Spartacus: War Of The Damned finale review: Victory

Review James Hunt 15 Apr 2013 - 07:10

Spartacus bows out on an episode that may well cement the Starz series as a future classic. Here's James' review of Victory...

This review contains spoilers. 

3.10 Victory

The problem with final episodes is that you only get one shot. Screw it up and you risk the entire legacy of a programme. Get it right and you can cement it as a classic. Spartacus, for the most part, got it right.

If anything was wrong with the final episode, it was that it lacked twists. There were no fake-outs, no diversions from history, no surprises: just the grimly inevitable slaughter, beautifully finessed though it was.

But what it lacked in twists, Victory made up for in sheer weight of drama. And that it had in spades. Caesar and Kore telling Crassus the awful truth about his recently dead son. Crassus and Spartacus agreeing to meet, unarmed, and trying to strike a deal. Agron fighting with shattered hands, Gannicus finally assuming the mantle of general, and of course, an extended fight scene with the invention and style to rival any other in the series. It might not have been a particularly adventurous ending, but it was certainly a crowd-pleaser. It's what former gladiators would have wanted.

What struck me most about this finale was the utter lack of glamour to most of the deaths. Last week I predicted self-sacrifices and fatalistic surrenders for many of the minor characters. What happened was a succession of senseless, matter-of-fact executions. When death came for Naevia, it wasn't because she wanted it. When Castus fell, it was in front of Agron and Nasir, but not for them. Kore, Saxa, Lugo, even Gannicus. They may have gone down fighting, but it wasn't glorious or righteous. They were simply overwhelmed. It wasn't all depressing – Gannicus' death was accompanied by visions of an afterlife spent in the arena with Oenomaus at his side, finally returned to the simple, glorious role he missed so much.

But what of Spartacus himself? After proving himself Crassus' better in single combat (and how else could that have gone?) he ended up dying not at the hand of any main character, but on the spears of several faceless legionaries who arrived, unexpectedly, aiding their master just in time to save his life. It was the perfect end for Spartacus, and a metaphor for his entire campaign: one where personal victories frequently emerged from sheer force of will, but where the movement itself was always doomed to defeat by the sheer numbers and organisation of Rome. It wasn't a personal failure that left him vulnerable to defeat, just the practical inability to fight everyone at once.

And in the end, it was Agron who delivered the inevitable speech reminding us that even if Spartacus dies, his story will live on (and let's face it, that's the real "victory" of the title). As for the eponymous hero, not only did he avoid ending the series with the classic declaration of his name (nonetheless fantastically invoked in the opening scenes) but he actively renounced it on his deathbed, reminding us that he once had a different name (one now forgotten by history) and looked forward to hearing it again in the afterlife. A wonderful moment of selfish human desire for a man otherwise consumed by his ideals.

Speaking of which: it was interesting to watch Crassus find himself in the rare position of having won, but lost everything as a result. His son dead, his lover executed, and his political career stolen from under him by his rival Pompey, who takes the credit for ending the rebellion. It was actually Caesar who got the best line of the episode when he accused Crassus of constantly planning for the future but never seizing the opportunities of the present. If we can't see a sword in his heart, at least we get the comfort of knowing that ultimately, he's neither as strong nor as smart as he believes.

So, how does one eulogise a series like Spartacus? For a start, it was full of contradictions: Gratuitous yet philosophical. Exploitative yet egalitarian. Epic yet personal. Like its characters, it was perhaps most comfortable when confined to the arena, but when the time came to grow beyond those walls it seized the opportunity and looked back only in occasional reflection. It didn't always work, but when it did it turned out moments that sit amongst the best on TV. For a series that started out looking like sub-grindhouse schlock, that's not a bad legacy to leave.

Read James' review of the previous episode, The Dead and the Dying, here.

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Make sure you watch all the end credits, for a look back over all the characters from the various series, and a big one at the very end!

Agree with all this. It was an excellent finale. It's rare these days to have such "simple" drama and unconvoluted story telling as shown in this final episode .

Absolutely loved it, I'm kind of surprised how much I've enjoyed the show over the years considering I hated it when it began (took about 4 to 5 episodes to warm to it at the insistence of a friend).

You can count the number of shows that had great finales on 1 hand and Spartacus is definitely one of them

I love it. Thought it a very appropriate and accurate ending to a series that grew and grew with more wit, style and sheer heart than anything else on TV. The end credits nod to Andy Whitfield really showed that the stellar cast and crew knocked this way out of the park. Classic indeed.


A brilliant finale, a touching tribute to Andy Whitfield at the end. I'd just like to congratulate Liam McIntyre for taking over under difficult circumstances. It took me a few episodes to warm to him, but he carried it off and did an amazing job.

One of the best finales I've seen to any show. I was genuinely surprised at how well they wrapped up a story that ended with almost all the lead characters dead.

Gotta disagree with you on the whole idea that Crassus sacrificed his political career, he even mentions that giving Pompey the credit for ending the rebellion, would make an powerful ally instead of a rival.

What an Amazing Series with such Great Actors Im very upset that its over&Breaking Bad is coming soon&that will be over as well:-(

i will break word and say, spartacus was excellent all the way!! had me in tears all most , when he said that spartacus isnt my real, dont wanna spoil the rest but fantastic show, give us more pls..... somehow !!! lol

This show gripped me and held on even through the end. Liam did a fantastic job as Spartacus and RIP Andy. You are in everyone's hearts.

Fantastic ending for a phenomenal show.
Long live Spartacus!!

Agreed. I think one of the major things this was showing us is that, as focused as we have been on the story of Spartacus, all of our characters are just players on a bigger stage. Crassus inevitably bows to his superiors, and Spartacus inevitably bows to the sheer weight of numbers the Romans have.

Ha. Yeah I know the feeling, as excited as I am for Breaking Bad to continue I know it just means it'll be over soon. I got over this with The Wire by starting again the minute I finished the last episode. Sadly, I've already seen all the Breaking Bads available, twice (I had to make my housemate watch it).

My DVR cut off the end of the credits. Thankfully someone posted them on YouTube. "I am Spartacus!"

great series really wish it did not end, one of the few shows i really like now wtf am i gonna watch on the weekends lol

Simply magnificent!

Perhaps you'd rather watch The Walking Dead's finale again?

Seriously though, awesome episode, Spartacus IS cemented as one of the best tv shows ever!

Absolutely outstanding performances from the entire cast, i couldn't expect anything better for the penultimate episode. I for one will never forget this or any of the previous series. Despite being gutted its over! Liam McIntyre lived upto the part and carried out his role phenominally. Long live Spartacus!

Rip Andy Whitfield, a role model in my eyes. I'm sure he would be proud of this legendary tribute.

Fantastic. Word perfect review too, always agreed this show is full of welcome contradiction. Can't see anything else like it appearing or topping it anytime soon. A fitting tribute to a sorely missed Andy and a sterling job done by Liam and the ensemble.

Seriously !!!! The ending has broke my heart, it could have been a better ending, rick Jacobson (the director), you lost all my respect with that bad ending.

Agreed, it was jarring and a little uncomfortable at first but he quickly became a great Spartacus. Was lovely seeing Andy Whitfield as Spartacus one last time.

one of the great,if not the greatest series finales,Andy Whitfield and Liam McIntyre were phenomenal and were supported by a fantastic cast, there will be a void in my life now the series is at an end.

In the very first episode of Blood and Sand, Sura tells Spartacus he will fall before a red snake. At the end of the final episode, Spartacus' grave is marked by Agron's shield emblazoned with a red snake. Did anyone else notice that?

It took me a whole season to get used to him. Liam was a lot better in War of the Damned. Maybe the writing was better.

The only thing I didn't like was they missed a continuity mistake with Naevia 2.0's neck wound. If only they'd flipped the shots after she got slashed.

Otherwise this was a terrific finale. I was sad to see Gannicus up there, but it had to be. At least Nagron made it out.

It'll be a long long time until another show like this comes along.

I think Liam McIntyre did a perfect job. Ofcourse it takes a few episodes to get used to him, but in War Of The Damned he portrayed Spartacus really well. Often his eyes said enough. That is what I call a good performance.

Same here. Not a fan in Vengeance but I thought he was terrific in War Of The Damned.

bad ending? the ending was dictated by history!

where can i download the victory chapter

where can i download spatacus war of the damned.victory

No the ending has ruined the whole thing for me, and no one really knows the true history so the ending could have been better

monday nites in my house wont be the same rip spartacus

What did you expect?..Rome to lose? We do know the ending, Rome won, Spartacus, his body was never found, 6000 survivors crucified from Capua to Rome. Crassus was eventually killed by the Parthians, boiling liquid gold poured down his throat, and Ceaser...thats common knowledge.

Crassus was one of the richest men in history. He, Caeser and Pompey ruled Rome as the triumvirate he mentioned at the end.

Crassus' name give us the word "crass".

The lack of a classical education in modern times dooms us to repeat the errors of our past.

Spartacus rides on a flying pegasus. Cannicus moves to Japan to become king of the samurais. And Oenomaus didn't actually die - he faked it and opened a very nice tavern in Londinium. Happy?

Gratitude James! Your reviews are full of insight and wit. Thank you for your work. Pete

NYPD Blue, The Sopranos, 24, and now the end of Spartacus too!! Life's over!

actually, there's still Homeland and Boardwalk Empire so a little consolation I suppose......

Gods, is the Walking Dead a terrible show.

Spartacus was brought to his knees before a red serpent shield in the first episode, subsequently defeating three gladiators in the arena. It was a nice reference to end the show with the red serpent again in 'Victory'.

It wasn't, but the last season completely bottomed out and I think they'll loose a lot of their viewers (inc me) because of it..

Gratitude to all lovers of Spartacus.!! Phenmonal ending and brilliant tribute to Andy at the end. Never fear because Monday nights can be the same again as Sky are repeating the whole lot againfrom next week right from the start with 'Blood and Sand'!!

Yeah, season 3 is horrible to watch by any standards. Spartacus was good through all series.

I wonder why they decided to end it when it was doing so well. They could have definitely got another season or two out of it.

I was wondering whether they might do something like have Spartacus escape to the north with Agron, but that would have been the cheap, easy ending and wouldn't have had anything like the same impact.

The very best series I have seen all the way through, Im sorry its ended and hoped Spartacus stuck to his word and killed Crassus and that little turd Ceasar.

Guys, I am sorry to say that I am sick and tired of endings where your beloved characters have to die, and sometimes in such painful death. Spartacus Victory could have been different, considering that the real history does not have a clear accounting to what happened to Spartacus. For all that matter, he could have bitten up Crassus, and let him live, Kore could again scape with the rebels, Ganicus could have killed more Romans and be killed a more glorious death, and so on. As for Spartacus, he could have taken back his real name and lived happily ever after with Laeta in some distant land beyond the reach of the Romans. I liked the epic scenes but I disliked the ending all together. The slaves had suffered enough in the hands of the Romans and an ending offering than some hope, specially for Spartacus, would do some justice and made me happier.

While I disagree that there should be a happy ending - I do believe the Romans characters should have gotten their their comeuppance. After all, the titles says it all - War of Damned. Everyone is damned, not just the rebels.

Incidentally, if you read the real history of the Third Servile War, every major Roman characters who were involved were all doomed to die horrible deaths a few years after the defeat of Spartacus. For example (and in chronological order):

Marcus Licinius Crassus: His legions annihilated, he was captured by the Parthian king who then had molten gold poured into his mouth and his head put up on display.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus: After losing the civil war to Caesar, he was stabbed to death by his soldiers, and his head was sent by Cleopatra's brother Ptolemy XIII to Caesar as a 'gift'.

Gaius Julius Caesar: The most pathetic of all deaths - after defeating all his rivals he was stabbed 23 times by 60 Senators - one of them his best friend Brutus. Caesar was then left to die on the Senate floor.

However, I heard that they may do a spinoff with Caesar as the lead character. Perhaps that's when we'll see all three remaining Roman characters get their comeuppance!

Just seen it. Omg, I am happy with a fantastic end to a fantastic series. They should always leave you wanting more....... Now about that extra prequel !!

I get a little disappointed to endings like these. It takes some time for me to get over it. And yet only endings like these would make justice to the series. It was great to see Andy Whitfield again. RIP. I almost quit watching the series when Liam took the role over. But then several episodes down the 2nd season, it managed to engage me somehow.

Everything that the reviewer said I agreed with 100% which,to be honest,makes a pleasant change

These series has been very disappointing. Its turned into a kung fu movie with the "heroes" able to take on numerous enemies at once with little difficulty. The Romans some how managed to conquer most of Europe but twenty of them can't hurt a couple of rebels.

The Romans in the series don't even fight with their renown discipline but choose to break ranks to fight like untrained troops.

If it wasn't for the naked women I would have stopped watching weeks ago.

Great and fantasic show , the best show i seen , but Liam did a great job for taking over and become spartacus but Andy was a GREAT actor and he has my respect , Great job both of them but Rip Andy Whitfield!
Whear can i download this last episode? ( episode 10) Because this is the last episode and i havent seen it , this is the only episode i have left , plss can anybody help me and say where i can download it?:)
Sorry for my bad english becaus im am swedish xD

u are stupid and it was clearly said why the rebels bested the romans so many times because they are trained differently and many of them are gladiators and better fighter than the romans and as anamaeos said when you fight with purpose u would always win

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