Words by Calasade

Should you spend more than five seconds reading my blog or one of my Calasade novels, you know I have a deep, deep love for Ancient Rome. Anything remotely tied to Ancient Rome. It has always fascinated me. Always will. Politics. Society. People. Their remarkable genius and drive. Too, if you’ve ever read one of my Calasade novels, you realize how much I love History based on the amount of research I do. Because of the aforementioned, it was with no small amount of hesitation I ventured into watching the Spartacus series that originally aired on the network Starz.

The show, as its characters pertain to their historical counterparts, is woefully inaccurate. At best, much of it is guess-work. I’ll cover discrepancies with Spartacus in other reviews since we’re starting off with Gods of the Arena. For now, we’ll stick with the true hero of the series  and one of the few characters who grew as a person throughout the show.

Of the actual Gannicus we know little. Even the Romans could not decide whether he was called that or Cannicus. We do do know he was likely Gallic, probably a Celt, and that his fighting ability was — in a word — unparalleled. The Romans tell us he died in Lucania near Mount Camalatrum (now Soprano) in a battle against Crassus, Pomptinus, and Rufus. Is that what happened to him?

Who knows.

We only have the victor’s word, and as History has shown, the victor’s word is often less than accurate. Sometimes blatantly dishonest. Here, certainly suspect. Isn’t like greedy ole Crassus (who was known for embellishment towards his own gain) had a picture to compare with those who fell and use as positive identification, is it?

Me, in the face of no evidence, I hope Gannicus lived.

Okay, but enough of that. Sorry. You get me on a subject related to Ancient Rome and I tend to lose my focus, and unfortunately, the computer can’t roll its eyes like my lovely wife does when I’ve gone too far astray.

Right. We came here to discuss Past Transgressions, the first episode of Gods of the Arena (GOTA). I must remember that.

I wish they hadn’t included the Spartacus flashback at the beginning of GOTA. Quite a rotten spoiler for thus of us who watched the series for the first time and followed it in the chronological order of the show’s timeline.

After that flashback/forward, though, I tell ya GOTA wastes no time in getting busy. Fights taking place inside a lesser arena (in Calasade, these squared structures are called quadrata). Everything looks pretty authentic except for a certain serva with gel-lips and the blood that is, well, way over-the-top and oddly reminiscent of a video game. Still, back on the plus side, we dive straight into the driving force behind the first two seasons of Spartacus: Batiatus’s desire to rise above his station of lanista.

In Roman terms, men like him were garbage-handlers.

Anyway, this show grabs your interest right away with that little bit of dialogue. Now, the dialogue might sound choppy at first, but give it a chance. At best, could grow on you. At worse, you will learn to tolerate it.

At this point enters our protagonist, Gannicus. I don’t think any character has ever been given a more electrifying introduction.

What I really enjoy about Gannicus is he makes no apology for what he is. The man revels in the violence and blood during the fights, the wine and women afterwards. No thoughts are given towards cruelty or regret. Zero lamenting being a slave.

Indeed, as Batiatus yells, “Now there’s a fucking gladiator!”

Gannicus is a killer forged and likes doing what he was trained to do.

The action doesn’t stop here. Not by a long shot. Upcoming are violence, sex, and intrigue. Characters with depth (though I did find Crixus a bit one-dimensional and a wee-bit implausible/corny, at least as far as his first couples scenes go). Nevertheless, Gods of the Arena is a story that gets more complicated as it goes along. Something to be appreciated and a prefect way to honor Ancient Rome, showing beauty and ugliness and making no excuses for either.

Past Transgressions gets a ten across the board. Direction, story, etc. Setting is really well done. The acting? Superb with the exception of Manu Bennett. Not his fault, though; that’s on the writing. Special nods must be given to Dustin Clare who is perfect for the role of Gannicus, Lucy Lawless as Lucretia, the lovely Jaime Murray as Gaia. Last but not least, John Hannah. Anyone who can star as the bumbling  Jon Carnahan in the Mummy movies, then turn around and play Batiatus with such relish is someone who can seriously act.

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