Monday, June 2, 2014

It's like history, only better

What's the best way to gear up for a long hot summer?  Watching the over-the-top violence, nudity and "history" of the final season of Spartacus, subtitled: War of the Damned (on DVD).  Glibness of that first sentence aside, I think this show is far better than it gets credit for - yes, it is a soft-core gore-fest but it follows the basic history, the characters have meaningful arcs and act how they should act (with one notable exception).  The acting has gotten better, the violence is exquisitely choreographed, and damn if I haven't gotten to care about Spartacus, Crixus, Gannicus, Agron and the rest of those sweaty, scruffy, muscled guys.  The showrunners are smart too: by this final season, with the inevitable, fact-based conclusion just around the corner, both sides, rebellious slaves and Romans, are well-rounded.  The Romans, clearly posited as the villains of the series, are not all bad; the former slaves are not all in the right as they do some horrible, cruel things.

That said, I have not liked Naevia's character arc this season.  After Crixus rescued her from the mines, she learned to fight and took her vengeance on Ashur at the end of S2.  In S3, she has completed transformed into a single-minded, unpleasant warrior.  She has changed so much that she does not resemble herself at all (and I don't mean the recasting).  She is unceasingly angry and shrill and goads Crixus incessantly.  I don't have a problem with the character retaking her agency and not being a victim any longer but she has become an entirely different person and it's jarring.

The Naevia thing is a minor quibble, however.  Over the course of this series, the three straight Spartacus seasons plus Gods of the Arena, I have really come to like this show - in War of the Damned Gannicus vaults over a horse, knocking its rider off and then splitting the guy's head open; that's entertainment! - and I will be sad to see its end.

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