Do you ever sit around and ponder who would win if a Samurai battled a Viking? What about how an armored knight would fare against a pirate wielding a gun? Ever see a Morningstar hanging on a wall and wonder what would happen to the unlucky soul that was on the receiving end of the cruel spiked ball? Spike's series, Deadliest Warrior, attempts to answer these questions through weapons demonstrations, expert analysis, and computer simulations.
Each Deadliest Warrior episode poses a hypothetical death match between two fierce warriors from the pages of history books and newspapers. The hosts, Max Geiger, Geoff Desmoulin, and Dr. Armand Dorian, bring in experts who specialize in the featured warriors' fighting tactics and weaponry. The experts demonstrate a set of weapons on targets such as pig carcasses and fake, ballistic gel human torsos. The hosts measure factors such as weapon speed, impact and analyze the destruction wrought upon the target. After matching up each warrior's short-range, mid-range, long-range, and special weapons, the observations are put into a computer simulation that conducts a thousand battles. The show displays the results in a cool ending sequence that dramatizes the hypothetical battle.
Here is the Deadliest Warrior: Season One's fight card:
Episode 1: Gladiator vs. Apache--an enslaved Roman death machine takes on the Native American masters of stealth. The Gladiators demonstrate the cestus, scissors, trident and net combo, sling, and the sica. The Apache use a tomahawk, knife, bow and arrow, and the war club.
Episode 2: Viking vs. Samurai--the large, strong, and notorious Vikings are pitted against the legendary Japanese Samurai who survive on skill, intensity, and reflex. The Vikings use the great axe, long sword, spear, and shield while the Samurai show off the katana, naginata, yumi, and kanabo.
Episode 3: Spartan vs. Ninja--the storied, armored, Spartan warriors go up against the infamous, Japanese assassins. The Spartan packs a short sword, spear, javelin, and shield. The Ninja carries the ninjato, black egg, shuriken, blowgun, and kusarigama.
Episode 4: Pirate vs. Knight--a battle between two natural foes. The Knights were noble champions of good while Pirates were slimy, low class criminals. This fight also attempts to answer whether an old fashioned firearm could penetrate a knight's thick armor. The Knights wield a broadsword, halberd, crossbow, and morningstar. The Pirates have a cutlass, boarding axe, blunderbuss, flintlock pistol, and grenado.
Episode 5: Yakuza vs. Mafia--two of the most feared crime syndicates square off. The Yakuza spawned in the aftermath of a World War II devastated Japan. The Mafia is the famed Italian crime syndicate from 1920's Prohibition era New York. The Yakuza demonstrate nunchaku, Walther P38, sten, sai, and ceramic grenade. The Mafia featured a baseball bat, sawed-off shotgun, tommy gun, ice pick, and Molotov cocktail.
Episode 6: Green Berets vs. Spetsnaz--these Cold War enemies finally meet on the battlefield. The Green Berets wield a Beretta pistol, Mossberg shotgun, M4A1 carbine, M24 rifle, E-Tool, and M67 grenade. The Spetsnaz carry the Makarov pistol, Saiga shotgun, AK74 carbine, Dragunov rifle, ballistic knife, and RGD-5 grenade.
Episode 7: Shaolin Monk vs. Maori Warrior--the Shaolin Monks are highly trained, weapons and martial arts masters, but can they defeat the larger savage Maori Warriors? The Shaolin Monks display the emei piercers, staff, twin hooks, and the whip chain. The Maori Warrior counters with the mere, taiaha, stingray spear, and shark tooth club.
Episode 8: William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu--in the only battle to feature two specific historical figures, Scottish rebel leader, William Wallace, squares off against famed Zulu chieftain, Shaka Zulu. William Wallace brings a war hammer, claymore, ball and chain, and targe and dirk. Shaka Zulu uses the Zulu axe, iklwa, iwisa, and the spit of poison.
Episode 9: Taliban vs. IRA--the final battle pits two modern terrorist groups against one another. The Taliban show off the bayonet, RPG-7 rocket launcher, AK-47 rifle, and PMN mine. The IRA exhibits the slingshot, LPO-50 flamethrower, Ar-15 ArmaLite, and the nail bomb.
The results of each episode are calculated by a mysterious computer simulation program developed by Slitherine Studios. Max Geiger, proclaimed computer genius, observes the weapons and skills demonstrations. He then disappears into his wizard's castle and, after conducting a bit of sorcery on the simulation program, he later emerges with the results of a thousand battles. I was surprised with some of the computer results and wanted more information on how the simulator functions. For example, how does a Spartan destroy a Ninja? Why and how does the simulator calculate this outcome? Watching the show as aired on television, viewers are left to scratching their heads and sending hate mail to Spike. Thankfully, the extras contained on the DVD set include featurettes that spend a little more time demystifying the simulation results for each episode.
The results of the computer simulated battles are presented as the show's final decision about which warrior would ultimately win the battle. This is Deadliest Warrior's greatest weakness and the analysis should be tweaked to include more human insight and tactics. Computers do not simulate common sense. Who believes, for example, that a Ninja would ever attempt to stand toe-to-toe with an armored Spartan? To go along with the computer simulation, the hosts of the show should vote on which warrior would win the fight. If not the hosts, then maybe they should bring in a panel of judges to observe and then make a choice along with the computer. Perhaps even the viewers should have a vote that gets factored into the result.
While the results are always intriguing and seem destined to incite some portion of the audience, they are not the main draw of Deadliest Warrior. What keeps viewers hooked is simply the chance to witness the massive damage that these fabled weapons can inflict on human-like targets. Most of the weapons are used against targets such as skulls with fake blood and brain matter, fake gel-encased torsos, pig carcasses, and mannequins. The weapons demonstrations are frighteningly real. The guests wielding these weapons are all highly trained in their use. Watching some of these masters display their art is truly amazing.
Some of the weapons demonstrations are so impressive, they could come straight out of a Hollywood action film. A Samurai expert demonstrates the yumi--a longbow--and precisely calls his shots from 30 feet away. A Scottish warrior expert lops off three fake heads with one swipe of a Claymore. A Shaolin Monk expert combines the twin hook swords and swings them like a whip, gutting a fake torso. These are just a few of the weapons highlights in Deadliest Warrior: Season One. With very few exceptions, most of the demonstrations are as impressive as they are terrifying.
Sound: This DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and it does the job adequately. The original airing of the Deadliest Warrior had no surround effects that I can recall. Most of the show consists of weapons demonstrations and discussions and, in this area, the sound quality is sufficient.
Video: The video is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The video is average for a DVD. The video quality is not very sharp; compression artifacts are present throughout and the edges are not crisp. Having originally watched this series on Spike HD, it was disappointing to see the lower video quality on this DVD release.
Extras: Each Deadliest Warrior episode includes a 10-12 minute featurettes entitled, "The Aftermath," that originally appeared on Spike's website. Each episode wrap-up is a roundtable discussion between host Keiron Elliott, Max Geiger, and some of the experts involved in the show. The discussion details the outcome and answers select questions sent in by viewers. These wrap-ups detail the battles and help clarify the sometimes questionable outcomes the Deadliest Warrior simulator calculates.
"The Aftermath" Season One Wrap-Up features some of the show's personalities discussing questions such as favorite matchups, best final fight sequence, most impressive weapon demonstrations, favorite weapons, how they became involved with the show, and some behind the scenes stories.
"The Aftermath" Producer's Roundtable has three of the producers discuss topics such as the genesis of the show, how they chose the warriors, their thoughts on the outcomes, the biggest surprises, the fact that the ending sequences are shot with both endings to avoid spoilers, and some changes coming for season two.
Final Thoughts: The controversial results of some episodes aside, the Deadliest Warrior is always fascinating to watch. The weapons demonstrations are amazing; watching a skull, filled with fake brains, get sliced in half by a naginato never gets old. The Deadliest Warrior is frightening, horrendous, amusing, and amazing all at the same time. The weapons are cool, but the thought of being an unlucky victim to any of them makes you shudder every time you see it in action. With the violent nature of this show, and kids' tendency to emulate what they see on television, I highly suggest waiting until the kids are fast asleep before placing this set in your DVD player. The Deadliest Warrior is one of my favorite new shows on TV. If you have any interest in fighting, weapons, martial arts, history or anything else that's cool, then you have to watch this DVD set. Highly Recommended.