I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t disconcerting to have a different voice saying Spartacus’ lines and a different face looking back at Crixus, but after an uncertain opening, this much welcome return to the sands of Capua finished with Liam McIntyre sufficiently proving himself.
The first half of this episode did feel a bit jarring. Lots of new faces (Spartacus included); no “previously on” meant I was honestly struggling to remember what had happened a lot of characters (it was two years ago) and Battiatus was sorely missed. But as we were slowly reintroduced to familiar faces, it all came flooding back and the outline for this season became clear.
This season will clearly be driven by its title, vengeance. After being absent for most of last season, the Evil Roman Dude who killed Spartacus’ wife is back. He’s been so scarce up until now that I can’t even remember his name and refuse to look it up, so Evil Roman Dude he shall be. This guy was the most hated audience target early season 1, and now he’s stepped up in Season 2 to replace the massive void that Battiatus has left.
It’ll be a hard road for this guy to become as integral to the series as Battiatus became. John Hannah’s exceptional performance left us confused as viewers; this guy is an evil sadistic bastard, why am I rooting for him? Evil Roman Dude is pretty much all round evil and unlikeable, and is lacking the charming nature of Battiatus. But while he may not be as interesting a character, there’s no doubt that he’s easy to hate and already I’m looking forward to him meeting the wrong side of Spartacus’ blade.
Otherwise, the show is exactly as I remember: crazy, hardcore over-the-top gratuitous sex and violence, heaped on with CG stylings and liberal use of slo-mo. They even packed the largest amount of both of these Spartacus hallmarks into one mental scene in a brothel, almost as if to say ‘we’re back’.
I had a fear that this show would go the way of Prison Break Season 2 and just faff around for hours and hours once the characters leave the restricted confines of familiarity, but on the strength of this first episode, it looks like the showrunners are going to keep the characters and their motivations on track. Already I’m looking forward to Spartacus getting some vengeance and carving his way through any Roman that dare stand in his way, freeing slave from shackle , persecuted from persecutor and blah blah blah… Jupiter’s cock… blah blah… lots of blood… blah!