Spartacus: Vengeance continues its bloody fight in the aftermath of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, forging its seventh episode “Sacramentum,” as Spartacus struggles to maintain leadership of a new influx of Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel)’s men, while Ilithyia and Lucretia resolve to flee the increasingly power-mad Glaber. Yet another strong, if less plot-progressive episode, “Sacramentum” begins closing threads as Spartacus tensely moves toward the epic conflict at the end of its season.
I confess to having made a slight error over Spartacus: Vengeance that however slight, may have been clouding my judgment toward appreciating each episode. You see, up until a week or so ago I had assumed that Vengeance would last at least twelve episodes much like its predecessor Blood and Sand, instead of the ten we have here. That left a little bit of breathing room that made episodes like ‘Libertus‘all the more impressive considering how much room there was to up the ante before a season finale. Heading into episode seven of ten now, I realize there’s considerably less time to spend drifting back and forth between conflicts at Spartacus’camp and the Romans at the House of Batiatus, particularly if the final episodes are to bring any epic battle or satisfying conclusion to Spartacus: Vengeance. It always seems like there’s less time than there actually is, but in the next few weeks I’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on how swiftly things move toward the finale.
Of course, that limited time doesn’t make episodes like ‘Libertus,”Chosen Path,’or ‘Sacramentum’any less effective, and in particular it’s a miracle that the latter two can measure up against the incredible standard set by the climactic battle of ‘Libertus.’”Libertus” made for a fine midpoint, after which it was time for ‘Chosen Path’to lend character dynamic to both Spartacus and Gannicus, and recover long enough to see where the future could take the rebels.
Now, ‘Sacramentum’represents a critical juncture for clearing away lingering questions and threads before Spartacus: Vengeance moves into the home stretch, and on that level makes another fascinating entry into how these characters define their loyalties. Indeed, one of the few questions remaining after who and how our heroes and their men would follow Spartacus toward his vengeance is why they would, and what could bring newly-freed slaves to pledge their lives rather than flee into obscurity. And those are exactly the questions Crixus, Agron, Gannicus, or Oenomaus should be asking of themselves at this point, just what defines Spartacus as a leader?
Really, why shouldn’t Agron bolster the camp’s numbers with his own people instead of more rival Gauls, and why shouldn’t he consider himself their leader in his own right? And for that matter, how can any rebel force stand together against an empire when they themselves can’t look past the land each warrior hails from? It’s intriguing to see the way loyalties divide instantaneously when Spartacus or Crixus realize that Agron’s people now outnumber their own, and suspect the otherwise loyal Agron for making it so on purpose. Yet in the end it’s Spartacus himself who empowers even the crudest man, that they have the choice of who to follow, or how to live their lives. Regardless of race, class, or origin, any sword that would protect another’s life is welcome in Spartacus’camp.
That’s what the fittingly titled ‘Sacramentum’explores most, inspiration of loyalty, in particular the ways we see paralleled between Spartacus and the Romans. Spartacus wins the loyalty of Agron and his men through defense, honor and brotherhood, whereas the Roman Glaber merely absorbs the soldiers left in the wake of Seppius’death, and entreats them to mindlessly recite an oath as a pledge of loyalty. It’s especially effective that the slaves pledge of oath needs no words, rather beating chests in unison, a symbol of dedication over declaration. This is how brotherhood is forged, and ‘Sacramentum’is what made Spartacus a true leader.
Even so, both Glaber and Ashur (Nick E. Tarabay) have made some fascinating transformations over the course of the season, as we now see Glaber’s intent shifting more toward a sinister malice than duty, undoubtedly broken by his wife’s betrayal. Gone is the Claudius Glaber at least trying to do right in his sworn duty, and in his place is the evil Ilithyia glimpsed behind his eyes, an unwavering need to crush any that would oppose him, even a poor slave girl. So too does Ashur continue to twist and contort in his new-found freedom, made all the more disturbing by his repeated conquests of Lucretia (Lucy Lawless). In spite of all the heinous acts he commits, he seems to genuinely care for her, in his own twisted way. And much like Glaber, Ashur comes to embrace the wrong side of brotherhood, that power and fear will keep strong men and beautiful women at his side, rather than true purpose.
Equally fascinating is the bond of sisterhood portrayed throughout ‘Sacramentum,’as Ilithyia and Lucretia grow even closer against Glaber and his cohorts, to the attempt of fleeing the city altogether. All season I’ve tried to reason out what purpose Lucretia might be scheming toward, and I fully believe she still wishes to take Ilithyia’s child for her own, but the journey there is made all the more engaging by the way these two women, and even actresses continue to compliment one another. It makes an extremely effective contrast against Seppia (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence), now lacking any sibling bond of her own, who instead openly seeks Glaber’s affection regardless of all Ilithyia has done for her. Seppia is yet a spoiled girl, who does not yet understand how such bonds can enrich her soul.
And even through bonds of sisterhood and brother, there are those that stand alone, to which the remainder of ‘Sacramentum’is put to task of finding purpose for Gannicus. After his exit from Spartacus’camp he returns to Capua pitifully seeking coin, women and wine to drown his sorrow. Yet even after seeing the brief object of his affection crucified for even mentioning Spartacus’name or being entreated by Lucretia to strike back at Glaber and end this war once and for all, Gannicus chooses to forge his own path by capturing Ilithyia, for intents as-yet-unknown.
I was reminded of the rain-soaked battle that ended ‘Chosen Path,’as the camp once more erupts in brawl during ‘Sacramentum,’but toward very different purpose. The fight between Spartacus and Gannicus was a clash of titans and necessary evolution, where ‘Sacramentum’lies more in all-out brawl for entertainment’s sake, much like the episode itself. Yet from the ashes of that battle, like Gannicus himself, a phoenix wrought with the flames of brotherhood rises to carry us into the coming war of the final episodes.
It’s fun to talk all, like, dramatic-y and stuff.
And Another Thing…
- It’s amazing how something as simple as oceans an rain can sell an entirely new aesthetic to Spartacus: Vengeance, given the limited budgets and sets.
- Crucifixion is just not comfortable to watch. This probably shouldn’t surprise me.
- I didn’t get a chance to mention it, but I’m definitely liking the new dynamic between Crixus and Naevia, something of a heartbroken teacher forging a deadly weapon, though their bond still clearly lingers.
- Someone want to take a shot every time someone says the word ‘vengeance?’
- Once again, really great costume design all throughout, particularly The Egyptian and Lucretia.
- Admittedly, it might have been cool to see Gannicus on Glaber’s side for a bit, a dark parallel and symbol to Spartacus. But I suppose we got a taste of that in ‘Libertus.’
- So many scenes I want to be a time-traveling fly on the wall, if only to say ‘dude, you’re all clearly manipulating one another, like not even subtly. Chillax.’
- I would have liked for Sedullus to stick around, but I think we can all agree that that was, and likely will be the best Spartacus kill of all time.
- Once again, I’m a guy. And I TOTALLY CALLED that Hanna Mangan-Lawrence would be getting’all kinds of nakies given her history with Viva Bianca in their last film.
What did YOU think?