Spartacus: Blood and Sand

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Compelling story, dirty pleasure

Visuals aren't for everyone


We’re like 300…but a series

A Thracian (Andy Whitfield) finds himself enslaved and manages to fight for his life in the arena.  Sold to Quintus Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), the Thracian is renamed Spartacus and his rise to fame begins.  As his desire to be reunited with his wife seems to grow farther and farther away, Spartacus finds he might have to compromise his past to save his future.  Unfortunately, Spartacus’s path is faced with challenges, and Spartacus must have a plan.

Spartacus:  Blood and Sand is the first season of Starz’ popular series.  Airing from January 22, 2010 to April 16, 2010, Spartacus—Season 1 quickly became a fan favorite.


I’m a Thracian through and through…

Spartacus is a dirty pleasure.  While the story in general is quite good, the style and exploitive nature of the series almost makes you guilty (and kind of scuzzy) for watching it.  The show is loaded with sex, sex, sex, language and violence…and pulls no punches.

The plot for the story is based around the classic character of Spartacus and obviously takes liberties with the story which for the most part is unsubstantiated anyway.  That gives the series a lot of leeway to direct the story of Spartacus wherever it chooses to.  It does a good job weaving a compelling story full of shocks and actually does try to put some historic accuracy as well (pop-up factoids can be applied to the DVD that give background on the reality of some of the events).


Spartacus can beat anyone except fate

The acting for the series is also quite strong, but tempered with sadness.  While the cast of John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett, Nick Tarabay, Viva Bianca, and Peter Mensah all create rounded characters, the real star of the series is Andy Whitfield.  The series is a swan song to the actor who had limited success before getting the role that would garner him attention.  The actor found he had non-Hodgkin lymphoma and plans for Season 2 were pushed back with a prequel series allowing time for him to be treated.  Unfortunately, the cancer was too aggressive and Whitfield stepped down with Spartacus being recast with Liam McIntyre for Season 2.  Whitfield died on September 11, 2011.


The show can sometimes be a little stomach turning…or disemboweling

What jumps out and hurts/helps Spartacus is the visuals.  With a dash of 300 and Sin City, the Sam Raimi produced series does have a sense of cheapness to it.  The computer generated backgrounds and visuals just aren’t as real as they need to be.  The show distracts from these visuals by offering plenty of full-frontal nudity and sex…and it plays it fair by presenting both men and women.

Spartacus:  Blood and Sand is somewhat classless, but it is what makes it good.  With shows like Rome and Game of Thrones ruling HBO, Starz fun little series.  If you passed Spartacus and you are looking for something to fill the time before bigger series, give Spartacus a chance…and keep an open mind.  Spartacus:  Blood and Sand was followed by the prequel six episode mini-series Spartacus:  Gods of the Arena before returning with Spartacus:  Vengeance.

Spartacus:  Blood and Sand complete episode guide:


“The Red Serpent”

1.1       The Red Serpent Airdate:  01/22/10

A Thracian (Andy Whitfield) and his people agree to fight with the Romans to destroy the Getae.  The Roman legatus Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) is convinced to go for glory by his wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) and orders the Thracian to abandon their villages to fight Mithridates VI of Pontus.  The Thracian and his people turn against Glaber and return to defend their homes.  The Thracian is reunited with his wife Sura (Erin Cummings) only to be recaptured by Glaber and prepared for execution in the arena to impress his father-in-law Senator Albinius (Kevin J. Wilson).  As Quintus Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) jockey for power in the arena, the Thracian now named Spartacus might be their best hope.


“Sacramentum Gladiatorum”

1.2       Sacramentum Gladiatorum Airdate:  01/29/10

The Thracian tries to adjust to his new name of Spartacus and finds himself in the training grounds of Quintus Lentulus Batiatus after winning his life in the arena.  Facing adversity from the Batiatus’ gladiators Crixus (Manu Bennett) and his trainer Doctore (Peter Mensah), Spartacus finds allies in the numbers runner Ashur (Nick Tarabay) and his fellow student Varro (Jai Courtney).  Batiatus finds his funds running low and hopes that Spartacus can be a means to reclaim his fortune.  When Batiatus learns of Sura, he discovers he might have the means to turn Spartacus into a true fighter.



1.3       Legends Airdate:  02/05/10

Spartacus finds himself in conflict with Doctore as the gladiators train for a festival of Vulcanalia.  Spartacus learns more information on the location of his wife.  When the fighters are paired, Spartacus finds he’s supposed to fight his only friend Varro.  Crixus finds himself attracted to a new servant Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt) as he carries-on an affair with Lucretia.  A daring move by Spartacus could change the battle plans.


“The Thing in the Pit”

1.4       The Thing in the Pit Airdate:  02/12/10

Spartacus finds he has angered Batiatus and lost the audience after challenging Crixus in the Vulcanalia.  Batiatus decides Spartacus must fight in the pits against Lucretia’s objections.  Crixus tries to woo Naevia but finds his love spurned.  Spartacus finds himself involved in vicious pit fights as Batiatus discovers a way to make money from his slave.  Batiatus association with the pits brings shame to his name and leaves Lucretia questioning her husband’s actions.  When Spartacus makes a desperate deal to throw a deadly match, he finds himself forced to reconsider his actions in the battle…which could be a costly mistake for Batiatus.


“Shadow Games”

1.5       Shadow Games Airdate:  02/19/10

Spartacus has returned to training after saving Batiatus’ life in the pit as Batiatus seeks out the source of the men sent to assassinate him.  Lucretia continues to struggle with having a child as the city faces a drought that will not end.  When a battle is set up to please the gods, Crixus and Spartacus are forced to fight together to battle the unbeaten Theokoles…which only Doctore ever survived fighting in the arena.


“Delicate Things”

1.6       Delicate Things Airdate:  02/26/10

Sparatus’s success over Theokoles has made him a celebrity in Capua with the return of the rains and brought fame back to Batiatus’ home.  With word of his wife’s coming arrival, Spartacus begins to plot his escape…which means getting past Doctore.  Barca (Antonio Te Maioha) and his lover Pietros (Eka Darville) plot their freedom, but a bad debt with Ashur could thwart their plans.  The arrival of Sura approaches, but Spartacus’s plans might be in vain.


“Great and Unfortunate Things”

1.7       Great and Unfortunate Things Airdate:  03/05/10

Spartacus copes with the death of Sura and must decide if he is going to commit to the life of a gladiator.  Pietros finds himself the victim of attacks with the sudden departure of Barca, and Doctore seeks the truth about Barca’s actions.  A visit from Varros’ wife Aurelia (Brooke Williams) brings bad news and a change in Varros’ attitude.  Spartacus shows his new power when dealing with Pietros’ tormentor and must decide if he is going to sever his ties to his past.


“Mark of the Brotherhood”

1.8       Mark of the Brotherhood Airdate:  03/12/10

Crixus fights to recover from his injuries and finds that his weakened state has made himself a target for sale by Batiatus.  Ilithyia purchases a new slave as a potential gladiator, but an argument with Spartacus changes her plans.  Spartacus faces off against Crixus but a decision by Crixus changes the relationship between the gladiators.



1.9       Whore Airdate:  03/19/10

The cousin of Senator Marcus Crassus’ Licinia (Brooke Harman) comes to Lucretia to bed a gladiator, and Spartacus is selected for the job…regardless if he wants to or not.  Varros learns his attempts to reconcile with his wife are in vain when his wife turns up missing.  Batiatus plots to murder Solonius (Craig Walsh-Wrightson) but his actions toward Ashur lead to a change of alliance.  Crixus makes enemies as he returns to gladiator training and continues his secret affair with Naevia.  When Ilithyia plans to undermine Lucretia by selecting Crixus for a tryst, Lucretia plots a revenge that goes horribly wrong.


Party Favors”

1.10     Party Favors Airdate:  03/26/10

Ilithyia recovers at the home of Lucretia and Batiatus after her murder of Licinia and Lucretia and Batiatus plan a coming of age party for Numerius (Lliam Powell) the son of Calavius (John Bach).  Lucretia worries that Batiatus is growing too attached to Spartacus and forgetting he is a slave.  Spartacus and Crixus are assigned to fight an exhibition match for the party, but a plot by Ilithyia for revenge on Spartacus leads to a switch and a shocking ending.


“Old Wounds”

1.11     Old Wounds Airdate:  04/02/10

Spartacus fights the guilt of having to kill Varros and infection as the primus against Pompeius approaches.  With Spartacus down, Crixus might get his chance to reclaim his glory with a battle to the death against Pericles in the arena…much to the fears of Lucretia and Naevia.  Batiatus begins his master plan against Calavius, but Ashur’s loyalties remain in question.  A fevered dream brings Spartacus the truth of what happened to his wife.



1.12     Revelations Airdate:  04/09/10

The death of Calavius and the setting up of Solonius sets Batiatus to be in position to be in control of the city.  Varro’s widow Aurelia begins to serve in the home of Batiatus much to the dismay of Spartacus.  Spartacus debates action against Batiatus for the death of his wife, but learns that any action taken by a slave leads to the killing of all the slaves.  Ashur’s part in Batiatus’ rise to power is rewarded, and Ashur uses the opportunity to get revenge on Crixus.  Lucretia finds she is with child but begins to suspect that Crixus’ thoughts are elsewhere.  Ilithyia’s husband Glaber comes to the city, and after a display of power over his gladiators goes wrong, Lucretia and Batiatus make the ultimate power play to win Batiatus control.


“Kill Them All”

1.13     Kill Them All Airdate:  04/16/10

Spartacus and the other gladiators are preparing for a revolution.  With a big presentation for Batiatus in which Spartacus is finally supposed to have his rematch with Crixus, Spartacus plots to overthrow Batiatus and his men…but in order to do that he needs Crixus’ help.  Aurelia adjusts to life as a servant in the house and Spartacus tries to prove he had no choice in the death of Varro.  Lucretia and Batiatus plot against Crixus for his betrayal with Naevia, and Doctore learns that his freedom might be at hand…but the past of Barca’s death and Ashur’s part in it still haunts him. With time running out, Spartacus must convince Crixus to revolt if he ever hopes to avenge his wife.

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Related Links:

Spartacus:  Gods of the Arena Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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