Monday Nergasm: By Jupiter’s Cock, Spartacus!

Spartacus

Created by Steven S. DeKnight

Starring

Andy Whitfield

Manu Bennett

John Hannah

and

Lucy Lawless

Official Website

Remember how I said I was “kinda a nerd?” Well, lets see : video games, comic books, cartoons, poetry…Well, I forgot to mention another love from the past; action series made in New Zealand. I loved Hercules : The Legend Continues and Xena : Warrior Princess. I heard mumblings here and there about this new Spartacus series on the Starz! network, but alas, I only have basic cable, so the first two seasons passed me by. That was before both seasons popped up on Netflix Instant.

The series was created by Steven S. DeKnight, whose other credits include hits like Smallville, Angel, and one of my all time favorites, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The television series also has some heavy hitting producers, chief among them being Sam Raimi, who is the brainchild behind the Evil Dead series and both Hercules and Xena. The show is shot “300″ style; slightly overexposed and lots of green screen. It makes for some really beautiful visuals. Each episode features extreme violence, sex, and ‘incidental’ nudity. While startling at first, after a few episodes the nudity seemed to be so common that any titillation fades faster than the sting of a riding crop. The costuming and set design all have that “ancient” look and feel. The dialogue has the same feel and more closely follows the rules of Latin than modern English. It is as if you are watching a work of Shakespeare, however, just like a professional production of Othello the quality of the acting bridges such language gaps.

The epic of Spartacus is well known and timeless; a Thracian born slave rallies his brothers against the aristocracy and ignite the Third Servile War. This theme of oppressed vs. oppressor is one of the oldest of old school, and the show captures this theme on more than the base level. I will speak of this later.

Season 1 stars Andy Whitfield as Spartacus and John Hannah as Lentulus Batiatus, owner of the Gladiatorial school. In this series, Spartacus is sold into slavery after deserting a Roman army. Of course, his crime was justified as he deserted in order to save his wife. Once enslaved he fought in order to buy freedom for himself and his wife. However, the devious Batiatus has other plans for him. Before Season 2 began production, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, so production of a full season was delayed. The team, however, chose to produce a six episode prequel called Gods of the Arena which starred Dustin Clare as Gannicus, champion of the arena pre-Spartacus. This prequel fleshed out the inspiration for many of the characters. Some characters like Lucretia (Batiatus’ wife played by Lucy Lawless) are portrayed somewhat sympathetically, which is stark in contrast to the monster she becomes in Blood and Sand.

I watched the seasons out of order. So, theoretically I watched the characters’ history in chronological order. I saw Crixus (Manu Bennett) before he was champion and Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) before he was Doctore. To be honest, at first I really didn’t know what to think about the series. I was put off by how often the phrase “By Jupiter’s Cock” was exclaimed. In fact, “cock” is probably the most used word. Seriously, someone could make a drinking game. Characters also seemed to be caught in the anal stage of development as such colorful phrases like “spreading the cheeks to insert cock” is spurted from Batiatus. My favorite of his quotes can be found on Episode 12 of Blood and Sand.

Batiatus : That shit fuck! Beckons me to the city only to spurn me like a thin wasted whore. Once again the gods spread the cheeks and ram cock in fucking ass!

I got over this shortly and after a few episodes I began to get lost in the show. Everything is a battle and it is not just confined to the arena. Even the sex scenes, which are sometimes incredibly brutal, are a battle.

Lucy Lawless’ Lucretia is a lot of fun to watch. In fact, I found the women of Spartacus to be much more interesting than the men in terms of psychology. The men (with exception of Ashur (Nick Tarabay) and Batiatus) work in a very linear fashion. They see obstacle, they meet obstacle, and they either defeat or are defeated by obstacle. The women in this world are not afforded such luxuries. As a strategist, Lucretia is on par with her husband, and her interactions with noblewoman Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) is nothing short of awesome. Lawless has a perfect “what the fuck?” expression. Young actors should study it.

My only annoyance with the series is with how Spartacus was written over halfway in. It seems that as soon as he was  champion he became less interesting; which is a fate of many heroes, I suppose. It is as if to be a hero you must cast away all vices and always be noble. Of course, this does fit many Roman and Greek tragedies. After all, hubris was Batiatus and Lucretia’s ultimate undoing.

I am excited for the next full season. If the writers follow history then Spartacus and his army plunder villages, and this is not at all noble, so I wonder how writers will interpret this. Will they portray him as an even more ancient Robin Hood? Also, since sadly Whitfield will no longer be part of the series due to his medical condition, I wonder if the new Spartacus will be able to capture the characters essence. I also wonder how long I will have to wait for the next season to pop up on my Netflix.

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