Episode 7 - Sacramentum
24 March 2012
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. Â
The Bottom Line: This had some very strong moments in it and moves the plot toward exciting times.
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