Fans of Starz's "Spartacus" franchise were saddened to hear that the third season, "War of the Damned," would be the final season.
So why did Starz decide to end a show that averaged 6 million viewers per episode its second season? At the Television Critics Press Association Summer Press Tour, Starz CEO and president Chris Albrecht said, "Better to leave people wanting more than to risk repeating ourselves and diminishing the impact of the franchise."
Albrecht added that he joined Starz when Season 1 of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" was in post-production and everyone attached to the project was "always well aware that this was going to be a very different show once the slaves were in the hills ... We ended up having to tell two distinct stories, which is something you don't really want to do in serialized drama."
And then, of course, there was the tragic death of "Spartacus" star Andy Whitfield, who suffered from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Actor Liam McIntyre replaced Whitfield in the role of Spartacus at the start of Season 2, called "Spartacus: Vengeance," but the ratings didn't suffer.
"The show has been remarkably successful," Albrecht said. "Rather than try and string out the story and have one more fight, [we decided] we would follow the trajectory of the history and bring the Spartacus story to fruition."
"Spartacus" creator Steven DeKnight echoed Albrecht's sentiments when he spoke with HuffPost TV in June. "I would never want any show that I do to become a chore to watch, and I've watched and loved shows like that, where, honestly, towards the end, it was more of a test of wills than actually appointment television," DeKnight explained.
It certainly sounds like "Spartacus: War of the Damned" will not be chore in Season 3. If "Vengeance" expanded the Spartacus world, this next season completely blows it up, DeKnight said. "This season is on a scale that you just can't even imagine. The opening scene of the new season is just phenomenal."
"Spartacus: War of the Damned" features Spartacus' growing army of former slaves taking on the Roman elite and characters in the new season include the the slave owner Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells), a young Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance), "Cabin in the Woods" actress Anna Hutchison as a wealthy Roman named Laeta and Jenna Lind and Gwendoline Taylor, who will both play slaves.
"It ends with every piece of epic that you expect from the show," McIntyre told "Spartacus" fans at Comic-Con of the final season. "Every episode I've read feels like the ending episode of any other season. So, with the first episode we got I went, 'That would end any other show ever. If that's where you're starting, God knows where you'll end.' It will do every character that you love justice. I'm very proud of that."
"Spartacus: War of the Damned" will be the final season of "Spartacus," airing in January 2013.