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Last night on Spartacus, things finally started coming to a head. Most of the drama around the ludus got resolved in a very blood way, leaving only the conflict with the Roman nobility that has been taking advantage of the house left to take care of next week, in the miniseries’ final episode. It was brutal and dramatic in the ways that the show excels, and as bitter and depressing as TV usually ever gets.
We start with a dream sequence of Melitta and Gannicus meeting in secret and renewing their carnal affections. I thought it was real at first, but it became clear it was Melitta’s nightmare when Gannicus is suddenly impaled through the neck from behind by Oenomaus. She wakes up but none too relieved, aware that her feelings aren’t simply going away and neither are Gannicus’. He’s becoming distracted now by thoughts of her, losing focus and letting his guard down in fights, which isn’t good, because he needs to fight if he wants to stick around.
Though he isn’t happy about Gaia getting killed inside his house, Titus is willing to look past Tullius’ actions after he makes an offer. Sell him Gannicus, and the house of Batiatus will get to compete in the opening games of the new arena. When Oenomaus hears of the bargain he advises Titus against it, arguing for keeping his friend around, not knowing about his betrayal. Titus relents, but only a bit. He has been taking inventory of his gladiatorial stock, having them fight each other in a tournament with wooden weapons to determine a ranking, with those deemed unfit for his mark to be sent to the mines. The only remaining undefeated fighters are Gannicus and Crixus, and if Gannicus wins their duel he will not be sold.
When Gannicus hears of the deal, he sees a way out of his torment. After Melitta repelled his advances earlier, he can no longer bear staying in the ludus, so after a long and well choreographed fight with Crixus, he decides to give up and lets himself be beaten. We’ll get back to that in a bit, but first I have to step back for a second. They really did a great job of weaving together all the different plot threads in this episode. Titus hasn’t removed his ultimatum from Quintus, saying that if he doesn’t agree to divorce Lucretia before the end of the ranking matches, he will be kicked out of the house. Although he falters for a minute and admits to her that he regrets her not bearing him a son, he ultimately refuses to end their marriage. So after failing to kill his father in the old arena as Lucretia suggests, he resigns himself to having to leave his home with her.
Fortunately for him though, Lucretia had taken the matter into her own hands long before. Not only has she definitely been poisoning Titus with the honeyed wine, she’s actually been doing it since before he left Capua the first time, and the only reason his health returned at the shore was she wasn’t around to taint his cup. And after he falls ill and Quintus and Oenomaus leave with the doctor to find ingredients for a cure, she resorts to a much stronger poison in wine that Tullius had brought as a gift earlier. Titus dies, knowing he was right about Lucretia, ironically right after he was beginning to reconsider his strict position on her. Unknown to Lucretia though, Melitta borrowed the wine and brought it to Gannicus’ room to say goodbye, and right when they’re about to make love for the last time, she begins coughing up blood. So both Quintus and his Doctore arrive home to find their loved ones dead, apparently betrayed by Tullius. Yeah, I can only imagine the shit storm that’s going to arrive in the finale when Batiatus decides to take vengeance, and probably another smaller one when Oenomaus figures out what Melitta was probably doing when she died.
A few other noteworthy developments – we see Lucretia starting to become the woman she is in season one when she starts wearing wigs in memory of Gaia, and having Crixus take her in hopes of becoming pregnant. She hates it for now, but we know those feelings will change. Also, Ashur is now a total persona non grata, shunned by his only friend after he tricked him into getting raped by a Roman. That probably wasn’t a good idea, since he’s starting to learn the local language and not sympathetic to Ashur’s risk of being sent to the mines, being probably the worst gladiator in the entire ludus, losing even to the man who’s only been using the net and trident for a few days. Ashur shows he’s still cunning though, playing on the fact that his friend isn’t as terrible a person as him to get him to ease up in their duel before slicing his eye with a wooden sword and gaining a hollow victory. He stands in triumph, but no one is cheering him. I wonder if they can fully transform him into what he is in season one in a single episode.Also, Naevia has been mostly a non-entity in this prequel, but she gets a little more to do this time when she helps her friend who has been emotionally scarred by being turned into a sex slave escape with some of Gaia’s money. That was a subplot that didn’t seem to have much payoff besides having something nice happen in a pretty depressing episode. Knowing this show, she’s probably going to be captured and punished in the finale next week anyway. This was a pretty great episode of the show, despite the lack of orgies and people getting their heads chopped off. It managed to tie off a lot of loose ends while putting the others in a prime position for the same in what promises to be an exciting conclusion. If it’s close to the satisfying, bloody mess that was the final episode last year, then I’m going to like it a lot.