I watched all of this miniseries in the past two days. Please don’t judge me. The combination of Lucy Lawless and Jaime Murray was more than I could resist. (Ohhh and what a combination…) And it was actually kind of perfect for my cold-muddled brain.
And it may well be that I am biased, but I found this prequel series to be less terrible than the original Spartacus. They were, at least, somewhat less in love with their blood-spray effect, or else finally learned to use it in moderation.
I don’t have a lot to say about the plot or the acting (both were fine), but I did want to talk a little about the world-building. There was a variety of things on that front that I found intriguing.
On the one hand, this is a cable show, and it had the requisite gratuitous and excessive nudity, sexuality, vugarity and violence. On the other hand though, all of those things contributed toward constructing a society with radically different social mores and taboos than ours. Once it got past the shock value, it felt true in a way that the one episode of Spartacus I managed to sit through, with its endless slow motion sprays of blood, never did.
And it’s possible that the thing that felt most true about it, was that not once did any of the characters notice it, or wink at it, or reference it, or judge it. This was their world. And I was very much impressed by that acceptance.
I credit the writers for this. Particularly in the way they treated slavery. That, too, was a fact of life. And the slaves were able to take pride in their accomplishments and in the house that they served. But never once was it glorified. All the horrors of that position, that institution were shown in stark clarity. But that was the amazing thing. It was shown, not told. Never once did anyone whinge about their lack of freedom. There were no endless speeches about “one day I will be free.” And yet, as a viewer, you were always, always aware of the situation.
I just found it interesting to be shown: this is what life is like in the culture we’re depicting. (Never having studied the classics, I couldn’t tell you if it’s actually representative of life in the Roman Empire.) And to be shown this with absolutely no modern judgements imposed upon it. This is a rare thing, and I appreciated it a great deal.