Talk about holding your breath! After anticipating Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) and Crixus (Manu Bennett) to part ways, the Roman army forces them to band together in a thrilling episode steeped with betrayals.
Let’s bitch it out…I find myself constantly in awe of how quickly things can change on Spartacus. Last week we thought that the rebel crew were on the road to splitsville, and now suddenly they’re united against a much more dangerous threat. It’s not too surprising that Spartacus’ best-laid plans don’t even have an opportunity to germinate before Crassus (Simon Merrells) one-ups him – we’ve long known that Crassus is a more than worthy adversary for Spartacus. It’s no surprise, then, that Crassus isn’t fooled by such simple distraction ploys. In the world of Spartacus leadership is synonymous with planning and plotting, not impulsive action (which is why we don’t take Crixus’ attempt to take control seriously – he will never be the leader that Spartacus is).
Our awareness of Crassus’ abilities don’t prepare us for the sight of a dozen ships on the horizon, or the boar’s head bursting through the front door, though (Side Note: eagle eyes may have noticed the ram being carved earlier in Crassus’ camp). And so, in the space of only a single episode, the upper hand shifts as the city is boxed in on both sides, leaving only a potential cliffside escape for our group of former slaves.
Caesar’s (Todd Lasance) decision to reveal his true allegiance is well handled, though I wonder how he knew to expect the sneak attack on board Heracleo’s (Vince Colosimo) boat? It seems mighty fortuitous that Caesar is at the docks so that he can lead the charge against the front gate.
All complaints aside, though, the battle scenes are exceedingly well done – there’s more than enough tension at both the docks and the door to sustain the tension throughout the final third of the episode. I won’t lie: I fully expected someone to die, especially when Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel) initiates Caesar in battle (me: “Agron, no! You’re definitely not a better swordsman than him!”). My concern mostly stems from how tragic it would be if Agron or Nasir (Pana Hema-Taylor) were killed without patching things up over their dumb lovers quarrel. And considering that this is Spartacus, it wouldn’t have been at all surprising for the show to go for that emotional jugular. So it is with a deep sigh that both survive to see the credits, although Agron is staring down both Caesar and an army at the gates (Side note: how great is Todd Lasance’s delivery of the final line “Now would be the time to run”?)
Although everyone’s lives are on the line, Gannicus (Dustin Clare) is the other character I was exceedingly worried about. I half-expected the former gladiator to fall because his life has come together so well in recent episodes: his relationship with Saxa (Ellen Hollman) is rock-solid and Spartacus has nearly convinced him to assume more leadership in the group, even confiding that he should take over if (when?) Spartacus is killed. With everything coming up Gannicus, this seems like an obvious time to take him out.
It’s a great relief that none of these expectations come to pass, though at this point it’s clearly just a matter of time. We will lose some (all?) of these characters and the angst we feel as an audience is symptomatic of just how damn effective Spartacus is at making us care. When one of them inevitably goes, it’s going to hurt.
And it’s coming…so prepare yourself.
- Poor Kore (Jenna Lind)! Last week I questioned if she was indirectly responsible for the emotional damage Crassus inflicts on Tiberius (Christian Antidormi), but she certainly doesn’t deserve to be raped! Is it naive of me to think we might get through a season of the series without someone putting on their rape-shoes? Narratively this stands in contrast to the romantic love-making we’ve seen between Kore and Crassus these last few weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see if these actions bring about Crassus’ downfall. At the very least I think it’ll put a strain on his relationship with his son (understatement of the year!)
- Tiberius’ statement that Kore has forgotten her role as a slave feels too obvious. The power dynamics between master and slave has been a focal point of the series since its inception, so this feels like an unnecessary reminder of “who has the power”. Or perhaps it’s merely meant to alter our perception of Tiberius to ensure we appreciate how deeply the decimation process has affected him. After scene after scene of him clutching that damn white stone, I would have appreciated a little more subtlety
- In some ways I think the show would have done better with a gruffer looking actor because Antidormi is too baby-faced to pull off the role as aggressor. Am I alone in this opinion?
- Although Crixus and Sparty bury the hatchet courtesy in a gesture that reflects the episode’s title (they clasp hands covered in Roman blood), we haven’t seen the end of their conflict -not by a long shot. Even without any knowledge of historical events, the residual animosity between Gannicus and Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) is sure to reignite the flames of discord in the group…assuming everyone survives the upcoming battle
- Finally, did anyone wonder if Crassus would kill Laeta (Anna Hutchinson)? It wasn’t long ago that we saw Caesar dispatch a survivor from the city simply because they escaped. Plus we know from last week’s episode that Crassus is an even more strict leader. Better watch your back, Laeta – getting away from Spartacus & co. doesn’t mean you’re safe!
Just like that we’re more than halfway through the final season (yikes!). With time running out, who do you think will be the first rebel to fall? How long before Spartacus and Crassus meet? With Tiberius survive his ill thought-out plan to make his father suffer by raping Kore? Hit the comments with your thoughts
Spartacus: War Of The Damned airs Fridays at 9pm EST on STARZ