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Spoilers if you haven't watched tonight's episode of Spartacus: War of the Damned, "The Dead and the Dying."
With last week's "catch-up" night creating a gap between new episodes, we were given an extra week to grieve the loss of a certain beloved character at the end of "Separate Paths." Even with the added time between episodes, it was still impossible not to get emotional at the end of tonight's episode, which took a moment to honor Crixus and remember the fallen brothers. Just hearing the names Varro, Oenomaus, Mira and others makes me want to start from the beginning and watch all of the seasons just to revisit the fallen brothers and sisters of this war.
"Victory" awaits! It's not entirely impossible to predict what might happen in next week's finale, but this show has always been a bit more about the execution than it is the outcome. Case in point, do we miss Lucy Lawless on this series? Absolutely. But it's impossible to regret her fantastic final scene. So, my optimistic approach to next week's finale is that, no matter who lives and who dies, I just want it to be amazing. This show has yet to let me down in that regard.
Tonight's episode had Spartacus catching himself a gaggle of Romans, one of whom just so happened to be Tiberius. This happened only after Naevia returned with the head of her beloved and news of the Romans' victory against Crixus' army, and how the "boy of scant years" stabbed her beloved in the back.
The table's turned fast tonight, when Tiberius and his guys were captured - falling prey to a trap set when Spartacus and his men had the good fortune of taking down some of Pompey's men - and Crassus sent Caesar off to Spartacus to offer a trade. He offered the captured rebels (or 500 of them) for Tiberius' life. As much as I'm sure we all wanted to see Tiberius come to a bloody death, would it be worth it if it meant Agron's life? Poor Agron was literally crucified and left to suffer on a cross while the details were sorted out. And to think, had it not been for last week's catch-up night, this episode (and that crucifixion) would have taken place Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Christ.
It's been so long since we've seen some arena fighting in this series. Tonight, rather than the enslaved gladiators being forced to fight each other, it was the captured Romans being fought and killed for sport by fighters far more experienced and far more motivated than they were. It was no contest. There was even a cliff. It was just like old times.
I wanted Naevia to be the one to kill Tiberius. Given what she's been through and the abuse she's suffered at Roman hands, added to Tiberius' proven appreciation for sexual assault as a means of asserting himself, it seemed fitting that Naevia be the warrior tasked with killing him. Plus, he killed Crixus, so there's that too. The justice wouldn't just be poetic, it'd also be plain-old-eye-for-an-eye vengeance.
As it turned out, Naevia didn't get her eye, but Tiberius did get the stab in the back he had coming to him, and it came from another one of his victims. Before that happened, Naevia got to fight and defeat Tiberius in the arena. Her battle with Tiberius was another demonstration of just how far she's come, especially when we consider the life she lived when they were all still in Capua. I don't think I could have pictured that Naevia battling anyone in the arena. That Naevia was Lucretia's slave. This Naevia is a warrior.
Naevia had Tiberius down, and it was just a matter of landing his own sword against his neck. But she chose not to when Spartacus informed her - at the very last second - of the trade Caesar offered. Earlier Naevia had a conversation with Kore about the choices they've made, essentially calling Kore out not killing Crassus when she had the chance. Well, she had the chance to kill Tiberius in the arena, but when moment presented itself to "balance scale," she ended up choosing not to follow through. It was the right call, even if she hated to do it. And the victory is still hers where it counts.
Tiberius was set to be returned to his father, and Caesar assured them they'd honor the deal. Then Kore showed up and stuck a dagger in Tiberius' back, clearly deciding now was the time to "balance fucking scales." Tiberius had just long enough to realize what happened and know he was dying, and then he died. He had it coming, not only for raping Kore (and Caesar, who played his part in all of this), but also for stabbing Crixus in the back. Just a little bit of Karma to go with the carnage.
Of course, with Tiberius' dead, the arranged trade was on the verge of collapsing. But earlier, Tiberius revealed to Kore that Crassus missed her dearly. So Kore offered herself up as something else Crassus wanted to honor the trade. It probably wasn't the hugest sacrifice on her part, when you think about it. She seemed pretty content to be Crassus' slave/mistress. They were even on a first-name basis. It was being raped by Tiberius that Kore didn't appreciate, and that's what led her to join the rebels. Now that he's dead, she can return to Crassus and they can live happily ever after, right? Crassus did welcome her back with open arms, seeming to buy Caesar's fudged version of the truth. But he wants her to call him Dominus now, which suggests he's cooled to her since she left him. So maybe she'll regret this choice down the line, especially considering she had her freedom. Or maybe she'll think it's worth it because she got to put a knife in her rapist's back.
Caesar did make good on the trade, and many rebels were returned, Agron among them. Nasir - who believed him to be dead - was there to help him the moment he arrived, barely able to walk on his own. Castus looked sad, but given his feelings for Nasir, that's not surprising.
The episode ended with an emotional tribute to the fallen gladiators and rebels as Crixus' head was burned. It was a fitting moment to reflect on the men and women who died over the course of this story, and it may be the only time the show has left to do that. There's just one episode in this story. "Victory" airs next Friday night and the distant thunder promises storm and blood!
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