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Major spoilers if you haven't seen tonight's series finale of Spartacus: War of the Damned.
What defines victory? According to Spartacus, who has had plenty of experience with victory and also time to unlock the true meaning of the word, life defines victory. The lives of the rebels are what matter most. Freedom is what matters. In that sense, Spartacus came out of this series victorious. He died free, which is probably the most we could have ever realistically hoped for for the character. Because let's face it, not only was he historically supposed to die, but in Spartacus, everyone dies sooner or later. Could anyone have imagined a version of this series that ended with Spartacus walking away to live happily ever after? No, he had to die. And so did just about everyone else. Agron and Nasir were spared, along with Laeta and Sibyl, and the lady with her symbolic baby. They live on to define Spartacus' "Victory." And they live on to tell his story.
We expected a giant battle, and by the gods, we got one. The episode didn't waste a whole lot of time with set-up, though there were a couple of things set in motion from the start. The episode began with a nod to Kubrick's film and the classic line, "I am Spartacus!" spoken by Spartacus' men, and the man himself, whose real name we'll never know.
Spartacus and Crassus had a little chat on the night before the battle. During the conversation, Spartacus happened to mention that a woman was responsible for Tiberius' death, which contradicted Kore and Caesar's story about some nameless male slave being the one to kill his son. The confrontation that resulted from that little nugget of information led to Kore confessing to Crassus that she killed Tiberius, after which Caesar backed her up and told Crassus that Tiberius raped Kore and did some other horrible things. Crassus seemed far too forgiving, and it was almost obvious that this business would be tended to later. So I wasn't especially surprised that he saw Kore dead (or on her way there) by the end of the episode, though crucifixion seemed like a harsh punishment. Ok, she killed his son, but he had it coming.
If we want to get deep with this situation with Kore and Crassus, we could suggest that her death was more than just Crassus punishing a disloyal slave. Maybe he killed her because he knew he'd never be able to look at her without thinking about what a failure his son turned out to be (and have to accept at least some of the blame for it). With Kore gone, maybe he'll be able to look at the bust of Tiberius and pretend he wasn't a rapist.
Other pre-battle set-up had Spartacus sitting down with Gannicus and talking about his wife, Sura and the love he felt for her. Spartacus has always been good with words. We saw that later in the episode when he spoke to the rebels who were marching on toward freedom, and again when he motivated the troops just before the battle. As good as he is with rallying and battle cries, he's just as good one-on-one, because he knows how to observe and connect with people. That skill proved useful tonight in getting Gannicus on board to lead. Gannicus told Spartacus he'd gladly give his life to save the lives of others. He was looking at Sibyl when he said it, and I'm thinking the leader caught that and realized Gannicus was a changed man. Love has changed him and maybe that change is enough that he might be willing to finally lead.
With Agron unable to wield a sword, Gannicus and Naevia are really the only two people remaining in Spartacus' inner circle who could take on the responsibility. Naevia is certainly a capable warrior, but Gannicus has been prime for a leadership role for a while. So it was he who led some of the army around to attack Crassus' army from the back and snatch up their spear-shooter things (I'm sure those giant crossbow weapons have a more formal name, but that's what I'm calling them). Before his departure, Gannicus and Sibyl were together one last time, and he informed her that she was mistaken to believe he was sent by the gods to save her. It was she who saved him.
With the non-fighting rebels sent north to the mountains, the rest prepared for battle.
Better to fall by the sword than by the master's lash.
Highlights from the battle included the amazingly terrible spike-filled trench used to slaughter the Romans on the front line as they marched forward. And then came the ramps, which were perched atop the shields of some of the Romans on the other side of the trench, who were obviously too trained to hold formation that they didn't consider just tipping the ramps over and letting the rebels fall into the spike trench. The rebels had archers. The Romans fired back with catapulted fireballs. And then things got really messy.
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