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Spartacus

Spartacus is a drama about a Thracian soldier imprisoned by the Roman Republic around the turn of the 1st century BC. He is sold into slavery and trained to be a gladiator in the city of Capua. STARZ 2010-???

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Episode 7 - Sacramentum

24 March 2012

Credit STARZ

Synopsis: Spartacus frees the slaves from a ship at Neapolis. Agron chose the ship though and the slaves are all from Germany. They prove unruly and when one of them puts his hands on Naevia, Spartacus kills him. In Capua Glaber has a slave crucified and orders that any who speak the name Spartacus should suffer a similar fate. Gannicus looks on in disgust and is soon told he must join Glaber's cause. Lucretia plots a way for Ilithyia to escape the city and then begs Gannicus to kill Glaber.

The Good: For a moment this episode almost hit the heights of season one but never quite did. That shouldn't take away from the very enjoyable developments we did get.

Ashur's story received a nice twist when we see that it's not just sex he is looking to get from Lucretia. Instead he decides to live out one of his fantasies by taking Batiatus' place as her surrogate husband. It's a nice creepy twist on their relationship and the moment when he slithered into Glaber's ear to stop Lucretia from leaving the city was well crafted. Until now it would have been Lucretia whispering to those with power but now Ashur stands in her way.

The use of crucifixion to drive the plot forward was excellent. The symbol of it has instant resonance as well as being historically authentic and always brutal to behold. Here it was a symbol of the growing instability and cruelty of Glaber. His decision to begin nailing slaves to Capuan walls convinces Lucretia that he is too unhinged to be trusted. Her position is already tenuous and now she begins to fear that she may end up similarly treated if Spartacus continues to defeat the Praetor.

Her desperate plea to Gannicus was the highlight of the season so far. Suddenly she could see the whole chess board. If Gannicus killed Glaber then Spartacus would be freed from his need for revenge. He could then flee Roman shores in search of freedom while Ilithyia would regain control of her father's wealth. Naturally Gannicus laughs at the insanity of the idea that he would walk alone into the ludus to do this. But her words are given real power by the sight of all the slaves hanging off nearby buildings, physical demonstrations of the alternative facing him.

When Lucretia tells Ilithyia of her plans we get a wonderful tantalising moment as Ilithyia decides what to do with this information. If she tells her husband the truth then perhaps he will warm to her again. However she sees no love in him anymore and realises that her only escape from this marriage will be with his death. So she tells him "You will be missed" instead. It all created a terrific conundrum as we waited to see what Gannicus would do (see The Unknown).

At Vesuvius the arrival of the boatload of Germans instantly signalled danger for Spartacus. His followers have dwindled to the point where Agron's new friends clearly outnumbered them. That was of course a recipe for disaster and the expected fallout came in brutal fashion with yet another Face Off pun. As a story I thought it was an interesting choice. It created a plausible conflict amongst the slaves and Agron's racist attitude wasn't diluted by it. The return of Oenomaus to the ranks of the walking was a nice moment and Crixus' behaviour around Naevia was sweet.

The Bad: I wouldn't say any of this was simply bad television but...

The Unknown: I thought the ending was something of a letdown. Gannicus has become a surprisingly effective character. Like Crixus his lack of intellect doesn't stop me admiring his attitude to right and wrong. His response to Glaber's ultimatum was to go drinking and feel sorry for himself. That was all consistent with the man Batiatus mocked for threatening to kill Tullius when it would lead to his instant death (206). So given the background of that character I had trouble buying that he would hatch a plan to kidnap Ilithyia. The story was set up nicely for him to choose Spartacus' version of freedom over the Roman kind but to hijack a wagon? Gannicus doesn't strike me as a strategist. I'm sure Ilithyia's presence in the Temple will make for great viewing but I was left unsatisfied by this.

I also felt the way Spartacus won over the Germans was a little easy. It wasn't as if he bested Sedullus in an epic contest (which he could have done). He got in a swing with his sword during a drunken brawl. It didn't feel like enough to quell the unrest amongst a group of people who probably wouldn't have heard of Spartacus or his achievements.

On a smaller note it looked like Crixus and Naevia were training with actual swords which looked foolish. There was also a needless voice over to make sure we knew that the slave who slept with Gannicus was the one now hanging on a cross. I think Lucretia and Ilithyia really need to stop telling people their plans! The piles of intestines are getting a bit unnecessary.

Best Moment: Lucretia turning to Gannicus to help was really good. It created a really intriguing situation that helped build a strong momentum for the rest of the episode. Though I also enjoyed Gannicus, at the height of his wit, asking whether Ashur (who referred to his men as Glaber's hands) was Glaber's cock or his ass.  

The Bottom Line: This had some very strong moments in it and moves the plot toward exciting times.

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  • Robin,

    Thanks for your podcasts, I'm enjoying them a lot and I'm listening to Jupiter's Rooster as well.

    When you commented that Ashur is crapping on those below him, it took me all the way back to when the gladiators pissed in the Syrians food in Gods of the Arena. And I think you can trace his evolution from there. He's a climber (as are many in this show) and he was "taught" how to treat underlings by first hand experience. Since then, he's been using every "skill" he can muster to become something better, or at least higher. And I think you're right on in saying that he's thinking he's pretty high up now because he's becoming the right hand man of a Roman Praetor.

    Which seques me into Glaber, I can't figure out whether Parker is just a poor actor or he's a great actor playing a character that the writer's are really messing with. He goes through so many unbelievable transformations, everything from milquetoast to murdering Seppius and his whole house, playboy (but not very convincing) with Illythia to numbskull being rescued by Ashur when Lucretia charms him. Oh, and then there's Lucretia controlling him via her prophecies. Perhaps he's on another voyage similar to Battiatus and Ashur but for some reason, I enjoyed and am enjoying their voyages much more than Glaber's. Any ideas about the acting ability vs the writing of the character? Perhaps he loses something when compared to such wonderful acting by so many of rest on this show?

    There's also another interesting angle I haven't heard mentioned. Lucretia originally was extremely disdainful of ever "bedding a filthy gladiator" when Gaia first suggested it back in GoA. And yet, here she is, down in a cell, being asked "who's your dominus?" by the lowest of the low. What a surprise that was! I think we'll see some real climbing by Lucretia to get out of this pit and she'll probably take Ashur out along the way.

    Thanks again,
    Thomas

    Posted by tstoutmn, 21/03/2012 11:26am (7 years ago)

  • Hi Robin and fellow fans of the arena,
    This was another great episode of Spartacus, which took me by surprise several times. The sight of Lucretia in Ashur’s bed was almost gasp worthy, especially his particular brand of seduction which involves excising power over her. Their ensuing battle of wills and perhaps future cooperation will be interesting to see unfold. I thought Lucretia and Ilithya locked in embrace together last week would be the closest we will see to two serpents curled together, but it seems we have more to look forward to with these two.
    The detail the writers follow in terms of the Spartacus storyline is interesting. Having him prove his leadership is a necessary detail, especially remembering that in season 1 he was not a man anyone would have followed so easily. I do agree with Robin that this was proved a little too easily, but I admire the effort being put to these little details.
    There were several encounters in this episode that we haven’t seen before. Ashur and Gannicus; Lucretia and Gannicus; were combinations that I enjoyed watching. While he held his own, Gannicus is obviously not the intellectual match of either of our two favorite serpents. His turning kidnaper at the end of the episode was another one that shocked me, even though I didn’t think he would succeed in killing Glaber. It was an unexpected twist and I can’t wait to see how this is resolved.
    I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as last week, but I am enjoying the building blocks being laid down. This season is building up again to a conclusion I cannot phantom. Is this season merely going to solidify the creation of the rebel army and the end of Glaber? We shall soon see.
    And yes Robin, the intestines were necessary, after all this show has a reputation to uphold. Ha! That faceoff was probably a shout out to Breaking Bad.
    Can’t wait for next week.

    Posted by Kayode from Baltimore, 21/03/2012 11:26am (7 years ago)

  • Really enjoyed this episode. It had moments where I whooped, chuckled and held my breath all in the same hour whilst still having the plot machinations that we've come to love about this show.

    Posted by Mark B, 21/03/2012 11:25am (7 years ago)

  • Just wanted to say it was nice seeing Gregor Clegane (The Mountain That Rides) from Game of Thrones play Sedullus. I knew he wouldn't be on the show long since Gregor plays a larger role in upcoming storylines in A Song of Ice and Fire. That's of course assuming they are faithful to the books.

    More on topic: Do you feel Spartacus is becoming more of a supporting character? It just seems that he isn't getting as much screen time as a titular character should get. Possibly to ease Liam Mcyntire into his new role? Then again maybe he is getting as much screen time as they need. It just struck me after this episode and I thought "Hmm, We spent way more time in Capua than we did with Spartacus.

    I can't believe they actually worked in a "Spartacus' Vengeance" line into the dialogue. Also, the shot of Sedullus getting his face cut off was vintage Spartacus, even if Breaking Bad beat them to the punch. Yes, I believe that even though it's only season 3, season 1 was the show in it's prime. I fear the show may never reach heights like "Shadow Games" or "Party Favors" ever again. However, I remain a loyal fan/viewer.

    Posted by Joe, 21/03/2012 11:24am (7 years ago)

  • Yeah sorry everyone. I was sent screeners and that's two people I nearly spoilt.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 21/03/2012 11:24am (7 years ago)

  • Wow, the review is out 5 hours before the episode airs on the east coast of America. New record?

    Managed to eye your score before averting my eyes. Good to know I can look forward to a pretty decent episode tonight.

    Posted by Joe, 21/03/2012 11:24am (7 years ago)

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