A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this extremely violent swords-and-sandals series isn't appropriate for kids. There’s frequent nudity (including full-frontal male and female), explicit sex scenes, uncensored swearing, and lots of graphic violence. Heads roll, blood sprays, and the fight scenes shift to slow-mo at critical moments to give viewers an even "better" look at the gruesome action. The soap opera dramatics and political intrigues make for interesting storylines, but this is a grown-up guilty pleasure at best.
What's the story?
After deserting from the Roman army in a fruitless effort to defend his village, a warrior is sold into slavery and quickly becomes a gladiator champion. Renamed Spartacus (Andy Whitfield), he gains fame for his prowess with a sword while learning to navigate the treacherous waters of Roman society, where sex and wine flow freely, but deception and politics are always just beneath the surface. His manipulative new owner, Batiatus (John Hannah), and the master’s even more conniving wife, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), see Spartacus as a ticket to riches and status, while the gladiator has only one goal: to stay alive long enough to be reunited with his beloved wife, Sura (Erin Cummings).
Is it any good?
SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND is a 21st-century take on the classic gladiator tale, and the show's graphic sex and even more graphic combat scenes are probably closer to reality than the relatively tame films that popularized the genre decades ago. But historical accuracy isn't the goal -- this series is all soap opera with togas and swords. While Spartacus and his comrades battle for survival and glory, the Roman nobles fight just as viciously for the same prize, using words and deceit as their weapons.
The series owes a huge debt to 300, the hyper-violent retelling of the ancient battle of Thermopylae. That film set a new standard for its stylized battle sequences and slow-motion close-ups of swords meeting flesh and spurting blood; the frequent combat sequences here follow the same pattern. And then there’s the sex -- lots of sex, as explicit as anything on premium cable stations’ late-night schedules. This series definitely isn't for the young or the squeamish. But that doesn’t mean older viewers might not find the over-the-top drama and abundant skin a guilty pleasure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fight scenes. How does this compare to the gladiator classics from decades past, and the more recent depictions of the period? Do you think the graphic violence goes too far?
Do you think movie and TV violence has ramped up recently? If so, why? And what does this say about the shifting standards of taste in this culture?
For kids who love action
Our editors recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.