Spartacus: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Anchor Bay Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Ethan Stevenson (25th August 2016).
The Show

Phil Hartman was shot and killed by his wife in a murder-suicide, shortly after completing production on the fourth season of “NewsRadio” (1995-1999). His character died off-screen in the first episode of the next season. Actors Jim Davis and Larry Hagman succumbed to complications from cancer during the production of the original “Dallas” (1978-1991) and its subsequent cable sequel reboot (2012-present) respectively; their supporting characters, likewise, explained away in a similar fashion. There have even been cases of lead actors dying suddenly during a television series. George Reeves committed suicide during the production of early superhero serial “The Adventures of Superman” (1952-1958). The studio tried to continue without him, and wanted to use a combination of stock footage and the character of Jimmy Olsen. Luckily, that never came to pass, because the cast and crew had good enough sense to decline any offer to return without their lead. Comedian John Ritter dropped dead on the actual set of sitcom “8 Simple Rules” (2002-2005), and that series did in fact continue, integrating the death into the plot and introducing James Garner and David Spade into the mix as Ritter’s father and brother respectively. But I can't think of a case, that is to say other than Starz’s brutal and sometimes unbelievably sexualized “Spartacus” (2010-2013), where the lead actor died during production, and the series continued by simply casting a new actor in the same role as the deceased. 

Andy Whitfield is not the first actor to die amidst the production of a television series, although his sad story is undeniably one of the more curious cases in modern history. Whitfield’s death was unfortunate, a blow to the body of his series. And truthfully, one from which it never really recovered, as his performance as the titular Thracian gladiator behind one of the major slave rebellions in the Roman Republic gave the oft-times silly series a certain gravitas. His replacement, although by no means bad, never elevated the lurid material in the same way. As guiltless a guilty-pleasure “Spartacus” may seem, one wonders if, under different circumstances, it might’ve evolved into something more than high class smut. 

Little is known about the actual Spartacus, as his recorded history is often contradictory and there was almost nothing of his time before the slave rebellion ever told. Although a somewhat frequent figure in fiction — with several novels, and no less than a major Old Hollywood Epic directed by none other than Stanley Kubrick in the pantheon of motion picture depictions of the man — there are very few tales told of his time before becoming a major military leader during the Third Serville War. This gave “Spartacus” creator Steven S. DeKnight a bit of leeway when crafting his take on Spartacus, as a man who had not yet really become the Spartacus, but rather a simple slave with a unbidden steak for revenge and righteousness. DeKnight’s version of the old tale is one part polished historical epic, a la Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” (2000), another part soap opera-esque character drama, with a boundary pushing mix of soft-core pornography and the hyper stylized visual aesthetic of Zack Snyder's “300” (2006). 

In broad strokes, DeKnight’s “Spartacus” is the story of a gladiator who ultimately becomes renown, and curries favor with the masses, against a backdrop of political intrigue as the Roman Republic becomes the Roman Empire and a bit of orgiastic pay cable naughtiness at the fringes of the frame. The character accomplishes his ascent through a combination of raw talent in the ring, and a truly personable personality out of it. The same could be said for Whitfield, whose charisma carries the series through its sort of rocky beginnings. His performance helps neutralize the jarring affect of the rather sensationalist and soapy elements, which would otherwise plague the series with silliness and narrative-stunting sex. Of course, the gratuitous slo-mo violence and the blushingly uncensored shots of boobs, butts, balls and a wee bit of flaccid ol’ rooster are still there, everywhere, to titillate as intended. 

After the production of the first season, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma — and the cancer eventually took his life. Rather than cancel the series, which had received decent reviews and some of the best numbers the Starz network had ever seen for one of their original programs, DeKnight created a six episode prequel miniseries in which Whitfield’s Spartacus did not feature at all. Working around the absence of the sick actor, the cast and crew explored the world of the series without its title character. It's debatable how effective this actually was. In my opinion, the prequel, which is part achronological flashback sequel because it relies on knowledge from the first season and must be viewed second, only works because John Hannah, reprising his role of Spartacus’ master Batiatus, in his younger days. Hannah plays his part so delightfully well, with a grounded grace, the miniseries is more enjoyable than it has any right to be. But the intended narrative detour offers little beyond its central performance and sensationalist aspects, including gratuitous full frontal nudity and once again, visceral blood splattered slow-mo violence.

Whitfield's cancer only worsened and the production crew of “Spartacus” decided to recast the role with actor Liam McIntyre (whose performance is actually enhanced in his second season by a grizzled beard, I kid you not), and continue in a more traditional direction for the sequel seasons, with the subsequent “Vengeance” and “War of the Damned” continuing in chronological fashion. Both follow the events of “Blood and Sand”, in a linear direction, picking up where the first season left off: the origins of the gladiator rebellion. The events that follow in each subsequent 10-episode season begin to blur with what we've already seen in other filmic depictions, albeit the premium cable version is undoubtedly a more graphic account. 

There are no two ways about it: “Spartacus”, in any of its often reinvented forms, is a guilty pleasure. Enjoyable not so much for the expert acting — although many of the supporting performances, from the likes of Lucy Lawless and others, are by no means laughably amateurish — or deeply metaphoric and masterful writing, there's a certain charm or whatever you want to call it in the pure and unapologetic objectification of bodies and brainless combat on screen. The production values by no means rival some other pay cable counterparts, among them the seemingly ever expanding scope of the far superior “Game of Thrones” (2011-present) on HBO. But then again, there is a unique quality that “Spartacus” possesses with unusual visual style. Its wholly artificial; a blanket backing of green screen and CG enhancements make the occasionally stiff cardboard characters the most credible aspect of the show. Still, the look sometimes even pushes the series towards camp, and it becomes watchable for a whole other set of reasons — in the same way that some other, syndicated, series produced by Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi in the 90's and early 2000's were. 

We'll never know if “Spartacus” could have been more, had it's lead actor not died and the writers not forced to refocus and rewrite as needed. As it is, the series was occasionally compelling, often times enjoyable, somewhat silly, undoubtedly sexualized, and quite unique for the television landscape. I don't imagine they'll be anything quite like “Spartacus” on any of even the premium cable networks for sometime, if ever again. 

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” 

Torn from his homeland and the woman he loves, Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) is condemned to the brutal world of the gladiator arena where blood and death are primetime entertainment. But not all battles are fought in the sands. Treachery, corruption, and the allure of sensual pleasures constantly test the future leader of the slave rebellion. To survive, Spartacus met become more than a man. More than a gladiator. He must become a legend. 

The 13 episodes that comprise "Blood and Sand" are spread across the first four discs in the set; the first three discs house 4 episodes each, with the season finale relegated to its own platter, shared with the supplements:

- “The Red Serpent” — A Thracian warrior, enlisted by the Romans to fight, has his destiny sealed by an act of rebellious violence. As punishment, he faces death in the gladiatorial arena. 
- “Sacrametum Gladitorum” — Enslaved in gladiatorial school, the newly christened Spartacus must try and suppress his desire for vengeance when his new master promises to reunite him with his wife. 
- “Legends” — Though Spartacus proved himself during training and now wears the attire of a gladiator, his coarse attitude and relentless quest to see his wife isolates him from his fellow gladiators and Doctore (Peter Mensah). 
- “The Thing in the Pit” — Having performed shamefully in the arena, Spartacus is force to fight in the Pits. Batiatus (John Hannah), determined to profit from Spartacus, may be at risk if his debts aren’t repaid.  
- “Shadow Games” —Batiatus is presented with an opportunity of a lifetime. Spartacus and Crixus (Manu Bennett) must overcome their mutual hostility to fight as a team against a legendary and unbeaten opponent. 
- “Delicate Things” — With the glory and riches reaped by Spartacus’ victory in the arena, it appears that his long-desired reward will be granted when Batiatus informs him that he will be reunited with his wife. 
- “Great and Unfortunate Things” — Overcome by the pressure of Batiatus’ control, Spartacus mast make a choice: leave his past behind and assume the mantle of a champion, or die. 
- “Mark of the Brotherhood” — Batiatus purchases a fresh lot of slaves during an auction to be trained as gladiators and ponders the idea of selling Crixus. 
- “Whore” — Batiatus breaks the news to Spartacus that he is to service the richest woman in all of Rome. 
- “Party Favors” — Spartacus and Crixus are set up to fight in an exhibition match for Numerius’ (Lliam Powell) birthday, but Crixus is intent on blood. 
- “Old Wounds” — Spartacus hovers on the brink. Meanwhile, Batiatus plot revenge against his enemies. 
- “Revelations” — Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) and Batiatus await the arrival of Glaber (Craig Parker) with the intention to receive his patronage, while Spartacus focuses his attention on this plan or revenge. 
- “Kill Them All” — Spartacus’ fury culminates in a bold and bloody battle-heavy season finale. 

“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”

The House of Batiatus is on the rise, basking in the glow of the infamous champion Gannicus (Dustin Clare), whose skill with a sword is matched only by his thirst for wine and women. These are the times a young Batiatus has been waiting for. Poised to overthrow his father and take control, he’ll freely betray anyone to ensure his gladiators are in the highest demand. 

The six episode prequel miniseries "Gods of the Arena" is split across discs five (episodes 1-4) and six (episodes 5-6):
- “Past Transgressions” — A younger Batiatus finds himself newly in control of his father’s gladiator school. He uses his most skilled fighter to win favor with a cunning nobleman behind the building of the new arena. 
- “Missio” — Batiatus conjures up a devious plan and enlists Lucretia, Gaia (Jaime Murray) and a clutch of gladiator recruits to see it through. Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) longs to reclaim the top gladiator rank, but new challenges cross his path. 
- “Paterfamilias” — Just as his fortunes are on the rise, his future clear before him, Batiatus is stunned by the return of his father which puts his attempts to gain rank by exploiting those above his class at risk. 
- “Beneath the Mask” — The House of Batiatus is aught in the power struggle between the younger and elder Batiatus. Lucretia reluctantly agrees to her husbands’s risky plan. Gannicus finds himself on unstable ground. 
- “Reckoning” — Batiatus’ father announces a tournament to determine the worth of the men that make up his sable of gladiators. Crixus, dedicated to proving himself, is drawn into the power play within the house. 
- “The Bitter End” — Batiatus seeks vengeance for all that has befallen him and recruits his gladiators and Solonius (Craig Walsh-Wrightson) to the cause. The opening of the new arena arrives, promising a spectacle of combat and blood. 

“Spartacus: Vengeance”

On the heels of the bloody escape from the House of Batiatus, the gladiator rebellion, lead by Spartacus (Liam McIntyre), continues, striking fear into the heart of the Roman Republic. 

The 10 episode Spartacus: Vengeance is split across discs seven (four episodes), eight (four episodes), and nine (two episodes):
- “Fugitivus” — Spartacus discovers the grave responsibilities and cost involved in his new role as leader of the freed slaves. Claudius Glaber’s (Craig Parker) arrival in Capua forces Spartacus to keep his rebellious band intact. 
- “A Place in This World” — Spartacus and his men liberate a Roman villa, but its slaves are wary. Oenomaus throws himself into the brutal Pits, and Glaber supports Lucretia’s prophecies, despite Ilithyia’s (Viva Bianca) protests. 
- “The Greater Good” — Spartacus must navigate a divide that opens up among the gladiators after news of Naevia’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) fate. Lucretia reveals a long-held secret to gain information, and an attacks puts the rebels at risk. 
- “Empty Hands” — Spartacus leads survivors through the woods, but Crixus gets separated and returns to a place of past suffering. Lucretia pries in Ilithyia’s affairs, seeking influence with a powerful Roman. 
- “Libertus” — Spartacus leads a bold mission to free Crixus from Roman captivity, but a slurred gladiator from the House of Batiatus complicates matters. Ilithyia’s scheming puts her marriage to Glaber at risk. 
- “Chosen Path” — Spartacus urges his restless rebels to train for the defense of their new sanctuary. Lucretia and Ilithyia seek comfort from each other, while Glaber’s forces swell with some deadly new recruits. 
- “Sacramentum” — Spartacus and the rebels try to increase their numbers by freeing fighters enslaved in foreign wars. Lucretia’ seeks to recruit one of her husband’s former gladiators to outmaneuver powerful Romans. 
- “Balance” — Spartacus gets a chance for vengeance when a prominent Roman is captured, but will he satisfy his desire at the cost of the greater good? The intrigue amongst Glaber and the women surrounding him heats up. 
- “Monsters” — Spartacus must convince his people to unite against the imminent Roman assault. Lucretia struggles to be free from the commands of men who threaten her fate, and Glaber’s ruthlessness has consequences. 
- “Wrath of the Gods” — Dwindling supplies and a superior Roman enemy brings the rebellion to its knees. Spartacus must restore hope to his people, as they career towards their final confrontation with Glaber’s army. 

“Spartacus: War of the Damned”

Gaius Claudius Glaber is dead. The rebellion has swelled to thousands of freed slaves, and Spartacus is determined to bring down the Roman Republic. Following Ashur’s (Nick Tarabay) death, Naevia and Crixus fight as one. Together, with Gannicus and Agron (Dan Feuerriegel), they prepare for war with Rome. The Roman Senate turns to Marcus Crassus, a wealthy, strategic politician, for aid. With a young Julius Caesar as an ally, Crassus must crush the rebellion before they do much the same to the Roman elite. 

The 10 episode fourth and final season, "Spartacus: War of the Damned”, is also split across three discs; disc 10 (four episodes), 11 (four episodes), and 12 (two episodes):
- “Enemies of Rome” — Spartacus continues to assemble a formidable army and outwit Rome’s finest commanders. The desperate powers are forced to turn to the wealth and ambitious Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells) to aids in the campaign against the rebellion.
- “Wolves at the Gate” — Spartacus leads a darling assault to provide food and shelter for his people. Crassus builds a fearsome army and receives an unexpected visitor. 
- “Men of Honor” — Spartacus considers striking a dal with a band of marauders to ensure his people stay supplied and fed. Crassus’ son Tiberius (Christian Antidormi) makes a bold and fateful decision. 
- “Decimation” — The possible infiltration of a Roman spy causes tension between Spartacus and his men. Crassus resurrects a long abandoned form of Roman punishment to teach his soldiers a brutal lesson. 
- “Blood Brothers” — Spartacus puts a plan in motion to weaken Crassus’ forces and gain the upper hand, but betrayal threatens to foil the plan. 
- “Spoils of War” — As Crassus leads an onslaught against the rebel-occupied city, Gannicus finds himself trapped behind enemy lines. Tiberius must hold a celebration in honor of a man he despises. 
- “Mors Indecepta” — Their forces pinned on a snowbound, impassible ridge, Spartacus and Crixus come into conflict over the method of escape. Crassus discovers he has difficulty controlling the actions of those closest to him. 
- “Separate Paths” — Spartacus and the rebels arrive at a crossroads. With the relentless Crassus driving his men hard in the pursuit of Spartacus, a conflict between Tiberius and Caesar (Todd Lasance) escalates. 
- “The Dead and the Dying” — Crassus learns that a prominent fellow Roman is attempting to steal the glory of defeating Spartacus that he feels is rightfully his. Spartacus aims to secure a bargaining chip he can use against the Romans and celebrates the memory of a fallen brother. 
- “Victory” — Spartacus and his outnumbered rebels make one last attempt to win freedom in an epic battle against the Romans lead by Marcus Crassus.

Video

With the exception of the first season, all discs in Starz and Anchor Bay’s “Spartacus: The Complete Series" box set are identical to those pressed for the individual seasons, right on down to old disc artwork marked with titles and numbers corresponding to each separate season as previously released. The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 high definition transfers are likewise identical to those earlier releases. In fact, even “Blood and Sand” appears virtually unchanged… not that that’s a bad thing. Taking a page, or really series of frames from “300” (2006), all four seasons of “Spartacus” sport a strangely desaturated, almost sepia tone palette (although “Gods of the Arena” is decidedly greener, rather than golden) with bold reds blood splashing across the screen in slow motion. The clarity of high definition exposes the seems of the artificial green screen backdrops, reveals faint aliasing in the frequent CG renderings that expand the scope of the series, but I don’t generally felt a transfer for its transparency to a source. Shot digitally, there's none of that nasty grain seen in “300”, although plenty of grit. Closeups reveal dirt and grime on unwashed faces, crusty dried blood, bruises, and unhealed open wounds. The image across all seasons is generally tack sharp, although some of the visual effects do take on a softer edge. Contrast suffers some from slightly oppressive shadows, with crushing blacks that rob the darkest parts of the picture of fine detail. Likewise, some of the battle scenes have a stylized appearance, with blown out highlights in daylight. Overall, no matter the season, “Spartacus” looks very good on Blu-ray. On closest inspection, there are moments of faint banding, a handful of scenes that have more noticeable artifacts and noise, and a few other anomalies that keep the series from breaking free from slavish compression, but these few flaws scattered throughout the series’ 12 discs with no particular regularity amount to forgivable flaws that don’t drastically harm the presentation.

Audio

Re-authored first season aside, all discs in the “Spartacus: The Complete Series" box set are identical to those pressed for the individual seasons; the discs haven't even been re-screened with new artwork and are marked with titles and disc numbers corresponding to each separate season. The lossless soundtracks and subtitle options are likewise identical to those earlier releases. Even the “Blood and Sand” discs appear to use the same codec and mix, to similarly impressive results as previous pressings. All four season include English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 dual mono with optional subtitles in English and Spanish. From the clanking of metal on metal, be that sword-to-sword or sword-to-armor, to the cheering crowds, the gladiatorial battle scenes of “Spartacus” are of course the most immersive and impressive moments in the series in terms of sound. The bombastic score composed by Joseph LoDuca, very clearly influenced by Hans Zimmer's work on “Gladiator” (2000) and Tyler Bates' work on “300” (2006), further expands the immersion by placing Middle Eastern inspired choir vocals and metal-ish drums and guitar in the sound space with some rather interesting phasing and during action montages. The sound design is often reliant on music as much as it is effects, equally balanced every channel to maximum effect. That's not say these are the only impressive moments, as in fact the action scenes are often overly aggressive in their mixing, playing both too loud and occasionally excessive. The calmer, atmospheric moments — wind blowing across a battlefield in bloodied aftermath rather than in the moment of action — or exchanges of quietly whispered dialogue are sometimes what really sells the dynamic qualities of series largely impressive the lossless tracks.

Extras

A majority of the discs in “Spartacus: The Complete Series” are identical to the individual seasons previously released on Blu-ray. However, the first season has been re-authored with 3 all-new audio commentaries and a 13th disc contains a couple of exclusive featurettes. The added content is not essential viewing, nor a compelling enough reason to repurchase the series if you’ve already bought the separate Blu-rays, in my opinion. Each season includes the same exhaustive array of audio commentaries, extended episodes (note: the original broadcast versions are not available), featurettes and more — just as the Blu-rays did when first released. An HD digital copy of the entire series is also included. 

DISC ONE:

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” includes extended episodes, 12 audio commentaries with the cast and crew, a pop-up trivia track on the entire season, and several featurettes.  

All season one episodes include "Spartacus Historicus" pop-up history trivia track (HD) with information about gladiators and the Roman Empire.

The first season offers 4 re-edited extended episodes, which differ from the original broadcast. Dubbed “Extended” episodes in the menu and on the disc packaging, these alternate versions are essentially director’s cuts, both longer and more graphic. The extended episodes on disc one are:
 
- “The Red Serpent” 
- “Sacramentum Gladiatorium” 

Audio commentaries (the track on “Legends” is new):
 
- “The Red Serpent” with director Rick Jacobson, writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, and executive producers Robert Tapert and Joshua Donen.

- “Sacramentum Gladiatorium” with director Rick Jacobson, writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, and executive Producer Robert Tapert.

- “Legends" with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, executive producer Robert Tapert, and actors Viva Bianca and Lucy Lawless.

- “The Thing in the Pit” with director Jesse Warn and actor Andy Whitfield.

DISC TWO:

All season one episodes include "Spartacus Historicus" pop-up history trivia track (HD) with information about gladiators and the Roman Empire.

The extended episodes on this disc are:
 
- “Delicate Things”
- “Mark of the Brotherhood”

Audio commentaries (the tracks on “Great and Unfortunate Things” and “Mark of the Brotherhood” are new):
 
- “Shadow Games” with director Michael Hurst and actors Andy Whitfield and Lucy Lawless.

- “Delicate Things” with director Rick Jacobson, creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, and actor Erin Cummings.

- “Great and Unfortunate Things" with executive producer Robert Tapert and actors John Hannah and Lucy Lawless.
 
- “Mark of the Brotherhood" with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Manu Bennett, Viva Bianca, and Lucy Lawless.

DISC THREE:

All season one episodes include "Spartacus Historicus" pop-up history trivia track (HD) with information about gladiators and the Roman Empire.

Audio commentaries are included for:

- “Whore” with actors Andy Whitfield, Viva Bianca, and Lucy Lawless.

- “Party Favors” with actors Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless, and Viva Bianca.

- “Revelations” with writer Brent Fletcher, creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, and actor Nick Tarabay.

DISC FOUR:

All season one episodes include "Spartacus Historicus" pop-up history trivia track (HD) with information about gladiators and the Roman Empire.

 
- The fourth disc’s only episode, “Kill Them All”, includes an audio commentary with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Peter Mensah and Katrina Law.

There are 9 featurettes that include:


- “Spartacus: Blood and Sand – Behind-the-Scenes" (1.78:1, 1080p; 14 minutes 50 seconds) is a pretty standard EPK featurette, offering an overview of the series’ first season; casting, characters, historical accuracy and writing, special effects, and more.

- “Spartacus: Battle Royale" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 7 minutes 26 seconds) is little more than a best-of reel of the season’s bloodiest and best action scenes. 

- “Gladiator Boot Camp" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 4 minutes 21 seconds) spends some time with actor Andy Whitfield and others during their fight training, physique-chiseling workouts, and overall preparation for brutal principle photography. 

- “Grime and Punishment: The Hole" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 4 minutes 54 seconds) is a specific look at one of the first season’s most sickeningly putrid set-pieces. 

- “Andy Gets Plastered" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 2 minutes 44 seconds) is a shot featurette with the actor, as he’s being cast for a full body mould for his form-fitting armor. 

- “Legend Re-Imagined" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 4 minutes) is a look at the series’ loose treatment of history. 

- “Oh, Those Randy Romans!” featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 6 minutes 14 seconds) is a look at the boundary pushing elements of the series, and the historical precedent for the graphic nudity and sex scenes. 

- “Shooting Green: The Shadow of Death featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 4 minutes 48 seconds) is a breakdown of the the series’ extensive use of green screen backdrops. 

- “Exposing Your Ludus" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 5 minutes 21 seconds) is a light and too-long blooper reel with the cast and crew on set. 

Although labeled “Spartacus: Vengeance Trailer” (1.78:1, 1080p; 1 minute 31 seconds) the preview on disc four is really just a compilation of scenes from the first season. Although not unusual — many series use material from previous seasons to promote upcoming premieres — this is an odd piece, mostly because “Vengeance” was postponed with Whitfield’s cancer diagnosis, and of course the role of Spartacus was recast for the actual “Vengeance” storyline, with the actors eventual death. 

DISC FIVE:

Spread over disc five and six, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” includes 5 extended episodes, 6 audio commentaries, several featurettes, a strange 3D excerpt, and a gag reel.

5 of the 6 episodes that comprise the “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” miniseries are re-edited and uncut on Blu-ray. Dubbed :extended episodes" in the menu and on the disc packaging, these alternate versions are essentially director’s cuts, both longer and more graphic. The extended episodes on disc five are:
 
- “Past Transgressions” 
- “Paternfamilias”
- “Beneath the Mask” 

Audio commentaries are included on:

- “Past Transgressions” with executive producer Robert Tapert, director Jesse Warn, production designer Iain Aitken, and costume designer Barbara Darragh.
 
- “Missio” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Dustin Clare, Peter Mensah, and Jaime Murray.
 
- “Paternfamilias” with executive producer Robert Tapert, director Michael Hurst, and actor Lucy Lawless.
 
- “Beneath the Mask” with writer/creator/executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Dustin Clare, Lucy Lawless, and Jaime Murray.

Oddly enough, the trailer labeled as a promo for “Spartacus: Vengeance”, which closed out the first season supplements, reappears on this disc a pre-menu preview. This time, it ends with a “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” (1.78:1, 1080p; 1 minute 31 seconds) tag. 

DISC SIX:

Extended episodes included are:
 
- “Reckoning” 
- “The Bitter End”

Audio commentaries included are for:

-  “Reckoning” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, writer Brent Fletcher, and actors John Hannah and Lucy Lawless.
 
- “The Bitter End” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, director Rick Jacobson, and actor Peter Mensah.

An oddity for sure, “3D ‘Ring of Fire’ Battle Sequence” (1080p, 1.78:1, 5 minutes 35 seconds) 3D segment is a genuine Blu-ray 3D rendering of a key battle sequences from the miniseries, despite the fact that the show was never released or even produced in the format anywhere outside of this feature and scene. A 3D compatible display and blu-ray player are required to view. 

9 featurettes are on this disc, they are:
 
- “Starz Studios: Gods of the Arena” (1080p, 1.78:1; 14 minutes 35 seconds) is a perfunctory EPK featurette, in which the the cast and crew offer an overview of the miniseries visual style, new characters, the reason for the season, and the briefly explain the absence of original star Andy Whitfield and the reason for the miniseries prequel. 

- “Weapons of Mass Disruption” (1080p, 1.78:1; 2 minutes 53 seconds) is a featurette with property master Rob Bavin, who shows off some of the various deadly weapons used by the gladiators. 

- “Battle Royale: Anatomy of a Scene” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1 5 minutes 58 seconds) is a look at the fight choreography and gladiator boot camp.
 
- “On Set with Lucy Lawlessfeaturette (1080p, 1.78:1; 6 minutes 29 seconds) is a pleasant enough piece with the actress hamming it up on set with the cast and crew. Mostly pointless, but more amusing than a traditional gag reel. 

- “10 Easy Steps to Dismemberment” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1; 2 minutes 14 seconds) is a “best kills” compilation.

- “Post Production: The Final Execution” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1; 7 minutes 17 seconds) is a fairly interesting, if too brief, examination of how the live action footage and visual effects are integrated to create the unique, wholly artificial, world of the series. 

- “Enter the Arena: Production Design” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1 3 minutes 39 seconds) is a look at the aesthetics and construction of the few physical sets in the series, and how visual effects were often used to extend beyond the physical realm. 

- “Dressed to Kill” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1; 6 minutes 28 seconds) is a featurette with costume designer Barbara Darragh, who discusses the various costumes of the characters. 

- “Convention Panel” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1; 5 minutes 57 seconds) is a Q&A with creator Steven S. DeKnight, and actors Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, and Viva Bianca from the San Diego Comic-Con. Not really the full panel, but a truncated excerpt.

Arena bloopers (1080p, 1.78:1; 5 minutes 13 seconds) is a bloated barrage of boring goofs, flubs and copious camera mugs. 

Bonus trailers are also included:

- “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” (1.78:1, 1080p; 1 minute 31 seconds).
- “Spartacus the Game” (480i; 31 seconds).
- “The King’s Speech” (1.85:1, 1080p; 2,minutes 28 seconds).
- “Sons of Anarchy” (480i; 1 minute 3 seconds).

DISC SEVEN:

“Spartacus: Vengeance” includes extended episodes, 8 audio commentaries, several featurettes, and a gag reel

9 of the 10 episodes that comprise “Spartacus: Vengeance” differ from their original broadcast. Dubbed “extended episodes” in the menu and on the disc packaging, these alternate versions are essentially director’s cuts, both longer and more graphic. The extended episodes on disc seven include:
 
- “Fugitivus” 
- “A Place in This World”
- “Empty Hands” 

Audio commentaries included are for:

- “Fugitivus” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless, and Liam McIntyre.

- “A Place in This World" with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Lucy Lawless, Liam McIntyre, and Peter Mensah.

- “The Greater Good" with executive producer Robert Tapert and actors Lucy Lawless and Craig Parker.

- “Empty Hands" with executive producer Robert Tapert, director Mark Beesley, VFX art director Peter Baustaedter, and actor Viva Bianca.

Pre-menu bonus trailers are included for:

- “Spartacus: War of the Damned” (1.78:1, 1080p; 33 seconds).
- “Magic City” (1.78:1, 1080p; 1 minute 31 seconds).
- “Spartacus The Game” (480i; 31 seconds).
- “Boss” (1.78:1, 1080p; 1 minute 3 seconds).

DISC EIGHT:

Extended episodes included are:
 
- “Libertus” 
- “Chosen Path” 
- “Sacramentum” 
- “Balance”  

Audio commentaries are included for:

- "Libertus" with director Rick Jacobson and actor Liam McIntyre.

- “Chosen Path" with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless, and Nick Tarabay

- “Sacramentum" with executive producer Robert Tapert, director Jesse Warn, and actor Dustin Clare.

DISC NINE:

Extended episodes on this disc are:
 
- “Monsters” 
- “Wrath of the Gods”

The season finale, “Wrath of the Gods”, features an audio commentary with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Viva Bianca, Lucy Lawless, and Liam McIntyre.

7 featurettes are included:

- “Starz Studios - Spartacus: Vengeance” (1080p, 1.78:1; 11 minutes 57 seconds) is the typical EPK featurette offering an overview of the season, including the introduction of McIntyre to the role, the overall story and character arcs, some of the more scandalous developments. 

- “The Making of Spartacus: Vengeance” featurette (1080p,1.78:1; 5 minutes 32 seconds) is a brief look at the effects, fight sequences, costumes, and set design.  

- “Behind the Camera: Directing the Rebellion” featurette (1080p1.78:1; 4 minutes 32 seconds) cursory look at the series’ direction and overall visual style.

- “On Set with Liam McIntyrefeaturette (1080p, 1.78:1; 6 minutes 36 seconds) a brief look at the life of the new actor in the role of Spartacus; his workout process and combat training, generally just goofing off in this trailer and on set, and even speaking at the San Diego Comic Con.

- “Burning Down the House: The VFX of Episode 205” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1; 12 minutes 28 seconds) has VFX Supervisor Charlie McClellan providing commentary over a lengthy look at the creation and implementation of CGI in a key sequence from the third season.

- “The Legend of Spartacus” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1; 11 minutes 9 seconds) features historians Aaron Irvin and Jeffrey Stevens offering a few thoughts on the series’ historical authenticity.

- “Famous Last Words” featurette (1080p, 1.78:1; 6 minutes 38 seconds) this is silly bit, in which killed off characters, or at least the actress who played them, offer a few parting thoughts.

The bluntly-titled “bloopers” (1080p, 1.78:1; 3 minutes 10 seconds) is the requisite and quite grating gag reel. 

A teaser trailer for “Spartacus: War of the Damned” (1080p, 33 seconds) is also included. 

DISC TEN:

The fourth and final season, “Spartacus: War of the Damned”, includes extended episodes, audio commentaries, several featurettes, and a gag reel

Every episode of “Spartacus: War of the Damned” differs from the original broadcast. Dubbed “extended episodes” in the menu and on the disc packaging, these alternate versions are essentially director’s cuts, both longer and more graphic. The extended episodes on disc 10: 

Extended episodes are included for:
 
- “Enemies of Rome” 
- “Wolves at the Gate”
- “Men of Honor”
- “Decimation”

Audio commentaries are included for the following episodes:

- “Enemies of Rome” with executive producer Robert Tapert, director Mark Beesley, and producer Chloe Smith.
 
- “Wolves at the Gate” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Manu Bennett, Liam McIntyre, and Simon Merrells.

- “Men of Honor” with writer/creator/executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Dustin Clare, Anna Hutchinson, and Todd Lasance.

- “Decimation” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, producer Rick Jacobson, and actors Christian Antidormi and Simon Merrells.

DISC ELEVEN:

Extended episodes are:
 
- “Blood Brothers”
- “Spoils of War” 
- “Mors Indecepta”  
- “Separate Paths”

Audio commentaries are for:

- “Blood Brothers” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, director T.J. Scott, and actors Manu Bennett and Dan Feuerriegel.

- “Spoils of War” with executive producer Robert Tapert, director Mark Beesley, and visual effects art director Peter Baustaedter.
 
- “Mors Indecepta” with executive producer Robert Tapert, director Jesse Warn, and executive visual effects supervisor Charlie McClellan.

- “Separate Paths” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, producer Rick Jacobson, and actors Manu Bennett and Liam McIntyre.

DISC TWELVE:

Extended episodes are:
 
- “The Dead and the Dying”
- “Victory”

Audio commentaries are for:

- “The Dead and the Dying" with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and actors Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Anna Hutchinson, and Todd Lasance.
 
- “Victory” with writer/creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnightt, executive producer Robert Tapert, director Rick Jacobson, and actor Liam McIntyre.

6 featurettes are included:

- “Spartacus: The Legend Retold” featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 9 minutes 32 seconds) both a bit of a recap of the series and a look ahead to the final season.

- “The Price of Being a Gladiator” featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 3 minutes 45 seconds) is yet another of the familiar and frequent actor “workout” pieces. 

- “A Bloody Farewell” featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 2 minutes 50 seconds) has the cast and crew reminiscing.  

- “The Spoils of War Revealed: Visual Effects” featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 5 minutes 21 seconds) is a short examination of the series’ use of CGI to expand the scale and scope of the story well beyond physical and budgetary limitations. 

- “Adorning the Damned” featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 4 minutes 4 seconds) is a somewhat repetitive piece, which looks, once again, at the costumes.
 
- “The Mind Behind Spartacus” featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 7 minutes 15 seconds): An interview with Series Creator Steven S. DeKnight.

DISC THIRTEEN:

The 13th disc, exclusive to the complete series collection, includes a number of EPK featurettes. Surprisingly, each extra is encoded in Dolby TrueHD 5.1; all content is also authored with optional English subtitles. Featurettes include:
 
- “Spartacus fan favorites with Liam McIntyre" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 10 minutes 11 seconds) is a top ten countdown of key moments from the series.

- “Scoring a Hit: composer Joseph LoDuca" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 3 minutes 12 seconds) is a short and disappointingly superfluous overview of the work that went into scoring the series.

- “An Eye Full: Roger Murray" (1.78:1, 1080p; 3 minutes 41 seconds) is a brief featurette with the series' prosthetics and props supervisor.

- “Spartacus: Paul Grinder" featurette (1.78:1, 1080p; 2 minutes 53 seconds) is short piece with producer/second unit director Paul Grinder, who talks briefly about his job.

- “The Last Word: John Hannah" (1.78:1, 1080p; 8 minute 3 seconds) is a featurette with the actor, who talks auditioning for the role and how his part evolved over the complicated production of the series.

Packaging

“Spartacus: The Complete Series” is packaged in a large box that houses a “digi-book” style case. The 13 disc region A locked BD-50's slip into sleeves on each page of the digi-book. A code for an HD digital download of the complete series has also been included.

Overall

Few shows ever have to contend with the loss of the lead actor, and it's unfortunate that “Spartacus” suffered such a loss after only its first season, forcing the producers down a different path than probably intended. Although creator Steven S. DeKnight, his writers and rest of the crew — including cast member Andy Whitfield's replacement in the lead role, Liam McIntyre — were certainly able to make something out of an tragic turn of events, there's a sense that compromises were made. There’s certainly a strangeness to the structure of the series and the many different iterations under various subtitles. But the series was probably never going to be among the most high-brow from the get-go, and “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” and the 3 subsequent entries in the series are best probably appreciated as a guilty pleasure. The “Complete Series” box set, comprised of 13 discs, one of which is exclusive to the set, offers a highly-stylized and generally pleasing video transfer, an at-times overly aggressive but again generally impressive soundtrack, and a frankly excessive collection of extras including audio commentaries, featurettes and more. The question for collectors isn't whether this series is worth owning, necessarily, but rather should loyal fans splurge for the set and its additional disc? In my opinion the 13th disc isn't really worth it, nor are the new audio commentaries on the first season, any interesting insights aside. If you already own the individual seasons of “Spartacus”, skip this new box. If you don’t, and are looking for a little soapy but semi-serious, ultra-violent and hyper-sexualized entertainment, then “Spartacus: The Complete Series” should not be overlooked.

The Show: B- Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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