Spartacus: War of the Damned – “Enemies of Rome” Review
“Enemies of Rome” is an explosive start to the final season of Spartacus.
Spartacus: War of the Damned‘s premiere episode, “Enemies of Rome”, starts off mid-battle, with plenty of the ultra-violence the series is known for. Limbs are lopped off, horses are speared to death and faces are crushed in a familiar gush of crimson. As Spartacus succeeded in liberating his fellow gladiators last season, he’s since gained legions of followers to fight for him in the cause to annihilate the Roman empire. With each victory, the troops gain more confidence, and their biggest worry this episode seems to be finding a base big enough to house their massive amount of soldiers before winter sets in. But as they’ll soon find out, there is a much bigger threat on the horizon- Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells).
Last year’s season, Spartacus: Vengeance, was decent, but largely unmemorable. It’s funny, while watching “Enemies of Rome”, I had a hard time recalling the events of last season, though I can still recount the details of almost every episode from the first season starring Andy Whitfield, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Of course, Whitfield unfortunately passed away, leaving Liam McIntyre to take on the role of Spartacus, and Naevia was replaced as well, lending the season an air of unfamiliarity and lack of chemistry. Still, I do remember watching every episode; it was far from terrible.
This season sees Spartacus transition into more of a leader, forced to deal with not only fighting and planning against the Romans, but also making sure that his allies don’t starve or freeze to death. This season also has the unenviable task of forming Marcus Crassus into a villain worthy of those who came before him- Ashur, Batiatus, Lucretia and Glaber have all fallen in Spartacus’ vengeful wake. Luckily, “Enemies of Rome” succeeds in setting him up as an antagonist every bit Spartacus’ equal- in both strategy and swordsmanship.
Glaber, and many other Spartacus villains, have been known for thinking Spartacus and his army of slaves beneath them; underestimating them was their downfall. Crassus, on the other hand, has a real respect for what Spartacus has accomplished- his sense of honor and respect is shown in his relationship with a gladiator whom he’s hired to train him in combat. They have a mutual respect for one another, and Crassus has not let his title cloud his judgment or go to his head. He tries to teach his son these lessons as well, but Tiberius is a typical idiotic, annoying teenage TV trope. The to-the-death battle between Crassus and his trainer, and the simultaneous raid on the Roman camp, made for incredibly exciting TV.
“Enemies of Rome” is an explosive start to the final season of Spartacus. Although Spartacus is often looked at as nothing but slow-mo sex and ultraviolence, the series has great characters and an intriguing story when it’s at its best. War of the Damned’s first episode did a great job of reminding me why I love the series.