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Betrayal seemed to be the running theme of ‘Mors Indecepta’ on both sides of this drawn-out war. It was only a matter of time before many of these betrayals took place, but that doesn’t make them any more pleasant. In fact, much of this episode just made me dislike characters I had previously favored. A little hint to showrunners: you don’t want to do that.
What seems like the smallest deception of the entire episode actually had the biggest effect on me. After weeks of not-so-subtle hinting, Sibyl finally throws herself at Gannicus like the desperate, pathetic wet-noodle of a human being she is. But what’s really gag-inducing is that instead of turning her away as he’s done in the past, Gannicus actually goes for it. And can we just talk about this sex scene for a moment? There’s currently a blizzard outside that will eventually kill off a thousand of Spartacus’ followers. Gannicus and Sibyl are holed up in basically a lean-to made from a slab of wood, clothed in rags. We see Spartacus off in another shelter shivering so much he has ice crystals in his beard. And Gannicus and Sibyl decide to take their clothes off and bang. People are dying out there, temperatures are below freezing, and sex seems like a good idea? Seriously? Seriously?! These are the rookie mistakes made in the first season of the show, not near the end of the final season. Come on, writers. You’ve definitely regressed with that one.
What’s really rage-inducing, however, is that Gannicus chooses to sleep with this sniveling goody-two-shoes instead of staying with Saxa, who is easily the best female character in the history of the show. She’s beautiful, badass, and can hold her own with the men, the only woman who’s a match for the drunken, womanizing Gannicus. She made him into something more than a foolish drunk. Saxa genuinely cares about him; besides, what other woman can single-handedly satisfy his needs in a way dozens of women hadn’t before? But he throws it all away for a pathetic wimp who exemplifies the “weak female” trope. At this moment it becomes apparent that the show is written by a bunch of dudes.
Of course, there are other betrayals in this episode that paint characters in an unflattering light. Just look at Crixus, for example. His physical revolt against Spartacus makes him seem oafish and hot-headed, not the battle god he was in days past. What’s truly baffling is why he thinks Spartacus will fail them, since he never has before. Spartacus’ tactical genius nearly rivals that of Crassus, so in what world does Crixus believe his strategy would ever be superior? Even the usually insane Naevia is tame compared to him this time. His inability to realize his own shortcomings could have been forgiven in Season 1 (again, it was a less experienced time for everyone) but not now. Like I said, it makes him seem incredibly stupid, which he’s been slowly showing more and more of. Remember “Gods of the Arena?” That Crixus was stubborn, yes, but also shrewd and bold. He’s come a long way since then, and not in a good way.
And who can forget the bizarre triangle (actually more life a quadrilateral) between Crassus, Kore, Tiberius, and sometimes Caesar? The betrayal begins with the unintentional pain Crassus causes when he orders Kore to remain in Sinuessa with Tiberius, and it just snowballs from there. Soon Kore and Caesar are planning to throw Tiberius from Crassus’ favor. But when things don’t go perfectly as planned, Kore runs off in the middle of the night to join Spartacus. Look, I understand what the writers were going for with that one. Kore realizes that she’s a slave too, no better than the ones in Spartacus’ army. And she’ll never be able to change that. But it felt incredibly premature. Kore barely puts up a fight to save her own skin, choosing instead to accept her fate (or run from it, rather). She honestly fought harder for Tiberius to return to Crassus’ favor than for her own well-being. She barely even broaches the topic before giving up and running off instead. Rather than portraying her as a woman who chooses freedom, it just makes her seem weak. It’s clear she loves Crassus, so her inability to fight harder to remain by his side, and her choice to betray him to join his greatest enemy, definitely doesn’t work to her credit.
What’s really depressing is that these were all characters I liked. I loved Gannicus’ appreciation of Saxa’s wild strength and sexuality. I loved Crixus’ determination and steadfastness, and his ability to follow when he wants to lead. And I loved Kore’s tendency to humanize those who seem cold, and her belief in and love for Crassus. And now all of those perceptions are ruined. This episode was sorely disappointing, and so close to the finale, it quite frankly worries me.