In 2010, TV viewers were treated to a vision of sword and sandal far removed from visions we saw in 300. What we got was the story of man torn from his homeland who lost everything including the woman he loves and nearly brought a republic to it's knees while grieving her loss. The story of Spartacus: Blood and Sand kept us glued to our seats with violence, nudity (lots of it) and amazing storytelling which was something I did not expect from a network like Starz and men like Steven DeKnight and Sam Raimi. When I watched the first few episodes, I knew viewers were in for something special courtesy of Andy Whitfield who at the time played Spartacus. As the show went on I told friends, coworkers and family members to check this show out knowing they would like it albeit once they got past the nudity. I can say that each person that watched it was hooked either because of the story, nudity, bloodshed or all of the above and all of them said that the guy who played Spartacus was awesome. I heard that phrase often and came to appreciate the work Andy Whitfield put into his role as myself and others knew it was a building block to stardom in the United States. As the first season came to a close, we learned that Whitfield had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and would be starting treatments immediately. While he battled the disease, Starz took the opportunity to launch the six part prequel Spartacus: Gods of The Arena. Unfortunately, Whitfield suffered a relapse and was forced to abandon the role which was, with his blessing, carried on by Liam McIntyre. Sadly, Andy Whitfield died 18 months after his initial lymphoma diagnosis and was mourned by fans of the show as well as his castmates. When Spartacus resumed with McIntyre in the lead role, I felt the series would flounder as I felt McIntyre did not embody the same presence Whitfield did onscreen but Spartacus: Vengeance came and went and McIntyre surprised me and many others by growing into the role and giving viewers the same battle-hardened gladiator and hero Whitfield did.
Now, we just completed Spartacus: War of Damned, which was the series' third and final full season and brought the story of Spartacus to a close. In these final episodes, we saw a comfortable Liam McIntyre who commanded the same presence as his predecessor and allowed audiences to see not only a spectacular story come to a close, but embrace a crop of great actors that have come from that series including Manu Bennett, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Dustin Clare, Nick Tarabay and Dan Feuerriegel. When the final credits rolled, we were treated to great montage of the cast members throughout the series that emotionally ended with both Liam McIntyre and Andy Whitfield, which closed out a stellar show.
Starz succeeded in not only delivering a tremendous story but also making us give a damn about the actors behind the roles which is a rarity for me personally.