February 4, 2012

Episode Review: SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE, "A Place in This World"

Spartacus usually does not rely too heavily on thematic episodes where all of the characters navigate through similar struggles, but the appropriately named "A Place in This World" followed Ilithyia, Glaber, Mira, Oenomaus and others on their journeys towards finding where they belong in this brutal place. This focus on character development, and dialing down the sex and violence from an eleven to a nine, made for a satisfying episode of television.

At the end of "Fugitivus," Oenomaus talked about how there's only one place for a disgraced gladiator like himself to go, and that was the Pit (a place far more barbaric than the sands of the arena). The former Doctore, fled to the Pit and took on all comers in fights to the death as a way to cope with what he did to the House of Batiatus, and as a way for him to pay for his treachery with his life. During his battles, the audience was shown how he was brought into the world of the gladiators, and how he came to honor and dedicate his life to his master. Before Oenomaus could meet his end, he was saved by a mysterious hooded figure who turned out to be Ashur, and it was revealed that he had plans for his former trainer after he turned him over to Glaber.

It's easy to see why Oenomaus is a fan favorite. He's always conducted himself with honor, and it made sense that he would not automatically join up Spartacus and his crusade since he did not see himself as a common slave or gladiator. He's always viewed his lot in life as a calling rather than a burden, and it was nice to how he came to have this mindset. The question now is whether or not he will be able to put his guilt behind him long enough to join his brothers in arms, or if he will give up the fight and let Glaber use him to get to Spartacus (we all know what happens based on history, but let's pretend that we don't for now.) Regardless of which path he takes, having Ashur come back and be the reason why he's now face to face with Glaber seemed appropriate.

Speaking of Glaber, he and Ilithyia were on their own roads towards understanding where they stand in Capua. Even though he's a member of the Senate, Glaber had to figure out how to navigate Capuan politics, and he even had to lower himself and ask for Seppius' assistance so he could take out Spartacus once and for all. His wife on the other hand, had to learn where she stood with Lucretia since she knows some of her most deadly secrets, and she also had to reevaluate her station as a senator's wife since it does not resemble the fancy free lifestyle that she had before. On top of everything else, Ilithyia realized that she may have confusing feelings about Spartacus due to their history.

Right now, Glaber and Ilithyia are the perfect baddies for Spartacus because they're responsible for all of the misery that he's had to endure, but the show's being smart by not making them completely detestable because that would be too easy. Having even more despicable people for them to interact with, like Seppius and his sister, could be a stroke of genius if the writers are careful. I get that most people love things to be black and white while watching TV shows; they need a clear good guy and a clear bad guy, but we're learning that this kind of thinking does not exist in the world of Spartacus. Both sides have blood on their hands, and it's these shades of gray that could really take Vengeance to the next level.

Others also had to find their place in this world like Mira, who had to figure out where she stood with Spartacus. Out of all of the characters on this show, Mira's the one I struggle with the most, not because of her as a person, but because of what she means to Spartacus. To this day, I find it odd that he's so willing to be intimate with her while on a mission to avenge his dead wife. Like I mentioned before, there's no room for either/or thinking while watching Spartacus, but I'm trying to figure out what his motivations are on an emotional level. I suppose it's possible that he could love both Mira and Sura, but that's something that Spartacus really needs to explore, and I'm glad that they're starting to ask those bigger questions.

We were also introduced to a new character, a recently freed slaved by the name of Tiberius. While on their journey south to find Naevia, Spartacus and his men attacked and killed Tiberius' master, but he did not know if he wanted this new found independence since he only knew the life of a slave with prestige. After he attempted to kill Spartacus, and was spared, it seemed like he aligned himself with the rebels. Initially, I was unsure about Tiberius because I didn't see what he could bring to the story, but his introduction did pose some interesting questions about whether or not freedom's right for everyone.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • I know that there was still a lot of sex and violence during this episode, but it didn't seem as gratuitous as it did in the past. Maybe I'm starting to get desensitized.
  • Speaking of the violence, I know that slo-mo can be cool, but they're pushing it.
  • Can Ilithyia be Spike to Sparty's Buffy? Man, I hope so because that'd be awesome in spite of its contrivance.
  • I'm gonna be a little irked if Tiberius ends up being Ashur's brother.
I can handle less boobs and blood if Spartacus can give us some intriguing character moments like the ones in "A Place in This World." This episode was proof that it's the people who inhabit this barbaric environment, and not the sensationalism, that makes this show work, and I can't wait to see where we go from here.


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