Oh, House of Batiatus, how we’ve missed you so.
Ever since the first season of Spartacus: Blood & Sand ended several months ago, I’ve been desperately wanting to return to Capua. Due to the sad news of Spartacus star Andy Whitfield’s cancer, a second season was put on hold. Instead, the writers got crafty and now we have a short prequel season that shows the ludus’ formative years.
In the first episode titled “Past Transgressions” we get an awesome intro showing how the last season ended. There was a ton of bloodshed, clips of how Dominus (John Hannah) betrayed Spartacus and the rest of the gladiators, and it all ended with the camera focusing on the eye of Batiatus. Instantly, we were taken back to when he and Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) are just starting out. They don’t have control of the ludus yet because Quintus’ father is still alive, nor do they have the social respect to get them in to the championship matches. The current Doctore, played by Temuera Morrison of Star Wars Jango Fett fame, is even under Quintus’ fathers control.
Familiar faces are aplenty as we see Barca, Ashur, Solonius, Oenomaus (Doctore from the first season), Naevia, and Gnaeus. We’re also introduced to the star gladiator, Gannicus, who loves his wine and definitely loves the ladies. When we’re first shown Gannicus he is fighting in the arena, and while it’s not nearly as impressive as the arena in Blood & Sand (simply because it’s under construction and not completed), it still is a very popular venue. Women flash the gladiators, bets are made, and men cheer for their favorites.
Gannicus is like the Fabio of the ludus; long, flowing hair; a muscular build worthy of a romance novel cover; and the sexual appetite of Zeus. Gannicus knows all of this, too, so while he’s easy on the eye, his cockiness and arrogance make him incredibly unattractive.
On a walk through the market with Solonius, Batiatus comes across men beating a slave. Noticing the build on the slave, Batiatus orders the men to stop and offers to purchase him so that he can turn him into a gladiator. Offering 50 denarii, a rather large sum, he is given the beaten slave who turns out to be Crixus.
Crixus, so far, is very different than what we saw in Blood & Sand. For starters Crixus really can’t fight and has to go through training with all of the new recruits. He is also naive but knows that he wants to be part of the brotherhood. Crixus still has his eye on the honor and glory the arena can give him, but it will take awhile because he still has to be branded with the mark of Batiatus. Then, there’s the bit where Ashur wants to be number one (and we all know he will do anything to get there), plus Oenomaus used to be champion and wishes to reclaim his rightful place. Oenomaus was out of commission for awhile after a fight with Theokoles, the guy who was taken down in season 1 by both Crixus and Spartacus. At that time nobody had survived a bout against Theokoles, so while Oenomaus didn’t defeat him, it was still considered a victory.
Most of the episode was spent setting events up, introducing us to the new cast, and showing us more about the gladiators we already met in Blood & Sand. Batiatus’ pride and drive still gets in his way as he talks trash about young lanista Vettius to others and to Tullius, not knowing that Tullius is the man behind Vettius and his endeavors. This lands Batiatus in hot water as Vettius challenges Batiatus to a gladiator fight in the streets. Batiatus makes a boast that his best man can beat anybody Vettius puts before him, even while blindfolded… a detail Vettius doesn’t forget when Quintus presents Gannicus to the crowd. Fortunately for Batiatus, and Gannicus, he survives and kills Vettius’ gladiator but not without punishment.
It all comes to a head when Tullius invites Batiatus to speak with him, with Batiatus under the assumption that Tullius wishes to discuss plans to have his gladiators featured in a championship match, but it’s actually to demand purchase of Gannicus. Always the prideful one, Batiatus refuses and it all goes downhill from there. Tullius is, understandably, offended that Batiatus is able to purchase one of his slaves (Crixus) but when offered 200 denarii for Gannicus, he’s refused. It is then that the Tullius and Vettius connection is revealed, and the men who accompanied Batiatus are slain. Quintus ends up having the shit beat out of him and that’s pretty much where things ended.
For the men (and for the ladies), there is a nifty lesbian sex-scene between Lucretia and her friend Gaia that has plenty of nudity for all to enjoy. The homosexuality of Barca is also displayed as he has a gladiator companion named Auctus. Their relationship is vastly different than the one Barca had with Pietros, and unfortunately we won’t see how their relationship came to be since the actor who played Pietros, Eka Darville, was unavailable. Fans of Barca will get to see a different side of him since he is coupled with a fellow gladiator, and there will be moments in future episodes where their sexuality is showcased.
“Past Transgressions” was exactly how I’d expect it to be; buckets of blood, lots of boobs, solid acting, and a proper introduction to a 6 episode prequel. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this season progresses!
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena airs every Friday night at 10 PM on Starz. For more information, check out the official Spartacus website.