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134 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The final season, and possibly the best, February 22, 2013
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This review is from: Spartacus: War of the Damned: Season 3 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
(Updated 4/12/13, 9/4/13)

The Spartacus saga on Starz has given us some of the most powerful and dramatic television of the past decade, and this final season may just be the best of the lot. Spartacus: War of the Damned picks up maybe a year after the stunning finale of Spartacus: Vengeance. Having taken his revenge against the Roman patricians that enslaved him and killed his wife and friends, Spartacus leads what is now an army of liberated slaves in all-out war against the Republic. He struggles with both the cunning Imperator leading the Romans against him and the growing tensions within his own army, mowing down legions and cities while gathering strength for what may become an epic battle for Rome itself.

With this conclusion of the Spartacus series, Stephen DeKnight and company have achieved something quite rare in television, or anywhere else for that matter: an epic story simultaneously offering compelling plot, characters, action and drama, while staying remarkably close to (what we know of) the story of the real-life Spartacus. It's a brutal story, and the show pulls absolutely no punches in the telling, but despite that - or perhaps because of it - this is some of the finest television I've seen since M*A*S*H. Here's why:

- With each season the scope of the story has grown, and the story line has become more suble and complex. War of the Damned is no exception. Spartacus and his army have Rome in a near-panic. The Senate enlists ultra-wealthy consul Marcus Crassus to hire an army and put down the rebellion. From the first episode we see that Spartacus is facing an equally intelligent, deadly and determined opponent in Crassus; this is as much a war of wills and cunning as it is of swords. Both commanders also have to deal with dissent and intrigue within their own ranks: Spartacus with Crixus's ongoing lust for strategy-free head-to-head combat, and Crassus with the struggle of wills between himself, his coming-of-age son Tiberius, and a young, mad-genius praetor named Gaius Julius Caesar. (Yeah - THAT Julius Caesar.)

- Once again the cast has outdone themselves. In reviews of the previous three seasons I've noted one or two exceptional performances, a task which has grown steadily more difficult as the overall quality of the acting has continued to improve. This time around it's *really* hard to pick a standout; everyone involved with this show clearly gave their all and then some to wrap things up in style. I'll name two, but bear in mind that there are about a dozen ties for a very close third place:

---- Liam McIntyre. It took him a few episodes in S:V to get comfortable with the daunting job of filling Andy Whitfield's sandals but fill them he did, and in WotD he has the role of the ruthless, idealistic warrior-king solidly nailed.

---- Dustin Clare. This season he backed off on the gonzo just a notch and it *works*, making Gannicus the perfect rogue super-warrior with just a hint of weariness showing through. If he survives the series finale (airing in about 15 minutes as I write this) this is the guy I'd want to see in his own spinoff series.

- Once again they've raised the bar with some of the best FX and cinematography on television. The directors had a little fun with their state-of-the-art camera platforms this time, giving us some slick POV and following shots as the actors whirl and tumble in battle, and even more ambitious and exciting movie-quality CGI. I'm looking forward to seeing the behind-the-scenes specials when the DVDs come out. And, once again, they've used all these nifty tools to give us some jaw-droppingly powerful and beautiful moments; see below for one of the better examples.

- In my review of Spartacus: Vengeance, I made a few critical points in that the two post-Blood and Sand series tended to start slowly and, more importantly, that the story was in danger of becoming lost in the increasingly gratuitous and over-the-top sex and gore. I'm not so conceited as to think DeKnight and Co. read that review and instantly saw the error of their ways, but they've certainly listened to someone of like sentiment. This time around the story went into high gear literally from the first minute of the first episode and rarely let up afterward. The sex is still as explicit and the swordplay still as gory as ever, but they aren't shoving our faces in the latter as was becoming endemic in S:V; indeed, as in Blood and Sand, they're once again using it at times to genuine artistic effect.

Best example: In episode eight, "Separate Paths," a major character is captured and beheaded by the Romans (not exactly a spoiler in *this* series) as his lover is forced to watch. A split-second before his end, the scene cuts to an extreme close-up of the woman, and we see the coup de grace reflected in her teared-up eye. Beautiful (as far as that word can apply to a beheading,) and ten times the impact of just letting us watch the victim spew a gallon of blood and collapse.

The end of the series is about 45 minutes away as I write this, and what I said in my review of S:B&S stands now more than ever: If you have any interest at all in historical fiction and you can handle the TV-MA material, this series is an unqualified must-see. Five stars with blood-spattered laurel wreaths.

(9/4) Discs in hand at last! So far I've watched episode 1 and the special features. As with S:V, the quality in 1080p, even for the featurettes, is amazing; razor-sharp video that shows off the attention to detail that was put into the sets, costumes and such - it's more like a ten-hour movie than a TV series. (As with the other season sets, that sharp detail also shows off some added, and at times quite gory, footage cut from the broadcast version.) The special features were imho a bit heavy on training (the "Spartacus Workout" - oy) and a bit light on production stuff, but you still get a lot of good supplemental material: interviews with past and present cast members including a too-brief chat with Andy Whitfield, some good candid behind-the-scenes material both on- and off-set, and a very good, extended interview with Stephen DeKnight on how the series came to be, and the challenges they faced when moving beyond the fixed sets of the first two seasons to the slopes of Vesuvius and the hills of Rome. You get a really good feel of the close camaraderie of the cast and crew both on- and off-camera, imho one of the major factors in making this show a success. All in all, well worth watching.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 27, 2013 8:42:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 27, 2013 8:43:30 AM PST
. says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Apr 12, 2013 4:59:40 PM PDT
N°1 says:
Great review, as the entire Spartaucs series has been so amazing beginning with THE original Spartacus, the amazing Andy Whitfield. He portrayed the character in a powerful and convincing manner. And of course I don't think anyone who watches will forget that epoch battle with Theokoles! The acting has been amazing, the storyline has been amazing, the visual feasts, amazing. And your review makes me more anxious to see this final season I can't wait!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2013 1:08:16 PM PDT
The reason this season does NOT have 350+ reviews is because this season, War Of The Damned has NOT been released on DVD yet!!! Daaa

Posted on Apr 13, 2013 1:10:12 PM PDT
EXCELLENT review. I just got done watching the last episode and OMG did I cry. I'll miss this series and I wish they would do a spin off, however I don't think it will ever happen.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2013 6:49:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 17, 2013 11:33:07 AM PDT
Rich H. says:
Thanks. I try. Yeah, a spinoff would be nice, but I can respect their desire to go out on top. The good news is, DeKnight has another series in the works (google "deknight incursion") that sounds pretty good.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2013 4:15:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2013 4:16:08 PM PDT
Watcher says:
I believe you just admitted a spoiler that Gannicus dies. Trust me, I didn't see this season, yet, but I gathered this from your mentioning him with a spinoff in your review and then seeing this comment.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2013 11:29:10 AM PDT
Rich H. says:
Oops. :/ Edited comment to remove the spoiler. You might want to do the same.

Posted on Apr 23, 2013 5:51:58 PM PDT
Jack Crane says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2013 6:34:01 PM PDT
steele says:
lol...that a way to shut him_she? down!!!

Posted on Jul 23, 2013 9:39:43 PM PDT
Thank you for your thoughtful review and for not giving anything away! I have an aversion to people giving away the endings of a show- though I HAVE seen it all and my heart has been broken now since seeing it, I cannot wait to possess this one in my hands and watch it and begin heartbreak once more! And thank you for giving the proper praise for Liam McIntyre! He worked hard and has done beautifully- all in respect for Andy Whitfield! Great review!
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