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One of the things I’ve recently begun to appreciate with Spartacus: Vengeance is the way the episodes begin in the middle of some intense moment. As though we’re just regaining consciousness only to find ourselves surrounded by chaos. I think it was last Friday’s episode that began with a close-up of a frog that was nearly trampled by Glaber’s men as they chased down Spartacus and the rebels. Tonight, we woke up in the arena... what a great way to start the day!
“We at last face each other on the sands, as Melitta always feared.”
Tonight’s episode was as though “Kill them All” and “The Bitter End” collided with one another and merged into one glorious mess of blood, sand, fire, and sweet vengeance. It started at the end, much in the way Blood and Sand’s finale did, with the start of an arena battle that pitted Oenomaus and Gannicus against one another. The two didn’t spend time on niceties, as Oenomaus quickly demanded answers about Gannicus’ relationship with Melitta. Gannicus’ brief, awkward hesitation was all the answer Oenomaus needed to justify his angry attack. Cut to one day earlier...
“I would send message of our own. One that would ignite the hearts of all yet enslaved.”
Spartacus’ men fell upon a mostly-abandoned temple inhabited by a bitter Roman named Lucius, who was all too happy to meet Spartacus. Short on wine, Lucius paid gratitude to Spartacus by offering him and his men the latest gossip, which included the rumors that the rebels were defeated, and that Crixus was brought to Capua. Learning Crixus was alive, Spartacus started to plot an invasion on the arena. It was a bold move and one that seemed impossible, given that they had basically no time to plan. But they made it work.
Sneaking in through the stream of entrails and filth was a stroke of genius and very reverse-Shawshank. (Plus, we got to see what happens to the bodies of the fallen men after they’re dragged out of the arena.) Mira’s job was to set the fire and face the extremely dangerous task of causing the stands to collapse, creating a monstrous diversion that would allow the rebels to eventually escape. Despite the risk of being crushed, burned to death, or suffocated by smoke, most, if not all seemed to make it out alive. Many of those in the stands didn’t share the same fate.
Meanwhile, Spartacus, Agron and some of the other men posed as guards and invaded the arena mid-fight, fighting the hired men who were set to execute Oenomaus, Crixus and the other slaves, including the gaul whose name I never got. He didn’t make it out alive, but all of the other rebels of note did.
Gannicus’ return was an excellent treat. Technically, he’s been gone for years, as he was freed at the end of Gods of the Arena, which took place a few years before Blood and Sand. Since parting ways from his slavery days, he’s been carrying around his rudis (a sword that symbolizes his freedom) and a whole lot of guilt. Despite being free, Gannicus is saddled with memories of the mistakes he’s made, including falling for his best friend’s wife and acting on it.
Gannicus wasn’t above killing his brothers if it meant receiving payment (to afford him the wine and women he’s always appreciated), and to give them an honorable death. Something tells me Crixus and Oenomaus would have appreciated that, despite their differences. Both men seemed ready to die. Though they weren’t going to go down with out a fight, as Crixus had been going on about getting to be with Naevia in the afterlife, while Oenomaus was less about cuddling with Melitta when he reunited with her as he was in getting answers. I get that he’s angry, but I sincerely hope he comes to peace with that.
Last we saw of Oenomaus, he was unconscious, having nearly been crushed by the collapsing stands. Gannicus might have been able to leave Oenomaus, but when Spartacus came upon them, it looked like he was trying to help his fallen brother. There was hesitation among all of them, as though they were determining whether or not they needed to fight each other. Earlier, when Spartacus was pretending to be a guard, he noticed Gannicus’ “B” mark and questioned him about returning to the arena and killing his brothers. I’m thinking he was somewhat satisfied with Gannicus’ response about giving the men an honorable death. That may have been what determined Spartacus’ choice not to attack Gannicus right away.
So everyone except for Ashur is free and on their merry way, having destroyed the arena and wielding a mighty blow to Glaber’s already wounded pride. Plus, the incident will have likely squashed the rumors that Spartacus and his men were defeated.
“We do what we must in face of growing disappointment”
One of the great things about this show is how the pecking order tends to define who we root for and root against. In seasons past, there were times when we were on Batiatus’ side, when he was being pressured or insulted by people ranked higher than him. We’re starting to see that a bit with Glaber, who went from top banana to increasingly pressured and literally surrounded by people who seemed to be taking turns hammering him down lower and lower. Despite the fact that he’s the enemy of Spartacus, he was sort of set up as the underdog among his people tonight, conspired against and on his way to being disgraced, childless and alone. Ironically, Spartacus helped turn that table.
There was actually a meeting wherein it was fully agreed that the Senator was going to dissolve his daughter’s marriage to Glaber so that she could be married to Varinius. Everything was in place and Ilithyia was planning on aborting her child via a little vile of poison. Lucretia took advantage of Ilithyia’s hesitation and told her to hold off with the aborting matters, which gave her time to conspire with Ashur. I’m not entirely clear on why Lucretia’s so invested in the baby situation, so I’m going to go with the theory that she plans on snatching that baby once it’s born, or pretending it’s hers.
It seemed like Lucretia wanted Ashur to switch out the poison in Ilithyia’s room with something that wouldn’t harm the baby. Instead, Ashur blabbed to Glaber about his wife’s plans, which resulted in a delicious little confrontation between Glaber and Ilithyia. So confident that things were too far in the works to be undone, Ilithyia basically told Glaber the divorce was happening and that he wasn’t worthy of her. She wasn’t smug about it. There wast definitely emotion on her face as she broke the news to Glaber that it was over between them. But the timing was still really bad.
Ilithyia couldn’t have known that within the hour (or so), the arena would be collapsing. If she’d known Glaber was going to be in the position to rescue or else, discretely kill her father, perhaps she wouldn’t have revealed so much of their plans to him. Glaber came upon the senator amidst the burning rubble of the arena and fixed his impending divorce situation by crushing Albinius to death. No one will have any reason to suspect foul play there, aside from maybe Ilithyia, and now she's stuck with him. He made that clear to his wife when all was said and done, and Varinius wandered away.
Again, given that Glaber was set up to lose tonight, it’s hard not to be impressed by how he managed to turn things around for himself. It was a ruthless thing to kill the senator, but it shows he’s not willing to go down without a fight.
Other random bits worth noting...
Agron and Nasir’s bromance is turning into a full-on romance! The two shared a departing kiss when Agron was leaving the still-recovering Nasir behind.
Ashur was nearly executed when he returned with the body of Marcus, the soldier he killed to save his own life. He did seem to redeem himself somewhat with Glaber when he shared info about Ilithyia’s poison. But how will Lucretia deal with Ashur’s choice to do that? She didn’t seem thrilled with the revelation, which is understandable as she was especially active in manipulating the senator to agree to dissolve the marriage.
It’s going to be hard to top tonight’s episode. It was set up more like a finale than a standard mid-season episode, but it does reunite the rebels, which is good. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here.