Episode 6 - Chosen Path
24 March 2012
Synopsis: Gannicus refuses all attempts to enlist him and after talking to Oenomaus he leaves. Spartacus, Agron and Lucius draw up plans to find new recruits and to secure their position on Vesuvius. Lucius teaches Mira and others to use a bow and arrow while Chadara struggles to replace Rhaskos. Naevia is too haunted by her treatment at the hands of Rome to enjoy lying with Crixus anymore. In Capua Glaber begins seizing Albinius' resources and promotes Ashur to begin building a new elite force. Ashur rapes Lucretia who strengthens her alliance with the equally miserable Ilithyia.
The Good: Gannicus stayed true to his character and hauntingly predicted the fate of the real Spartacus when he suggested that he would lead the other slaves to ruin. His refusal to be drawn into a rebellion that he is not invested in fit with the man we met in Gods of the Arena who seemed at peace with the thought that death might come calling on any given day. I liked the conversation he had with Spartacus in the woods which gave our hero a chance to explain his motivations and allowed Gannicus to see the whole picture before making his decision. I'm sure Gannicus will find a reason to join the slaves soon enough but I'm glad it wasn't easy to convince him.
Naevia's time as a sex slave was also handled well. The trauma of those events again came back to haunt her as she recoiled from Crixus' touch. Her decision not to be a victim but to fight back was pleasing. It fit the situation well and actually delays some of the gratification of seeing her reunited with the undefeated Gaul.
Speaking of whom it seemed entirely true to character that he would thank Agron for saving him while simultaneously refusing to forget his deception. Crixus remains wedded to a rigorous definition of honour and I appreciate that he would not see Agron as a friend just because, like him, he was persuaded to do something by Spartacus. Crixus spoke to his growing affection for his Thracian brother when he wryly told him "you always find way to convince otherwise."
Ashur had another strong episode as a character and as a heel. For a minute I thought the writers were going to turn our sympathy toward him as he saw off several Roman soldiers in a demonstration that he had learnt some of Oenomaus' lessons. Instead, once he won favour from Glaber, he used it brutally by raping Lucretia. This is where the heel part comes in. It's the professional wrestling term for a bad guy (more on that in a minute) and Ashur embodies it particularly well because instead of treating those he defeats well to build an alliance he steps all over them. Ashur may come to regret turning on his former domina who will not forget what he did. I liked his more Roman-approved haircut and shave too.
The mutual desperation society forming between Lucretia and Ilithyia surprised me with its effectiveness. Last episode I warned that they should never be seen to trust one another again. And certainly I have not turned from my belief that Lucretia will take Ilithyia down if she can. But their position of powerlessness at the feet of Roman men does draw pity and it remains interesting to watch them try and claw their way out.
The Bad: Despite the good character work on display this episode didn't satisfy me. Spartacus is famed for its dramatic physical confrontations and yet the Spartacus-Gannicus fight was practically an exhibition. As much as seeing the two sword wielding champions fight may seem like a good idea it annoyed me for its obvious lack of consequence. The Chadara twist seemed like an adequate way to end the fight but was actually a gross overreaction from Mira. There was nothing stopping her from just yelling out that she suspected Chadara. Her decision to actually fire the arrow was pure dramatic flourish and made her look stupid for taking such a risk.
The "fight" between Spartacus and Gannicus was basically a Pro wrestling match from a TV show that has dabbled in that art form more than once. Ashur's new elite squad of killers is a story that would be entirely at home in the WWE. I'm not a fan of this idea because like so many wrestling matches these "heels" are being set up only to fall onto the sharp swords of our favourite gladiators. I also think a bit too much credence is being given to the gladiatorial style of combat. The amazing part of the real Spartacus story is that his men stood against professional soldiers and won. The professional part comes from their discipline which won many a battle against men fighting as individuals. Perhaps this will turn into good television but for now I can't get excited about Glaber and Ashur leading an army of pseudo-gladiators into battle just to provide slow motion fodder for Spartacus.
Glaber himself was a disappointment here. I wish he had received more definition as a character before he reached this point. I think we need a stronger sense of both his place in the Roman hierarchy and his own definition of morality. Without a clearer sense of who he is (beyond basic ambition and the embarrassment that the revolt causes him) his actions lack emotional resonance. Last episode he was the cuckold drawing some sympathy, here he's positively enjoying Ilithyia's grief. There is precious little distinction between Glaber and Ilithyia as bad people. Her venal ambition seemed to have grown after she got away with the murder of Lycenia. It was possible to see her descent as mirroring Batiatus and Lucretia who also saw how easy it became to kill once you got the ball rolling.
Until now Glaber hadn't crossed a line in that way. He treated slaves with brutality but that's just a reflection of his place in the world. Then he decides to murder Seppius which should be a major moral and political gamble but all we see is the snarling of a generic villain. It's the murder of a fellow Roman citizen that really bothers me. I complained about this when Tullius (the thuggish merchant from Gods of the Arena) did the same thing (in killing Gaia in 204). One of the great benefits of Roman citizenship would have been the increased fear others would have in harming you. As an act it felt flippant and generic and Spartacus is a show that has an underserved reputation for being both those things.
The Unknown: Though it fit his character it was almost counterproductive to have Gannicus shrug at the destruction of the arena. The whole point of such a monumental act was to put fear in the minds of the Romans and hope into the hearts of the slaves. Gannicus, a man who the arena almost fell on, simply points out that Rome is bigger than Capua. Great.
The rape of Lucretia could have been a much bigger moment than it was. It came so fast on the heels of Ashur proving his worth on the sand and should have had more time to sink in.
Best Moment: Naevia's inability to sleep with Crixus was pretty sad and entirely believable.
The Bottom Line: As with last week's episode I have to find a score which balances the show's strengths with its missteps. I think 58 is fair. There was a lot to like but I ended the episode less excited than I should be.
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