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This, my friends, is good television. A little lesson in television writing (from a writer): when two sides oppose each other, especially in war, never make one side clearly have power over the other. It’s just not interesting. A power struggle is always, always fascinating, and it works best when opponents (or better yet, enemies) are equally matched. “Blood Brothers” is a shining example of this golden rule of writing. In this episode we see just how truly equal Team Spartacus and Team Crassus really are.
When we left off, I was applauding the crumbling of Spartacus’ men, especially Crixus and Naevia. I was positive it would play a direct part in the fall of Spartacus; after all, if you can’t even control your own army, what do you have left? Yet Spartacus manages to fool me again, orchestrating a plan so bizarre and asinine that even Crixus has to applaud it. His inclusion of Crixus in this plot and his renewed thirst for Roman blood re-forges the bond they share (hence the title “Blood Brothers”) and seems to leave them on good terms again, essentially bringing the army back together. Score one for Spartacus.
Until this point, we haven’t really seen Spartacus as a strategist. We always hear his enemies mentioning how cunning he is, and yes, he’s pulled off a couple of schemes, but has he really ever orchestrated anything to match Crassus in terms of sheer intelligence? Mostly he’s just been incredibly skilled in combat and braver than anyone should be. Well, finally we see this cunning everyone’s always talking about. Releasing Laeta and allowing her to feed Crassus a bogus tip-off about his whereabouts (after a very public fight with Crixus, no less) is nothing short of genius. Finally he’s showing some craftiness to rival Crassus. And it came not a moment too late, because lately it’s seemed that Crassus has had an overwhelming upper hand based on smarts alone. Now, finally, we can believe Spartacus has a fighting chance (though, obviously, he doesn’t). Theoretically, this plan of his should split Crassus’ troops enough for the gang to take them out.
So obviously this means that Spartacus now has a clear upper hand, right? Oh no, the balance is off and the show will go downhill from here, right? Not so fast. Crassus and Caesar have some time to shine as well, which tips the scales back into balance. Of course, an entire episode of Spartacus making plans and Crassus thwarting them would look like a televised game of chess, thus becoming the most boring show ever. This is where Caesar comes in handy, essentially being the eyes and ears (and muscles) for Crassus within the city. It’s actually pretty genius to stick Caesar in the middle of things, not only in terms of war but also in terms of effective plot. Caesar is the formidable enemy we’ve been missing since the fall of Batiatus. That constant presence of danger hasn’t been there since Season 1, but it comes back in the form of this crazy spy.
What we needed was for someone to foil Spartacus’ plan and turn his own weapon against him. Caesar does just that, and thank god for it. He and Crassus attack while the gang is split up, meaning Spartacus is knocked down a few pegs. Now it’s anyone’s game again. And Caesar, of course, has been turning the men on each other the whole time, and I’m still hopeful that it’ll have an effect on the group as a whole. I’m having a tough time describing the subtle power shifts that happen throughout the episode, but trust me, they’re genius. Just watch it.
What confuses me a bit is how on earth they’ll be able to keep this plot up for another five episodes. The Romans are storming the wall, most of Spartacus’ warriors are gone, and Caesar is kicking ass and taking names. Will the few men Spartacus has left be able to pull a gladiator move and take out the whole army charging at them? Will they escape? Will the writers attempt to draw out a battle for an agonizing five episodes? I have no idea. I’ll take suggestions. In the meantime, watch this episode and revel in the glory of good writing.