×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spartacus: Vengeance

The tragic death of star Andy Whitfield notwithstanding -- requiring his replacement by Liam McIntyre in the title role -- "Spartacus: Vengeance" is up to the same old tricks, endeavoring to give gratuitous violence and sex a good name. And it sort of does.

With:
Spartacus - Liam McIntyre
Crixus - Manu Bennett
Oenomaus - Peter Mensah
Glaber - Craig Parker
Ilithyia - Viva Bianca
Mira - Katrina Law

The tragic death of star Andy Whitfield notwithstanding — requiring his replacement by Liam McIntyre in the title role — “Spartacus: Vengeance” is up to the same old tricks, endeavoring to give gratuitous violence and sex a good name. And it sort of does, to the extent the series is so unabashed and creative about finding new ways to slay. Looking better than in the past (success has its privileges), the show won’t win many awards — unless there’s an Emmy for “most artful blood spray” — but it’ll nevertheless go down in history as the hour that put Starz on the original-programming map.

Although the series shares a name with the 1960 Stanley Kubrick-directed classic, it’s best not to dwell too much on that marketing-driven coincidence. Suffice to say having shed their slave owner, Spartacus (as played by McIntyre, physically fine but not overly charismatic) and his band of escaped gladiators are on the prowl for Roman blood, with the occasional respite for some sweaty screwing.

Mostly they function like a band of pirates, with Spartacus as the level-headed presence, trying to rein in the driven Crixus (Manu Bennett) and his lusty Gauls.

Recognizing the show isn’t defined by its line readings, the producers have upped the ante (if possible) on sheer titillation. Assaults on the Romans in the episodes previewed include a melee at an orgy, which is sort of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the show — combining two mainstays, sex and violence, in one. Aping the visuals of “300,” the battle sequences also revel in slow-motion attacks and streaming splatters that literally engulf the camera lens.

Among the drawbacks are the nobles, with Glaber (Craig Parker) set up as Spartacus’ strategic rival and Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) as his scheming spouse, who aren’t a particularly compelling bunch, aside from their wanton debauchery. Then again, producer Steven S. DeKnight is wise enough to know that despite the soap-opera elements there should never be more than a few minutes of dialogue without exposed breasts or a gruesome killing to prevent the target audience’s attention from lagging.

Students of history, of course (or even mere movie buffs), know the actual Spartacus’ story didn’t end all that happily — his slave revolt having been eventually defeated and the survivors crucified.

For now, though, his name serves the purpose of classing up a series with no higher aspirations than consistently surpassing the content boundaries of anything else in the permissive confines of pay cable. And insofar as the show contributes to loosening standards and deadening the senses, that bloody victory over the cultural scolds might just be “Spartacus’?” most enduring form of revenge.

Spartacus: Vengeance

Starz; Fri. Jan. 27, 10 p.m.

Production: Credits: Filmed in New Zealand by DeKnight Prods. and Tapert Donen Raimi. Executive producers, Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen, Steven S. DeKnight; producers, Chloe Smith, Michael Hurst; director, Hurst; writer, DeKnight.

Crew: Camera, Aaron Morton; production designer, Iain Aitken; editor, Gary Hunt; music, Joseph LoDuca; executive visual effects supervisor, Charlie McClellan; key stunt and fight supervisor, Allan Poppleton; casting, Paul Weber, Annabel Lomas, Faith Martin. 60 MIN.

Cast: Spartacus - Liam McIntyre
Crixus - Manu Bennett
Oenomaus - Peter Mensah
Glaber - Craig Parker
Ilithyia - Viva Bianca
Mira - Katrina Law
With: Lucy Lawless, Brett Tucker, Dan Feuerriegel, Tom Hobbs, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Dustin Clare, Nick E. Tarabay.

More TV

  • Robin Roberts Omarosa

    Disney Makes Big Play to Stay in NFL's TV-Football Game

    Robin Roberts is moving this week from mornings on ABC to primetime. And while the shift is temporary, the business machinations behind it are likely to continue. Roberts, best known for her regular appearances on “Good Morning America,” will serve this Thursday as an important presence during two nights of ABC’s coverage of the NFL [...]

  • TV Review: ‘Motown 60: A Grammy

    TV Review: ‘Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration’

    If nothing else, CBS’ “Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration” special alerted America to the continued vitality of Smokey Robinson as a contemporary performer. Ten months from turning 80, the singer’s performances were focused and controlled as he weaved his sultry vocals through classics he wrote — the ballads “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Ooh Baby Baby,” chief among them. Producers [...]

  • Telemundo Has 'Game of Thrones' Hopes

    Telemundo Has 'Game of Thrones' Hopes for 'La Reina del Sur' Season 2 Premiere

    Call it Telemundo’s “Game of Thrones.” The Spanish-language network is hoping for a blockbuster premiere tonight for the long-awaited sophomore season of “La Reina del Sur,” the crime drama starring Kate del Castillo that ranks as Telemundo’s most-watched original series ever. “La Reina” was a massive hit for Telemundo when it aired in early 2011. [...]

  • Florence and the Machine

    Florence & the Machine Premiere New Song on 'Game of Thrones'

    [pmc=related] If the voice singing the song during the end credits of “Game of Thrones” tonight sounded familiar — or unmistakable — yes, it was Florence + the Machine. The group’s version of the original “Game of Thrones” song “Jenny of Oldstones” debuted during the closing credits of this season’s second episode, following a rendition [...]

  • Game of Thrones Fan Theories

    Best Fan Theories for the Final Season of 'Game of Thrones'

    After eight seasons, “Game of Thrones” fans will finally see if their long-held theories will pay off. Dozens of important characters and a complex plot have made diehard viewers try to foresee plot twists for years. With the original R+L=J theory confirmed, meaning that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark were the real parents of Jon [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content