Spartacus:Vengeance - Episode Guide
Swords and Sandals...
As you may know - probably from watching Spartacus:Vengeance, the Starz network's hit series about Spartacus and the Gladiator Uprising - there were gladiators in ancient Rome and they uprose. This was an actual historical event, however you're not going to see it mentioned on The History Channel because there were no aliens involved. Thank your lucky Starz, then, for their dramatization of the uprising, albeit one that does not ever permit pesky historical details to get in the way of a good plot point or orgy.
The series has earned its producers a dumptruck full of money, not to mention the thanks of a grateful nation and an endless buffet of comely Austrailan actors and actresses who will do anything (wink, wink) to be cast in Season 3.
Clearly, here is a show that is crying out for a LabKitty-style episode guide.
Spartacus : Vengeance
Spartacus:Vengeance (henceforth S:V) picks up where season one left off, with Spartacus and the other Batiatus gladiators now roaming the countryside having escaped the ludus, attacking the odd band of mercenaries sent after them for fun and profit. They have chosen the local sewers as their base of operations, a rather odd decision given that they often return home with sundry slashes and gashes in need of repair. Apparently in olden days sepsis could be warned off with nothing but a stern look.
The big story here is New Spartacus, played by Liam McIntyre. Much has been written whether he does or does not fill Andy Whitfield's sandals (yes, we're contractually obligated to use the phrase "fills his sandals"). While loathe to get into a whole Joel/Mike thing here, we'll admit it took some effort to warm to McIntyre. In fact, the entire cast feels a little off their game, perhaps understandable when your show's leading man (and from all indications a genuinely nice guy) dies after the first season.
To Starz's credit, there are no machinations about why Spartacus suddenly looks different. No tender scene removing the bandages after a tragic arena incident. No subplot involving a face transplant so that he can infiltrate the Roman government. Nothing about aliens. It's just: bam! Here's the new Spartacus. Capisce? In fact, about the only way you know this guy is the new Spartacus is because his sleeping quarters is one of the nicer flocculation tanks. Not to mention he is inexplicably well-groomed for a renegade gladiator.
Anyhoo, S:V is all about the vengeance (heck, it's right there in the title), specifically Spartacus' vengeance on Claudius Glaber, the Roman praetor who sold him out and his wife in(to) slavery, and Crixus' vengeance on the gods for taking away his squeeze Naevia. We are full-to-bursting with snarky love for S:V, having waited ten frickin' months or whatever to watch it while you rascals were hogging all the Netflixes. As such, in a departure from our previous format, we will share our sordid thoughts episode-by-episode. Settle in, y'all, LabKitty is in the mood for love (and vengeance). Slippery, stabby, revolty love (but mostly vengeance).
If you would like to peruse a briefer, a more stolid, dare we say a more sober collection of episode recaps, feel free to click on over to the S:V Wikipedia page (assuming that's possible with that big ole stick up yer butt). Or stay, and enjoy the wild ride that is LabKitty. Grab your favorite jerebome of whatever and hold fast, you demented kitten. As they used to say: nunc scripsi totum pro Christo da mihi potum.
Which we assume is Latin for: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Episode I: "Fugitivus"
Takin' it to the Streets
After a stylish montage establishing backstory (ludus revolt), setting (Capua suburbs), and mood (vengeance-y), Crixus receives word that a slaver who may know the whereabouts of Naevia has been spotted in town. The man may well have been discovered in a coffee shop or at the library, but Starz being Starz he is of course holed-up in a brothel. Crixus and his men make ready their swords, force themselves upon the brothel, and there follows much sweaty grunting and stabbing. As our double-entendre generator is starting to overheat, we'll just skip ahead to the denouement. Crixus finds the slaver, presses him hard for information, and the man spills his guts.
Meanwhile, Claudius Glaber has returned to Capua with a garrison of men, tasked to bring Spartacus and his murderous band to justice. The lithe and sultry Ilithyia has come along for the ride (dammit! - does anyone know how to turn off the double entendre generator in Word? Anyone?). They choose to billet in Batiatus' (now deserted) ludus, because new sets are expensive, and there discover Lucretia wandering the place like MacBeth, her impromptu cesarean section from season one all better now. (They were a sturdy lot, those Roman women. No wonder they weren't allowed to vote, or own property, or choose a husband. But we digress.) Glaber elects to parade the shell-shocked Lucretia in front of the Capua masses to calm their fears of the gladiator uprising, as one might parade the sole survivor of a plane crash as proof of divine providence, overlooking the four-score other poor bastards who died a fiery death.
Glaber's town meeting draws Spartacus to the square like moth to flame, an angry anger moth to a flame of flaming vengeance. He casts off his Jedi disguise and springs from the crowd ready to dispense vengeance, but, alas, fails to penetrate Glaber's secret service detail. Crixus and the other beeftots beam in and and after a pitched battle they opt to retreat and regroup back at the sewer. There it is decided: Spartacus' lust for vengeance is a fool's errand that will only succeed in bringing the entire Roman army crashing down upon them. Instead, they will go south where Naevia is rumored to be and attempt to procure her freedom for Crixus.
Apparently vengeance is off the menu.
Or is it? (dun dun dunnnn)
Episode II: "A Place in This World"
Band on the Run
Things have indeed gone south, in every sense of the word, as Spartacus and his merry band darken the doorstep of some random Roman one-percenter, catching him in flagrante delicto abusing the help. He is treated to an amateur production of Last Villa on the Left, after which our guys free his slaves and take up residence, the neighbors probably wondering just what the sam scratch is going on over at the Stephens' place, what with the screaming and the clanging of swords and stacks of bodies piling up out back and the husky fellows bellowing Gallic drinking songs late into the night. Meh, it's probably nothing. Go back to sleep, Gladys.
Meanwhile back in Capua, Lucretia is milking her fame as the town nutjob, playing a sort of Michellicus Bachmanicus damaged goods cum revival tent barker. This succeeds in giving Ilithyia the heebie jeebies, what with the crazy eyes and the vague threats and the living room burnt offerings to the gods. Ilithyia decides a little burnt offering of her own might be the prudent if not merciful end of her increasingly-uncorked BFF. Crazy may play nice on TV where you can change the channel but, trust us, living with it is a different kettle of fish.
Opportunity presents itself during one of Lucretia's Thursday-night goat sacrifices, and Ilithyia has both proverbial and literal knife in hand when the moment is spoiled by Ashur, who barges in with a couple of henchmen and dumps a big pile of Oenomaus out on the floor (we forget to tell you the B-story of the episode gives us Oenomaus' origins; his rise from the pits and purchase by Batiatus' father (cf. S:GotA), placing him on a trajectory to become gladiator, doctore, and, eventually, a pile of mess on Ilithyia's living room rug. Although having watched Oenomaus dispatch a baker's dozen of Cupua pit fighters over the entire running time of the episode, one can only wonder how the likes of Ashur put the snatch on him.)
Elsewhere, the Romans have finally bothered to send a few cops out to the Stephens' villa (and Flava Flav thought 9-1-1 was a joke in his town) with predictable results. Our heroes figuring the arrival of reinforcements is only of a matter of time, what with having converted yet another crack Roman assault team into a skull pyramid, decide it is probably best to be moving on (just like Claude Akins!).
Once again they are on the road, pushing further south to hunt the wily and elusive Naevia.
Get the real story on Amazon - The Slave Revolt
Episode III: "A Greater Good"
Fell On Black Days
Naevia is dead.
Oh, of course she isn't really, but that's the tale passed to Crixus after our guys attack a caravan carrying a load of fresh workers for the Roman mines. A slaver wounded in the attack offers to tell Agron and Nasir the whereabouts of a woman matching Naevia's description in exchange for a pony and, you know, no further stabbyness. It turns out those whereabouts are the mines. In exchange for no pony and a great deal of stabbyness, Agron and Nasir decide to silence the slaver and tell Crixus he said Naevia is dead. Not because the mines are a fate worse than death, but because they know Crixus will demand they attempt to rescue Naevia from the mines if he hears she is there, whereas many as a dozen thugs watch over the workers hence risking capture and the chance to experience colorful Roman public execution. By keeping the truth from Crixus, they hope Spartacus will instead execute the alternate stratagem of attacking slave ships in the ports west of Vesuvius where, um, the entire fricken Roman army is billeted. No, it doesn't make any sense to us either, a theme we shall return to shortly.
If this were Hallmark or Lifetime, the Naevia ruse would play out over a couple of episodes, with Crixus resigned to spending his remaining days as an angry pouty bear, only perchance to catch a glimpse of Naevia across a crowded marketplace years later, each thinking the other long dead, upon which she falls into his arms and violins swell on the soundtrack and the viewers consume much chocolate and red wine (unless it was a Jane Austen story, in which case Naevia would be remarried to a French industrialist).
As it were, the Naevia ruse lasts for approximately 11 minutes of screen time, after which Nasir has a sudden change of heart and spills the beans. Crixus predictably wants to raid the mines. Spartacus stands by his man. This divides the remainder of the company according to sense and sensibilities, most of whom head off to Vesuvius to face down the entire fricken Roman army. This leaves a small band of loyalists to risk Moria with Crixus and Spartacus in hopes of rescuing Naevia.
The remainder of the episode plays out in a maze of twisty little passages all alike, the mine scenes intercalated with scenes of carnage from gladiator games in progress back in Capua, in much the same way Spielberg intercalated scenes of vicariously drunk Eliot freeing frogs in biology class after ET got into the PBR back at the house (we can use words like "intercalated" because we're trained academics). Meanwhile, back at the ludus, Ashur is putting the screws to Oenomaus who somehow tips him off to the mine raid, and before you can say pizza, pizza a gazillion Roman soldiers swarm the mines and capture Crixus and Spartacus.
Which is all well and good, except for one thing. There were no mines in ancient Rome, at least not the deep-shaft mines depicted in this episode. Roman "mining" was quarrying; anything else was impossible because nobody could figure out how to keep ground water from flooding the shafts. That problem would only be solved in the 19th century with the advent of the Sterling engine (we can use words like "advent" because we're trained academics). If you want to see historically-accurate mining, check out the episode of HBO's Rome where Vorenius goes to rescue his children from the operation.
Shame on you, Starz, for your wanton disregard of historical mining technologies. Rome got it right. Heck, the Flintstones got it right. Although, to be honest, the larger problem in this episode is that Ilithyia's increasing pregnancy is transmuting her from lithe and sultry to pear-shaped.
And with that, we are left to wonder, on tenter-hooks and with bated breath: what wildly-entertaining albeit historically-inaccurate death contraption will Spartacus face? We're crossing our fingers for the giant head-lawnmower from Caligula, although Starz being Starz it will probably be death by Snu-snu.
Episode IV: "Empty Hands"
Mea Culpa. It turns out we misinterpreted the end of "A Greater Good." Crixus was indeed captured but Spartacus was not. What can we say? We were distracted by historically-inaccurate mining practices. And to our credit, see how we're taking full responsibility for our mistake even though we could just go up there and change what we wrote? See? There's a name for people who go back and surreptitiously change stuff they previously published in order to cover up mistakes: George Lucas.
Still, we are keeping fingers crossed in re giant head-lawnmower.
One might describe "Empty Hands" as a bottle episode; entertainment lingo for an episode contained entirely within a single set, or in this case two sets. Our understanding is that the bottle episode is usually an attempt to keep production costs down, but unless extras work for cheeseburgers and gas money, that doesn't seem to be the case here. These look to be expensive bottles indeed.
The first bottle is the woods surrounding the mines where Spartacus, his squeeze Mira, Naevia, Nasir, and a few redshirts are attempting to hoof it to Vesuvius where they will join the rest of the gang who spilt in the last episode. Glaber's soldiers are hot on their trail, the two groups engaging in a running firefight that takes full cinematic advantage of recent industry advances in arterial spray simulation. Naevia mostly just cowers and weeps (hey, we don't like being in the woods either), but there is some nice girl-power kick-assery by Mira (played by the smoldering Katrina Law) who is proving herself quite the Queen of Blades. She may not have the upper body strength of a gladiator but, yikes, she'll crawl ya.
The second bottle is the House of Batiatus, at which Glaber has opted to throw a shindig, inviting all the Capua big-shots up to the place for figs and spiced wine and a big pile of shiny writhing naked slave girls. And you know what happens when an episode of Spartacus breaks out the shiny writhing naked slave girls: political intrigue. (Aside: are these extras from local strip clubs or are unknown actors really that game for anything that might get them some screen time? It is possible there is an industry that is more exploitative than academia?)
We had to consult the oracles (read: Wikipedia) to sort out who was doing what to whom, but primarily we have (a) Ilithyia attempting to bed Varinius, a visiting praetor whose star is rising faster than her husband's; (b) the young Seppia getting in between Ilithyia and Varinius, and looking much like a deer caught in the headlights. Seriously. It's like watching a turkey sliding down the gullet of a wood chipper, its dumb turkey face oblivious to the danger dead ahead. Someone ought to set that girl down with Gods of the Arena and show her what happens to scheming house guests of the Batiatus. Finally we have (c) Lucretia bedding Ilithyia's father, for reasons known only to the crazy cat lady.
Back in the forest, our company of heroes has been whittled down to the principals, the redshirts having met bad ends at the hands of both the pursuing soldiers and also Asher, who has somehow transmogrified into an invincible killing machine this season. Our guys get to within sight of Mt. Vesuvius, beckoning them in the distance with a promise of safety and mild climes (the whole drown-everyone-in-magma thing comes much later) when, alas, Glaber's soldiers finally outflank them. Spartacus, Mira, the mascara-impaired Naevia, and the now-unconscious Nasir steel themselves for the end. They will not be having their revenge in this life nor the next.
SIKE! It's just Agron and the guys, who have arrived to rescue them in the nick of time. What does the future hold for Spartacus and his crew, the scheming Capua politicos, and the noble Crixus, who we forgot to mention is now imprisoned back at the ludus?
Episode V: "Libertus"
The Boys are Back in Town
Holy cow. Spartacus is drama's biggest threat to fixed capital since Ellen Ripley (we'll just let that one stew for a bit while we turn to the B-story).
A nagging, we dare say pregnant (zing!) issue concerning Ilithyia's scheme to trade in her Glaber Crown Vic for the Varinius Mercedes is that not only is she already with-child, but quite visibly so (if memory serves, we used the descriptor "pear shaped'). Given the whole paterfamilias insanity that coursed through Roman society, it's unlikely Varinius is going to be thrilled his new wife comes equipped with a preinstalled heir (although IIRC, Augustus willed his empire to his wife's son from a previous marriage. Then again, that didn't work out so hot). Something's got to give for Ilithyia. Her choices are either (a) recreate the Scar/Simba dynamic from The Lion King later, or (b) a sooner stop at the apothecary for a dram of ergotamine or Tronya or whatever the Roman equivalent of RU486 was, assuming of course that the Republicans haven't taken back the Senate (hey, don't give us that look; we're just the messenger).
But things never get that far, which brings us to the A-story.
While recovering at Vesuvius, Spartacus discovers word on the street is that he and his men were all killed in the the mine attack. Recognizing the danger of bad PR, he hatches a scheme to boost their Nielsen ratings. They will return to Capua and infiltrate the coliseum during the big finale in which Crixus, Oenomaus, and that other guy are going to be executed (alas, no giant head-lawnmower) and something something embarrass the Romans. Of course this plan makes no sense whatsoever, but "Libertus" ain't a fancy book lernin' type of episode, it's a relax-and-enjoy-the-ride kind of episode. Perhaps the writers selected the title to celebrate liberation from dramatic requirements of plotting and motivation, or cause-and-effect, or basic laws of physics. The execution spectacle even features the inexplicable return of gladiator legend Gannicus, probably because they needed to work a brothel scene into the episode.
In the meantime, Glaber discovers Ithy's apothecaric treachery, at which point she spills the beans about the imminent demise of their marriage. Kudos to Craig Parker here, as he does a pretty great job playing Glaber as wounded husband - a suddenly sympathetic character being tossed aside by forces larger than himself. This is no small feat for the series' main villain (although let's not get carried away: no matter how bad things get for Glaber, he got to boink Viva Bianca).
Back in town, Spartacus and a small band have gained access to the coliseum via the sewers (man, these guys love them some sewers. They're like Roman CHUDs). He and Agron will disguise themselves as soldiers and penetrate the arena and the bad guys therein. The others will (wait for it) set fire to the place, which is making our puzzler twitch. Wasn't the coliseum built from stone? Wouldn't this be like confederate agents infiltrating D.C. to set fire to the Lincoln memorial? Meh, no matter.
In a more sedate production, the fire and smoke would merely serve to create chaos, giving Spartacus cover to free Crixus and the others as the panicked crowd makes for the vomitoria. Starz being Starz, the place quickly becomes an inferno, with entire sections of bleacher bums collapsing into the flames (symbolism!). This, too, gives Spartacus cover to free Crixus and the others, not to mention opportunity to nail Glaber with a spear as he and the other Capua elite enjoy the show from their box seats. Alas, gods protecting children, fools, and ships named Enterprise, Glaber ducks the spear and some other poor optimates bastard eats it (crikey, haven't these people seen Gladiator? You'd think they'd learn by now).
Unfortunately for Glaber, Spartacus has embarrassed Rome and once again eluded his grasp. Fortunately for Glaber, and unfortunately for Ilithyia, her father and several of Varinius' hangers-on were killed in the fracas. Varinius himself appears ready to flee Capua. With the ranks of her allies suddenly thinned, Ilithyia and her dream of a glamorous life as a Senator's trophy wife now seem lost. She is destined to live out her days in Capua, married to a Roman DMV schlub and raising his rug rats.
Or is she? (dun dun dunnn)
Episode VI: "Chosen Path"
Sleep now in the Fire
It was either Sun Tzu or Dr. Phil who asked: How does one fight monsters without becoming one? Glaber's solution is to farm out the job, setting Asher to purpose with freedom and coin (holy cow, we're starting to talk like these guys) to assemble a team of evil henchmen equal to the task of capturing Spartacus, a task which yet eludes the Roman regulars both Glaber and Seppius (brother of the young Seppia and on-going thorn in Glaber's side) have fielded.
How evil, you ask? Remember the bottomless pit Leonidas kicks the Persian messenger into at the beginning of 300 while shouting - oh come on, do we really have to say it? - THIS IS SPARTA? One of the evil henchmen Asher recruits lives down there. We're talkin' face tattoo levels of evil, which is used to surprisingly good effect here. Somewhere a film-studies grad student is writing a thesis on how Starz made this contrivance work, whereas in most other franchises the facial tattoo is never anything but hackneyed (we're looking at you, Star Trek).
The remainder of the episode is structured as a collection of duels, in words, deed, or both. The Capua coliseum may be a smoldering pile of rubble, but that does not keep us from further scenes of trial-by-combat. A partial list of bouts includes: Ilithyia v. Glaber (who is still a little peeved about the whole Varinius thing); Asher v. Lucretia (which gets a little rapey); Spartacus v. Gannicus (who wants nothing to do with the "cause"); Crixus v. Agron (the whole "sorry-your-chick's-dead" thing); Oenomaus v. Gannicus (sorry I boinked and killed your wife cf. S:B&S); Seppia v. Ilithyia+Lucretia (that girl's just going to have to learn the hard way); Mira v. Chadara (who's decided she'd rather buy a villa with the bounty on Spartacus' head rather than hang around until they all get caught and crucified); and Naevia v. PTSD, which wrecks what should have been her tender reunion with Crixus.
Poor Crixus. The writers just won't give that guy a moment of happiness. He's Trent Reznor with a toothache.
Lastly, there is Seppius v. Glaber, the latter emerging victorious with a stunning TKO as Asher and his henchmen set upon the young upstart at his home, quickly turning house to charnel house in a way only guys with face tattoos can. The closing scene of the episode gives us much portend, as Asher surreptitiously removes a snakey armlet from the dead Seppius after Glaber departs. While it's impossible to say if this evidence of Glaber's treachery will surface later, it's probably safe to assume Asher ain't headed over to Pawn Stars with it.
Episode VII: "Sacramentum"
Remember those nice things we said about Glaber being sympathetic back in episode V? Forget all that. Glaber's a jerk.
With the gladiator games on hiatus, one can't help but wonder how the Capua punters will satisfy their entertainment needs. Robbed of circuses, they should be springing to new mutiny any day now, especially with Glaber blaming the recent murder of Seppius on Spartacus. An enlightened praetor might give the people community theatre or midnight basketball or street mimes. Okay, maybe not street mimes. Instead, Glaber breaks out the crosses. But whisper the name Spartacus and find yourself crucified. Not if you're rich and white of course, but if you're a dusky slave girl, look out.
Thus begins a balancing act: not enough crucifixion and the citizenry turns unruly, too much crucifixion and they begin to chafe for your head. Glaber is the Goldilocks of Golgotha. (Aside: kudos to Starz for a small detail here: the nails indeed went in your wrists not your hands, as is so often incorrectly depicted in paintings of The Crucifixion (we're looking at you, Altdorfer). This placement exploits the superior structural stability offered by splitting the ulna, radius, and carpus. Leave it to the Romans to apply sound engineering principles to their capital punishment.)
Meanwhile, Spartacus has moved on Neapolis, where slave ships filled with potential recruits sit at dock. Agron has selected one filled with his Germanic-speaking kin for liberation, thus do we see articles and possessive pronouns making an appearance in Spartacus, if only in the subtitles. It is a mystery why Starz chose to forgo the kicky patois given to their Romans when scripting the barbarians. Perhaps they feared angry letters from the Visigothic anti-defamation league, who are not going to stand idly by and see their people's linguistic heritage trampled.
Spartacus somehow manages to get a literal barbarian horde out of the city without rousing the authorities. Alas, their arrival at camp creates immediate friction with Crixus and his Gallic countrymen. Thereby develops one of those internal power struggles we have come to expect when a band of plucky rebels faces off against a larger external threat. Hans had Lando. Zasz had Daggoth. Ronald Reagan had Al Haig. Eventually, this leads to full-on fisticuffs, and in the ensuing contest with Spartacus, the head barbarian loses face (and if you didn't see that pun coming from a mile off, you just haven't been paying attention). This convinces the remaining barbarians to swear allegiance to Spartacus and put an end to their larking about.
Back in Capua, Ilithyia and Lucretia have begun to fear for their safety as a result of Glaber's newfound assertiveness. They hatch a scheme to escape to Rome by faking a pregnancy emergency, a week-long trip in the back of an ox cart being Glaber's obvious response when his wife shows up bleeding from her loins. The real reason to get Ithy out of the ludus, of course, is so she can be reunited with Spartacus and confront him with his unborn child. For full details, you'll have to go back and watch season one (much as we love this show, it does sometimes read like a Mexican soap opera). For now, just note this is the Big Secret Lucretia has been lording over Ilithyia, you know, when she gets the crazy eyes and starts yammering on about lightning bolts and divine retribution and whatnot. How dare you couple with a common gladiator! You strumpet! You harlot! You hussy! Say, mind if I take a ride on your dad?
The Deus Plot Machina arrives in the guise of Gannicus, who puts the snatch on Ilithyia after killing her escort then whisks her off to Vesuvius where Spartacus awaits, using his Eurail pass we guess. Lucretia, alas, stayed behind. The absence of Ilithyia from the ludus affords Seppia opportunity to put the moves on Glaber. All the while, Lucretia glowers at her from the shadows.
If this girl makes it to episode 10 still drawing breath, we'll eat our fur.
Pop Quiz: "Neapolis" was the original name of what present-day Italian city? Bonus points if you can explain why a Roman city had a Greek name.
Episode VIII: "Balance"
Master of Puppets
Wheels within wheels. Double crosses. Double double crosses. Machines of Machiavellian machinations.
A plot turducken, if you will.
The through line of "Balance" is the fate of Ilithyia, now in Vesuvius as a prisoner of Spartacus. Club med it ain't, what with the various anger bears who keep dropping by to make threats against her and her unborn child; if not Spartacus then Mira, and if not Mira then Lucius (Peter McCauley), a grizzled old freeman who has joined Spartacus' gang to provide aphorisms and archery instruction (think: 2000-year-old Legolas. BTW, did you catch the Blade Runner homage in Mira's soliloquy? Nice.) As such, Ilithyia attempts to strike a deal with one of her captors.
On several occasions we have heard Lucius speak of some Sulla guy who took away his land and killed his family. Ilithyia tells Lucius that, in return for her freedom, she will have husband Glaber return to Lucius all that Sulla took from him.
Which is all well and good, except for one thing. The "Sulla" Lucius refers to is Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, an actual historical figure and one of the biggest badasses in Roman history (Sulla "crossed the Rubicon" with his army and set himself up as dictator when Julius Caesar was still in short pants). The problem, then, is that Sulla is about a thousand stations above Glaber's pay-grade, who would be able to do exactly squat about anything Sulla did to Lucius. It would be like entreating Leslie Knope to bring Dick Cheney to justice. It just ain't gonna happen, and Lucius would understand that better than anyone. Why, then, does Lucius agree to the plan?
Lucius presents himself to Glaber with word of Ilithyia's captivity. However, the plan has changed! Lucius is not selling out Spartacus after all. Instead, he demands Glaber deliver a cart of weapons in return for Ilithyia. Such weapons would allow Spartacus to continue his rebellion and many more Romans would surely die. Why, then, does Glaber agree to the plan?
Glaber arrives with cart at the appointed time and place. However, the plan has changed! There are no weapons in the cart, which instead holds Asher and his evil henchmen. Long story short: pitched battle that kills none of the principals, who either escape to the woods or head back to the ludus.
Meanwhile, Seppia continues to trot straight at the gaping maw of the Lucretian turkey sluicer. Now openly challenging Lucretia in front of the house slaves, Seppia's dismembered corpse might already have been fed to Wu's pigs were it not for the fact that Lucretia's sway with Glaber is slipping, as he has grown weary of her "proclamations" from the gods. Ergo plan-B. Lucretia has discovered Seppius' snakey armlet from episode VI in Asher's swag box (did we call that or what? High five!). This she gives to Seppia thus implicating Glaber in her brother's murder. One or both of these two is sleeping with the enemy.
Back at Vesuvius, Spartacus drags Ithy out to the woods to recreate the execution scene from Miller's Crossing. However, the plan has changed! He has decided to free Ilithyia, leaving her to suffer the shame of knowing Glaber wouldn't even trade a stupid cart of weapons to get her back. He does not love you, Spartacus whispers, as I love my wife, supposedly providing us a Big Dramatic Moment in Ilithyia's character arc.
Um, dude? SHE KNEW THAT ALREADY.
Wheels within wheels.
Episode IX: "Monsters"
Fight the Power
Man, when we're right we're right.
Ilithyia has returned to the ludus to be met with calls of you're still alive!, you're still alive?, and you're still alive. from Lucretia, Glaber, and Seppia, respectively, although how the pregnant and starving Ithy made it back to Capua without so much as an ox cart is never really explained. Perhaps she, too, has a Eurail pass, say, left over from that summer before college when she and her girlfriends followed Phish around Anatolia.
Glaber's primary concern is the location of Spartacus' camp, but Ithy (Like, I'm so sure. I was all blindfolded and stuff.) is no help. Glaber seeks out Asher, who apparently has knowledge of the Vesuvian suburbs. Exaggerating a bit (but only a bit) the scene between them plays as follows:
Glaber: Ilithyia said Spartacus' camp is in the woods around Vesuvius.
Asher: Those woods are huge! It would take years to search them! It's hopeless!
Glaber: She said she saw an inscription on one of the crossbeams.
Asher: Oh, yeah. I know the place.
Thus do they divine the whereabouts of Spartacus' base camp.
Back in said base camp, Spartacus decides the men need to bond, what with open combat with the Roman army sure to begin RSN. Clearly, the best way to do this is drunken wrestling, as mixing alcohol and testosterone never has unfortunate consequences (apparently Spartacus has never seen an episode of COPS). The drunken wrestling has all the makings of turning tragic, but surprisingly never does. Bonds are formed, and old rivalries both large and small are put aside for the greater good (although we must admit we prefer dark-and-brooding Spartacus to happy-New-Age Spartacus, the episode coming this close to turning into one of those Steve Reeves Hercules movies).
Glaber's plans to move on Spartacus are short-circuited when Varinius makes an unexpected appearance at the ludus and informs Glaber he is to return to Rome immediately.
Glaber: Make me.
Varinius: I will.
Glaber: You and what army?
Varinius: Funny you should ask.
At which point Varinius informs Glaber it is the Senate who is recommending his capitulation in the whole Spartacus affair. Those of you who are hardcore history nerds (we're looking at you, LabKitty) might have picked up on a small detail here: note Varinius' use of the word "recommending." It was indeed the case that - believe it or not - the Roman Senate had no formal legislative authority. It could only "recommend" a course of action. These were known as Senatus consulta ("Opinions of the Senate"). The consulta were not legally binding, but much like your mom "recommending" you clean your room or your boss "recommending" you have the report finished by close-of-business, they carried enormous weight nonetheless.
Nice touch, S:V writer-persons (although before you get all cocky, you might want to go back and Lucas out all the horse stirrups in this episode).
Perhaps you are thinking we've forgotten about Seppia. Poor, poor Seppia.
Here it comes.
Although Lucretia has more ways to play Seppia here than a Spassky opening gambit, she opts for the direct route. She supplies the sullen girl a dagger, points her in Glaber's direction, and with a little pat on the tush tells her to have fun storming the castle. In this Lucretia proves herself both shrew and shrewd. If Seppia succeeds in killing Glaber, Ilithyia can hook up with Varinius and Lucretia can ride the new happy couple's coattails to Rome. If Seppia fails in the attempt, Ilithyia can reconcile with Glaber once the young tart is out of the picture (permanently) and Lucretia can ride the old happy couple's coattails to Rome. Win/win.
Seppia maneuvers Glaber to the bath and is moments from sticking him when Ilithyia leaps from the shadows and "cuts a bitch," as the kids say. Exeunt Seppia. Ithy and her blood-drenched husband drinking in the girl's still-twitching corpse bobbing in the bath do what any proper Roman couple would: they have a poke. Apparently those pregnancy hormone swings go all the way to the power rail.
The episode concludes with the inevitable assault on Spartacus' camp, which has somehow turned into a joint venture between Varinius and Glaber, probably to get Brett Tucker some additional screen time, not to mention a more dignified denouement than just scurrying out of Capua (cf. episode V).
Long story short: pitched battle in which none of the principals are killed, although Varinius is squashed by a giant catapult fireball (did the Roman army really have giant catapult fireballs? Meh, we'll allow it).
Our plucky heroes barely escape capture and hoof it to Mt. Vesivus where Glaber assures us there besieged, the barren ground, lack of game, and relentless cold will accomplish what sword and spear could not.
Episode X: "Wrath of the Gods"
Appetite for Destruction
While Spartacus and his men (and women) starve trapped above timberline by the besieging Romans, treachery is on the menu down in Glaber's HQ. Ilithyia and Lucretia have dropped by, for some reason, with Ithy taking the opportunity to get her friend out from under the thumb and other more troubling parts of Asher. She implicates him in the recent Seppia' unpleasantness using the snakey armband. Glaber is peeved. Exeunt Asher. Ilithyia and Lucretia head back to the ludus where Glaber will return once this whole Spartacus dealio is wrapped up.
Up on the mountain, the plot demands some machination to get our heroes off the mountain, otherwise the episode is just Masada with a bigger production budget. Suddenly, Spartacus et al. are repelling down El Capitan using (wait for it) vines. Really, Starz? Is this what is required to puncture the jaded haze that surrounds today's desensitized youth raised on a steady diet of Ritalin and Tony Hawk? Here was a perfect opportunity for Spartacus to apply cunning, physical toughness, knowledge of the terrain, even bird calls, to outwit the Romans. Instead we get eXtrEmE SportZ. They may as well have fabricated hang gliders.
Guys - and we say this as someone wrapping up a 10,000-word review of your show - sometimes less is more. Friends don't let friends go to 11.
UPDATE: Holy Cats! Apparently the "repelling down Vesuvius using vines" thing actually happened! (it's on Wikipedia, so it must be true). As they said in Rome: Mea culpa.
Anyhoo, we now get the big showdown between Spartacus and Glaber. Having caught off-guard / hacked and slashed through Asher's henchmen, the Roman regulars, then Glaber's guards and finally his lieutenants, the pro- and antagonist face off mano-a-mano. Hello, you killed my wife. Prepare to die. We appreciate their pitched duel was necessary for dramatic purposes - after all, this has been building since S1:E1 - but it did not sit well with our nerd brain. Shut up, nerd brain! we kept saying to our nerd brain, to no avail. Consider: Spartacus is a battle-hardened champion gladiator. Glaber may have been in the army, but he's been a paper-pusher for quite some time. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but this fight would have gone like Beatrix Kiddo versus Clara Peller.
No matter. Spartacus finally gets his sword into Glaber, who dutifully informs us that his death will bring the legions down upon them all, thus setting up season three.
Finally, Ithy and Lucretia are back at the ludus all by their lonesome awaiting Glaber's return, one of whom is very pregnant. There are ominous omens that All is Not Well with Lucretia, what with the raging storms and the flowing dresses and the deep color palette. Ilithyia decides what the hell I better push her off the cliff behind the ludus, but then her water breaks in Hollywood fashion. (Aside: it doesn't really happen like that, does it? Yikes, babies are gross.)
Ilithyia's joyous albeit premature occasion turns nasty when Lucretia blows a head gasket and begins stabbing up the help. She then turns on Ithy, deciding that, like Edwina McDunnough, she must have the baby. This is known in the industry as a "callback," Lucretia recreating here the amateur caesarian section she experienced at the hands of Crixus in the season one finale.
Lucretia heads off to the cliff with infant child in tow and Ithy in angry if not hot pursuit. Alas, Lucretia finding herself literally a fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi casts herself off the precipice with babe in arms, there to join her husband in the afterlife with a replacement child (as the neonate looked eerily alien-like, for a moment there we feared The History Channel would swoop in). Ilithyia drops dead from grief. About the only thing keeping this from being the end of Don Giovanni is that the set didn't collapse.
And so the lesson: we cannot outrun our demons. Spartacus' lust for vengeance will bring the legions. Glaber's ambition has brought him to ruin at the hands of his hated enemy. And Lucretia's fragile eggshell mind could not be mended by the kind words of trusted friend, though they traveled from ludus to coliseum, from Capua to Vesuvius, to Neapolis, to Rome. It mattered not.
As Horace reminds us, those who cross the sea change the sky, not their spirits.
They are damned, perhaps as are we all.
SPARTACUS : WAR OF THE DAMNED - Vengeance Harder
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