REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 5

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Main Cast

Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)

Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Alexander Calvert (Supernatural)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Chad L. Coleman (The Orville)
Tyler Ritter (Merry Happy Whatever)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
David Nykl (Stargate Atlantis)
Emy Aneke (Izombie)
Aaron Pearl (Bates Motel)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Joe Dinicol (Diary of The Dead)
Madison McLaughlin (Chicago PD)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Cody Runnels (WWE)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
Vincent Gale (Van Helsing)
Wil Traval (Jessica Jones)
Dolph Lundgren (Aquaman)
Christopher Rosamond (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Neal McDonough (Van Helsing)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Nick Zano (2 Broke Girls)
Melissa Benoist (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Jamey Sheridan (Homeland)
Erica Luttrell (Westworld)
Amy Louise Pemberton (Suspense)
Garwin Sanford (Stargate SG.1)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Lexa Doig (Andromeda)
Steve Bacic (Smallville)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Patrick Sabongui (POwer Rangers)
Olivia Cheng (Warrior)
Samaire Armstrong (Stay Alive)
Laara Sadiq (2012)
Kelly Hu (X-Men 2)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatural)
Adrian Holmes (V-Wars)
Rutina Wesley (Hannibal)
Venus Terzo (Beats Wars)
Eliza Faria (Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2)
Jack Moore (Republic of Sarah)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Katrina Law (Apparition)
Nick E. Tarabay (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Anna Hopkins (The Expanse)

Michael Dorn in Arrow (2012)More than any other Arrowverse series, Arrow had a lot to prove when it returned in fall 2016. The series had fallen quite a bit from its peak in the Deathstroke-dominated Season 2. Following the thoroughly disappointing Season 4 finale, Arrow was at its lowest point ever. It wasn’t clear at that point whether the show would continue beyond Season 5. Moreover, it wasn’t clear whether the show should continue. But thanks to a change in approach, a terrific new villain and a generally more consistent level of execution, Season 5 wound up redeeming a troubled series and recapturing the appeal of those first two years.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Arrow had fallen pretty far down the metahuman rabbit hole in Season 4, what with the focus on supernatural villain Damien Darhk and all the magical tomfoolery that resulted. Even ignoring the various interviews leading up to Season 5’s debut, the premiere made it plainly obvious that showrunners Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle were eager to take a “back to basics” approach this year. The series didn’t necessarily ignore the more colorful side of the Arrowverse this year, but it did downplay those elements in favor of a darker, more grounded take on Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) ongoing crusade. The early episodes were very much about Ollie getting back to his roots and shooting arrows into the criminal scum of Star City.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Initially, there was a worry that the series might be playing things too conservatively, recycling old conflicts and well-worn tropes rather than actually pushing Team Arrow forward in meaningful ways. A lot of that worry was personified in new villain Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman), a would-be criminal kingpin cut from the exact same cloth as Vinnie Jones’ Danny Brickwell. As enjoyable as Coleman’s performance was, those similarities were impossible to ignore. Nor did it help that the season introduced another dark-clad archer villain in the form of Prometheus (voiced by Michael Dorn). With little real connection to the Prometheus of the comics, this villain initially came across as a poor man’s Malcolm Merlyn.
Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The other major focus early in the season involved expanding Team Arrow into a true, ensemble fighting force. Alongside returning allies like Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), Diggle (David Ramsey) and Curtis (Echo Kellum), the team ranks swelled with the addition of up-and-coming vigilantes Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), Artemis (Madison McLaughlin) and Ragman (Joe Dinicol). Ollie also assembled a secondary Team Arrow for his new day job of Star City’s mayor, with Thea (Willa Holland) becoming his chief of staff and Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) his deputy mayor and new District Attorney Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) joining the fold. Coupled with a new love interest for Ollie in the form of intrepid reporter Susan Williams (Carly Pope), and the new season was never short on character drama.Joe Dinicol, Rick Gonzalez, David Ramsey, Stephen Amell, Madison McLaughlin, and Echo Kellum in Arrow (2012)Looking back, the biggest flaw with Season 5 is that it tried to juggle more characters and conflicts than was really feasible. The second episode of the season, “The Recruits,” exemplified that problem more than any other. That episode focused mainly on Ollie and Felicity’s efforts to build the ranks of the new Team Arrow in Diggle’s absence. And even though each new member showed promise, there was a strong sense that these new characters were falling over each other competing for limited screen time. The show struck a better balance after that point, but it never felt like there was enough room to do each supporting character justice. Artemis felt especially under-served. The writers never devoted much energy to fleshing out her background or motivations beyond what was already established in her initial Season 4 appearance. That didn’t change even after a major Artemis-related twist midway through the season. Susan suffered a similar fate, as she never really developed into a compelling love interest and was treated as little more than a damsel in distress.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Ragman fared somewhat better. It was nice having at least one metahuman member of Team Arrow just to maintain that bridge to the larger Arrowverse. And the quiet, contemplative Rory made for a welcome counterpoint to testosterone-fueled characters like Ollie and Rene. But Rory was unceremoniously written out of the picture, for no apparent reason other than the fact that he gave Team Arrow too much of an advantage in their war with Prometheus. Between that and the late introduction of new Black Canary Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), it was clear the writers were still fine-tuning and experimenting with the ensemble cast well into the season. But those problems aside, the show tended to make pretty good use of its supporting cast this year. The unlikely friendship between Quentin and Rene helped both characters immensely and allowed Quentin to do something other than wallow in grief-induced alcoholism for a change. Curtis underwent a memorable transformation this year, finally claiming the “Mister Terrific” name and learning firsthand the terrible toll the costumed vigilante game can take on one’s personal life. Even Felicity fared well, with the writers wisely downplaying the Olicity romance and focusing more on her induction into the sinister hacking group Helix.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)But even with the growing supporting cast, this season really was all about the Green Arrow/Prometheus rivalry. Prometheus not proved himself to be more than a mere Dark Archer redux, he developed into the series’ best villain since Deathstroke. That was due both to the actor’s strong performance and the very personal nature of his feud with Oliver Queen. Prometheus wound up being a breath of fresh air for the series. His plan didn’t involve holding Star City hostage, but merely putting Ollie through a complex, painstakingly designed gauntlet of psychological torture. The midseason finale, “What We Leave Behind,” did a great job of establishing the threat posed by Prometheus and setting the stage for everything to come. There were still a few lackluster episodes that followed, including the pseudo-bottle episode “Underneath” and “The Sin-Eater,” an episode predicated on the questionable idea of grouping together several of the series’ more forgettable villains. But for the most part, Prometheus’ revenge plot gave the series a momentum that carried it forward.
Michael Dorn, Stephen Amell, and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)The personal nature of that conflict tended to bring out the best in Amell’s acting, as well. The increasing darkness wasn’t merely superficial. Ollie was put through hell this year as Prometheus tested him both physically and psychologically. Amell rose to the challenge with a series of raw, emotionally charged performances that really highlighted his characters inner torment. In many ways, Season 5 as a showcase for how far the show has come in the last five years, and that goes for Amell’s acting as much as anything else.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The Green Arrow/Prometheus rivalry also allowed the writers to explore the use of violence on the show and address Ollie’s often nebulous stance on killing. As the season opened, Ollie had once again become a dark vigilante not averse to killing his opponents should the need arise. Prometheus forced Ollie to confront his actions, both past and present, and question whether he had actually done any real, lasting good for his city after five years. Nor did the show have any easy answers to provide. The moral wasn’t “Killing is bad,” but merely that actions have far-reaching, unintended consequences. Even going into Season 6, it’s not clear what Ollie’s stance on lethal force is or how his final showdown with Prometheus will influence his actions in the future.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Season 5 marked the final go-round in terms of Ollie’s five-year flashback odyssey. The flashbacks had pretty well worn out their welcome in Season 3 and 4, often doing little more than filling space and drawing pointless parallels between past and present. The Season 5 flashbacks weren’t immune to these problems, but they were a significant improvement. It helps that the flashbacks were used to fill in a key hole in the Arrow tapestry, fleshing out the shared history between Ollie and Russian gangster Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl). The flashbacks added much needed context to that relationship while also banking on the viewer’s knowledge that the two characters are doomed to have a falling-out later in life. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Ivan Drago himself, Dolph Lundgren, was cast as the main villain for the Russian storyline. In a season full of strong action sequences, Ollie’s brutal clashes with Konstantin Kovar ranked among the best.
Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)Again, the flashbacks still dragged from time to time, especially in the final couple months of the season when the Russian conflict was all but resolved. But in addition to fleshing out the Ollie/Anatoly relationship, this running subplot helped enhance the season’s larger focus on lethal force and the struggle that men like Ollie face to keep their souls once they position themselves as judge, jury and (sometimes) executioner. The flashbacks showcased Ollie at his darkest – a man who now possesses all the skills needed to become a great warrior but still in search of a symbol to shape his crusade.Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)All of this culminated wonderfully in the season finale, as the series literally and metaphorically came full circle and Guggenheim and Mericle rolled out a who’s who lineup of heroes and villains. Compared to the Season 3 and 4 finales, both of which only managed to make their respective seasons seem worse in hindsight, “Lian Yu” gave Season 5 the punctuation mark it needed. It proved to be not just the best episode of Season 5, but of the series as a whole. Considering where the show was at the beginning of the season, that’s quite an impressive accomplishment.

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 3

Main Cast

Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Colton Haynes (Rough Night)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)

Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (The Accountant)
Karl Yune (Real Steel)
Rila Fukushima (Ghost In The Shell)
Peter Stormare (The Brothers Grimm)
Michael Daingerfield (Smallville)
Jacqueline Samuda (Stargate SG.1)
Colin Donnell (Chicago Med)
Matt Nable (Riddick)
Katrina Law (Spartacus)
Michael Kopsa (Dark Angel)
J.R. Ramirez (Jessica Jones)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Truth or Dare)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatral)
Austin Butler (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Nick E. Tarabay (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Kelly Hu (X-Men 2)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)
Yee Jee Tso (Felicity)
Peter Bryant (See)
Vinnie Jones (The Cape)
Christina Cox (Earth: Final Conflict)
Michael Cram (Flashpoint)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (13 Reason Why)
Douglas Arthurs (Stargate SG.1)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Jamey Sheridan (Homeland)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Eugene Byrd (Bones)
Marc Singer (V)
Adrian Glynn McMorran (Warcraft)
Celina Jade (The Man With The iron Fists)
Carmen Moore (Little Fish)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery)
Adrian Holmes (V-Wars)
Françoise Yip (The Predator)
Karin Konoval (War For The POTA)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Van Helsing)

Season 3 certainly started off on a strong note with the premiere episode, “The Calm.” That episode laid out the general status quo for team Arrow post-Slade uprising. Ollie had saved his city but found himself struggling to find meaning in his existence outside of putting on a costume and shooting criminals full of arrows. That struggle was complicated with the addition of a new recurring player in the form of Ray Palmer, a charismatic businessman who managed to steal both Ollie’s company and the affections of Felicity.Katrina Law and Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Coupled with the debut of Peter Stormare as a much superior new version of Count Vertigo and the cliffhanger murder of Sara Lance.Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins emerged as the villains of the season, when we get to episode 8 & 9 we the one-two punch of “The Brave and the Bold” and “The Climb” had great momentum . The former offered the first extended crossover between Team Arrow and Team Flash, and the results were as fun as fans of the two shows could have hoped. The latter, meanwhile, saw Ollie journey to Nanda Parbat and confront Ra’s al Ghul in the flesh. Their clifftop duel easily ranks among the best action scenes in the show’s three-year history. The choreography was solid. being a mid season cliffhanger left fans hanging over christmas.Amy Gumenick in Arrow (2012)Ollie’s friends believed him to be dead and found themselves defending Starling City from the seemingly invulnerable crime lord Brick (played with gusto by Vinnie Jones). The three-part Brick storyline was another highlight for the season. Ray Palmer was a great addition to the show. He brought a charm and a sense of humor. Even when Ray’s ongoing story arc seemed tenuously linked with the rest of Team Arrow, the character’s sheer entertainment value and his dynamic with Felicity justified his presence. The fact that we got to see Ray evolve from billionaire industrialist to full-fledged superhero in his own right was a bonus. Arrow continues to serve as prime breeding ground for other DC heroes to emerge.Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin in Arrow (2012)The show also deserves credit for the overall quality of its special effects and action choreography. That’s an area where Arrow has consistently improved over time as the budget has grown and the cast and crew have grown more experienced. A number of action scenes really stood out this season, whether it was the first glimpses of the A.T.O.M. suit in action, the epic street riot in “Uprising,” or the fateful duel between Ollie and Ra’s in “The Climb.” Looking back, the one action sequence that stood out more than anything this year was the shot of Roy running through a pipe while gunfire exploded behind him in “Left Behind.” There’s a growing cinematic flair to this show that never gets old.Stephen Amell and Matt Nable in Arrow (2012)The season led to the showdown between Arrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, the resolve brought new dimensions to the character which will lead into the 4th Season. John Barrowman was also a great return addition to this season being a full time player, changing from villain to anti-hero. Katrina Law was always great to see again, every time she shows up you know it will be a great episode.Arrow continues to become a a shining beacon of the DC Universe and with season 4 on its way, it’s here to stay for a while

REVIEW: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

CAST

Chris Pine (Into The Woods)
Zachary Quinto (Heroes)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Simon Pegg (Paul)
John Cho (Total Recall)
Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog)
Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hobbit)
Alice Eve (Men In Black 3)
Peter Weller (Robocop)
Noel Clarke (4.3.2.1)
Nazneen Contractor (Heroes Reborn)
Amanda Foreman (Alias)
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Heather Langenkap (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Sean Blakemore (Bones)
Nick E. Tarabay (Spartacus)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow)
Scott Lawrence (Avatar)
Nolan North (Con Man)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Audrey Wasilewski (Red)

In the year 2259, Captain James T. Kirk is removed from command of the starship USS Enterprise for violating the Prime Directive: he exposed the ship to the primitive inhabitants of the planet Nibiru in order to save them, and Spock, from a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. Admiral Christopher Pike is reinstated as commanding officer with Kirk demoted to the rank of Commander and first officer. Commander Spock is transferred to another ship. Shortly after, the Section 31 installation in London is bombed, perpetrated by the renegade Starfleet operative John Harrison (Cumberbatch). Harrison then attacks Starfleet Headquarters in a jumpship during the emergency meeting about the situation, killing Pike and other senior officers. Kirk disables the jumpship, but Harrison escapes by transporting to Kronos, the homeworld of the hostile Klingons.

Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) reinstates Kirk and Spock to the Enterprise with orders to kill Harrison. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott strongly objects to allowing untested torpedoes on board the ship, and when ordered to allow them resigns his commission in protest. Kirk assigns Pavel Chekov to replace Scotty. En route to Kronos, the Enterprise’s warp capabilities mysteriously become disabled. Kirk leads a team with Spock and Uhura onto the planet, where they are ambushed by Klingon patrols. Harrison dispatches the Klingons, then surrenders after learning the number of torpedoes aboard the Enterprise.

Dr. Leonard McCoy and Marcus’s daughter, Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), open a torpedo at Harrison’s behest. Inside is a man in cryogenic stasis. Every torpedo aboard Enterprise contains a human in stasis. Harrison reveals his true identity as Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered superhuman awakened by Admiral Marcus from centuries of suspended animation to develop advanced weapons of war against the Klingon Empire. Khan reveals that Marcus had sabotaged the Enterprise’s warp drive, intending for the Klingons to destroy the ship after it fired on Kronos, creating an act of war by the Klingon Empire. Khan also gives Kirk a set of coordinates. Kirk contacts Scotty on Earth and asks him to investigate. Scotty discovers they lead to a covert Starfleet facility near Jupiter.

The Enterprise is intercepted by a much larger Federation warship, the USS Vengeance, commanded by Admiral Marcus. Marcus demands that Kirk deliver Khan, but the Enterprise, with a hastily repaired warp drive, flees to Earth to expose Marcus. After the Vengeance intercepts and disables the Enterprise near the Moon, Kirk reveals Carol’s presence aboard the ship. Marcus forcibly transports Carol to the Vengeance before ordering the Enterprise’s destruction, Kirk offers Khan and himself for the lives of his crew, but Marcus rejects Kirk’s offer and orders Vengeance to fire when ready. However, Vengeance suddenly loses power, sabotaged by Scotty, who infiltrated the ship. With transporters down, Kirk and Khan, with the latter’s knowledge of the warship’s design, space-jump to the Vengeance. Spock contacts his older self, who warns that Khan is ruthless and untrustworthy, and, in another reality, Khan was only defeated at a terrible cost. Meanwhile, after capturing the bridge, Khan overpowers Kirk, Scott, and Carol, kills Marcus, and seizes control of the Vengeance.

Khan demands that Spock return his crew sealed in the cryogenic tubes in exchange for the Enterprise officers. Spock complies but surreptitiously removes Khan’s frozen crew and arms the warheads. Khan beams Kirk, Scott, and Carol back aboard the Enterprise, but betrays their agreement by critically damaging the Enterprise; however, the Vengeance is disabled when the torpedoes detonate. With both starships caught in Earth’s gravity, they plummet toward the surface. Kirk enters the radioactive reactor chamber to realign the warp core, saving the ship, but losing his life in the process.

Khan crashes the dying Vengeance into downtown San Francisco in an attempt to destroy Starfleet headquarters, destroying some of the city. Khan escapes the wreckage as Spock transports down in pursuit. McCoy discovers that Khan’s blood has regenerative properties that may save Kirk. With Uhura’s help, Spock chases down and eventually subdues Khan, who is consequently arrested and re-frozen, and Kirk is revived.

Nearly one year later, Kirk speaks at the Enterprise’s re-dedication ceremony. Khan is sealed in his cryogenic pod and stored with his compatriots. The Enterprise crew embarks on a five-year exploratory mission.I didn’t overly mind that the film is based on Khan, but I can understand how some people would have an issue with it. The first film so cleverly re-wrote the shows history and gave Abrams the opportunity to do whatever he wanted story wise so it was a little bit surprising to see he had embarked on somewhat of a `re-make.’ But all in all a very good film. Great action sequences and great CGI – even if you’re not a Trekkie this is still an enjoyable film.

REVIEW: SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE

 

CAST

Liam McIntyre (Legend of Hercules)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Craig Parker (Reign)
Viva Bianca (Showing Roots)
Katrina Law (Arrow)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)
Nick E. Tarabay (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow)
Dustin Clare (Wolf Creek TV)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Brett Tucker (Thor: The Dark World)
Kevin J. Wilson (Legend of The Seeker)
Brooke Williams (12 Monkeys)
Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Acolytes)
Tom Hobbs (Winners & Losers)
Pana Hema Taylor (The Dead Lands)
Mark Ferguson (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Peter McCauley (The Lost World)
Bede Skinner (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Delaney Tabron (Deathgasm)
Stephen Ure (Xena)
Ellen Hollman (The Scorpion King 4)
Michael Hurst (Hercules: TLJ)

After triumph and tragedy, the Spartacus saga returns to the small screen to continue the tale of a former slave who has lost everything and will do whatever he can to exact vengeance on those that have done him wrong. Spartacus: Vengeance picks up after the events of the first season, which was called Blood and Sand. The show went into production, but had to be delayed due to Andy Whitfield’s illness and subsequent death. Gears shifted and a prequel was created that follow the events that led up to Blood and Sand called Gods of the Arena, which introduced more characters that carried over into Vengeance. Spartacus: Blood and Vengeance picks up shortly after the events that culminated with the House of Batiatus massacre where Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) freed all of the gladiators and led them to revolt. He and his comrades carry on freeing slaves and adding them to their ranks. Since the House of Batiatus no longer stands Spartacus’ new quest is to kill the man who committed his wife to slavery, Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker).
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Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) has returned, and this time she bears the gift of foresight from the Gods. Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) is back and even colder,conniving, and more delicious than ever. Along with her husband and Rome emissary  husband, they will try to squash the uprising led by Spartacus and his legion.

I loved Andy Whitfield’s performance in Blood and Sand, because it’s what cemented that season’s success. We were there for the journey, side by side with him until the end. Gearing up for season two, he took ill, and would not come back to finish the series. I was sort of skeptical, because I didn’t think the show could carry forward without Andy. Gods of the Arena was awesome, because it introduced Gannicus (Dustin Clare).

The show retains its quality while adding colorful embellishes here and there – more notably, the slow-motion scenes seem to have been tweaked, which gives them a faster look even though we’re watching it in slow motion. I really enjoyed that the full supporting cast was made the primary character of the series.

As far as the new Spartacus goes – Liam McIntyre had some pretty big shoes to fill, although it takes a few episodes to get use to him, he becomes a welcome addition to the cast and makes the character his own. The relationships of some of the other characters like Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt); and the Gannicus and Oenomaus dynamic carried over from Gods of the Arena were fascinating.  Spartacus: Vengeance brings on the blood, sex, and violence and reaches new heights in its depiction of it all. It’s hardcore to the max.

REVIEW: SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA

CAST

John Hannah (Agents of Shield)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Dustin Clare (Wolf Creek TV)
Jaime Murray (Ringer)
Marisa Ramirez (Blue Bloods)
Antonio Te Maioha (Zoolander 2)
Nick E. Tarabay (Arrow)
Craig Walsh-Wrightson (Vertical Limit)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jeffrey Thomas (The Hobbit)
Temuera Morrison (Tatu)
Stephen Lovatt (Neighbours)
Jessica Grace Smith (Home and Away)
Steven A. Davis (Power Rangers Samurai)
Peter Feeney (30 Days of Night)
Jason Hood (Power Rangers Megaforce)
Stephen Ure (Deathgasm)
Andy Whitfield (The Clinic)
Brooke Williams (The Shanara Chronicles)

Lucy Lawless in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011)“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” was one of 2010’s great television surprises.  it soon established itself as a smart, well acted, viscerally entertaining piece of entertainment that defied conventions by knowing just how much to take itself seriously while not being too embarrassed to be over-the-top and sleazy. Two of the biggest revelations of “Blood and Sand” were John Hannah as Batiatus  and Andy Whitfield as Spartacus, an unknown actor at the time, who over the initial 13 episodes of the series made a steadfast march towards stardom, displaying a healthy balance of humanity and brutality, giving viewers a true hero to root for. Sadly, Mr. Whitfield was forced to pass the mantle to another actor as his ongoing bout with cancer proved to be too much to handle while shooting such a physically taxing series. In place of a second season, a six-episode prequel was commissioned, titled Gods of the Arena, it would tell the tale of Batiatus’ rise to power in Capua as well as provide much desired backstories for some of Blood and Sand’s more memorable supporting characters.John Hannah and Peter Mensah in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011) While, a prequel in nature, Gods of the Arena begins where Blood and Sand left off, so new viewers take heed and leave this title be until you’re caught up, otherwise face having the many twists and shocking revelations of Blood and Sand spoiled. That said, Gods of the Arena manages to shake off many issues inherently present in prequels, but falls victim to a few nearly unavoidable ones. Without Spartacus to focus on, a new hero must step forward and Gods of the Arena provides two. First up is perhaps the most fearsome and brutal gladiator to enter the Spartacus mythos, Gannicus (Dustin Clare), a practically unstoppable warrior whose boredom with low-level fights results in him toying with opponents, grandstanding, and ultimately taking a lax attitude towards training. Clare steps up to the task of giving a hero viewers can cheer for, bringing a level of humanity to the character that echoes Whitfield’s own talents in Blood and the Sand. Gannicus’ quieter moments come in private conversations with his friend, fellow champion, Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), who viewers will surely recognize as”Blood and Sand’s”head trainer, Doctore. The inclusion of a pre-Doctore Oenomaus, is a stellar example of the little character details Gods of the Arena is able to provide.Lucy Lawless and Jaime Murray in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011)Also returning are Manu Bennett as Crixus, Spartacus’ main rival throughout Blood and Sand, however here, Crixus finds himself a newly purchased slave and raw gladiatorial talent, making his attitude toward the brash Spartacus resonate with greater meaning. Bennett really puts in overtime playing a character we know, but don’t fully recognize as first. As his story progresses, Gods of the Arena manages to nicely fit in backstories for Ashur (Nick Tarabay), who has yet to become the crippled Assassin for Batiatus and Barca (Antonio Te Maioha), one of Blood and Sand’s more pleasant supporting surprises. Added to the chaos of the arena, is Batiatus’ current Doctore, a much welcome Temuera Morrison.John Hannah, Peter Mensah, and Dustin Clare in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011) As fascinating as the politics of the arena and training grounds are, what likely has fans checking the series out is John Hannah and Lucy Lawless as Batiatus and Lucretia, respectively. Gods of the Arena is truly their show, giving Hannah and Lawless free range to go over-the-top without once losing credibility. While Blood and Sand was firmly the story of Spartacus’ rise in the gladiator circuit, Gods of the Arena is the tale of Batiatus’ entry into the big time fights and his first step into the web of Roman politics that came as a shock in the preceding series. Hannah firmly sheds any mainstream association with his goofy sidekick roles in “The Mummy” films and every moment of his screen time is a treat as the writers up the ante on the absurd and profane statements spilling from his mouth, that only Hannah seems to be able to make sound Shakespearean. Likewise, Lawless is as over-the-top, but not as blatantly animated as Hannah and there is no question her character’s true love for her husband despite known infidelities, as Lucretia positions herself as a deadly Roman viper, refusing anyone stand in the rise of Batiatus.

Gods of the Arena introduces some new characters, namely Batiatus’ father (Jeffrey Thomas) and Oenomaus’ wife Melitta (Marisa Ramirez) whose fates are probably easily guessed by their obvious absence from the previous series. That’s not to say every new character in Gods of the Arena leaves a corpse, the reality is quite the opposite. The events set-up here will have ramifications that will continue throughout the series. Ultimately, a few characters, namely Melitta come off as more necessary evils than flesh and blood characters we should emotionally invest our selves in. Fans of  Blood and Sand should be entirely pleased by this solid prequel.

REVIEW: SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND

 

CAST

Andy Whitfield (The Clinic)
John Hannah (Agents of Shield)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Erin Cummings (Bitch Slap)
Viva Bianca (Accidents Happen)
Craig Parker (Reign)
Nick E. Tarabay (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Antonio Te Maioha (Zoolander 2)
Craig Walsh-Wrightson (Vertical Limit)
Jai Courtney (Divergent)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kevin J. Wilsaon (Legend of The Seeker)
Eka Darville (Power Ragers RPM)
Lesley-Ann Brandt (Gotham)
John Bach (The Tattooist)
Jon Brazier (Xena)
Matthew Chamberlain (King Kong)
Brooke Williams (12 Monkeys)
Tania Nolan (Step Dave)
Mike Edward (Filthy Rich)
Katrina Law (Arrow)
Mark Mitchinson (Mortal Engines)

 

Spartacus: Blood and Sand  has the misfortune of borrowing too much from 300 and Gladiator in its pilot episode which could caused some viewers to immediately change the channel or give up after that premiere episode. thankfully many stayed with the show as it truly became a must see show.In The Red Serpent an unnamed Thracian warrior (Andy Whitfield) who pledges he and his people’s support to Rome in exchange for their military assistance against hordes of Barbarians. What follows is a greatest hits collection of those two films, but with a much lower budget and a very odd, over exaggerated take on violence. We meet the warrior’s wife, Sura (Erin Cummings) and their parting before our hero goes to war is straight from “300,” as is his outfit and the slow-mo to sped-up fight scenes. Then a betrayal from the Romans happens and our warrior becomes an outlaw, only to be torn from his wife and taken to a nearby town, Capua, to be executed in the arena. Then, just like “Gladiator” our hero uses his knowledge of war to best four gladiators, when the heart of the crowd, and catch the eye of a local lannista, Batiatus (John Hannah), who buys the warrior and dubs him Spartacus.122320-spartacus_blood_sand_422x218Spartacus evolves into a lethal warrior of the coliseum. It’s not a fast process, and the first few episodes while entertaining, are nothing compared to the series when it races towards the season finale. Once a member of Batiatus’ ludus, he quickly encounters opposition from reigning champion, Crixus (Manu Bennett), the undefeated Gaul and Barca, the “Beast of Carthage” an equally brutal warrior who is later revealed to have a more private, tender side. the series doesn’t make the mistake of giving us a protagonist who is an instant success, Spartacus is definitely skilled, but as the doctore or trainer (Peter Mensah, a very welcome presence on the series) stresses, he is nothing compared to the men of the ludus (gladiator school) who have been training for fights to the death for much longer; this is their way of life, one Spartacus must learn to accept and respect if he is to survive and find his wife, taken by the legatus who betrayed him in the pilot. With the promise of support by Batiatus in seeing this task carried out, Spartacus begins his journey from warrior of a small village to eventual legend of the arena.UntitledSpartacus: Blood and Sand is quite brilliant in its ability to slow build an intricate web of plots involving all characters, big and small at some point in this freshman season. While the advertised story is Spartacus’, the real intrigue comes from Batiatus’ quest to break into local politics. With his devious wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) by his side manipulating the wife of the same legatus responsible for Spartacus’ wife’s enslavement; the end goal, a foot in the door. To get a series about Roman life without heavy handed political plotlines is extremely refreshing; the characters of Blood and Sand are all ruthless in one way or the other and while Batiatus and Lucretia aspire to increase their station in life, they still largely know only a few ways to go about things and when things don’t work out for Batiatus, violence often follows. John Hannah is an absolute delight in the role, chewing scenery right and left, committing heinous acts and still managing to win the hearts of viewers with his earnest respect for Spartacus. Too long a supporting player in films like “The Mummy,” Hannah shows his underutilized talent to the fullest and is easily one of the most fascinating characters to watch. Likewise, Lucy Lawless is no slouch herself, playing a spoiled wife doing her husband’s bidding by day and having an affair behind his back with Crixus the minute he steps outside the ludus to try and better their lives.Manu Bennett quietly evolves from a general jackass to one of the series’ most complex characters as Spartacus’ main rival Crixus and is a major player in events regarding the arena. Back on the sand of the training yard, Spartacus finds an ally in Varro, the only man in the school who willingly signed himself into service. Varro represents a humanity Spartacus has lost, a man with a wife and child he fights to support and Varro, himself, grows as a character highlighting the show’s writers treating no character as unimportant. Minor characters such as Naevia, Lucretia’s personal slave comes to prominence as the love interest of Crixus creating yet another subplot, a romantic triangle that could have very deadly consequences. A lot of these little side stories are thrown out to the audience rather quickly and it can be overwhelming at first, making the first four episodes weaker compared to the latter episodes. The fifth episode, “The Shadow of Death” is a true game changer, cementing some characters in roles they will remain in until the end of the season and setting events into motion that will play out as expected in some cases, but in others throw the audience curveballs they could have never predicted. Episodes like “Party Favors” and “Whore” are prime examples, setting up the final act of each episode and building character depth prior to; then out of nowhere, something shocking happens that changes the dynamic of the show and many relationships between characters. While, I ultimately had an idea of where the show would end its season at (it is after all loosely based on the true story of Spartacus and the slave rebellion), I never expected what was to come in that final episode, “Kill Them All,” despite the ominous title.Comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of “Spartacus” will likely arise, but to be honest, aside from using the historical story as a story guide, thankfully, the series doesn’t try to ape Kubrick. Some of the most colorful language this side of “Deadwood” is uttered, nudity is plentiful and the show is not shy with copious amounts of heavily stylized, CG, blood and gore. Heads are cleaved, faces are crushed, limbs are dismembered, people are crucified and castrated; think of a violent act and it likely occurs at some point in the series.After 13 episodes that kept me on my toes up to the final frame, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” wraps up very nicely, paving a way for a second season that could take any number of roads. Sadly, Andy Whitfield, the tremendous actor behind the titular character died. Initially diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the creators delayed production, instead filming a six-episode prequel focusing on life in the ludus before Spartacus’ arrival. Whitfield, given a clean bill of health was all set to resume filming on the new season, when his cancer returned and he had to make the heartbreaking decision of quitting a show that made him a star and he played a large part in its success. He died a few months later.