Spartacus went wayyy downhill this season, and I’m not hopeful for the future. Basically, the reason is simple: it lost any semblance of the emotional reality and weight that it had, and turned into a (much more badass) 300 clone.
In the first season, and the prequel mini-season, the writers weren’t beholden to anything but an end point–eventually, the rebellion had to start. That meant that all the action had to be justified by characters’ motivations. In this season, they’re being led by the historical record, and it shows. All of the characters’ motivations are flimsy at best, and Spartacus (theoretically the protagonist) had no emotional arc whatsoever. Basically, the writing got bad because the writers stopped telling their story in favor of telling a quasi-historical one.
Of course, it doesn’t help that they lost Andy Whitfield, who seemed to really get Spartacus and had been through his emotional journey, or John Hannah–undoubtedly the best actor in the series, and often the character who best understood his own motivations. Next season looks to fall even further, without Peter Mensah, Nick Tarabay (the only actor in the series to stand his ground with Hannah), and Lucy Lawless. It’ll probably be better with a different main antagonist, because this season’s was really uninteresting, but I’m not hopeful.
I’ll keep watching, but it’s really disappointing to realize that one of my favorite still-running series has hit its peak.