What is life without purpose? That’s the subject that’s explored in tonight’s episode of Spartacus: Vengeance. “A Place in This World” drew an interesting parallel between two characters as we got to know Oenomaus better, and were introduced to someone new to the story.
If ever there’s an example of a man with a purpose, it’s Spartacus. We came to see that in Blood and Sand, when he was willing to do whatever it took to get his wife back, and losing her inevitably pushed his motivation toward escape. Now his purpose is revenge against Glaber.
“...But grasp the heavens, you must fight for something greater. Something beyond mere survival.”
Those of us who love Peter Mensah’s character Oenomaus were in for a treat tonight as we were given a flashback that revealed his beginnings as a slave to the house of Batiatus. As it happens, he went into his position somewhat willingly. Quintus was just a boy at the time his father Titus saw the potential in Oenomaus and took him in. Titus’ relationship with Oenomaus seemed more like a friendship than that of slave-master and slave. Titus encouraged Oenomaus to find something to fight for beyond simple survival. In the end, for young Oenomaus, that purpose was to serve the House of Batiatus.
These flashbacks helped us understand where Oenomaus’ head is at now. While young-Oenomaus’ story is being revealed to us, present-day Oenomaus is dominating in the pits, killing everything that comes at him and sulking in between matches. Once we see the pride he once took in the mark given to him as a young slave, his attitude toward “freedom” becomes clear. He has no purpose without the House of Batiatus. Slave or not, being a part of that house was how he identified himself. Now he just wants a worthy opponent to take him out. Given what a fierce fighter he was and continues to be, it’s not surprising that none comes, unless you count Ashur, who showed up at the end of Oenomaus’ last fight and captures him.
“Is it wise to allow such unsteady hands to play with knives?”
Since her story seems to tie in with the above, we’ll move on to “blessed by the gods” Lucretia. How crazy is she? It’s hard to say. Tonight she insisted that an offering was in order in an effort to rid the house of whatever evils might still linger and hold Glaber back. Glaber seems to be willing to play ball with Lucretia if it means turning things in his favor. At least, he seemed more into her goat-slaying plan than he was in having to sit down with Seppius. Watching people be at the social mercy of other people is one of the places where Spartacus shines. It’s like an old-Roman Revenge that way.
Lucretia spent much of the episode being (or pretending to be) a conduit to the gods, blessing people and acquiring a goat, which she killed in the middle of the house, which had previously been scrubbed clean of blood. Did her offering work? Kind of. See, while she was in the market, she came upon a cloaked man, whom we later learned was Ashur. He handed her a note and left. What exactly did it say? Maybe something like “I’m planning on snagging Oenomaus so when I show up with the old Doctore, pretend like you totally prayed for this to happen.” Or not. Either way, that’s pretty much what happened. Ashur showing up with Oenomaus couldn’t have been better timed for Lucretia, as she was able to take credit for it. And I’m sure Ashur will get something out of the deal. He always does.
The look on Ilithyia’s face when Ashur showed up suggests she’s beginning to believe, or at the very least, is very uncomfortable about the timing of Lucretia’s offering and Oenomaus‘ arrival.
Meanwhile, down south...
Spartacus and Crixus are leading their people down south to the villas where they hope to find Naevia. They break into a house, fight the guards, free the slaves and, after questioning the Dominus about Naevia, Crixus kills him.
The taking of the house results in a whole new set of slaves to joint he ranks. This situation is really win-win for Spartacus and Crixus. They’re searching for Naevia, so Crixus is content (though that doesn’t stop him from rage-killing people). Meanwhile, Spartacus can increase their numbers by collecting freed slaves and inviting them to join their cause.
The interactions with the new slaves revealed some interesting things. For one thing, Spartacus is making it clear that joining his army is completely voluntary. He demonstrated this more than once with a slave called Tiberius, who attempted to kill Spartacus after he was “freed.” Spartacus’ choice not to kill him back (properly) for his actions shows that he’s an open-minded guy and one who is aware of the way the “tether” of slavery can mess with a man’s mind.
Even after he began to train Tiberius for battle, he made it clear to the man that he was under no obligation to use his newfound battle skills toward their cause. It would be Tiberius’ choice to stay or go. This attitude is likely to earn Spartacus true loyalty as opposed to forcing followers or simply trying to convince people they’re better off following him... which they kind of are.
In the end, Tiberius decides to go by the name Nasir, which is what his brother once called him. The name-change may be an indication that he’s willing to start seeing his life and his choices as his own.
I think there’s a connection between Nasir’s story and Oenomaus’. While Titus allowed Oenomaus to identify himself by his ties to the House of Batiatus, Spartacus seems to want to break Tiberius/Nasir’s mentality that he needs to be forced into a life of servitude, even as a free man. Nasir will find his own purpose, and while that may end up being to serve Spartacus, it won’t be because he’s branded to do so.
“Freedom is not without cost. I pay with the only coin I have. As do you.”
Mira experienced that moment many women do when they’re questioned about the relationship they have with their man. One of the new slaves brought up the subject of Mira’s relationship with Spartacus, which does afford her some status and protection within the group. This led to a conversation between Mira and Spartacus, which can probably translate to something along the lines of:
“So like... What is this relationship to you?”
Spartacus’ response was to basically tell her that her presence reminds him of better times. The pessimistic way of looking at that could be to say that in a recent history of brutal beatings, near-death experiences, his wife dying and now living on the run, she’s the closest thing to a smile he can get. But I’m choosing to believe it’s more that Mira is his escape from all of that. She’s the one thing he has that makes him feel close to good.
Mira is not merely a trophy-bed-mate for Spartacus. We saw her slash up one of the guards in the early battle in the episode. She’s most certainly making herself useful. But the conversation she had with the blond slave, who took to having stand-up sex with the man she was so disgusted by earlier, might have had Mira questioning how her relationship with Spartacus is perceived from the outside. Status and protection have just as much value to her as a free woman as they did when she was a slave. She isn’t with Spartacus for that reason, but you have to admit, being his main squeeze has its perks.
We’ll end tonight’s break-down with two questions...
Was Ilithyia’s naughty-flashback about her masked encounter with Spartacus yet another indication that he might be the father of her baby?
And, how many flowers had to die to set the stage for her erotic bath-time?