Spartacus: Vengeance,
created by Steven S. DeKnight
(Anchor Bay, 2012)

The second season of Spartacus -- the third, if you count the prequel -- is the most uneven season to date.

It's easy to blame the shift in tone necessitated by the death of Andy Whitfield, who played the title role, after the first season. Whitfield set a standard that was hard to match.

That doesn't mean Liam McIntyre, who stepped into Spartacus's sandals, is a slouch in the role. McIntyre fits neatly as the fierce and brooding warrior who mourns his wife and seeks tireless vengeance against Rome for her death, but somehow he falls short of Whitfield's stature.

That aside, there are other problems with this season, which focuses overly much on the minutiae of, for instance, the relationships between the Praetor Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) and his wife, Ilithyia (Viva Bianca), between Ilithyia and Roman rival Varinius (Brett Tucker), between Glaber and the plotting Seppia (Hanna Mangan Lawrence), between Seppia and her brother (ew) Seppius (Tom Hobbs), between former arena champion Crixus (Manu Bennett) and overly abused slave Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), between cunning Syrian slave Ashur (Nick E. Tarabay) and his former domina Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), and between Spartacus himself and the loving Mira (Katrina Law) ... to say nothing of the tumultuous relationships between Lucretia and Ilithyia, which has long since run its course, and former BFFs Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), which finally finds closure.

Lucretia overall is a problem, too, although I have no complaints about Lawless's performance. Simply put, her survival from the last episode of the first season makes little sense, and the mystical role she is forced to play this time around gets old quickly.

Those facets of Vengeance aside, the series does continue its tradition of gory fight scenes and plenty of (male and female) nudity. The season covers the immediate period following Spartacus's revolt, when his followers were few and his resources were dwindling. Spartacus and Glaber have both vowed revenge on the other, whatever the consequences, and lots of people on both sides of the conflict will die for their cause.

There are great battle scenes, and the characters continue to maneuver their way around the board with chess-like precision. Fans of the series will enjoy the season, but it's still the least of those on offer.

review by
Tom Knapp

29 April 2017

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