Don't read this unless you've seen the March 30 season finale of Starz's "Spartacus: Vengeance."
I propose a name change for "Spartacus: Vengeance." It's clunkier, but maybe it should be called "We Just Killed Your Favorite Character."
As we all know by now, "Spartacus" creator Steven DeKnight does not mind killing characters off, and you may even wonder if he revels in the bloodshed that occurs near the end of every season of the show. But "revels" isn't the right word: Having interviewed him several times, it's clear to me that DeKnight loves the show's characters as much as fans do, and yet, when it's time for them to go, he's willing to off them, usually in spectacular fashion.
Welcome to the afterlife, Ashur, Lucretia, Oenemaus, Ilythia, Glaber and Mira. We'll miss you.
As much as I regret having to say goodbye these characters, as I said in my review of "Wrath of the Gods," each death and twist felt earned and logical. The finale may have had an enjoyable vibe of absolute mayhem, but one of the things I love about the show is that, emotionally and logically, it usually feels right for certain characters to exit the gladiator saga when they do. The worst thing any show can do is hang onto characters well past their expiration date, but you can't accuse the relentless (and relentlessly entertaining) "Spartacus" of doing that.
Still, I felt the need to send both DeKnight and "Spartacus" actress Lucy Lawless a few questions. I asked DeKnight to explain and expand on a few key decisions and to confirm whether Ilythia is really, truly dead. (I didn't ask him if he was glad to be thousands of miles away when the finale script arrived at the show's New Zealand studios -- because by this time, all the show's actors should know that the words "Spartacus" and "long-term contract" don't often go together.)
As for Lawless, I asked when she found out Lucretia would die and how she felt about her character joining Quintus Batiatus in the afterlife. Could there be a Lucretia spinoff coming our way?
(Note: Both these interviews were conducted via email.)
All right, DeKnight: Explain yourself.
Is Ilythia dead, or will she be back next season?
Steven DeKnight: Ilithyia is definitely 100 percent gone to grass. Her story was intimately tied to Lucretia's. It seemed only fitting their story should end together.
Why'd you kill off Lucretia, and aren't you afraid that she'll haunt you from the afterlife?
DeKnight: I could not have loved the character of Lucretia more -- nor the amazing Lucy Lawless that brought her to life. But it became apparent that Lucretia had no place in the narrative as the story of Spartacus moves into the war years with [Season 3 character] Crassus pursuing the rebels across the Republic. I made the decision to give Lucretia a grand send-off instead of bringing her back as a tertiary character with little to do. A difficult choice, but definitely the right one.
Are Gannicus, Crixus, Agron, Nasir and Naevia all coming back next season? Are any other characters from Season 2 returning?
DeKnight: Gannicus, Crixus, Agron, Nasir and Naevia -- and the actors that portray them -- are all returning next season. Joining them will be Saxa, Lugo, Nemetes and Donar [all of whom joined the show in Season 2]. I can't guarantee they will all make it to until the end of the season, but at least they'll be alive at the beginning!
Was it hard to say goodbye to so many key characters, or does it help you wipe the slate clean and start up new stories for the next season?
DeKnight: It's always difficult to say goodbye to characters that you love, as well as saying goodbye to the wonderfully talented actors that have so brilliantly brought them to life. But the narrative has to move forward, and part and parcel of that movement is to resolve lingering storylines in order to explore new ones... heartbreaking at times, but necessary.
Is the show done with Capua for good? Are you taking the Spartacus escaped-slave show on the road to Rome?
DeKnight: We have indeed turned our backs on Capua for good. We will not be revisiting the city, Batiatus' ludus, or the destroyed area. Instead Spartacus' Escaped-Slave and Pandemonium Shadow Show (with apologies to Mr. Bradbury) will take their war across the lands of the Republic, offering up stunning new vistas and impossible situations. I've seen some of the early designs and one major set already being built, and they are truly a feast for the eyes. If "Vengeance" expanded the Spartacus world, this next season completely blows it up.
And now Lucy Lawless talks about the demise of Lucretia.
When did you know that Lucretia would die at the end of the season?
Lucy Lawless: I knew before we began filming [Season] 2 that Lucretia was going to meet her end, and how. That knowledge was vital to the way I played everything. It explains why she puts up with certain things, like Ashur's repeated rapes. She had to feel that anything that happened to her, no matter how degrading, must be borne in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled.
Did you think her death made sense within the context of the overall Spartacus story?
Lawless: The Spartacus storyline was moving away from Capua, so I guess if they were going to remain true to Spartacus' journey, then it made sense to offer up Lucretia and Illythia's lives, in the richest, nastiest tradition of the show.
Did you resist the idea of Lucretia being killed off? Did you lobby the producers to change their minds?
Lawless: No, I know better. I was hoping Lucretia's long gown would catch on a branch on the way down and there she'd be like Wyle E. Coyote, dangling from a twig with babe in arms and throwing a huge tanty (tantrum) that her plan to go to the afterworld had failed.
Imagine the storyline to follow: Lucretia raising young Sparty. Now THERE's a show!
Was Lucretia faking her friendship with Ilythia, or was any of that real?
Lawless: I'll leave that for the audience to decide. But basically, the death of Batiatus was a spiritual death for Lucretia.
What was it like to say goodbye to that character? Was it harder or easier than saying farewell to characters you've played in the past?
Lawless: I'm sad over this one. Still, she was originally slated to die at the end of Season 1, so she'd already had one stay of execution. I am so grateful to all the writers for allowing me a role of such scope and depth. I is [sic] one lucky actress.
Click here for my review of the season finale of "Spartacus: Vengeance."