A wise man once said, "The enemy deserves no mercy. Mercy is for the weak." Oh wait, no, that wasn't a wise man. That was John Kreese in Karate Kid. The Kreese technique of handling one's enemies was used within the walls of Spartacus' city during tonight's episode of Spartacus: War of the Damned, fittingly titled "Decimation." It was not a good night to be a Roman, I can tell you that my friends. Spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet!
Who needs a war when there's plenty of in-fighting going on on both sides of this ongoing battle? There were already fractures developing among Spartacus' people even before Caesar managed to nose his way into the city and instigate a much bigger divide. While some people are supportive of Spartacus' fair but costly approach to handling the Roman prisoners, others think it would be much easier to survive the winter if they didn't have all these Romans to feed. I can see the argument to that, considering these rebels are mostly all freed slaves who spent their lives serving Romans against their will. But Spartacus' refusal to lower himself to the Romans' level by slaughtering them is also understandable. Of course, that means having to stuck up on a lot more food and supplies, which is what he spent the bulk of the episode trying to deal with.
When in Rome...
Caesar infiltrated the city under the guise of a slave who slipped in when some Romans attacked. After proving himself marked by showing off the cut on his leg (is that what that woman was doing to him a couple of episodes back?), he buddied up with Nemetes, who cautiously got to know him and eventually brought him him to Fabia, a former dominus who's being kept in a dungeon somewhere and subjected to torture and rape. Nemetes figured Caesar could prove himself one of them by joining in on the "fun" with a bit of alone time with Fabia. You stay classy, Nemetes.
As frustrating as it is to see Caesar sneaking around the city and causing problems, his reaction to Fabia and merciful approach to "freeing" her showed the man's compassion. Killing her is probably what Spartacus would have done. In fact, that's what Spartacus did do a couple of episodes ago when a slave was being slowly stoned to death. In absence of a way to help someone out, in this reality of slavery and war, sometimes the merciful thing is to end their suffering. Caesar and Spartacus aren't so different in that way.
Caesar's job of creating problems among Spartacus' army was made easier by Naevia, who killed Gannicus' friend Attius in the last episode. She thought Attius was the one hiding and feeding missing prisoners. But we knew that was Laeta, and that was discovered tonight. Oops, sorry Attius. Naevia and Gannicus got into an argument over that in the middle of Caesar and Nemetes' revolution-instigation attempt. And for a minute, as Gannicus and Crixus came to fisticuffs, I wondered if the fight would be enough of a distraction to stop the plan to kill the Roman prisoners. But then, after Naevia smashed a rock over Gannicus' head, and the last piece of vocal (and physical) opposition to the plan was down for the count, Crixus decided it was time to defy Spartacus' order and kill the Romans. And so, the slaughter began.
It's hard to tell if Crixus' motives are guided by Naevia more than his own opinions on the matter. She seems to be growing more and more aggressive and impulsive when it comes to Romans, which isn't entirely hard to understand, given what she's been through. And we know Crixus would do anything for her. But if Naevia weren't a factor, would Crixus have defied Spartacus? At the start of the episode, Spartacus basically said Crixus would assume his role as leader if anything happened to him, and Crixus responded by calling him brother, which - when you think about it - is such a stark contrast from where these two guys were in Blood and Sand. Seems like a lifetime ago.
But Spartacus sort of took that back when he returned to stop the massacre (or what was left of it). Spartacus' arrival happened just in time to save Laeta's life, even after he found out she was the one sneaking food to the hidden Romans. Considering Spartacus sort of tasked her with taking care of her people, it would've been a bit contradictory for him to punish her for it, even if she was being a little deceitful in the act.
Spartacus saving Laeta may have been an act of mercy and refusal to do as the Romans do, even if it might have meant uniting the rebels after this recent divide. But she's actually proven to be really useful to him so far. Not only did she get him that seal, but tonight we saw her help Spartacus fill in some of the gaps of this whole Crassus situation. During a conversation with Laeta, Spartacus figured out that Crassus' letter was intercepted intentionally so he could assume the role of Imperator. That information may be to too late to be much use but it does help him understand the way Crassus thinks. In the future, if something happens a little too easily, Spartacus might question it before reacting.
So, on the rebel side, it looks like Crixus is prepared to try to "forge his own path," with Naevia and probably Nemetes and whoever else was all for killing Romans. I don't envy him the company he'll be keeping though. Whatever he ends up doing in reaction to this situation will probably prove to be a mistake, but the rebel army may pay a bigger price for the divide. On the bright side, Gannicus was thankfully up and about before the end of the episode. I didn't love seeing Naevia smash that rock over Gannicus' head. I don't think Crixus and Gannicus would have killed each other in their brawl. Naevia's lucky Saxa wasn't around or there would've been a separate fight happening between those two. We know Naevia can fight, but as we saw later on, Saxa's also fully capable of handling herself, even when faced with a man twice her size. "Bitch."
Speaking of funny moments, the laugh of the night goes to Agron, who had to pry a very enthusiastic (but unwanted) female off of himself when he and Spartacus briefly crashed the sex-party. His face as he did that was great, as was seeing him pulling her away from Spartacus moments later. Less funny was the tension between Agron and Nasir. I really don't think the walls are good for these soldiers.
On the Roman side, Crassus had a steamy sex-romp with Kore tonight. Not that naked moments (or even a full-frontal male shot) is anything new for this series, but that moment seemed oddly wedged into the episode. It also took a page out of Game of Thrones' book in inserting relevant conversation into a scene where there are naked people walking about. Distracting.
It wasn't all hugs and kisses for the Romans. In fact, it was more blood and gore. Once Crassus found out about his son's failed attempt to take down Spartacus, he made it clear to Tiberius that his troops didn't fear him more than they feared Spartacus. As proven by the messy attack on Spartacus, Tiberius' men would rather retreat against orders than be killed in battle. They might not have acted that way if they thought the punishment for such cowardice was a fate worse than a sword to the chest. Crassus insisted a lesson would be taught to Tiberius' men. And after a bit of counsel from Kore about treating his son as a soldier and not a child, Crassus decided to include Tiberius on that lesson, which involved a stone lottery to determine which soldiers would be decimated, and which would do the decimating.
Tiberius received a black rock, which meant he lived and got to pummel one of his men to death with maracas (that's probably not what that bat-like weapon was called). Tiberius ended up having to beat the only soldier who not only didn't abandon him during the battle, but also saved his life. He did as he was ordered to, but not without a few tears and some resentful words toward his father. Based on what Crassus said, it looks like Tiberius will be banished to the followers camp until he's fit to return to Crassus' side. Kore's in the followers camp though, so maybe she'll have some wise words to share with her lover's son.
The episode took a little while to heat up, but between the Roman decimation and the Roman decimation, the final act was worth the wait if you can stand the blood and the site of a man's body partially torn open in places. Yuck.