Spartacus: Vengeance Post Mortem: The Story Behind The Finale's Unprecedented [Spoiler]

Spartacus: Vengeance FinaleWARNING: If you have yet to watch the Spartacus: Vengeance finale tonight, run don’t walk to the nearest exit. We’re serious, folks. The following Q&A with executive producer Steven S. DeKnight contains massive spoilers. Trust us on this one. Everyone else, you may proceed…

Oh my Gods.

Spartacus: Vengeance wrapped its 10-episode season Friday with a breathtakingly action-packed and staggeringly lethal episode. When the sand dust settled, at least six major characters — including Lucy Lawless’ Lucretia! — were left for dead. Even in this day and age, where casualty-prone shows like The Walking Dead, True Blood and Game of Thrones are de rigueur, the body count was astonishing.

“One of the things that I love about working with Starz versus a normal network is we never would’ve been able to kill off so many major, important characters on a normal network — whether the story required it or not,” enthuses Sparty‘s boss, Steven S. DeKnight. “They may have let me kill off one. But I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have let me kill off six.”

Aside from Lawless’ Lucretia, the list of the dearly departed includes Nick Tarabay’s Ashur, Craig Parker’s Glaber, Katrina Law’s Mira, Peter Mensah’s Oenomaus and, despite a somewhat ambiguous “death” scene, Viva Bianca’s Ilithyia.

Below, DeKnight defends the high death toll, reveals which fallen character(s) he briefly considered resurrecting, and offers TVLine a preview of Season 3.

TVLINE | How long have you known that Lucretia wouldn’t make it out of the season alive?
That was actually a decision I made when we decided to bring her back at the end of Season 1. [Starz] approached me about possibly bringing Lucy back for [Vengeance] and I was adamant that she had to [remain dead] along with [John Hannah’s] Batiatus, and everybody said, “OK. We respect that.” And then the next morning in the shower I had the idea of bringing her back as “Mad Ophelia” and letting the audience believe that she had recovered her sanity through this season. But then you get to the end and you realize, ‘Oh, no. She was, in fact, crazy the whole time.’ And I always had the idea of her revealing that it was all about the baby, which a lot of fans already picked up on. I think they thought she was going to take the baby and run away with it, which in our world she does, except she’s taking it to the afterlife for her dead husband so they can finally have the family they always wanted.

TVLINE | Was there any internal debate about it? Lucy is such a huge part of the show. It’s a risky move.
Oddly, there was no debate about taking the baby going over the cliff. There was debate about taking Lucy going over the cliff. At the 11th hour, after we had already shot it, we had some discussion about [possibly] bringing Lucy back next season. But [fellow exec producer and real-life husband of Lawless] Rob Tapert and I both looked at the the story and where we were going and felt very strongly that [although] we loved Lucy and we loved the character, [Lucretia had run her course. And [she] really didn’t fit in with Crassus going after Spartacus [in Season 3]. There was really no way to put her into that Roman camp. And we had a brief discussion about what if she ended up in the rebel camp? But my very strong feeling was that, story-wise, it wouldn’t work because Crixus or Naevia would try to kill her. So it was with much trepidation that we decided that it was best for the story that we wrap that up her character. It also felt like because Ilithyia was so intimately tied to Lucretia that both their storylines should end together.

TVLINE | Wait… Ilithyia died too?
Oh, yeah. She’s dead. She is dead.

TVLINE | That was not made clear.
[That’s] one thing I regret. If I could go back I would’ve possibly re-shot [her death scene], just so it was clear that she did, in fact, die. We had a couple of different cuts of it where we were tying her death directly, visually into Glaber’s death, which I think was a little clearer. Upon seeing the final product, I’m going to have to explain to people that no, she’s not passed out; she’s dead.

TVLINE | You killed off both of your vixens!
And we had the same conversation about bringing Ilithyia back and she just plain didn’t fit into the story moving forward. She couldn’t be in the rebel camp. She had no place in the Roman side with Crassus and Caesar chasing Spartacus around the country. So, again, it felt like her character had run her course and should be wrapped up with Lucretia.

TVLINE | Sounds like you’re hitting the reset button in Season 3.
It seems like every season we make it a different show. And it’s part and parcel with the history that we’re following. This season was really a transition period between Blood and Sand and what’s coming next. In Vengenace, we found an artfully creative and historically plausible reason why we could reuse Batiatus’ Ludus as Glabor’s staging ground to go after Spartacus, and that way we could also reuse the city of Capua. So we had those holdovers from Blood and Sand and Gods of the Arena. But moving forward, we move away from that area, so there is no more Ludus, there is no more Capua. It is very much Crassus along with the aid of Caesar going after Spartacus and following some of those events that happened in history. So it’s much bigger than this year was. The scope of it, again, multiplies many times as Crassus battles Spartacus across the country.

TVLINE | What are some of the new characters you’re planning to introduce to fill the void left by all of these departures?
Crassus [played by Luke Pegler] is the main one. And a young Julius Caesar will be joining Crassus’ campaign. Crassus has a son that will also be on the campaign with them. There will be a couple of Romans who will pop up. There will be three new female characters that will be coming around. And one or two other people from history will make an appearance, but I can’t really say who. And one of the reasons for the high body count at the end of this season was… we needed to make a little room to bring new characters in. We couldn’t carry everybody.

TVLINE | Those actresses coming in have some big shoes to fill. 
They are going to be completely different types of characters. I’m not going to try to reproduce what Viva and Lucy were. There was a lot of concern going into this season about losing John Hannah and [we debated whether to] try to recreate another John Hannah-esque character on the show, and my feeling was if we even attempt to do that the audience would know what we were doing and would probably not have a good reaction to it. Here is Battiatus-lite! And I feel the same way about Lucretia and Ilithyia. These new female characters will be completely different and won’t have that same dynamic. But hopefully they will be engaging.