‘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
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. One of the best series finales that I’ve ever watched.Liam was awesome as Spartacus this season,especially since I didn’t care for him in Vengeance.

    Even with all of the gratuitous sex scenes and slo-mo,it was an absolute great series.

  2. I loved the finale and the whole series. They really pulled off some great television, even after losing the star. I don’t think many productions could have done that. Also, Liam McIntyre really owned the role of Spartacus. I’m very happy to see his fame excel. I hope to see more films/tv starring him in the future.

    Without HBO’s Rome and Spartacus now, I hope other productions fill the Ancient Rome void. I would love to see other lesser seen eras. Maybe closer to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

  3. Easily one of the most satisfying finales I’ve ever seen. The story is that they lose…and I knew it…..But I was still given hope all the way through. Gannicus on the cross was hard…hard….but still one of the great finales…
    ….And for a series that never ever got it’s due recognition. Unqualified praise by me for this episode. And that’s rare.

  4. Great show, a tear fell from my face as I watched the finale. Also the credit sequence was also well put together with a montage of all the characters that have appeared on the show, including Andy Whitfield screaming “I am Spartacus”.

  5. All hail the Bringer of Rain!!!! Sick Finale!!!!!!!!!!!! EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Deff one of the greatest shows of all time. Never have I been on the edge of my seat for every episode of a show. One of these days, I’ll watch every episode back to back.

    “It’s better to die as a free man than to be whipped to death as a slave.” -Spartacus

    Spartacus with three spears through his body and he is still able to stand, he’s a man possessed by the Gods themselves!! This show will be forever engraved!!

  6. I was just reading this review, and one of the comments went on and on about how the gay couple survives.
    HA. In your face, homophobes! I’m really happy Agron and Nasir survived. I do wish they did an alternate reality thing. I kept wishing that Crassus would die, but sigh, it was expected that it would not happen.
    I also am kind of sad that Gannicus and Caesar don’t have a proper contest.

    • This was the comment, if anybody else needs a laugh:
      “The other thing that made it weird was the fact a gay couple walks off in the final scene rather than your typical romeo/juliet man + woman scenario which SHOULD have suited a series such as spartacus filled with hetero scenes/fighting/violence, but to end it with two gay guys didn’t seem ‘satisfying’ as an ending scene for me. Gannicus and his woman would have been much better imo”

    • It was probably an excess of political correctness that necessitated the series writers to insert such an in your face homosexual couple as Agron and Nasir into the series in the first place, but both of them were such popular and attractive characters that after a awhile, their being homosexual ceased being an issue, or even very noticeable-at least to me. Yes; I am glad that they both survived to the end; I only wish that several others-indeed all-had done so also, but of course such was not the story.

  7. The finale was so beautiful it was hard to watch. Seeing gannicus crucified was prob the hardest death to watch. Also love how at the end of the credits they showed Andy Whitfield saying i am spartacus!! That was a great tribute to him. I actually liked that agron and nasir survived. Ima miss this show alot and the finale was def the best ep of the series hands down.

  8. I actually found myself tearing up throughout this finale. I never really cared for Naevia until the 9th episode of this season, and was happy to see she got the death Crixus so desired.It was great to see all of my favorite characters go out the way they did. I have no idea why, but Lugo’s death had a huge impact on me. Maybe because it was a sign of things that were to come. The moment I saw the spears go through Spartacus my heart sank. My favorite part of the episode had to be the fact that in Liam’s last scene all I could see when I looked at him was Andy. Also, that credit sequence, showing off all of the characters, and then the final shot of Andy yelling “I AM SPARTACUS” brought a tear to my eye. Overall, probably the best series finale of any show I have ever seen. Bravo, DeKnight.

  9. Wow man. A friend turned me on to this series back in 2011 and I have loved it ever since. I recently watched gods of the arena-vengeance while war of the damned aired and going through the experience from the beginning made it really hard to see all the characters go down. I’ll admit I shed more than a few tears watching this finale. The way the writers did it was just awesome. Its inspiring to know that this guy really did this in his life. Liam did a great job and so did all the cast. They made these characters come alive and thats one of the reasons it was so heartbreaking to see these character’s journey come to an end. Saxa’s death really got me, as did Neavia’s but I am glad Agron and Nasir made it out, it was nice seeing their love for one another stay strong throughout the show. I love Gannicus and it was great seeing him finally step up to lead, the last part with him on the cross was rough made even worse by the montage of Onemaus and the arena. I though that scene really summed up Gannicus and I love the way it was done. I knew what was coming but the way the writers and crew/cast delivered it was amazing. I thought the music was especially powerful and helped make it even more emotional. I am a 24 year old man and so what if I cried haha. This is one show I will surely miss watching. I would love to see Stephan DeKnight revisit this era with someone like Crassus or Ceaser or both. Sorry for the length of my post.

  10. One of the best series finale i’ve ever seen! Totally Epic! The last shot at the end with Andy Whitfield screaming ”I Am Spartacus” gave me chills!

  11. it was epic,great homage to andy whitfield at the end.i hope stars make the story of the goths and how they brought the roman empire down to its knees..i think we deserve to see that part of history too

  12. That Finale was PURE JUICE. Perhaps one of the best finales i’ve ever seen. I loved how they were able to give every character a death that didn’t drag out too long be gave them all the proper respect. I think I agree with everyone that gannicus getting nailed to the cross was very hard to watch but I loved that they brought back doctore for him. I also loved that they didnt give crassis the privilege to kill spartacus.

    Spartacus giving us his famous line from the first season “that is not my name”….chills

    Finally, Andy Whitfield screaming “I AM Sparttacus!”…..Just yes..

  13. Great ending to a great series. The first and last episode complimenting each other like bookends. I did not want to watch this last episode knowing the inevitable outcome. Yet it was done brilliantly. I thought the show should have gone on for another year. I thought the writers had short changed the rebellion mixing historical fact out of time and place. The final three episodes really pulled this whole season together and made the disappointment of not having another year tolerable. Each of the final three episodes was brilliant.

    The way the handled this final episode was amazing. They blended in history perfectly. They gave a plausible reason why Spartacus body was never found. Yes Gannicus in history was not there for the final battle but; he needed to be there for this series story arch and it made the final that much more heart wrenching and exciting.

    Last night the battle scenes were amazing, the story telling was amazing. I can’t say enough about this whole series except I will miss it!

  14. I am so sad Gannicus didnt die on the field but on the cross. He should have a least dies at ceasars hands or from all those guys stabbing him. But this was the best series end I have ever seen and am sad its gone. RIP andy and I am glad they paid him tribute at the end. I also wish that Gannicus had talked to Saxa before the battle.

  15. I really don’t think there was a better way to end the series than this. One last primal scream from Gannicus and the beauty of release from Spartacus. Navia died a warrior & a woman who had been through hell. She had fear, anger, & peace in her death.

    The closing credits were a wonderful way to say goodbye to my absolute favorite series. Liam owned his final fight and really owned the character as did Andy. I’ve already watched this episode twice just cause I cannot get enough.

  16. One of the best endings for a TV series I’ve seen in a long time. Each character who passed had their moment to shine as did each survivor. I teared up during the show. History did say that Spartacus’s body had never been found on the field of battle after his army was defeated. The way they handled his death in this episode was fitting. It was also fitting at the ever end they showed the original star Andy Whitefield yelling “I AM SPARTACUS!”

  17. Excellent series. Satisfying finish! Great montage at the end. Especially liked seeing Batiatus, Lucretia, and Ilithyia again from Blood and Sand. This series was epic! Great progression and depth! Going to miss it!

  18. I just watched the last season this weekend, WOW!! I cried, I smiled, I laughed and cried again. I have watched this show from the start and it is or rather was one of the best shows to ever be made. Every aspect was just superb to me; the writing, the acting, the directing, special effects, etc. I hated to see it end yet think it was the right move, some stories are best told short and bittersweet. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to bring us such a fantastic show.

  19. i was one of those skeptics that wrote this series off in the 1st few episodes but I kept watching it reluctantly then I started enjoying it but then when Andy passed away I thought its over if they found him a replacement he wouldnt fill Andy’s big shoes but I was proved wrong again because Liam nailed that role IMO and the show just got better and better. as the show went on it became more engaging, gripping and the action sequences got better and bigger and I fell in love with these charectors and what a finale that was, the best I’ve seen in years. Andy yelling “I am Spartacus” sent shivers down my spine. RIP Andy

  20. I got into this series as Vengeance was about to air and I’m so glad I did. Not many people I know are aware of this show and I try to share it with everyone I meet because as it plays out over the 4 seasons it really is one of the best storytelling series of recent time. The treatment that the series finale was given was so rewarding but at the same time sad to see that it was all over.

    Thank you to Steven, the writers, the cast & crew for an unreal ride over the last 4 years.

    RIP Andy

  21. Spartacus’ death scene at the end was well done and very moving; it also greatly reminded me of the death scene of Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian in the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty for those of you who have seen that as well, surrounded by tearful friends, sad goodbyes, etc. Coincidence, or a subtle (or not so subtle copycat) by some very sharp and creative writers, well versed on classic movies?? Hmmm

  22. I just love how eh connected everything together from all seasons and from history. This series lived on foreshadowing and it was great. In the last episode Gannicus said he didn’t want to be a martyr on the cross but that’s what he became. Also they summarized his character, fighting for his friend Onamaeus, and going back to the arena. The only place where he felt alive and loved. Also I like how they alluded to the future triumvirate being formed between Crassus, ceaser, and Pompey. We all know Ceaser kills Pompey and then is murdered himself. Naevia got the death Crixus desired. Argon finally put down the sword. Spartacus name will live on. Lugo had one of the best deaths of the season, killing two Romans while burning and then dying with his crude humor. The ode to Andy Whitfield as Spartacus and all of the other characters was a nice touch as well. Spartacus wasn’t his name, but the man died when his wife was taken from him, everything after was in her name. He was finally free and would once again be with her. Just like on the movie “Gladiator”

    Definitely looking for a spin off.

    “What lies beneath your feet?”.. “Sacred grounds watered with tears of blood”

  23. its a sad ending for me to this beloved starz original series Spartacus not only to see the series end but thinking of my late father who introduced me to the series shortly before his passing….lol when he got his first hd flat screen tv i remember him yelling upstairs to me to come down and watch it with him Season 1 and look how clear the picture is and the effects with the gory bloody fight scenes. When the final season was announced it was tough for me because i knew once this series ended one of my final moments of watching this series with him every friday night would be sort of a finale as well. thanks to starz and everyone who worked on this series and brought it to us allowing myself one of the lasting memories and images of my late father. love you dad! great series one of the best ever!

  24. im sad as one of the better shows came to its end.
    i will miss spartacus.

  25. To all involved with Spartacus I only have one word – GRATITUDE!

    What a great end to an outstanding series. The nod to the original Spartacus – Andy Whitfield – at the end was well done too.

    I shed a few tears as this one played out. This series entertained with the best of them.

    To Die A Free Man Is A Noble Thing.

  26. So what’s next? Cesar? There’s a lot of story there during his build up to power. The primary problem would be that to tell his story in much the same manner it would involve a lot of epic battle scenes. Then again this crew was pretty good at just micro focusing on certain areas and not really the entire armies.

    I get the feeling that they will be continuing the story from what Gannicus told Caesar in regard to Pompi getting the credit for defeating Sparticus. That it would make his armies allies in an upcoming campaign. They can’t continue with Sparticus, but they can continue with Caesar. Even if you don’t like him because he was against the slave rebellion. You’ll eventually turn in because all the action and drama will be right there again.

  27. I feel gannicus got a glorious death, I mean with oenaemaeus looking approvingly at him nd with dat final battle cry in d arena where he is truly free…I fink his death was glorious, Tnk d gods’ he wasn’t stabbed in d back like spartacus or beheaded like crixus, Also I’m happy dat kore was crucified too, she taught she was bad ass….gannicus was very brave in battle as he was in history…I wud miss d show terribly…hope dey make more series like dis.

  28. When I fist saw Blood and Sand, it seemed like the show was just about some gore and sex and scheming with a hint of heart underneath it. Its amazing to me that a show that seemed to be know for gratuitous violence and sex could pull of such a heart wrenching emotional finale and I just wanna thank Starz and all involved who kept this show going after Andy passed.

  29. Watching the end to “Spartacus” made me feel how as fans of the show we would find a visual absence in the coming year as we know there will be no more seasons of this vibrant tale of resistance towards oppression.

    However, the most remarkable attribute to the entire presentation was its accuracy in the historical settings and the near perfect following of the life of Spartacus during his conflict with the Roman Army. For those who are interested, Barry Strauss’, “The Spartacus Wars” recounts as accurately as possible this period of time and its hero. The the show’s producers must have read this account considering that so much of the presentation followed along with it; something they should all be immensely proud of…