Imagine you took 300, mixed it with Gladiator and produced an hour long, weekly, television show about it. Then imagine you could air it on a network that had no restrictions, meaning you can show all the blood, gore, sex, nudity and swearing you wanted. Well you can stop imaging because it’s real. Spartacus: Blood and Sand has touched down and we’re here to give you the full review on the Blu-Ray of Season 1.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it outright, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is one of my favorite new shows. The Starz original series premiered back in January and what followed was one of the best seasons of television that I’ve seen in a long time.
It pushes all the boundaries as it features ultra violent gladiator fights, full frontal nudity from both males and females, and steamy sex scenes that would give most soft core porn films a run for their money. That being said, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is anything but a gratuitous venture into violence and sex. It’s a powerful and gripping drama with an emotionally engaging plotline that is guaranteed to grip viewers and pin them to their seats.
Starring Andy Whitfield in the lead role as Spartacus, the show revolves around a Thracian gladiator (Spartacus) who led an uprising against the Roman Republic. As the show starts, the Thracian enlists in the Roman Auxiliary in hopes of fighting the invading Getae. All is fine until a legatus named Claudius Glaber, orders the men to attack Mithridates and the Greeks instead of the Getae.
The Thracian (as he’s known at this point), feels betrayed and decides to lead a revolt against Glaber. Of course this doesn’t go as planned and Glaber decides to punish him. The Thracian is sentenced to death in the gladiator arena and his wife is taken away and put into slavery.
When it comes time to die in the gladiator arena, the Thracian ends up killing the four gladiators he is pitted against. Gaining popularity with the crowds, Senator Albinius switches the punishment from death to slavery. It is here that Lentulus Batiatus, a ludus (a training ground for gladiators) owner in Capua, names the Thracian Spartacus and decides to purchase him for the purposes of training him in his ludus to become a better gladiator.
Spartacus is only interested in one thing though, finding his wife. He reaches a deal with Batiatus in which he will train and fight for Batiatus and in return, Batiatus will locate Spartacus’ wife and free her from slavery.
That’s the basic premise of the show and as the season progresses, we see Spartacus slowly building himself up. He becomes a better gladiator and his popularity and fame starts to rise. He starts to earn the respect of other gladiators and he finds himself thrust into the spotlight.
With his star status, problems start to arise and as he becomes mixed up in both Roman politics and the politics in the ludus, Spartacus vows that above all else, he will free his wife from slavery, and get revenge on Glaber.
Spartacus’ story is the main storyline but there are numerous side plots at hand here. A vast majority of them revolve around Roman politics while the rest involve various other gladiators training at the ludus. What’s great about the show is that every character is interesting which means everyone’s plotline is worth following. No matter which plotline was playing out, I was always interested and engaged. There really are never any dull moments in the show and you’d be hard pressed to find any throwaway material.
As you progress through the season, you’ll realize that the show actually has some heart. The stakes are always pretty high and things often feel very intense. There are also some truly tragic moments that really give the show an emotional pull.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand is so much more than a wild display of boundary pushing sex and violence. It’s a compelling drama with well written characters and an interesting narrative. Throw in some R rated violence and sex and you got a pretty entertaining television series.
Now it wouldn’t be fair to review the show without talking about the violence. If you enjoyed the violence and fighting in 300, you’ll feel right at home here. The vast majority of the show is shot against green screens and while the effects aren’t quite at Hollywood level, for a television show, they’re not bad. The violence is very stylized and it is most definitely R rated. You get all the usual suspects with heads being chopped off, limbs severed, guts spilled etc but you also get a whole new batch of creative, over the top but still totally awesome kills.
The fights in the gladiator arena are always highlights but there’s a lot of violence and fighting that takes place in the ludus as well. If you haven’t guessed already, this show is not for kids. The violence, while stylized, is still very extreme and is more boundary pushing than most mainstream films. In addition to the violence, as mentioned before, there is a lot of sex and nudity and like the violence, it pushes boundaries. If you think some of the HBO programming pushed boundaries just wait, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Everything is taken to the umpteenth degree and due to this, things can feel a bit silly at points but the tight writing and serious storylines manage to keep everything grounded. There’s real drama to be found here and while you may enter the show only interested in seeing the sex and violence, you’ll soon find yourself attached to the various characters, eager to learn their fates or see how they’ll resolve their predicaments.
In closing, Spartacus: Blood and Sand stands alongside the best of what TV has to offer today. While yes it probably will appeal more to the guys, there are some moments in the show that girls will surely appreciate. More or less though, this is a guys show.
If you’ve even somewhat enjoyed 300 or Gladiator, you’ll love Spartacus: Blood and Sand. It’s wildly entertaining and the material here never feels superfluous or gratuitous due to the compelling drama behind it all. If you haven’t yet checked out one of television’s best new shows, I highly suggest you do. Spartacus: Blood and Sand Season 1 is almost guaranteed to leave you wanting more.
When it comes to the Blu-Ray disc, this is a show that needs to be watched in high definition. The detail in the picture is excellent and the stylized and glossy look that the show carries is transferred over exquisitely. Everything from drops of blood to grains of sand are captured perfectly.
On the audio front, the show sounds just as good as the picture looks. During the gladiator battles, the roar of the crowd fills the room and the mixed in sounds of swords clashing and armor clinking makes the atmosphere feel all the more real. Dialogue is always clear and crisp and there’s a nice level of clarity to everything.
The special features offered aren’t bad by any means but I would liked to have seen a bit more. In this four disc set, the first three discs are dedicated to the episodes while disc four houses the finale and the special features. A couple of the episodes have commentary and/or extended versions but the real meat and potatoes of the special features is the nine featurettes. The special features are as follows:
- Spartacus Historicus: Pop-Up History
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand – Behind The Scenes (14:50, HD)
- Spartacus: Battle Royale (7:26, HD)
- Gladiator Boot Camp (4:21, HD)
- Grime and Punishment: The Hole (4:54, HD)
- Andy Gets Plastered (2:44, HD)
- Legend Re-Imagined (4:00, HD)
- Oh, Those Randy Romans (6:14, HD)
- Shooting Green: The Shadow of Death (4:48, HD)
- Exposing Your Ludus (5:21, HD)
- Spartacus “Vengeance” Trailer (1:31, HD)
- Director’s Cut Extended Episodes (HD)
As you probably guessed, nothing groundbreaking, but it’s not terrible. The nine featurettes really could have been lumped into one big making of as they all consist of the usual stuff; behind the scenes footage, interviews, clips from the show etc. A couple of these featurettes feel a bit like filler or fluff but at least we get a nice variety of things to choose from.
Overall, this is a must have package. It’s one of the most entertaining shows on television and its boundary pushing content is always exciting and enjoyable. The compelling story arcs and the strong acting come together with the strong violence and sexual content to craft quite the show. I can’t see how anyone would not be pulled in right off the bat. Simply put, you can’t go wrong with Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand is incredibly fun and entertaining to watch. It really pushes the boundaries of television and has very well written storylines with interesting characters.