All men lose when they die, and all men die, Kirk Douglas famously said in Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film, Spartacus. "But a slave and a free man lose different things."
Fast-forward five decades and Spartacus: Vengeance, Starz' frantically paced, blood-soaked and over-the-top TV adaptation, is about to return with new episodes and a new actor in the title role. Spartacus is now a free man and very much alive but, as the de facto leader of a slave rebellion and the sworn enemy of ancient Rome, he's on the run. Like a trusty sword, the "vengeance" in the title cuts both ways. Spartacus, as played by Australian actor Liam McIntyre, wants vengeance for his dead wife, murdered at the hands of a duplicitous Roman legionnaire with the delightfully evil-sounding name of Gaius Claudius Glaber.
The Romans, for their part, want vengeance for the slave rebellion, which resulted in the deaths of numerous high-born Romans and their families.
This is not a tale that can end well - for anyone. To hear McIntyre, co-star Lucy Lawless and creator-producer Steven DeKnight tell it, though, that's where half the fun lies. Spartacus: Vengeance was made in the vein of its predecessor, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and last spring's prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Like those series, it's deliberately heightened and exaggerated, more like a graphic novel - and exceedingly graphic, at that - than a rote TV drama.
"In episode 1, the very first episode, one of the things we put up on the board in the writers' room was a sign saying, 'Brothel attack,' and you just can't go wrong with a title like that," DeKnight said, with a wry laugh. "We didn't want it to be simply a case of, 'Let's just go in and attack a bunch of guys and get some information.' We thought to ourselves, 'They should attack a brothel.'"