This prequel to the Starz original series begins with the last scene from the first season, in which Spartacus slays his master, Batiatus (John Hannah). The camera zooms in on the dying man's eyes and then we go to a flashback, which explains how everything he did in his life led inexorably to his death. It's at least several years earlier and Batiatus and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) are running their gladiator training house in the absence of his father, who is ill of health and in a Southern city of Rome. However, he soon returns and causes some problems for his son, of whom he disapproves. We also see how Crixus (Manu Bennett of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) becomes a gladiator--and he's a very different person than the one we see in the first season. The main gladiator, the one who Batiatus wants to be his champion, is the headstrong Gannicus, who acts more like Conan the Barbarian than anyone else. It's also explained how the African, Oenomaus, became the trainer of the gladiators, the "Doctore". We're introduced to his wife, Melitta (Marisa Ramirez of MIRACLES). She and Gannicus develop feelings for one another after they are forced to have sex in front of the Masters' company and manage to keep it secret. However, it ends tragically as they get crossed in the scheming of Lucretia, who really is quite the evil bitch.
This season tries to out-do all the decadence from the first and I think it actually succeeds, with gruesome killings, betrayals, orgies and murders. GODS OF THE ARENA is an intense, brutal experience, though it does end on an up note for a few of the main characters.