By Curt Wagner
9:53 AM CDT, June 4, 2012
The upcoming third season of Starz’ “Spartacus,” now titled “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” will be its last, the network announced Monday.
The decision is surprising given how important the “Spartacus” franchise has been for Starz. It’s easily the network’s biggest success story, putting Starz on the map as a destination for original cable series. “War of the Damned,” currently in production in New Zealand, will debut in January 2013.
The show’s creator and executive producer, Steven S. DeKnight, said the decision was not reached lightly. “It was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for my partners and I,” he said in a press release. “Yet, in the end, the story was best served by rolling all of the remaining action and drama of Spartacus’ journey into one stunningly epic season that will be extremely satisfying for everyone who’s been along for the ride."
That definitely sounds like DeKnight, who over the past four years often has talked about serving the story in the best way possible—even if it means killing off popular characters. So for fans who are crying “off with Starz’ heads!” understand that this isn’t a cancellation, but a decision to end on a high note. "Spartacus" will no doubt end in a blaze of gory.
DeKnight told Mo Ryan at Huffington Post that when they looked at Spartacus’ history, once the rebellion began it sort of became a repetitive cycle of Spartacus wins battle, Romans win battle over and over, only with a new Roman senator waging the war each time.
“So we thought, why not condense the best elements of the story, condense some characters, condense events and just give 10 of the best rip-roaring episodes we could to bring the tale of ‘Spartacus’ to a conclusion,” he said.
“Spartacus: War of the Damned” will open a few months after the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber. Spartacus and his rebels have scored victories against the Romans and increased their ranks to more than 30,000 former slaves.
The series, which will end after three full seasons and a six-episode prequel arc, has faced its share of challenges.
The “Spartacus” franchise began in January 2010 with “Blood and Sand,” breaking new ground for series TV with its stunning graphic-novel visual and storytelling style. Andy Whitfield’s soulful portrayal of Spartacus grounded the spectacular tone of the show and contributed mightily to its success. But shortly after the season ended, Whitfield was diagnosed with cancer and Starz made the decision to delay the second season.
Instead, DeKnight and his production partners Rob Tapert, Josh Donen and Sam Raimi, along with Starz, decided to produce the six-episode prequel “Gods of the Arena,” which debuted in January 2011.
Whitfield seemed to be OK after treatment, and even attended San Diego Comic Con to promote the prequel even though he wasn’t in it. But he fell ill again and decided to leave the franchise, giving his blessing for the production to recast the lead role before he passed away. Liam McIntyre stepped into the role, and “Vengeance” debuted in January 2012, becoming the best and most successful season of the franchise.
DeKnight has promised “War of the Damned” will be a “badass final season.”
“We certainly could have continued for a few more seasons and stretched it out, but we really wanted to end high and not feel like we were treading water,” he told Eric Goldman at IGN, talked about the challenges the show has faced. “The whole show was a huge risk from the start for Starz, and it was another huge risk when I decided to try to keep the show going after Andy’s passing. Any normal studio would have just cancelled the show at that point and not risk the financial downside of it not working. But Starz, thankfully, really stuck by the show, and they really wanted it to be told all the way to the end. They didn’t want to cheat the viewers and just suddenly pull the plug. So they gave us this opportunity to wrap up the story, and we’re certainly taking that opportunity and running with it. This is by far the biggest season we’ve ever attempted.”
Below is a teaser clip for “War of the Damned” and the full press release from Starz.
STARZ ANNOUNCES THE FINAL SEASON OF “SPARTACUS”
STARZ announced today the upcoming season of the international hit series “Spartacus” will be the conclusion of the saga. With a visual style completely unique to television, the franchise has amassed both critical and popular acclaim to become the most successful on the network and one of the highest rated programs in all of cable television. More than six million weekly viewers watched last season, “Spartacus: Vengeance,” which has amassed more than 2.5 million Facebook fans. Globally, the series airs in 150 countries in more than 15 languages.
“The fans have been tremendously supportive of our show,” says creator and executive producer, Steven S. DeKnight. “We did not come to this decision lightly. It was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for my partners and I. Yet, in the end, the story was best served by rolling all of the remaining action and drama of Spartacus' journey into one stunningly epic season that will be extremely satisfying for everyone who's been along for the ride."
"Steven DeKnight, Rob Tapert, Josh Donen and Sam Raimi have made one of the most groundbreaking shows we have ever seen," says Starz CEO Chris Albrecht. "’Spartacus’ is a landmark series for the network which has enthralled millions of viewers and fans around the world. We are in agreement with our partners in the decision to conclude the story after ‘War of the Damned,’ as we believe it is the best way to maintain the integrity of the series and secure its legacy. While everyone may know the fate of Spartacus, we believe this will be a spectacular season that will startle, amaze and honor the legions of fans.”
“Spartacus: War of the Damned,” currently in production in New Zealand, takes place following the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber. Spartacus and his men have amassed major victories against the Romans after the Battle of Vesuvius. These victories have not only forged the legend of Spartacus, but have greatly increased the ranks of the rebellion slaves to more than 30,000. Rome is indeed beginning to tremble at the threat Spartacus now represents.
The Emmy nominated series, already known for its groundbreaking production and visual style, has set the bar even higher to bring the story to its epic conclusion. This year, new sets will include the construction of a full city, a Roman Villa, and the scene of the epic battle along the Appian Way.
Airing in 150 countries, the series is considered an unqualified smash around the world, including Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and more. The enormous international success has led to global licensing for a variety of rights, including: authentic prop replicas, publishing, soundtracks, motion comic books, trading cards, and a few more major deals soon to be announced.
In the US and abroad, the DVDs continue to be one of the most popular titles sold at all major retailers, appearing in the Top 10 of all TV titles sold.
The “Spartacus” franchise began its run Friday, January 22, 2010 with “Blood and Sand.” It was followed a year later with the prequel, “Gods of the Arena” (January 21, 2011). “Vengeance” hit the air on January 27, 2012 and “War of the Damned” is scheduled to air January 2013.
“Spartacus: War of the Damned” sees the return on Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Dustin Clare (Gannicus), Dan Feuerriegel (Agron), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia) and Ellen Hollman (Saxa). This year, Todd Lasance joins the cast as Gaius Julius Caesar, along with Simon Merrells, who will be playing Marcus Crassus and Anna Hutchison as Laeta.
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