I guess I've just been in the mood for sexy, sweaty gladiators these days. Can you blame me? I just finished Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, the six episode prequel, set five years before the events of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. In this prequel, we get to see backstory on many of our favorite characters: the doctore, Oenomaus, was happily fighting as a gladiator and happily married to a lovely girl slave before he was forced into management; Crixus comes to the ludus, unwashed, unshaved and unable to fight; Ashur had the use of both his legs and although he was still a schemer, he had hopes of honor in the arena. Barca had a much more butch boyfriend. Best of all, Quintus Batiatus and Lucretia - the wonderful John Hannah and Lucy Lawless - are there, young and ambitious but not yet corrupt; we get to watch as Batiatus's daddy issues force him into poorly planned schemes and Lucretia battles for her husband.
New characters add fun to the mix too. Jaime Murray plays Gaia, Lucretia's BFF, a gorgeous Roman lady on the prowl for her next husband. She introduces Lucretia to opium-fueled three-ways, encourages small orgies to court favor with important Capuans and inspires some awesome revenge. The champion of the ludus is Gannicus: handsome and cocky, he is close friends with Oenomaus and his wife Melitta. Gannicus doesn't have the charisma that Andy Whitfield's Spartacus did but he's fun nonetheless.
GotA is in a tough position because having watched the first season already, you know what's going to happen to many of the GotA characters. Still, amid the over-the-top violence and sex, there are plenty of heart-wrenching moments that make you feel for these people, and that's what makes these Spartacus shows good.
Gods of the Arena was filmed during Blood and Sand's hiatus in hopes that series star Andy Whitfield would beat his cancer. He didn't, which is really, really sad, but before he died he told the showrunners that they should recast his part. They did and I've just started Spartacus: Vengeance with Liam McIntyre as the new Spartacus. McIntyre looks enough like Whitfield that it's only a small shock to see him in the role; he doesn't have Whitfield's spark quite yet, but it's still early and Whitfield grew into the role himself so there's plenty of time.
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