After stabbing, slashing and pummeling countless enemies, Spartacus will slay his final Roman next year.
Starz is set to announce that the next season of its historical drama Spartacus will mark the show’s final outing.
The upside: Creator Steven S. DeKnight promises the remaining episodes will be spectacular (see the final season poster and teaser video here). “This season is bigger than anything we’ve attempted,” DeKnight says. “The scope and scale is just amazing. We’re dealing with massive battles between thousands of people. We hope to leave people feel satisfied.”
DeKnight says he’s been 90 percent certain for months that the upcoming third season — subtitled “War of the Damned” — would be the last for Spartacus. Creatively, the writer-producer assures that the timing will result in a strong tale. The historical foundation for the rebel leader’s journey, he says, lends itself to wrapping up the show sooner rather than later.
“Looking at the story in the history books, it’s wave after wave of Roman senators going after Spartacus who are defeated until [Roman general Marcus Crassus] comes in,” DeKnight says. “There’s only so many battles you can put a spin on. So let’s pick out the most interesting moments in this struggle and lay out a clear narrative for Spartacus and his rebellion. I wanted to lay out a strong forward narrative with a strong antagonist.”
Spartacus may wrap sooner than many fans might like, yet the historical drama actually survived longer than most expected. The show has had a wild and difficult run since it launched on Starz two years ago. The first season was a phenomenon. Its violent comic-book imagery may have been inspired by the hit film 300, but Spartacus‘ operatic computer-assisted visual style and profanely quotable Shakespean-esque dialogue quickly established the show as singularly unique. Ratings started modest, then climbed with nearly every episode, eventually hitting about 6 million viewers when including all encore airings and viewing platforms.
Tragedy struck after the first season when the show’s breakout star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Pre-production on season two was halted. A short-order prequel sans Whitfield, Gods of the Arena, kept the show functioning while producers and the network hoped for the actor’s recovery. Eventually, the role of Spartacus was turned over to newcomer Liam McIntyre, who led the show’s recent second season.
“This show has always been a challenge,” DeKnight says. “We’ve faced some unique challenges and tragedies. I’m particularly thankful to Starz. Any other network, if the show’s lead actor had fallen ill and eventually passed away, they would have canceled the show. Starz felt like we owed it to the audience and to Andy to finish the tale.”
In the most recent season, Spartacus led his rebel band of slaves to victory against the Romans at Mt. Vesuvius and defeated his longtime nemesis Gaius Claudius Glaber. As first reported on EW.com, the new season adds Todd Lasance as an ambitious young Julius Caesar and Simon Merrells as Crassus.
DeKnight says Crassus will introduce a truly formidable enemy to help drive next year’s drama. “Crassus is kind of like the Roman boogieman we’ve been talking about for the last three seasons,” he says. “We meet him in episode one and you totally get that this is a guy who — maybe he can’t equal Spartacus in a one-on-one fight, but he’s just as shrewd and smart and dangerous as Spartacus.”
Spartacus will leave behind a legacy of having stretched the boundaries of series television, between expanding the use of green-screen technology (the show has never shot one frame outdoors) and proving hard-R sex and violence can draw an audience when mixed with compelling storytelling. There was, and remains, nothing quite like the show on TV.
“I would much rather end a series with the audience wanting more than limping to the finish line, with only the die-hard fans sticking around for the wrap up,” DeKnight says. “We want to make the 10 best episodes we can. I can’t wait for everybody to see it.”
UPDATE: DeKnight says he has a new show in development at Starz that could be the successor to Spartacus. We’re hearing the mysterious project’s working title is Incursion. The series is described in industry circles as a “Halo-like video game meets HBO’s Band of Brothers.” The writer-producer says the show isn’t expected to be another fully immersed green-screen production like Spartacus. Starz says the project is still in very early stages, but obviously we’re looking forward to whatever DeKnight makes next.