SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA didn't disappoint, but I had my doubts at first. After Andy Whitfield's stellar performance as Spartacus (not to mention the final episode "Kill them all", the absolute best finale of a series bar none), I couldn't wait for the follow-up, SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE. The sad news of Andy's fight with cancer (which unfortunately claimed his life a short time ago, may he rest in peace) caused STARZ to put the second season on hold in hopes that Whitfield would recover. They instead moved forward (or backward if you will) with GODS OF THE ARENA, a prequel that gave all our beloved characters further room to grow and bloom into the restless cast we've come to know and love. This was a gamble to be sure, but one that paid off in spades.
Like I said, I had my doubts, but they were soon put to rest as I began my journey backward with GODS OF THE ARENA. The epic blood bath battles are still here and never looked better, closing out with a battle royal between two houses that rivals anything that's come before it. The women, sex and seduction this series has become known for has certainly not gone modest on us, and why would it after all the praise the first series got as well as that of GAME OF THRONES. This series carves its own rules into the stone when it comes to sex and violence, but it's my opinion that it does so with a certain class and dignity the Roman empire would be proud of while at the same time not treading too far off the beaten path when it comes to the historical knowledge of the time period in question. Sure, we embellish here and run with it a bit, but I can hardly blame the good people at STARZ for giving the mob what they want to see.
SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA bridges the gap between BLOOD and VENGEANCE with tact and finesse, never overusing or overshadowing it's characters for the sake of "filler" story telling. I enjoyed a look at what trials and tribulations brought House Batiatis together, the feud that pushed Batiatus and Solonius's friendship to the brink, the rise of Crixus as well as the tale of Gannicus and Oenomaus. I missed seeing Spartacus sure, but I have to admit that Gannicus has become a new favourite of mine and I was happy as hell to see him pop up in the trailer for VENGEANCE as I prayed he would continue to be a part of this series. This show has had its share of ups, downs, tears and joy, but one thing I'm sure of is that this will go down as one of the best TV series' ever created with me being one of its biggest fans. Sigh...January feels so very far away right now.
Extended Scenes/Alternate Endings: Sadly these weren't as good as I was hoping, but then again, if they were they wouldn't have been cut or changed I suppose. A little more time here and there with certain characters is fun (as is a little extra nudity and blood) but there really wasn't much to get excited about.
Enter The Arena: Production Design: This season took place before the grand arena was built in Capua so a lot of careful planning and calculation went into building the old one. The old arena is still pretty cool though and a fan favourite because you were more up close and personal enjoying a better view of the show.
Convention Panel: Here we got the Comic Con panel with some of our cast members but sadly none of the ones we really want to see. I felt bad for poor Viva Bianca (Ilithya from BLOOD AND SAND) as she's not in the prequel and so nobody really asked her any questions.
Arena Bloopers: This blooper reel of sorts follows some wardrobe malfunctions and missteps in lines but is relatively brief and not that funny. You so however get to see how easy it is to get hurt filming some of these fight scenes.
On Set With Lucy Lawless: I know Lucy's a fanboy favourite and all but to be honest, though I loved HERCULES THE LEGENDARY JOURNEY, I didn't care much Xena. We see her bumble around her trailer and get pissed at the security guard when he doesn't recognize her as she shows up for work.
Featurettes: There are three more short featurettes that come off more as amusing extras. One gives us ten tips on dismemberment, which was good for a laugh or two. There's a really cool one about post FX work and how they film the battle scene and then add the sounds, blood and other effects afterward (very cool). And a short little bit of info on the weapon and wardrobe designs for each character (Roman fashion is definitely an acquired taste when it comes to menswear).
Battle Royal: Anatomy of a Scene: Here we get the lowdown on one of the most badass fight scenes every filmed. So much went into this scene with set pieces and chorography, it's a sheer wonder to behold. Also, if you've got the 3D gear, you can explore the final battle in 3D.
Previews: There's some trailers for other STARZ series', some BD-LIVE content and a couple other random trailers for you to watch and enjoy.