Before I begin my review about this week's episode of Spartacus: Vengeance, give me a few seconds while I remove my foot from my mouth after the comments I made last week. After Spartacus' plan to extract Naevia from the mines completely backfired, an even more ambitious plan to save Crixus & Oenomaus seemed like the dumbest thing to do... or so some of us thought. The writers made me eat my own words this week by not only giving us the BEST episode of the season (and possibly the series), but by also showing us that when Spartacus and his band of gladiators really apply themselves, the very foundation of Rome is at risk of crumbling beneath their feet. "Libertus" was an episode that had something for fans & critics alike ---- universal agreement that this show is not messing around. Spartacus: Vengeance is an exotic masterpiece that stands in a league of its own, and "Libertus" was a prime example of why that is so. It isn't often that we're in a position to summarize an episode with a single word, but "Libertus" was EPIC.
There have been a couple of moments during this season where I have questioned the ability of the writers to re-ignite the spark that Spartacus: Blood & Sand and Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena exhibited during their time. There was always a need for this installment of the series to pull out all the stops and grab the audience by the short hairs. I'm glad to say that this transition has finally occurred, and it took a lot of industrious effort from the writers as well as the actors and the CGI department to make it work. The episode began with Crixus, Oenomaus, and Rhaskos standing in the center of the gladiatorial arena awaiting their respective fates as Varinius announced the name of the gladiator who had been chosen to finish them off ---- a former slave from the House of Batiatus named Gannicus. It was right then and there that I realized this episode is not going to be an ordinary one. Some of the best moments of the show have occurred in the arena, and this wasn't going to be any different. The re-introduction of Gannicus into the story was a move which had been long overdue, but now that it has actually happened, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. I wasn't exactly thrilled when the episode flashed back to a day before the games in the arena, but the writers obviously had a plan, which worked out in the end. After Spartacus re-united with Agron and the rest of his men at the foot of Vesuvius, they took refuge in an abandoned temple guarded by a gruff and grumpy dude named Lucius. Although a Roman himself, Lucius welcomed Spartacus and company with open arms since he had no love for his fellow Romans after his family was slaughtered by them. With Nasir making a speedy recovery and Naevia continuing to whine about Crixus the same way Crixus whined about Naevia, Spartacus decided to kill two birds with one stone by hatching an elaborate plan to rescue his fellow gladiators from certain death in the arena and to get as far away from Naevia (and her whining) as possible. The fact that this would also deal a tremendous blow to Glaber and the rest of the robe-wearing sissies, would be an added bonus.
While Spartacus and his men (and woman) were making their way to the arena, Ilithyia and her father had apparently agreed to collectively oust Glaber from his seat on the senate, and their lives. Ilithyia and Varinius continued to exchange nauseating glances and were already making plans for the future, one of those plans being the abortion of Ilithyia's unborn child. Lucretia seemed to be particularly interested in Ilithyia's child, which leads me to believe one of two things - either she knows that the child might be Spartacus' and thus has a sinister plan in mind for the child, or she's suffering from baby withdrawal after losing her own child and plans to steal the kid from Ilithyia. Either way, it's pretty clear that Lucretia does NOT want the child to die. This episode also gave me an opportunity to discard any theories I had about Gaius Claudius Glaber being an expendable character on the show. Glaber has had to deal with a lot of crap from the likes of Ilithyia, Albinius, Varinius, and even Seppius, so it was only a matter of time before he fought back. I wasn't surprised that he bashed Albinius' skull into a pulpy mess, nor did I really care. Anything to wipe the sickening smile off of Ilithyia's beautiful face is a welcome move. From what I can understand from their situation, Albinius' death now means that Glaber and Ilithyia's marriage cannot be officially dissolved. It will be interesting to see if Varinius has a further role to play on the show, or if we've seen the last of him.
Regardless of how shady the dealings are between all the antagonists on the show, Ashur is still by far the shadiest of them all. The decision to reveal the existence of the vial to Glaber wasn't part of Lucretia's plan, but Ashur is a snake of the deadliest variety. By helping Glaber, Ashur has distanced himself from Lucretia and created a separate place for himself in Glaber's good books, something she probably didn't expect. What I'm starting to enjoy about this show is the animosity between the antagonists themselves. Now that the entire Gladiatorial Hall Of Fame (Spartacus, Crixus, Oenomaus, & Gannicus) have joined forces, the likes of Glaber and Lucretia are at a distinct disadvantage, which is a welcome change of pace for the show. I'm just thrilled to see it happen so quickly. The last ten minutes of the episode were spectacular to watch and I'm not sure if I took the time to blink. Kudos to the writers, the actors and the CGI dudes. You guys are awesome!
- Although Spartacus narrowly missed turning Glaber into a human appetizer, I couldn't help smiling when the spear killed the creepy dude who's been bugging me since season one. What was his name anyway?
- I was just wondering --- after watching all the carnage that the Spartacus series has exposed us to, how thoroughly uninteresting would 300 seem if we watched it again?
- What will the relationship between Oenomaus & Gannicus be from now on? Do you think they can bury the hatchet? Or is Oenomaus going to do to Gannicus what Gerard Butler did to him in 300?
- Now that the arena has been burned to the ground, will we ever see any more gladiator-on-gladiator action?
With the entire gang finally back together (plus Gannicus), Spartacus and his men now have the upper hand against Glaber and the rest of Rome. I cannot wait to see whatelse the writers have in store for us next week! And no more 300 references. I promise.