Spartacus: Blood And Sand – The Red Serpent (S01E01) – Episode review

Oh man. A screen awash with blood, naked breasts and writhing groins. Hairy soldiers and cunning Romans. The première episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand went out on Bravo last night, and had me wishing I’d watched 300 so I could make all the right comparisons with that movie.

No elaborate recapping for us tonight, my friends. The title character isn’t actually the title character until the end – he’s ‘given’ the name Spartacus by the Roman who buys him as a prize fighter. But that comes later.

The soon-to-be Spartacus joins with his people and a Roman platoon to fight a bunch of barbarians, but it’s not long before the Romans are looking to treat the Thracian soldiers like slaves. When ‘Spartacus’ stands up to them, there’s a bit of a stand-off, which puts the Thracians in the Romans’ bad books – they capture Spartacus and his comrades and sell his hot wife into slavery.

And so Spartacus finds himself in the pit of an arena, about to fight much better armed (and armoured) gladiators. After watching one soldier getting his neck slashed at the blade of a gladiator, he’s sent into the arena, but three more gladiators enter the arena. Just to spice things up a little bit. He takes a bit of a pounding at their hands, until he has a handy flashback to his wife’s gentle words to him: “Kill them all.” At that point, Spartacus slices and dices his way through the four, earning the respect of the crowd and by extension sparing his life.

In order to stretch this out to a series’ worth, he’s bought by Batiatus (played by John Hannah) for his gladiator school in a shrewd move. Still not a lot to go on at this point though. Will he rebel? Will he see his wife again?

First impressions

Not as funny as Xena, and it makes Legend Of The Seeker seem chaste by comparison, all we’ve got here is sexy and lots of comic book style violence. I enjoyed both to a degree, but I found they weren’t nearly enough to hold my attention.

When Spartacus: Blood and Sand first aired in the USA, one reviewer said it:

feels like it was committee designed by a large group of 14-year-old boys with one gay friend. It has literally everything you’d expect 14-year-old boys to enjoy – from lots and lots of naked breasts to blood spattering in every direction to an aesthetic that seems like 300 done on your weekly grocery budget

And I should have liked it more, based on that description. Sometimes you just want to see something that’s a bit sexy and a bit dangerous. The problem with Spartacus is that it doesn’t have True Blood‘s humour and so everything feels quite laboured. This isn’t helped any by the dreary colour palette.

Still, I’ve read that it takes a few episodes for the series to really hit its stride, so it might be worth sticking with Spartacus for a few more weeks to get a feel for it. It’s been renewed for a second series in the States, so they must have done something right!


  1. RandomEnigma

    Hmmm, I wonder if Spartacus is anything like the rather brilliant Rome which has been cancelled. You say this is like a show that 14 year olds will enjoy…it doesn’t look good. But I’m sure it took Xena some time to find its mojo too.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I mean enjoy in the pervy sense. The furtive, watch-in-your-bedroom, hope your parents don’t walk in kind! Like I said above though, some people say it improves after the first couple of episodes, so I’ll keep watching to see what happens.

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