Spartacus: War of the Damned may be the series' swan song, but first the characters will have a chance to sing a different tune — literally.
At the red carpet premiere for Spartacus, which kicks off Friday at 9/8c on Starz, executive producer Steven S. DeKnight promised that "My C--- Rages On," the fictional bawdy song popularized on the series, will be heard again. "We could not have a season without 'My C--- Rages On,'" he told TVGuide.com. "So listen for it. It'll pop up somewhere."
PHOTOS: Winter TV eye candy
The boisterously ridiculous song will be a welcome respite from what promises to be the most intense, gory and heartbreaking season of all. History dictates that things will not end well for Spartacus & Co. when craftier foes come in to replace the ones who died last season. "It's a brutal, brutal season," said DeKnight. "One of the things we wanted to explore is that gray area of morality. What do the Romans really do to bring Spartacus down? On the other side of it, what are the rebels willing to do? The rebels, within their camp, do horrible things historically. They basically raped and pillaged their way through the Republic. It was not a pretty sight. No one was safe. ... They do some pretty f---ed up things this season."
Here's a guide to the new players who will plague Spartacus and the rebels who rage on this season:
Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells) After the rebels' string of bloody victories swells their ranks with even more emancipated slaves, The Senate becomes desperate and turns to Crassus to fund their army. As the wealthiest man in Rome, Crassus owns many scholarly and accomplished slaves, which is why he doesn't underestimate Spartacus. "[Crassus] doesn't look at Spartacus for what he's been branded. He looks at Spartacus for what he's done," DeKnight explained. "And he sees that Spartacus is a brilliant tactician and a man of keen intellect when it comes to battle. He realizes that Spartacus will not be brought down with brute force; that to beat Spartacus, you have to play Spartacus' game better than he does."
Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance) Crassus brings in Caesar, whose lineage and military successes would help the Roman cause. "Crassus did not have the storied name that would propel him to the top of politics. And Caesar had the Julian name but had no money," said DeKnight. "Crassus paid off a bunch of his debts and helped fund him." But Lasance is a much younger and virile Caesar than we've seen portrayed previously. "He had to have a presence ... like he would be a threat to the other gladiators," DeKnight said. "He had to have this shrewd intelligence in his eyes — really like a shark that was constantly thinking and looking for his next move."
Celebs who are out and proud
Tiberius (Christian Antidormi) As Crassus' son, Tiberius feels like he should take his proper place by his father's side going into battle, if only Caesar weren't already there. "In Crassus' eyes, he sees Tiberius as a young, immature man who needs some learning and growing up to do," Antidormi said. "So Tiberius really has to put his best foot forward to prove himself worthy. There's that constant struggle there to prove to his father that he's ready."
Kore (Jenna Lind) As Crassus' trusted and beloved house slave, Kore has enjoyed a life of comfort, privilege and affection. "She plays a very, very large role in who Crassus is," DeKnight said. "He's not a monster, he is not a two-dimensional villain. He has feelings, and desires and he has a heart." Added Lind: "I think she honestly thinks in every act or everything he does that there ultimately some good in there, but will come to see how other slaves are treated, which she's never seen before. She's had no experience of this."
Laeta (Anna Hutchison) The wife of a Roman dignitary, Laeta gets caught in the conflict between Crassus and Spartacus. "With that character, I really wanted to explore a Roman who believes in the Republic, who believes that slavery isn't bad, that not all slaves are treated poorly," DeKnight said. "Her slaves are treated very well. [I wanted] to take that character and have her eyes opened to what it's really like to be a slave, to have that kind of oppression."
Sibyl (Gwendoline Taylor)
Through the efforts of the rebel general Gannicus, Sibyl has been freed from a life of slavery. "Gannicus is the answer to all of her prayers, basically," Taylor said. "She's been praying for a day like that, and then this savior sort of swoops in. At first it's hero worship, but it's quite consistent, and he realizes that it's total love and devotion to the end."
Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) The former slave has amassed quite a following and therefore Spartacus has had to become more of a leader. "He's a no-nonsense, kickass, take-names kind of guy now," McIntyre said. "He's aware of the world around him and the fact that it's not a pretty Disney World. It's not something with a Spielberg ending. And he has to take stock of: What does he want? What is it for? And what is he prepared to sacrifice to get it?"
Crixus (Manu Bennett) As one of Spartacus' opinionated generals, Crixus isn't too keen when his leader begins to show mercy towards the enemy. "[Spartacus] believes fundamentally in one thing: that everybody has the right to freedom and equality," Bennett said. "At that point, when we're in the middle of a war, not every general is going to approve of that strategy." Added McIntyre: "The two different people that Crixus and Spartacus are, that was sort of hinted on in the first season where they're in that training square and they have that chat before it all sort of kicks off, how they can never be friends. That sort of plays out in the stress and pressure of a war."
Spartacus star Liam McIntyre is engaged!
Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) After being rescued from the mines last season, Naevia is enjoying a renewed life with Crixus by her side in the bedroom as well as the battlefield. "The love is still strong," Addai-Robinson confirmed. "And now in War of the Damned, she's a full-fledged warrior. She's right at the front lines with the men, she fights side by side with Crixus. It's not about being a victim anymore ... and as this season progresses, there will be some insight into some of the things that she had to face while she was away in the mines. She suffered abuses and atrocities."
Gannicus (Dustin Clare) The former champion of Capua is yet another one of Spartacus' generals who spends much of his time off the battlefield drinking, wenching or questioning his leader. "Gannicus is something of [Spartacus'] moral compass," McIntyre said. "He's the only one that really tells Spartacus the truth. They have this very interesting relationship where two of the toughest men there are lean on each other in sort of imperceptible ways, manly ways." DeKnight added: "That relationship was so important to me and it really bookends the season. There is an important scene in Episode 1 between the two and there is a callback to that scene in the finale that is really, really important."
Saxa (Ellen Hollman) Although Gannicus will never forget his first love, he has found comfort in Saxa, who shares his appetite for debauchery. "Saxa and Gannicus are 71 B.C. rock stars, essentially," Hollman said. "They live life to the fullest. They crave battle, wine and women." And although the German lass roared onto the screen last season with her combative ways, wartime has changed her. "You're going to see more of a vulnerability in Saxa this season," Hollman said. "She's no longer a feisty kitty. She's more of a full-grown lioness and towards the end she's willing to let go of things that she was holding onto so strongly."
Agron (Dan Feuerriegel) The last of Spartacus' generals, Agron and his partner Nasir (Pana Hema-Taylor) have an even more intimate relationship than before, but they will be tested. "We throw a couple of curve balls at them," DeKnight said. "But theirs is one of the relationships that I think is really kind of a cornerstone of this season. There are a lot of relationships going on, and their's I think is particularly powerful, and gut-wrenching, and beautiful. They are a really good barometer as to what's going on inside the rebel camp."
Which characters are you excited to see again? Who do you think is Spartacus' most dangerous enemy?
Spartacus: War of the Damned airs Fridays at 9/8c on Starz.