Judge David Johnson is a free man and has the sweaty pectorals to prove it.
Et tu, Glute?
After delivering a legitimate hit to Starz, the network's maiden voyage into serialized television comes to a close, with all the typical restraint you've come to expect.
Facts of the Case
Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) has transformed himself from leader of a band of scraggly former slaves to an actual general, in command of thousands and thousands of warriors. Their goal: to crush the hated Romans underfoot and maybe, just maybe, secure freedom for all slaves of the empire.
Unfortunately, Spartacus and his bro-generals Gannicus (Dustin Clare), Crixus (Manu Bennett, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel) will have to go through their fiercest foes yet: Senator and battlefield tactician Crassus (Simon Merrells) and his feisty protégé, one Julius fricking Caesar (Todd Lasance).
I have been a solid fan of this show, ever since it landed bloody and screaming on the airwaves on 2010. Yes it was and remains ridiculously over-the-top in respects to blood and sleaze and, in fact, reliably attempted to outdo itself in those categories year after year; but, leaping lizards, was it entertaining. Underneath those gooey layers of sinew and bodily fluids lies a legit story, packed with surprises and clever plot turns (even though the show stays sort of kind of faithful to the historical record).
Now it's time to wrap it all up, with the last stand of Spartacus and his legion of spirited ex-slaves primed to coat the screen in CGI blood. And—not a moment too soon. Because, friends, Romans, countrymen, I am here to tell you that Spartacus may have gone on one season too long.
That's not because there wasn't enough story to tell. Spartacus and Crixus's clash with Crassus is rich enough to tell; it's just that the Spartacus formula may have overstayed its welcome. Add to that some uncharacteristically knuckle-headed plot and character decisions and the hard truth is War of the Damned is an unfortunate misfire.
• Incessant Monologuing
• Julius Caesar
• Crassus, too
• All the Romans, Really
• The Rebels Aren't All That Likable Either
In the end, the hiccups in narrative could not be bailed out by the bloodshed and boinking, both of which have significantly lost their shock value. Not that the writer's room didn't try; you'll get bludgeoned faces, crucifixions, schlong exposure, decapitations, drawing-and-quartering and borderline explicit homo/hetero sex. To which I say: yawn.
The DVD set pales in comparison to its HD brother. The CGI-heavy effects are undercut by the standard-def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, sapping a good amount of the flair from the production. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is nice and loud though. Extras: featurettes on the gladiator training, the cast farewell, the visual effects and costuming, creator DeKnight and a general promo for the series.
I hate that this sounds so negative, but the hook of Spartacus has always been that it moved beyond simple guilty pleasure thanks to some ace storytelling. Spartacus: War of the Damned has, alas, backslid.
Guilty of falling short of the standard set by previous seasons.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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