Having decimated legions of Roman soldiers, burned down an entire arena and successfully killed those on his "to do" list, it looks like Starz' Spartacus is going to be hanging up the proverbial sandals after his third (and now final) season, Spartacus: War of the Damned.
The news comes as a bit of a surprise after the network ordered season 3 weeks prior to the premiere of Spartacus: Vengeance, the long-overdue second season that successfully transitioned Liam McIntyre into the lead role, following the unfortunate illness and untimely death of original star Andy Whitfield.
Though series creator Stephen S. DeKnight had hopes for the series running longer, having War of the Damned serve as the final season was ultimately best for the series. While speaking with IGN, DeKnight said:
"This show has been challenged, to say the least, in many, many ways. We’ve faced many difficulties and tragedies on the show. My original plan was to attack the show in a five- to seven-season arc. Once we got into it and after Andy [Whitfield]’s passing and looking at the historical story of Spartacus, we came to the decision to basically end on a high note."
“We certainly could have continued for a few more seasons and stretched it out, but we really wanted to end high and not feel like we were treading water – and really just condense the rest of the history into one amazing ten-episode, badass final season. You know, the whole show was a huge risk from the start for Starz, and it was another huge risk when I decided to try to keep the show going after Andy’s passing. Any normal studio would have just cancelled the show at that point and not risk the financial downside of it not working. But Starz, thankfully, really stuck by the show, and they really wanted it to be told all the way to the end. They didn’t want to cheat the viewers and just suddenly pull the plug. So they gave us this opportunity to wrap up the story, and we’re certainly taking that opportunity and running with it. This is by far the biggest season we’ve ever attempted.”
According to an interview in Entertainment Weekly, War of the Damned will take the epic, stylized action the series has become known for and attempt to reach new heights with which to send the series off. One of the ways DeKnight and his team plan to do that is to cut to the chase by bringing Spartacus face-to-face with his biggest challenger, Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells). DeKnight said:
"The scope and scale [are] just amazing. We’re dealing with massive battles between thousands of people. We hope to leave people feel satisfied. Looking at the story in the history books, it’s wave after wave of Roman senators going after Spartacus who are defeated until [Roman general Marcus Crassus] comes in. There’s only so many battles you can put a spin on. So let’s pick out the most interesting moments in this struggle and lay out a clear narrative for Spartacus and his rebellion. I wanted to lay out a strong forward narrative with a strong antagonist.”
"Crassus is kind of like the Roman boogieman we’ve been talking about for the last three seasons. We meet him in episode one and you totally get that this is a guy who — maybe he can’t equal Spartacus in a one-on-one fight, but he’s just as shrewd and smart and dangerous as Spartacus.”
As far as historical dramas go – even ones that have taken such creative license as Spartacus – the question typically comes down to how feasible it is to maintain a series that is ultimately beholden to fact. Even though DeKnight stated he believed the series could run for a few more seasons, it seems the network is ready to move on with other original programming like Magic City and Boss. Moreover, it is likely that Starz is simply making room for Davinci's Demons from Batman Begins writer David S. Goyer, as well as the recently announced pirate series Black Sails from Michael Bay.
Either way, Spartacus: War of the Damned certainly sounds like it will end the series in truly epic fashion. According to DeKnight, that's the ideal way for him to bring this series to a close.
“I would much rather end a series with the audience wanting more than limping to the finish line, with only the die-hard fans sticking around for the wrap up. We want to make the 10 best episodes we can. I can’t wait for everybody to see it.”
Spartacus: War of the Damned will premiere on Starz in January 2013.