Fans are still licking their wounds after the Season 2 finale of Spartacus: Vengeance killed off several main characters.
[Spoiler alert! The following is a discussion of the Season 2 finale, including who dies, and information about the upcoming third season, which is currently in production.]
"I still get angry messages about Varro," series creator and executive producer Steven DeKnight told reporters on a call Monday. "Varro's death [in Season 1] still stands as one of the best ends to a character on a show. It had such an emotional impact and such a twist and it was so heartbreaking. Also, it may come as no surprise that I've gotten some angry messages about Lucy [Lawless], killing off Lucretia. I've gotten more than a few, 'You're an idiot. I'll never watch this show again!'"
Check out what deKnight had to say about who is truly dead, why he killed off Lucretia, and what lies ahead for Spartacus and his men in Season 3:
Can you discuss your decision to kill off Lucretia and if you'd consider having Lucy Lawless back in a flashback?
Steven DeKnight: I never rule out a good flashback... In my mind, Lucretia got a reprieve. Going back to Season 1, I felt that Spartacus had to kill Batiatus and Crixus had to kill Lucretia for what they did. We actually shot it both ways. We shot it where Lucretia was clearly dead at the end of Season 1 and one in which she was still twitching... I was approached by Starz and my producing partner Rob Tapert, who is married to Lucy. The concern was that in the second season, should we bring back what is arguably the biggest name in the show? I was adamant, "No she has to die. It wouldn't work any other way." The next morning, in the shower before I came to work, I had this idea about Mad Lucretia, a take on [Hamlet's] Mad Ophelia. "Wouldn't it be great if Ilithyia were pregnant, and Lucretia, criminally insane at this point, has designs on this child?" The audience will think she wants to take the child and run away with it, but if you look back over the season, you realize she wants to take the child to her dead husband in the afterlife... I also thought that Lucretia and Ilithyia both had to die together to conclude that story line.
So Ilithyia isn't getting her own reprieve for next season? Is she completely gone?
DeKnight: She's completely dead. We looked at what was coming next with Crassus and Caesar launching a full-scale war against the rebel slaves. Ilithyia and Lucretia didn't have a place in that world. There was no scenario that Crassus was going to take those two with him or take Ilithyia with him. Crassus doesn't know them. They would be damaged goods no matter how you sliced it. Could she come back in a flashback? Absolutely possible, but no plans at the moment.
Since the deaths are so graphic usually, do you think that's why fans are confused about whether or not Lucretia and Ilithyia are truly dead since we didn't see the usual gore? Did you decide to do their death scenes differently?
DeKnight: It was all a matter of degrees. We felt that seeing the knife slicing into Ilithyia was a bit too much of a horror show for what we wanted to convey between the two. We thought that leaving that to the audience's imagination was better. And Lucretia going over the cliff, we did have a brief discussion: "Do we show her splatting [on the rocks] as we did with Gnaeus?" No, we wanted a beautiful, operatic send-off, not something that would be gory. And with Ilithyia... that's the one death I wish I could have foreseen the confusion. I would have gone back and made that final moment with her a little bit bloodier. But with those deaths we wanted it to be beautiful and dreamlike.
On the flip side, you outdid youself with Sedullus's "face-off" death this season when it came to gore.
DeKnight: With Sedullus, in the script we just said his head gets cut off. But as we were talking about it, the visual effects and stunt departments came up with cutting his face off, which turned out to be just brilliant. It's one of those moments that people talk about all season. "I can't believe they cut that guy's face off!" It also really worked for that moment, because that's when Spartacus stops trying to make everybody happy and lays down the law and says, "You will do it my way or I will murder you." Nothing says that better than cutting off the face of a 7-foot-tall giant.
Back to Lucretia. She was so good at scheming previously, but this season she wasn't. Why didn't she kill Ashur sooner?
DeKnight: If she were the domina of the house, she would have been able to work something out. But Ashur at this point is a made man, he is vital to Glaber. When he turns the tables on her, he has become a man that Glaber needs. For her to make any move on him is ridiculously dangerous and can go horribly awry. There's no easy way for her to kill Ashur and not have it turn back to her; if she goes down to his cell, there's guards outside the cell, she's seen inside the cell and he ends up dead, the finger only points one way. And you'll see that 99 percent of those scenes are in Ashur's cell by design.
What was going through in Ashur's head when he headed up the mountain to his death?
DeKnight: He was hopeful that he could talk his way out of it, so that's why he does the thing at the end, "I'll deliver your message" and tries to get out of there. He knew he was f---ed but there was a hope that perhaps he could use the offer from Glaber to at least get him out of this one.
Is that also the reason why he didn't try to kill Naevia immediately in the fight?
DeKnight: Yes, the moment he kills Naevia, he's going to get it. It's best not to do it quickly. Also, if Ashur has a chance to emotionally torture you, he will. He cannot help himself. The emotional torture here is — he didn't give a s--- about Naevia — his emotional torture was directed towards Crixus in this final fight, to have Crixus watch the woman that he loves get dismantled. He knows how much that pains a man that he hates.
Do you ever regret killing a character on the show and not being able to tell their story in the future?
DeKnight: I feel like when I do kill a character off, it serves a specific purpose: either that character has run its course or that character needed to die to propel the hero to further his direction. That said, there are plenty of actors that I really miss and plenty of character traits that I miss. A good example is John Hannah from Season 1. His portrayal of Batiatus really brought something fantastic to the show but for the story to continue, Spartacus needed to kill him for that season to have its closure.
How did the Agron and Nasir relationship come about? Will you continue it in Season 3?
DeKnight: You'll definitely see them in the new season. Because there was so much going on this season, you only got a hint of their relationship, which ultimately worked out to my favor. They had such great, charming onscreen chemistry. They were just adorable together. Agron, who's just a big "I want to kill everyone in my path" [person] suddenly becomes a puppy dog around Nasir. It gave us a chance to do something we hadn't had an opportunity to do with our same-sex couples in the past and actually show the relationsip from the beginning and develop it slowly. We did have many discussions early on about a same-sex couple. Should we do something different and make it two women? But Rob Tapert and I, in a stunning male turnaround, both of us felt like it was kind of easy and pandering. I'm not opposed to showing a same-sex relationship between two women, that is something we may explore in the next season. But it seemed like in this time in our society, it was an easy way out. We didn't want to take the easy way out.
How did it come about that you decided Agron and Nasir would swap clothes?
DeKnight: I wish I could take credit for that brilliant idea. That was something actually thrown out by the wardrobe department for that episode, and I thought it was a great addition... the thing I loved about that is we never call attention to it because it's not actually in the script. It just happens, and the audience picks up on it, which is great.
Continue reading below for information on Season 3:
Where are we going in Season 3?
DeKnight: Next season we'll actually jump forward about six months, so we're deep into the war. Spartacus' army actually has grown to what it is in history. It's thousands of runaway slaves that have joined the cause. Crassus will be brought in to try and quell the rebellion and he will enlist Julius Caesar to help him. This is a young Julius Caesar, around 27. I've already been pelted by messages on the Internet. "You're ruining history! Julius Caesar had nothing to do with the Spartacus War." This is an odd period in Julius Caesar's history, this time period there's not a lot known about him except that he's a military tribune in Rome. All the accounts I've read so far say that he most likely was part of this army sent after Spartacus, especially since he does have a relatioship with Crassus. It's often a tumultuous relationship, but they do know each other. And as we know from history, Crassus, Caesar and Pompey overthrow the Republic later on.
How are you going to form the relationship between Crassus and Caesar?
DeKnight: That's a very interesting dynamic. Why would Crassus want Caesar? Crassus has the money, but he doesn't have that storied family name. He's not descended from a god as Caesar's ancestry traces back to. Caesar, on the other hand, has the Julian name, that upper-class desirable family name, but he has no money. At the time, he's living in what's considered a lower-class, working-class almost slum area of Rome... Together they think they can actually do something great. Historically, Crassus did fund Caesar and help him out quite a bit financially. They didn't always see eye-to-eye. They had a rocky relationship. They weren't tight brothers, so I definitely want to play with that too.
How much do you use historical accounts of people to influence the personality of the characters?
DeKnight: Quite a bit. When we get to Crassus and Caesar, there's quite a bit of material written on them, their relationships, their character. I'm interested in things suggested by history or can be extrapolated or created to give extra dimension to the character. Caesar was perhaps the most well-documented man in ancient Rome. There's been so much written about him... Caesar was famous for speaking about himself in the third person, which I'm curious about investigating.
What female characters are we going to see going into Season 3?
DeKnight: We're also bringing in three new female characters which I can't talk about. And of course we will still be following and developing the Naevia story and will be bringing Saxa, the German warrior woman, up to a more prominent part.
Can you discuss the new male characters in Season 3?
DeKnight: The main ones are of course Crassus and Caesar, and we have several others that will be popping up. I can't give details because it will ruin what's going to happen. I can throw out one on the Roman side. We will see Crassus' son Publius. He'll be part of the story line. Historically, Publius was actually Crassus' stepson. Crassus' brother, also named Publius, died, and then Crassus married his brother's wife, which was very common at the time. Not a love thing, but it was to keep the money and holdings in the family. For our story it became incredibly convoluted and difficult to explain the backstory without going into a two-page exposition piece. So we've simplified that it is Crassus' son Publius.
Spartacus seems to be driven by loss and revenge, but Crixus is driven by love. Will Spartacus and Crixus be clashing in the next season?
DeKnight: Historically, the rebels were constantly clashing and breeaking apart. One of the things we wanted to explore is why this happens... Crixus is very much driven by love, and Spartacus with his loss and at the end of Vengeance actually gained some bit of closure. He's now killed Batiatus and Glaber — the two men he thinks are most responsible for his wife's death. Moving into the next season the question is, "What drives him now?" But the question does rise, "How do you define victory? When is it enough?" This will be a question that will haunt Spartacus throughout the season... "When is war over? Is it ever over?"
Now that Spartacus has had his vengeance, will fans view him as a less heroic figure now that the lines have been blurred?
DeKnight: Historically people have a very romanticized vision of Spartacus and his rebels escaping and fighting for freedom. Whereas in reality, if you've read history — and of course the history was written by the Romans — they escaped and raped and pillaged and robbed their way through Italy, through the Republic, very brutally exacting their revenge. This brutality is something we didn't want to shy away from. This idea of war crimes and "How do you not become the enemy you're fighting?" It does get dirty and it does get very grey next season. Spartacus is our moral center trying to hold things together but he also completely understands why you would want to make the Romans suffer even more than you suffered. So it is a very dirty season. Everyone morally and ethically gets a little muddied next season.
What can you say about Gannicus having a love interest in Saxa next season?
DeKnight: It's possible. We're talking about it. I don't want to give too much away. They seem like a good match, but you never know with Gannicus. Gannicus will often not go in the direction that you expect him to. It's something we might explore. We're still in the early stages of locking that one down, but it might be interesting. I think she's definitely interested [in him].
What's the scope for Season 3?
DeKnight: Shockingly, even bigger. It will literally be entirely new locations and sets. The war will take us all over the Republic. It takes us from the Alps, to Campania, down to the boot of Italy right across from Sicilia. So we will be all over the map with some fantastic locations — of course all shot inside.
What can we expect in first episode of Season 3?
DeKnight: I can tell you the major difference starting out on this next season is that in each of the previous seasons, the heroes have taken it on the chin. They've started off in a bad place and had to work their way out of it. This season is a little different. We come upon the rebels and they've been doing very, very well, and Rome is now worried that this tiny little rebellion of slaves has been growing into something that's a major threat to the Republic. The switch-up here is that the Romans who are in trouble going into next season, and it's Spartacus who's on a very good run.
What's the subtitle to the next season?
DeKnight: We are still discussing that. Doing each season with a subtitle is my best/worst idea. It's tough. The only time it was easy was Season 1 where I was at a meeting and I just threw out, "Each season should be different, like Blood and Sand. " Everybody was like, "That sounds good." And it stuck. There was no further discussion. But from that point on, Gods of the Arena was a nightmare to pick, Vengeance we went around and around for months. We're zeroing in on something that I think we all like, but we're still talking about it.
Are you sad that Lucretia and Ilithyia are truly dead? What are you looking forward to next season?