Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,
created by Steven S. DeKnight
(Anchor Bay, 2011)

With Spartacus actor Andy Whitfield unable to continue in the eponymous role, show runners delayed production on a second season with this prequel season, Gods of the Arena.

Spartacus is not yet a gladiator. Batiatus (John Hannah) is a young ludus operator, with his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) and her pleasure-loving friend Gaia (Jaime Murray) at his side, but with his father Titus (Jeffrey Thomas) undercutting him at every turn.

Opposing him are Romans who stand higher on the social plane, most especially the smirking Tullius (Stephen Lovatt) and the petulant Vettius (Gareth Williams). His close friend and fellow ludus owner Solonius (Craig Walsh-Wrightson) seems to be playing both sides.

In his favor, however, is the gladiator Gannicus (Dustin Clare), a crowd favorite in the arena, as well as Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), a gladiator past his prime because of a crippling injury, and Crixus (Manu Bennett), a slave bought on a whim who shows a great deal of promise in training.

While not as dramatic or as richly woven as the first season, Gods of the Arena provides a great deal of scheming and maneuvering, as well as the ample sex and violence one expects after Blood & Sand. Although Gods of the Arena was originally intended as a stand-alone episode to set the stage for the next season, circumstances forced a much more creative turn.

review by
Tom Knapp

1 April 2017

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