear to him. Simply fantastic.

    Although i think we should’ve seen him survive it was a poignant and moving final scene with the rain coming down in Spartacus’ final words.

    After Smallville i wasn’t sure i would get to watch another show capable of delivering epic story and spectacle so regularly with exhlirating season finales. Spartacus was that show and current shows today just fail to match its ambition and compelling nature – especially Game of Thrones which let’s be honest , pales in comparison.

    An amazing show that could’ve quite easily continued for another 2-3 seasons. Well done Starz on such a brilliant show, but damn you also for cancelling such a brilliant show.

    • u r right they should have kept it going I cried when Spartacus died it should of ended differently they should of have had more of a victory over Rome

  7. One of the best written and acted tv show I have ever seen. I think it will only be in years to come how gods of a show we actually witnessed. Watched it from day one and gutted it had to come to a climaxing end. I k we the history of Spartacus, and even though it had to be accurate I couldn’t help myself wanting history to change for that moment and allow all the main characters to live. The produces, writers, actors were all superb and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a show to be aired.

  8. One of the best written and acted tv show I have ever seen. I think it will only be in years to come how gods of a show we actually witnessed. Watched it from day one and gutted it had to come to a climaxing end. I k we the history of Spartacus, and even though it had to be accurate I couldn’t help myself wanting history to change for that moment and allow all the main characters to live. The produces, writers, actors were all superb.

    • Absolutely! I cannot remember seeing any such good television since I lived in England in the early 1990s, Jeeves and Wooster and the Blackadder series come to mind. Different genres but absolutely great telly. So underrated and unknown by the public at large. Game of Thrones gets the plaudits and gives us the swords and naked bods but Spartacus was SO-MUCH-BETTER …

  9. I waited nearly a week before I could bring myself to watching the very last episode – not because I couldn’t be bothered rather that I didn’t want it to end. Like others, I am a 45 yr old man, I shed a tear upon the final scenes. The way in which each life we had come to call ‘friends’ was taken made the eyes swell even more. An amazing series, not given the status it deserved – although the fact that SKY1 (UK) decided to air the series, makes me think they realised what this show actually was and meant.

    I love the original Spartacus, with Kirk Douglas et al, and they way the new shows stayed within the structure of the original yet allowing itself some creativity was a credit to all production/writers and directors.

    I also loved the closing credits, how each character from all the series were shown, paying homage to their part in making the shows what they were. The final credit, with Andy (RIP) shouting ‘I am Spartacus’, well, what an honourable tribute to such a fine actor take so soon. I shall miss this show dearly – and not just because of the gorgeous women on there! :-). Gratitude and pray that words be broken again.

  10. PS. Did anyone else think that Caeser looked like Brad Pitt???

    • Yes he does look like Brad Pitt in Troy! Although not as deadly! Achilles vs Spartacus! Who wins?

      • Take away Achilles godly DNA and i think Spartacus has the edge.

        Achilles (Troy version) embodies that skillful, prisitne, conditioned fighter who fights knowing he is superior. However comes undone against a physical, relentless, courageous opponent who refuses to give in. I always said that Hector should’ve beaten him (he even gets a valid strike in first) and the same goes for Spartacus.

        On another issue i still say Oenomaus was the best fighter out of the lot.

        • I agree. Although each had their own strengths, they were students of Oenomaus – apart from Gannicus of course! Still wouldn’t pick a fight with him though! :-)

          • I think Gannicus is the best fighter! He even tells Spartacus at one point that they’re equals with the sword! Even if i’m wrong he would have still kicked caesar’s ass!

    • Yes… I waited over a week to watch it, as I knew what was coming. As others point out, the show brilliantly teased us with the “maybe they can, this time!” idea… but no.

      And yet, despite the tears in my eyes, I loved every minute of it. Brilliant finale to a series that I really enjoyed… that I had to defend to my friends (“Its not just a nudity fest! etc…), as it was so much more than it seemed.

      The acting, the writing, the way it embraced what could have been cheapo production values and said – to hell with it, we’re going for it, and it worked…

      And the final episode, when finally watched. Words could not speak. And at the end of the final credits montage… tears did.

    • Certainly when he still had the mop of hair when acting the ruffian. When he reverted to a “Ceasar” -quelle surprise- the likeness was less striking.

  11. I knew what the ending was going to be and never expected to become so attached to the characters but during the series finale I cried like a baby. Yes there was a lot of sex and gore but I don’t think the program over represented what the times were like. This became one of my all time favorite series, I have been watching the entire series again since the finale. I am enjoying watching the episodes as much this time as I did the first time.

  12. It probably will not happen, but with the way that the series ended, the producers and writers might perhaps consider a spin-off-perhaps a small one-of the lives of the surviving slaves upon the death of Spartacus: ie. Agron, Laeta, Sybil, Nasir, etc. Something seperate and apart of the Caesar spin-off that there has been so much talk about. Or maybe even include them together. Who knows; the skill of these writers; anything that they would come up with would be worthwhile.

  13. Please tell me spartacus didn’t died in this last episode(war of the last doom)

  14. Please tell me spartacus didn’t died in this last episode war of the last doom

  15. I didn’t like the “new” Ppartacus they chose to replace Andy Whitfield. He felt like a skinny poor man’s version. But Liam McIntyre proved me wrong at the very last episode. That moment near the end when he gives a bloodied side glance to Crassus after dispatching the last bodyguard. Boom. That was the moment he became the one and only Spartacus for me.

    • Good for you! Welcome aboard and better late than never! I recall just the episode before with Liam’s Spartacus moving tribute to Crixus; his holding the slave army together on the frozen waste of Melia Ridge, and his leading their escape from it; Likewise his leading their escape and their victory upon Vesuivius and the death of Glaber at the end of the Vengeance series; and prior to that, his bringing down the arena of Capua; and on an on. Yes, Andy (R.I.P) did a fine job; liam was the Spartacus that I will remember.

      • ur crazy, Whitfield will always be the original Thracian.
        I disagree entirely.

        • Opinions are like birthdays I guess or anything else for that matter; everybody has one. I entirely disagree with you as well, and stand by my original statement of a year ago.

    • Blahh, even though it is based back in greek mythology,it should of had an suprising twist

  16. Congratulations all production team, direction team and actors.

    such a nice show i didn’t see in my life. i like very much and deeply involved when i watch the shows. But last episode i was unable to digest the climax even though superb show.

    Many thanks for such a nice show presenting…..

  17. Having watched all of Spartacus now, I have to say that this the best tv sies that I have ever watched. And even though I didn’t think much of Liam’s acting abilities (very poor) I still enjoyed every episode, and enjoyed seeing the various characters develop.

  18. We finished the series last week and we cried like little babies… it was so great, ups and downs, hate and love. I loved the strategie in the last episodes, it was so great and also frustrating to see people live and die

  19. Sorry, I don’t agree, season 4 was b******* to me, especially the ending. I know Spartacus historically loses, but something about this ending was so horrible and let’s be honest, nobody is watching this to get a history lesson. It’s pure entertainment and simply put, should have been done differently. For me it didn’t carry the vibe of the first 2 seasons, which were much more potent. I’m not sure if it was the way they had Spartacus die, or the horrible way they wrapped up the story. Maybe it was the way tension was built, but it really ruined the series for me. Lastly, I cannot help but wonder what Andy Whitfield would have done for this series had he still been around.

    Just my opinion, at least others seemed to enjoy it much more than I.

  20. the ending could have been better . much better but whatever

  21. The series finale brought me to tears. It was emotional, moving, uplifting, and a beautiful tribute to the legend of Spartacus and the meaning of freedom – a fitting conclusion to a saga that could’ve easily been written off after just the first season.

    Liam McIntyre took over the lead with such aplomb that it almost made me forget Andy Whitfield had ever been Spartacus. In the end, Andy makes one final appearance that will forever live in our hearts, as well should be. Great actors both of them. I look forward to seeing Liam in other projects as well as the rest of the cast members.

    I picked up this humble series almost with giddy skepticism. The extreme and bloody violence and gratuitous sex was almost cartoonish, but beneath that veneer was a show with great depth and incredibly complex characters. I’m glad I stuck around and very pleased the producers didn’t give up on the show after Andy’s untimely death.

    Here’s to Starz’s Spartacus! One of the greatest shows on television ever produced.

  22. Ending was pretty sad I thought the spears was gonna hit the king but failed overall epic scenes d great show