If the trailer for Spartacus: War of the Damned is any indication, then Starz' sword-swinging series is about to go out on a rousing, skull-cracking high-note, as the third (not counting a prequel miniseries) and final season prepares to cause a ruckus with 10 all new episodes set to premiere in late January.
Taking creator and executive producer Stephen S. DeKnight's words to heart, War of the Damned clearly wants to be "the biggest, most insanely epic season we've ever had." The trailer does a great job of illustrating the larger scope of the season, and its ramifications for Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) and his band of merry gladiators: Crixus (Manu Bennett), Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and Agron (Dan Feuerriegel). At any rate, with nothing left to lose, DeKnight and his crew certainly don't appear to be holding anything back, as the action has shifted from the gladiatorial arenas of Blood & Sand, to the guerrilla tactics of Vengeance, and now we see the rebels have amassed a force large enough to engage in a full on war with the Roman army.
Perhaps looking at the series as a single story arc better explains why Starz felt this would be the best time to end Spartacus – on what would essentially be it's third act. Certainly, each season appears to be raising the bar in terms of the scale of its storytelling, and the events of Vengeance do serve to set up the climactic (albeit compressed) end to a rather epic tale.
Starz sums up the final season with this synopsis:
War of the Damned takes place following the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber. Spartacus and his men have amassed major victories against the Romans after the Battle of Vesuvius. These victories have not only forged the legend of Spartacus, but have greatly increased the ranks of the rebellion slaves to more than 30,000. Rome is indeed beginning to tremble at the threat Spartacus now represents.
While Rome has always stood as the collective "villain" of the series, one of the most remarkable things DeKnight and his writers have managed to do in previous seasons is craft a compelling storyline around the actual men and women who represent Rome, often making them as interesting and fully realized as the heroes. Last season, Craig Parker's Claudius Glaber had the unenviable task of trying to fill the void left behind by John Hannah's Batiatus, and with the help of memorable turns from Lucy Lawless and Viva Bianca, the character of Glaber and his many personal and professional problems became a gripping addition to Spartacus' quest for vengeance (hence the title of season 2). Now, in War of the Damned, DeKnight and his heroes are facing off against Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells) and a young Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance), who look to be a pair of welcome late additions to the pantheon of rich villainy on Spartacus.
Needless to say, many – including series executive producer Stephen S. DeKnight – were taken a little off guard by the network's announcement that War of the Damned would be the final season for the increasingly well-regarded series and flagship title in the Starz line-up of original programming. And while there are rumors of a Julius Caesar spin-off series, and DeKnight is currently working on a sci-fi program for the network titled Incursion, it'll be sad to see the series go. But judging from this trailer alone, the series has no plans to go quietly.
Spartacus: War of the Damned premieres Friday, January 25 @9pm on Starz.