Tuesday, April 27, 2010

S: B&S - Revisited

Okay, so I have finished watching (season one of) Spartacus: Blood & Sand, and my opinions evolved a bit over the course of a dozen episodes. The impression that they went trolling Iced Earth and Coal Chamber concerts for extras remains, and the level of engagement beginning to show during the first episodes I took in all held true.

It's unfortunate that one of the things that changed was my perspective on John Hanna's role. I said initially he's given more to do here than usual, but by the end I would say his character was actually short-shrifted badly, particularly in comparison with the relative richness and growth on display for most of the other players. He got to do some surprising things, but his actual arc flattened badly, and he lost dimension as the writers enlivened things for the other actors and depended upon his character more and more to just be a workhorse villain.

A bit of a pity, but the rest of that balance did deepen the level of surprise I had in its engagement. And engage it really did. I got involved with the multiple storylines, and really enjoyed them. By the time Spartacus shouts the immortal line, "I! Am! SPARTACUUUUUSSS!!!!", the setup the writers have created gives that a bit of a devastating impact. It is used as an ultimate self-denial, and it is really heartbreaking.

Denying one's person is a pretty amazing self-abnegation. (Denying it to others is the very basis of slavery, as dehumanization is the first justification for excusing ANY behavior toward one's fellow man. *AHEM*) I've been dealing with some issues of respect in terms of self-determination, so maybe the impact here was enhanced by this - but even so, the scene of that speech is very nicely constructed.

The performances here really are great. Andy Whitfield (may he be physically well) is supremely effective, both physically in his role and in his occupation of the character. Viva Bianca ends up with a SURPRISING amount to do, and man does she nail her wonderful role. You do not see this woman coming. Manu Bennett keeps running deeper and deeper, too. Just when you think he's "Iceman" from Top Gun, he gives a pretty necklace to a girl, gets to do a very awkward scene with her, and starts on a road to continuing surprises and unexpected fascination. And the structure and long-term planning of the overall storyline is wonderfully well managed, in both conception and execution. The pace of revelations and developments is nigh on perfect, really. I had an absolute ball.

Sometimes, the wounds CGI'd onto the various gore-fests swim around at different rates than the body parts they're inflicted on. Sometimes, the women are perhaps not perfectly written. (A late development with one essentially echoing Spartacus' own self-negation, asking basically to be used as a wh*re, is pretty quease-inducing; even with the doses of "this character is important" trying to balance the ick-factor, the abasement is not lessened.)

But given the expectations and trappings (and a huge proportion of dialogue-by-declamation), this thing really does come together amazingly well. I *really* liked the actors, and want to see them again, and hope they all find successes.

I was impressed.

YMMV, of course.

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