I was not hooked on Spartacus: Blood and Sand by the first episode. Nor the second. But sometime between the third and sixth episode of that first season, I was drawn in. And the show never stopped surprising me as I fell in love with characters I knew would die, as the plot twisted and turned, and as the ancient saga of the rebellion by the former gladiator, Spartacus, drew to it’s inevitable conclusion.
At some point, I will have to sit back and digest the entirety of the series but right now, I’m still blown away the the finale, which aired Friday night on the Starz network. It was not the ending I completely wanted but it was definitely the ending I and other viewers needed.
These were the highlights for me:
1. The Spartacus-Crassus confrontation.
From their one-on-one parley halfway into the episode to their epic battle near the end, these two were perfect enemies. Crassus was the perfect, upright Roman, intelligent, conniving and yet deeply protective of the Republic. Spartacus was empathic, emotional, and completely dedicated to tearing down the system his enemy protected.
Crassus’ saw Spartacus’ worth. But Spartacus knew his enemy didn’t truly understand why he was fighting.
It was perfect that Spartacus won their final battle, even wounded, only to be struck from behind. But also perfect that Crassus’ was defeated and down at the end of their duel.
2. Spartacus’ death.
“That is not my name.” I never expected Spartacus to survive the finale but, as I was watching him take his last breaths, I wanted him to live anyway. But dying knowing he was free, knowing others he promised to help made it to safety, and with the memory of his beloved wife in his uppermost thoughts, was heart-wrenching, sad, and fitting.
3. The death of Kore and Crassus’ Damnation.
I hated this. But it made perfect sense.
Crassus was ready earlier this season to sentence his son to a horrible death to prove a point about discipline. When Crassus forgave his beloved slave for killing his son, I felt for him, as if he was someone trapped in a bad situation doing the best he could. He clearly loved Kore and she loved him back. He probably believes he did the only possible thing by crucifying Kore for even temporarily joining the rebellion. And it drove home the point that no matter how beloved a slave, there is no safety without power.
In many ways, Crassus is like a lead from one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, with so many virtues but none that could overcome his faults.
He’s far more trapped than Spartacus. He’d damned and he knows it. It may explain why he does not care that Pompey receives the credit at the end for Spartacus’ defeat.
4. The Survivors
Agron and Nasir were the only couple to make it out of the episode alive and free, probably causing a happy dance Nagron shippers all over the globe, myself among them. But also surviving was Laeta, the Roman woman who grew to love Spartacus, Sybil, Gannicus’ lady love, and the mother and baby born on screen only a few episodes past. It was a hopeful sign for their future. And, hey, who had Laeta on the “live” list when this season began? Certainly not me.
5. Aw, No, Not Gannicus!
I hoped beyond hope for a happy ending for the gladiator who claimed no cause was his own, especially since he finally became a leader. It was not to be and his being crucified was as tough a moment as there has been on the show. I know someone had to lose. At least we could see he found peace in his final moments. But, still, I wanted him to live or at least die on the field of battle.
6. The Final Moments for The Warriors
Saxa, Naevia, Lugo…they all went down fighting and took many enemies with them. Saxa even made a joke to Gannicus as she died in his arms. I had hoped Naevia would survive but she seemed at peace, hoping perhaps to join Crixus in the next left.
7. Spartacus Pulled out His Bag of Tricks
I love that this show, even in a finale where certain things had to happen, could still surprise me, like Spartacus’ hidden ditch filled with spikes or Gannicus and his warriors coming in like the cavalry.
8. The farewell to the late Andy Whitfield.
Placing Whitfield’s “I am Spartacus,” from the first season at the very end of the closing credits was the a lovely tribute to the man who originated the role.
The end credits were also a nice gesture to all the great cast members from all the seasons of the show.
Overall, I only have one word to the show’s creators for the four seasons of entertainment.