Here's how "Spartacus: War of the Damned" (premieres Friday, January 25 at 9 p.m. EST on Starz), the final season of the gladiator drama, begins: They all have tea at the home of the Dowager Countess, where they discuss the weather at length. Soon, Crixus becomes incensed at the fact that there aren't enough cucumber sandwiches.
Ha! Of course I'm kidding. The new season starts off in true "Spartacus" fashion, and I'm sure fans know exactly what I mean by that.
I won't give away what goes down in the first installment of the final season, but I will say that things do get very dark this year. Spartacus has amassed an army of 30,000 followers, but that's a lot of mouths to feed, and not everyone in his band of fierce brothers (and sisters) agrees on what the rebellious slaves should do to survive. And even bigger questions come in to play: Are all slave owners inherently evil, and do they all deserve to die? What does a life of carnage do to those who lead it? Those are the kinds of knotty issues that are explored in the early episodes of "War of the Damned."
The best news about "War of the Damned" is that Simon Merrells is wonderfully magnetic as Marcus Crassus, and Todd Lasance is very credible as a young, hungry Julius Caesar (more on them below).
By the way, if you're a big fan of the show, be aware that we're going to unleash a ton of great "Spartacus" content over the course of the final season. Every Friday night, after the West Coast airing of the show, come to HuffPost TV for exclusive video recaps of each episode from members of the show's cast. After this Friday's premiere of "War Of The Damned," for example, we'll have Liam McIntyre talking about the "Enemies of Rome," the season premiere.
Within the next week or two, we'll post interviews with creator Steven DeKnight and several cast members, and at the end of this post, there's a podcast with a long, non-spoilery discussion of the new season. You can also catch an exclusive first look at Manu Bennett in "Arrow" here.
We also thought you might want a guide to the new characters you'll see on "Spartacus: War Of The Damned," so here you go:
- Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells): Crassus is one of the richest men in Rome, which means that the city's powerful aristocrats have to deal with him, but they regard him as a money-grubbing upstart. Crassus can usually think several moves ahead of everyone else, which makes him a formidable foe -- but he is fair-minded and surprisingly loyal to those he deems worthy.
Also still around: The steadfast Crixus (Manu Bennett), the hard-drinking Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and the increasingly merciless Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Let the betting begin on who will still be around when the season ends.
Except Caesar. According to my high school Latin textbook, he lives.