Before Spartacus struck down his first opponent in the arena, there were many gladiators who passed through the gates onto the sand.'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena' tells the story of the original Champion of the House of Batiatus: Gannicus, in a more ruthless time before Spartacus' arrival where honor was just finding its way into the arena.
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (GotA) is a prequel series to Spartacus: Blood and San (BaS), and i does a seemingly perfect job of connecting itself to the original. Characters old and new are present, with many possessing fantastic story arcs and character developments, that brilliantly set up each character's story lines in BaS.
The following review does require a watch of BaS first, so you have been warned of any spoilers!
John Hannah is given the title role here, returning as Batiatus. Other fan favourites such as Oenomaus, Crixus and Barca also return. What GotA does of well, is to both stand out as its own series, as well as reveal hidden plots that set up certain parts of BaS. It is hard to say much without giving away spoilers, as I am trying to avoid here, but we find out the following:
We see how Crixus got to the position of Ludus Champion How Oenomaus became Doctore How Ashur got to where he is (both physically and mentally) How Lucretia and Crixus started their "business" How Solonius and Batiatus became rivals
Whilst those are the main plot lines that carry on over to BaS, we also see how Crixus and Barca formed a respect for each other, as well as how Gnaus hot his net (if you're interested in that sort of thing).
The best part of this series, is the mystery and anticipation of it all. Every character introduced here (that is not present in BaS) opens up new speculations as to what happens to them, Do they die? Do they live? You don't know, and the curiosity to find this out is a major factor in why this particular series is so addictive to watch. Sure the 300 style ultra violence and tone provide a very cool show, but fans of BaS will appreciate this series perhaps even more than the primer.
There is some stellar acting on show, especially on the part of Peter Mensah, who plays Oenomaus. Personally, I connected wit him the most throughout the series, and every up and down in his story line is heavy hitting, and sparks incredible emotion and enjoyment when watching. Andy Whitfield is tragically missed in regards to his personality and acting talent, but the show doesn't wither without his involvement.
The special effects are a bit dodgy, but that is expected from a TV show with a mediocre budget at play, although there are some improvements from BaS, and it never really takes you away from the action and drama.
Obviously, if you've seen BaS, you know to expect graphic nudity, with strong sex and insane violence in Spartacus, and this show is definitely not one for the faint hearted not for the young. so please, don't involve young children in this show, as there are some distressing and disturbing images involved.
To me, that doesn't put me off, and it if you're the appropriate age to be watching.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand has fast become one of my favourite TV shows, and Gods of the Arena is as wells structured and written spectacle, and in terms of rating, stands toe-to-toe with the original.
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