SPARTACUS IS A HISTORICAL PORTRAYAL OF ANCIENT ROMAN SOCIETY THAT CONTAINS GRAPHIC VIOLENCE and adult content. Viewer Discretion is advised.
The above disclaimer (or attention-magnet) is shown along with the usual MA – LSV rating before each episode of Spartacus on Starz. Fans don’t just watch the show for the blood, sex, guts, and sex, but also for the well-written characters and their story arcs, as well as plot twists and reveals that have stunned even some of the more cynical reviewers.
What’s an article on Starz‘s epic series Spartacus doing up on here? Well, it’s in the new issue of Fangoria, for one (even though they didn’t focus on the gore, sadly), and every episode has been brought to you by (among others) Raimi/Tapert/Donen Productions. Yeah, THAT Raimi. Some gladiators look like actual monsters; some characters are beautiful outside and monsters inside.
I’ve tried to keep these vague as far as characters involved, but several of these could be considered spoilers. If you plan on watching Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (prequel 6-episode miniseries) Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Season One) and Spartacus: Vengeance (Season 2) and want to go in completely 100% clean, maybe you should just skim it.*
If you’re considering watching the show but are unsure if it might be too graphic, violent, and disturbing for you, then this is a great way to find out what you’re in for. Hint: if you’re worried it might be too sick for your personal tastes, there’s a 99% chance you are, in fact, correct.
These aren’t the most fucked-up things, or all the fucked-up things, they’re just some memorable highlights. I’m not kidding, this list almost wrote itself, I sure didn’t need to stretch to think of ten bloodcurdling events. If I included every messed-up thing that happened, the list would easily go into triple-digits (and there’s still one season left as of this writing).
1. An especially disgusting character gets interrupted while raping a screaming female slave. When he stands up and faces away from her to turn and confront the interlopers, the woman grabs his sword and rams it all the way up his ass with such force that the tip pokes through his stomach from before she yanks it back out. So there.
2. Soon after, a male character gets information out of that pig by pulling some of his guts out of the aforementioned wound (with his bare hands) and promising him a fast death if he tells him what he wants to know right away (it works).
3. A gladiator kills his opponent by shoving a spear through his opponent’s mouth, out the side of his face, then twisting it until the man’s jaw is literally hanging by a few threads (shown in slow motion, with shots of even the most jaded spectators looking horrified). Extra points to the make-up/FX team for using prosthetics.
4. In one of the most disturbing scenes of the entire goddamned series (which is saying quite a bit), a noblewoman snaps, attacking her (former) friend, and kills her in an enraged frenzy by savagely smashing her skull down against the marble floor countless times. She literally bashes her head in, we’re talking bits of skull and brain within a radius of at least a yard, her eyeball is popped out of the socket, her face caves in, blood everywhere, before someone can intervene and pull her away.
5 .Two gladiators are brought out to fight a giant fat rival gladiator (who may remind viewers a little of Ancient Rome’s Tor Johnson). They win by working as a team, wrapping a chain around his neck and then using all their combined weight to pull the chain from opposite sides until the fat gladiator’s head pops off like a champagne cork.
6. In an underground fighting area, simple referred to as “The Pit”, unofficial fights to the death take place. Fighting dirty is encouraged, bets are placed, and the crowd mostly consists of criminals, compulsive gamblers, etc. Many dead bodies get dragged up and hung upside-down on meat-hooks. One ‘champion’ celebrates every victory by slicing off the skin of his dead of opponent’s faces and wearing it on his own. He doesn’t bother fashioning it into a mask like Leatherface does, he just slices ‘em off with a hooked blade and then slaps that shit right on his face.The skinned faces look really horrifying, and brought the gore-extravaganza also known as the 2010 Piranha* remake to mind for me. Check it out below (sorry, I couldn’t find one without the editorial comments stuck in the action):
7. A noblewoman decides to “sponsor” a new gladiator-in-training and picks the one whose main character trait is that he’s more well-endowed than Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights. They must have used a prosthetic, otherwise the actor playing him would have been a porn superstar and made enough to retire by now. Later, after he betrays someone, his endowment in chopped off (we don’t see that part, but we see his bloody junk in the sand) then they crucify him in the training square, we see the wound bleeding down his legs (it’ll look familiar if you’ve seen the Italian cannibal flick Make Them Die Slowly )
8. At a party of the city’s richest and most important men and their wives, a captured fighter in the slave rebellion is unlucky enough to be picked to be hog-tied and hung up from the ceiling like a human piñata . Instead of getting hit with sticks, though, people draw numbers to determine which guest gets to step right up to cut off a piece of him first. If that’s not fucked-up enough…
9. This gets worse as the guest who gets first, er, stab at him cuts out his tongue with a sword. Either the sword is about as sharp as a butter knife or the guy who did it was really, really bad with his weapon, as the poor rebel’s tongue is not so much cut out as slowly sawed off. The host jovially tells the second guest not to cut too deeply, “to not deprive others of their turn”. Again, the wealthy party guests (plenty are politicians, with their wives) are drawing numbers out of a goddamned bowl so everyone gets a turn. At one point, you can see a line of smiling guests forming. People eat snacks, chat happily, etc. while watching and waiting for their turn.
10. A man’s face is suddenly chopped off during a fight with an uppercut of a sword starting under his jaw (possibly the most shockingly gory thing I’ve seen in the history of the series, which is no small feat). One second it’s there, the next second CHOP. Not just his face gets liberated from his head, but the whole front of his skull. As he falls forward, dead, his brain slowly slides out of his brain-pan like a gory loaf of bread . Think I’m exagerrating?
Even two of the toughest, most seen-and done-it-all former gladiators who see it are visibly stunned …as you can see if you have the stomach to watch the actual clip below:
The final season of Spartacus, titled Spartacus: War of The Damned premieres tonight, January 25th, on Starz. Find out more here – including the fact that the premiere is online, streaming, for free …now!
*Though I am putting a more spoiler-y version later (don’t worry, you will be warned well in advance if you want to avoid spoilers)
**Mainly brought to you by the genius of Greg Nicotero, in some of the best work I’ve ever seen from him and Nicotero-Berger. I still cannot believe that movie got away with an R-Rating, but that’s a piece for another time.
Dedication: This piece goes out to Pete, Cindy, Norm, and all my other friends at Get Glue who asked me to tell them when I wrote it–thanks, you guys. Seriously.
- The Women of Spartacus: War of the Damned (wired.com)
- Starz wraps up legend of Spartacus (bizjournals.com)
- Why The Bloody, Sex-Soaked ‘Spartacus’ Is The Most Progressive Show You’re Not Watching (thinkprogress.org)
- ‘Spartacus: War Of The Damned’ Premieres This Friday On Starz (pinkbananaworld.com)