[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the first season of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," as well as a major spoiler for the second season. If you don't want to know, stop reading.]
 
When last viewers saw Lucy Lawless' Lucretia, the scheming character appeared to be in a mighty bad place, seemingly mortally wounded by Crixus, her gladiator lover, in the season's climactic ludus rebellion.
 
Many an observer assumed that the frequently naked "Xena" star was simply on her way out of the popular Starz drama, a reasonable assumption since both Lawless and John Hannah were only on one-season contracts.
 
Not so fast, "Spartacus" series creator Steve S. DeKnight told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour.
 
"I was thinking she was still twitching at the end of Season 1, if you look," DeKnight said coyly.
 
He continued, "[T]he original plan with Lucy and that character was
to kill her at the end of the season. Basically we had John Hannah and Lucy Lawless for only one season. That’s what we could get them for. Towards the end of Season 1 Lucy was having such a great time, and we all loved her so much, there was interest in bringing her back. And I got a call from Rob Tapert saying, 'Starz called, and they’d really like Lucy to come back, and
you know, Lucy really wants to come back' and I said, 'Absolutely not. She’s got to die. That’s the way the story goes.' And then the next day I called him up and said, 'Rob, I got an idea.' And we’re thrilled to have -- Lucy will be back in Season 2. And where the story goes with her is really something special. I’m very excited about that."
 
We have no idea what that means, but we're curious.
 
In the short term, viewers don't need to worry about the fate of either Hannah's Batiatus or Lawless' Lucretia, because "Spartacus" will return with a six-hour prequel series, "Gods of the Arena" featuring both characters prominently. The shortened prequel season was necessary because star Andy Whitfield's cancer diagnosis and treatment forced a delay on an official second season.
 
"[T]he germ of the idea was there. I was planning Episode 5 of Season 2 to
do a flashback episode where you saw some stuff with Batiatus. Because we all love John Hannah, and John Hannah expressed an interest in coming back and doing a little something," DeKnight explained. "So it was just a one episode, part of the episode was a flashback. Once we found out what was
going on with Andy and we stopped production on Season 2, I thought, well, maybe how about I blow that up to a two-hour show and we air it in January while Andy’s recovering, and we’re getting to shooting Season 2. But two hours, nobody really wanted to do two hours so it died. And then my fantastic producing partner, Rob Tapert...  said, 'What about four hours?' And I said, 'I can’t do anything with four hours. I don’t have enough space to really develop a story, but it’s too long to feel nice and punchy.' So it died again. And then the wonderful people at Starz came to us and said, 'What about six hours?' And it was... you know, the bed was just right. And that’s really how it came to pass. And we’re thrilled to be able to go back and tell a lot of the things that you hear about in Season 1. Little one-liners like when Peter Mensah mentions his wife in one line, now we built an entire story around that. That’s been great. It was an unfortunate circumstance, but I think we’ve really made the most of it."
 
"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" is expected to premiere in January 2011. 
 
The good news is that Whitfield's treatments have gone well.
 
"Andy looks better than I have ever seen in my entire life," DeKnight cracked. "He looks fantastic. He’s in great spirits. He’s recovered, he’s training. He’s actually talking about bulking up bigger this year."
 
The current plan is for the "Spartacus" production to take only a brief break after completing the prequel, starting on Season 2 in November.