Once upon a time, when I was in high school, and Spartacus first started, my favorite history teacher told me that the show was basically soft core porn and not even history. Well, he may have been right, but this show has evolved into such an emotional roller coaster that I count it as one of my favorite shows airing right now. As such, I’ve been catching up these past few days and I can finally review the show before it finally bows out. Be prepared, it’s a doozy.
So the penultimate episode was, in many ways, everything I have been waiting for. Tiberius finally gets his just desserts, we get to see the gladiators fight as gladiators again, I get to see what is going to happen with Kore and Crassus, Agron gets reunited with Nasir (my favorite two people ever), and Crixus gets his final send off. Also, I think Caesar and Kore can both sleep a little better after Tiberius’s death.
Being a long time watcher of Spartacus, I’ve slowly seen the brotherhood between Spartacus, Gannicus, Crixus, and Agron grow. Their story lines have been enriched with their freedom, their love, and their brotherhood. Basically when they stand together, it’s like an all mighty bro has stamped his approval of the statue of bromance. Sure, sometimes they argue and some times they disagree, but in the end they are there for each other. This episode was a tribute to the Undefeated Gaul, the first champion we ever met on the sands, as well as to those who have fallen. It almost feels like a tribute not only to the character Crixus, but also to the first actor to play Starz’s Spartacus, Andy Whitfield.
Like almost all episodes of Spartacus, we start off with gratuitous violence. But this soon leads into an actual plan set up by Spartacus in order to out smart Crassus. Pompey is coming to aid him in this fight and they intend to get the upper hand. Also has anyone noticed that you apparently either get to cover your torso or your legs, but not both? Like, Gannicus only shields his legs while Spartacus, Agron, and Crixus shield their torsos. But anyways, they come back to camp and find a single rider coming towards them. Naevia. In her arms is Crixus’s severed head. Crixus was my absolute favorite character during Season 1. His romance with Naevia was what kept me watching the show. As much as I would like to deny it, one my driving reasons for watching shows is romance, and theirs was just so beautiful.
Killed by Tiberius in a stab to the back, Naevia wants revenge, and hell, so does everyone else. A single woman returns after so many set off with Crixus and Agron, that it sets the mood sour. So they set out with their plan. Back with the Romans there’s another pissing contest between Tiberius and Caesar. I will say that their liberal change of the historic Julius Caesar makes him barely recognizable. But Caesar still knows how to turn Tiberius’ ego against him, and when Pompey’s messenger arrives maneuvers Tiberius into leaving to meet him.
Of course, it’s all a wonderful and glorious trap. The Romans, including Tiberius, are captured and prepared for a final game on the sands. A gladiator battle to the death. Tribute to the dead and the Undefeated Gaul. One of the things I love about this show is how much growth in many of the secondary characters that we see. Like Naevia, who went from timid serving girl to full on raging gladiator-warrior risen from the ashes of her own sorrows. When Spartacus hands her Tiberius’ sword, once held by Crixus, I damn near broke down. The best aspect about Spartacus is that despite all of the bloodshed and revenge, he hasn’t let it consume him. He’s still capable of forgiveness and kindness. Even when Naevia sought to overthrow him.
Also, Agron. Can we talk about how happy I am that he’s alive? Despite being beaten to a pulp and hung on a cross crucified, his reunion with Nasir was the best. Their romance was both perfectly casual and so strong. Casual because no one questioned it. There were no below-the-belt comments, no slights towards their sexuality. Just acceptance. They were truly free. Free to love and free to be with them. Their equality is the best part. No questions when women take up the sword, when men love other men. The sweet moment when Nasir rushes to Agron’s side can’t be ignored, because it’s one of the most gratifying feelings. That they get to spend more than their last moments together, in a way that Spartacus never got to with Sura, or Varro with his wife, or even Batiatus with Lucretia.
Two of the most gratifying scenes in this episode both are reserved for Tiberius being put down. First by Naevia in her epic final battle with him, in which she chooses to be the bigger person, the better person, and allow him to live (only after beating him into submission). And the second was his death, at the hands of Kore. Kore, who I feel like has suffered a lot more than people give her credit for, and will suffer more after this. She is forced away by Tiberius from a man who actually loves her and cares for her, and made to be a traitor. Only to be returned to Crassus’s arms though her future looks ominous as he tells her to call him “dominus” instead of “Marcus”.
Some little things I loved was Gannicus taking on three men to one-up Spartacus, the gladiators doing what they want without the chains of slavery, Nasir and Naevia (2nd generation gladiators) holding his own on the sands, Sibyl and Gannicus always sticking together (because I think he needs some stability in his life), the final pyre burning when all of my previous favorites were mentioned once again, the fact that they are pelting the romans with food that they can apparently not spare, how funny it was that Tiberius was always afraid of being “womanly” and yet was lead to his death by a woman (Saxa), beaten and defeated by a woman (Naevia), and then killed by a woman (Kore). It was all very poetic.
Next week is the final end to a bloody, sexy, and awesome series. I have to say, despite the gratuity in the show, it’s message is something that I think a lot of other shows lack. It’s something we can all relate to, the characters are people that we see grow and develop. They are, by no means, flat or lacking. They have their purposes and their reasons, we hate them and we love them. Don’t discredit it because of it’s near “soft core porn” and excessive slow-mo blood spillage.