In Spartacus: Blood and Sand we saw how the gladiators of the house of Batiatus under the lead of Spartacus rose up against their masters and fought for their freedom. The lead role was played by Andy Whitfield who portrayed the legendary gladiator phenomenally and even managed to outperform Kirk Douglas (who played Spartacus in the Original movie). Whitfield, however, fell victim to cancer and the loss of such a strong actor has brought down numerous shows and movies before.
The creativity in the US, however, is big and problems are there to be solved. After Blood & Sand we got “Gods of the Arena” fired upon us, a prequel that contains a ton of background information on the various characters and prepared us to a real second season which has now arrived in the form of Vengeance, with a new leading actor and a lot less combat in the arena, but all the more in the rest of the Roman empire.
Spartacus (now played by Liam McIntyre) and his gang of gladiators are wreaking havoc in and around Capua and the mercenaries that regularly get sent out to stop them time and time again get slaughtered. As things are running out of hand, Rome decides to send Gaius Claudius Glaber, the man who doomed Spartacus to a slave existence in the first place and has been working hard in the meantime on his political career, along with his soldiers to Capua to end this rebellion once and for all. This becomes more difficult than anticipated as while Spartacus is trying to expand his group of fighters, Glaber gets little to no cooperation from the local people and to make things even worse his pregnant wife Ilithyia starts conspiring against him with his political adversary.
Vengeance is the official second season of Spartacus and again we almost literally get drowned in blood and nudity. Blood&Sand as well as Gods of the Arena didn’t spare us at all from this, but network Starz clearly feels you can never have enough so people that are faint of heart better beware. More isn’t Always better, however, and we do miss a bit the spectacular arenas from previous seasons. Qua story Vengeance also feels a bit like a rest stop. There may be a lot of depth as a lot of things happen on various levels, it all goes forth very slowly and by the end you feel like hardly any progress was made compared to season 1. The best example of this is a stupid move of ourselves; by accident we put in the last disc first and despite having to get used to a couple of new characters, it took us to halfway the final episode to realise we made a mistake.
One of the big questions with Vengeance is of course whether Liam McIntyre succeeds in credibly replacing Whitfield. Well, we can say that the latter definitely isn’t forgotten, but McIntyre is a very good replacement. That we feel Vengeance is a bit less than the first season therefore is more due to what we stated above rather than McIntyre’s acting.
Vengeance may be season two, it feels like a rest stop similar to Gods of the Arena and that may not even be such a bad idea. Where the latter provided background for Blood and Sand, Vengeance introduces Liam McIntyre as replacement for Whitfield and certain side characters get dealt with once and for all, wiping the slate clean for season three.
Just like the previous two seasons Spartacus is again heavily stylized, so much even that certain scenes almost look like a cartoon. However, we’ve gotten used to that by now so it doesn’t really bother all too much and the graphical violence which literally has blood dripping from the screen has its charms even if this does make certain scenes look a bit flat. What we certainly won’t complain about is the amount of detail. Spartacus was recorded with a Phantom camera which can record images at high speed and due to this we get a ton of slow-motion scenes in which you can see just about every tiny grid of sand falling from people’s shoes. We didn’t spot any compression errors and technically we can only say that this DVD has excellent image quality, even if it doesn’t always look “real” due to the overload of CGI backgrounds. The sound can definitely compete with that of blockuster movies, all channels are used at their full capacity and also the subwoofer gets its piece of the action, making both the music score by Joseph Loduca as well as the combat truly coming to life without the dialogues suffering from this.
The extras start with “In Starz Studios: ‘Spartacus: Vengeance'” which is a 12-minute promo preview of the second season with most of all a focus on Liam McIntyre, the new lead actor. Then there’s a 5 minute behind-the-scenes which mainly tackles the special effects, and in “Behind the Camera: Directing the Rebellion” we get 4 minutes of footage that goes deeper on how certain scenes are recorded. “On Set with Liam McIntyre” introduces McIntyre as the new Spartacus and this by following him to all kinds of things including Comic Con, and this for 6 minutes. “Burning Down the House: The VFX of Episode 5″ is best viewed after watching the season as this is a 12 minute feature that gives information on the special effects behind the most important scene in the episode “Libertus”.
Those who long for more information regarding the legend behind Spartacus get what they want with “The Legend of Spartacus” in which history peops Jeffrey Stevens and Aaron Irvin talk about the legend of our favorite gladiator during 11 minutes, while “Famous Last Words” has some cast members talking before their characters see their demise. The title of the feature couldn’t have been chosen better.
The last extras present are three minutes of bloopers and a 30 second teaser for season 3, “War of the Damned”.