Episode 3 - The Greater Good
8 March 2013
Synopsis: Ashur tortures Oenomaus until he discovers that Spartacus and Crixus are chasing Naevia. While freeing some slaves Agron and Nassir learn that Naevia has been sent to the mines. Agron refuses to go and instead leads his followers to Vesuvius. Crixus and Spartacus head to the mines and Mira leads them to Naevia.
The Good: This was more really solid stuff. It didn't quite hit the emotions the way I would like but there were some really good developments here.
Ashur had an excellent episode. His interaction with Oenomaus was really strong as two established characters did battle over a single issue. Although Ashur was thrilled to pass on a beating to his former doctore he couldn't get a word out of him. So Lucretia unleashes the secret about Gannicus and Melitta which serves its purpose really well. Ashur's glee in these moments marks him out as a true villain and naturally Oenomaus was rattled to suddenly discover the truth about the dark days just before his wife died. The slip he then made about Naevia came out naturally and suddenly Glaber's men knew where to go. Â
More than mere plot mechanics Ashur remains in a unique place on the show. He has learnt that doing ruthless things will please his Roman masters and improve his position. Yet he is still a slave. Glaber is more than willing to kill him (after his part in Lycenia's death, 109) and certainly to watch him mutilate himself for fun. So yes Ashur is a snake who enjoys stabbing his enemies in the back but at the same time his loyalty to the Romans is only paper thin. That tense situation leaves him with so much story potential going forward.
The revelation that it was he who saved Lucretia's life and helped stitch her wounds made sense.
The problems in the Glaber-Ilithiya marriage were quietly forwarded here. His obsession is with the manoeuvrings for position in the Senate and not with her. He refers to sleeping with her as a "task" and she clearly thinks his lust for her has gone. It's still hard to find much sympathy for these atrocious people but this presentation of their marital problems was effective.
I also enjoyed a couple of intimate moments amongst the freed slaves. Chadara and Nassir would of course have a pre-existing relationship based on their time as house slaves. So it was nice to see them talking like friends and learn that he is gay. I though Nassir's guilty reaction around a conciliatory Crixus was good too (though more on that later). Then we see her having sex with Rhaskos again but able to laugh and giggle with him now that they have spent time together. I thought that was a further subverting of the expected response from people trapped together like this.
The assault on the mines was beautifully constructed (from a production POV). They looked vast and oppressive and the tunnel network gave us a unique setting for another fight between gladiators and legionaries. Mira got to show her guts by taking on the foreman alone and the reunion between Crixus and Naevia was sweet. Her response to more men's hands on her was believable and the ensuing chaotic fight was pretty good.
The Bad: I felt the story could have been tweaked a bit. I think Crixus was implausibly restrained over Agron's deception. If Nassir hadn't been present when the dying Roman slaver told them the truth then Naevia would have died in the mines. The confrontation between Crixus and Agron therefore felt underwhelming. Agron's argument was undermined by a lack of information about the mines. We needed to hear how many soldiers would be guarding it and get a sense of how tough it would be to find her amongst the thousands there.
Then once in the tunnels there was an edge missing from the action. The claustrophobic interior was doubtless difficult to shoot and so it's a bit harsh to critique the sequence. It was far from bad but Crixus' sacrifice wasn't made as clear as it could have been. I didn't have a strong sense of how many men Spartacus was leading and how many got left behind either.
My real issue with both these Crixus-related scenes is that they serve the TV show in obvious ways. Clearly Agron is going to be a major character now and so it felt like the hatred Crixus should have felt for him was dampened to avoid making Agron seem too reprehensible going forward. Then you had Crixus sacrificing his freedom for Naevia which was always going to feel like a bit of a bait and switch. Naturally none of the Roman soldiers kill him either so we are left to wonder if he is going to be taken back to the villa to have more interactions with Lucretia, Ashur and Oenomaus. That may be great but it will inevitably feel repetitious.
I also laughed when Glaber got cheered in the arena for saying that his men were elsewhere. An audience expecting Roman soldiers would have booed him out of the building before he could get a word out about where they had gone. They then cheered him even louder when he says they are off catching Spartacus but surely they would be more likely to shout back "we'll believe it when we see it!"
The Unknown: How did Lucretia know that Naevia had been sent to the mines? Was that the order once she was done servicing the men of note?
Best Moment: Ashur pushing Oenomaus to reveal something he didn't mean to.
The Bottom Line: Despite my criticism of the TV contrivances here I still thought this was mostly good. Spartacus will now head to Vesuvius while (I assume) Oenomaus, Crixus and perhaps Gannicus plot another escape from Capua.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.