The final season of the sex-and-blood-drenched Starz drama Spartacus returned to a slightly smaller arena of viewers.

The premiere episode of the “War of the Damned” cycle of the show debuted Friday night to 930,000 viewers, a tally that rose to 2.5 million by the end of the weekend. That’s a solid performance, though a tad softer overall vs. previous years. The premiere weekend for the franchise’s Gods of the Arena prequel in 2011 had 2.8 million viewers and last year’s Spartacus: Vengeance had 2.7 million. (You might see stories out there saying Spartacus came back to its “second-highest rating ever.” That’s from a Starz press release touting a subscriber-universe “GRP” rating that’s normally only used internally at cable networks and not in media reporting).

Normally ratings for a final season of a series don’t matter too much. But in this case, Starz is weighing a spinoff centered on the Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance), who is introduced next week on the show. You can bet executives will closely follow how Spartacus performs this season — and whether Caesar seizes some fans of his own online.

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