I'm not entirely sure whether it's a good sign for Spartacus: Vengeance if we seem to care more about the supporting cast than the main character. But in the latest episode "Empty Hands", that's exactly what happened. In an obviously unintentional move, the writers created a situation where I didn't give a crap about what would happen to Spartacus or Naevia. There were more important developments happening in Capua, and Spartacus' struggle to survive in the woods just didn't seem to matter. A lot of plotting & backstabbing has transpired (or is about to transpire) between Spartacus' foes and all this hostility is bound to rear its ugly head in a more ominous manner over the next few weeks.
First of all, here's an observation I'm sure many other viewers would agree with --- Spartacus & Crixus' plan to save Naevia was the worst idea ever. If you're serious about starting a slave rebellion against the might of Rome, don't piss away the lives of able bodied gladiators to save one slave girl. It seems cold at the outset, but Agron had the right idea when he concealed Naevia's true fate from Crixus, which possibly makes him the smartest person in the group. The initial logic behind Spartacus' support for Crixus and his plan to save Naevia was that Spartacus knew what it was like to lose the one you love. Agron lost his brother, Duro, last season --- he died in his arms after saving Agron's life. I fail to see how that's any different from Spartacus' loss. At least Agron had the wherewithal to look past his own loss and consider the bigger picture --- something Spartacus (and his massive ego) could learn from. Their current situation proves just how moronic the initial plan was. Not only did they lose the precious lives of competent warriors like Liscus and Fortis, but Crixus and Rhaskos have been captured. And for what? One scared little slave girl? I'm sorry, but the cost was too high. I always believe that a good episode of Spartacus: Vengeance requires the perfect mix of blood, gore, and sex. I had no complaints about how the events of "Empty Hands" eventually panned out, but some of the decisions made by Spartacus and his merry men haven't instilled a lot of confidence. What's next? An even more elaborate plan to save Crixus? As appealing as that might be for Spartacus (and for us), the more logical course of action would be to actually do what he initially promised --- hit the Romans where it hurts the most. I think it's perfectly feasible for Crixus and Oenomaus to forge an alliance and free themselves from Glaber's grasp. Spartacus needs to focus on what's important. The rebellion comes first.
Now onto the more interesting parts of the episode. Glaber hosted a bash for the glamorous at his current residence (the former House Batiatus) to appease and carry favor with Varinius, after humiliating him in the arena. Although it was Ilithyia's idea (with sinister ulterior motives), Glaber eventually warmed up to the notion of trying to get more nobles on his side. Despite being a Praetor, his standing (as I understood it to be) has suffered a significant slump ever since Spartacus almost took his head off three episodes ago. While Glaber mingled and plastered a sickeningly awkward smile on his face, Ilithyia was hard at work pursuing motives of her own. We've seen Ilithyia and Varinius exchange nauseating glances for a while now, but I always thought that Ilithyia was doing it for Glaber's cause. This episode made it clear that she has indeed joined the anti-Glaber bandwagon, and to be honest, I'm not surprised. All the forces seem to be working against Glaber, so its quite possible his days on the show are numbered. He has no genuine allies left (Markus was killed by Ashur, so that's that). I always believed that Lucretia and Ashur were the real threats to Spartacus and his men, but Ilithyia displayed considerable gumption in achieving results (looks like all the time she spent with Batiatus & Lucretia finally paid off). As for Lucretia, her plans for the evening were more ambiguous to begin with. It's obvious she's an expert at letting others do her dirty work, but did we witness her change pawns while she 'catered' to Albinius' needs? Glaber might have outlived his purpose as far as she's concerned, so cozying up (give me a more diplomatic word and I'll use it) to Albinius might have been the next step in her scheme. And I don't think I'm giving her too much credit.
Although a spine-crunching escape from the Ludus seems likely, Crixus appears to have accepted his fate for the time being. I thought it was a tad unrealistic for Lucretia not to choose Crixus as the night's human pincushion. Regardless of how sinister or deep her plans are, she didn't know that Naevia was still alive. When Crixus told her that she was, a more genuine response would have been to leave him at the mercy of the crazy freaks present during the occasion. Letting him live so that he may continue to suffer at Lucretia's expense, didn't seem like a decision she would come up with at the spur of the moment. Letting two former champions of Capua (Crixus & Oenomaus) battle in the arena for their lives --- not the best idea if you want them dead. Unless they fight each other, which makes more sense. I'm still wondering what Ashur's motives are behind all this. Survival would be my first guess. But stitching up Lucretia's wound and assisting her in her plans would make sense if there's a clear-cut goal behind his actions. Loyalty isn't Ashur's strong suite, so common sense would dictate that he's backing the side most likely to win.
- Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the puniest one of them all? Liam Mcintyre is! I'm sorry, but compared to some of the giants he supposedly commands, Spartacus looked like a ninety pound weakling. Liam McIntyre needs to beef up if we are to take him seriously as the slayer of Theokoles.
- I did get the sense of a possible future alliance between Glaber and Seppius. Their mutual dislike for Varinius (and Spartacus) has the potential to form a strong bond between them. And was anybody else grossed out by the relationship between Seppius and his sister Seppia? That's right. After everything that we saw in the episode, THAT'S what grossed me out.
- Viva Bianca was brilliant in this episode. She had an almost Batiatus-esque manner to the way she handled herself, especially when she almost bashed Lucretia's skull into the ground. Personally, I think Lucretia could make short work of her in ten seconds. Let that image percolate for a bit. You're welcome.
- Despite my reservations about Spartacus' forest adventure, the action sequences continued to impress. Mira kicked some serious Roman posteriors as well. Now I feel like playing Mortal Kombat.
I wasn't disappointed by this episode, but when the good guys make idiotic decisions that you completely disagree with, it's hard to root for them. Now that Spartacus has re-united with Agron at Vesuvius, maybe cooler minds will prevail and the group will finally start planning a sensible line of attack.