Spartacus: Blood & Sand - First episode reviewed
Review by Jack Foley
ALL hail Spartacus, the new king of trash TV!
Bravo’s epic new series comes bathed in blood, sand and sex… with barrels of the red stuff splashed across the screen at any opportunity, and more gratuitous sex scenes than a dozen Caligulas.
It’s eye-opening, blush-inducing viewing… and not for the faint-hearted. 300 meets Rome with none of the quality of either! And yet somehow it’s car-crash viewing… a guilty pleasure to be filed under so bad, it’s good.
The story doesn’t really relate to the Spartacus we know… that noble slave portrayed by Kirk Douglas in Stanley Kubrick’s seminal movie. Rather, Andy Whitfield’s version is a man christened Spartacus by the Roman’s themselves simply because one of their generals didn’t have the foresight to ask the new gladiator’s name in advance!
It’s slipshod plotting such as this that gives Spartacus: Blood & Sand its bad name… well, that and the appalling script that provides its cast with little or no opportunity to really act.
Somewhere within, there lies the potential for a gripping story and even, dare I say, a worthwhile history lesson. Alas, the show’s creators have eschewed such values in favour of shock value, which comes in all shapes and forms.
Women regularly disrobe, men spew expletives as though their lives depended on it and the action is graphically violent and hyper-stylised in a post-300, computer game style scenario. It’s all about excess and spectacle…. and not in the least bit interested in the subtleties of character building or historical insight.
The plot found Spartacus enlisted by the Romans to fight off the threat posed by a rival barbarian-style clan (who looked as though they’d been plucked from the set of a Mad Max movie), only to be betrayed by power hungry general Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) and foced into an alternative power struggle.
After rebelling, however, Spartacus is picked up (naked) with his wife Sura (Erin Cummings) and sent to Italy to be sacrificed as a gladiator. Sura, meanwhile, is sent into slavery.
Alas, Glaber’s plan to have Spartacus humiliated in front of the crowd backfires and his new nemesis slays not one but four heavily armed gladiators and wins the backing of the crowd and a stay of execution. It means, though, a life destined for more violence and arenas… while all he hankers for is a reunion with his wife.
John Hannah crops up as a rival Roman (Batiatus) vying for a key place in the senate… but seems to realise the silliness of proceedings and delivers his lines with as little conviction as can be expected.
For this is, first and foremost, about shock porn values as the following list of first episode ‘highlights’ will underline:
At various moments, viewers had two major sex scenes between Spartacus and Sura, another between Glaber and his wife (who completely disrobed to entice him), one epic battle, and Spartacus’ gladiator debut in which he was seen to hack the legs from one tormentor before stabbing him in the back and plunge his sword into the neck of another.
And, if that weren’t enough, an orgy-laced party in which various gladiators were presented to rich Romans while naked women cavorted in pools of water or performed lesbian acts with each other.
Sam Raimi has a key hand in proceedings… and knows a thing or two about shock value. But anyone anticipating anything approaching the quality of his more recent work had best think again: this is trash TV for the FHM devotees that really needs to be seen to be believed!
Spartacus: Blood & Sand airs on Bravo on Tuesday nights from 10pm.
- First episode reviewed
- Spartacus: Blood & Sand Episode Gallery
- Read our preview
- Spartacus: Blood & Sand Character Gallery