Haircuts, branding and quartering – oh my! Spartacus removes the titular character as we focus on how the Romans celebrate victory in a unique episode that seems designed to realign our sympathies with the rebels (despite the horrors they inflicted on their Roman prisoners). ‘Spoils Of War’ ups the ante as Crassus (Simon Merrells) takes possession of the city of Sinuessa and orders a pretty despicable celebration in honour of man of the hour, Caesar (Todd Lasance).
Too bad the future victim of Brutus is too peeved to truly enjoy it – what with assassinations attempts and annoyance that the rebel king hasn’t been caught serving as distractions. Naturally he deals with these set-backs the only way a grown man can: he cuts off his long blonde locks. Makes sense to me!
Let’s bitch it out…
This episode is a very interesting deviation from what we’re accustomed to on the show. Initially everything seems like business as usual: epic battle for the city ends with Gannicus (Dustin Clare) martyring himself as a distraction while the others beat a hasty-ish retreat up the mountain pass. Cue action, reversals of fate and slow-mo blood splatter. It’s par for the course, right?
So when Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) rolls under the descending bridge, it’s shocking that this is the last time we see him until episode’s end (give or take 45 minutes later). Instead of sticking with the rebels, we stay inside the city walls for the ‘all Roman, all the time’ network as they get to work clearing the city of rebels. Once the city has been retaken, it’s pretty amazing how quickly the Romans make themselves comfortable; in just a few scenes everything looks as nice as Crassus’ palace from the season premiere.
But ‘Spoils Of War’ isn’t about setting up camp. It’s about how you celebrate your victories. Nearly immediately we’re reminded that the slaves learned their celebratory tactics from their masters in some pretty gruesome displays. Crassus taps petulant son Tiberius (Christian Antidormi) to organize a celebration in honour of Caesar in which men are quartered, have their heads bashed in and are ultimately slaughtered for “the glory of Rome.” It’s amazing: in just a single episode all of my sympathy for the Roman prisoners and their treatment by the slave army is washed away.Both of these groups do terrible things, but – as Laeta (Anna Hutchinson) tells Crassus when he interviews her about Spartacus – at least the Rebel King truly believes that what’s he’s doing is for good.
Crassus, on the other hand, is clearly out for himself and the city is an attractive opportunity. Yes Crassus has an awesome plan to kill off Sparty et al. up on the Northern pass, but he’s just as similarly interested in turning a profit from the port. It’s greedy and cheap, but he didn’t become the richest man in Rome by passing up these kinds of opportunities. Of course there’s greedy, and then there’s full-on a-hole which is where he ends up after when he sells Laeta to Heracleo (Vince Colosimo) as part of the pay-off for turning against Spartacus. This just in: Heracleo is not dead (until he is killed, that is).
At the end of the day ‘Spoils Of War’ is a light episode. Narratively it’s a solid episode that confirms the strength of our investment in these characters, even as it establishes that Caesar and Crassus do not see eye to eye when it comes to battle. The dissension between the two of them will lead to more serious issues, but for an episode without its title character, ‘Spoils Of War’ proves surprising sturdy.
- It’s nice to see Dustin Clare get so much face time. The writers have clearly been building up to the character taking on more leadership within the group. Although sacrificing himself to distract Crassus’ giant Roman army isn’t quite on track, it’s progress. Clare does an excellent job anchoring the episode in McIntyre’s absence…so much so that I would sign up for the continued adventures of Gannicus if it were offered (hint hint)
- At this point it’s like a race to the bottom for bragging rights for “Most Abused Character” between Laeta and Kore (Jenna Lind). I think Laeta still has a strong lead, but the powerlessness imposed on Kore by Tiberius following last week’s rapey-rapey (and the threat of more to come!) is certainly enabling her to catch-up. Ah Spartacus, where the only thing worse than being a slave is being a woman
- It’s clear that Tiberius is not long for this world. The idiot child will ultimately be done in by 1) his father discovering what Tiberius has done to Kore or 2) his failed coup on Caesar. Memo to privileged schemer: if you release a gladiator’s chains in the hopes that he kills your enemy, make damn sure that your man wins. Because now Tiberius, you in danger gurl
- For a show that features so much freaking death, it’s a little convenient that this episode features two main characters – Caesar and Laeta – getting serious, but obviously non-life threatening abdomen injuries. Is everyone going to get pity-me surface wounds until the show is ready to kill them?
- Finally, can I get a big old cup of boo-urns for Sibyl? I like actress Gwendoline Taylor, but I do not care whether or not she gets to take a spin on the SS Gannicus or not. The reveal that she is still in the sacked city is so groan-worthy because of course she is (and of course she needs rescuing). Does anyone really give two sh*ts if she lives or dies or this love triangle thing happens? ‘Cause I sure don’t
- Tiberius (to Crassus): “Kore served greater comfort than you will ever know.”
- Crassus: “It is for history to decide who is mistaken.”
- Caesar: “Oh, and Tiberius? Oysters” Gloating on his victory over Tiberius
- Crassus (justifying his decision to claim Sinuesa): “Greed is but a word that jealous men pass on the ambitious.”
We’re now only four episodes away from the finale. Who are you hoping kills Tiberius – Crassus or Caesar? Do you care about Sibyl? What’s your take on the impossible situation facing Sparty and co. now that the pass is impossible to travel? And are you glad that Laeta is now part of Sparty’s camp so that she and he can bone? Comment away below
Spartacus: War Of The Damned airs Fridays at 9pm EST on STARZ