February 13, 2012

Episode Review: SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE, "The Greater Good"

When you take away the flash from Spartacus: Vengeance, you start to realize what a simple story it is and how that's what makes this show effective. What it boils down to is this is a show is about concepts such as love, hate, loss and revenge. These are by no mean abstract ideas, but things most of us have dealt with before, and that's why Spartacus is special.

"The Greater Good" picked up where "A Place in This World" left off. Spartacus and his men ambushed a slaver's wagon, and it was revealed to Nasir and Agron that Naevia was dead. The rebels made camp so Spartacus could figure out their next move, and Nasir admitted to Crixus that they had lied about Naevia. She was still alive and working in the mines. After a brawl between Crixus and Agron, it was decided that they would continue their quest to find Naevia, but Agron and others decided to move on and make camp at Mt. Vesuvius because they felt that it was unwise for everyone to endanger their lives for one person. Once at the mines, they found Naevia, but they were being pursued by Ashur and Glaber's men. It looked like there was no escaping them, so Crixus decided to sacrifice himself and fought off the guards long enough for Spartacus to take Naevia to safety.

For such manly men, Spartacus and Crixus are motivated by their love for their respective women, and it's this love that drives the story. If they were just animalistic heathens out for blood and sex, it would be hard for the viewers to care about them, but they're not. They're strong men with softer sides, and that's why we root for them. Motivations aside, the main plot was amazing because it not only had emotion and action, but it posed questions about morality and whether the group is more important than the individuals that comprise it, and the confrontation between Crixus, Spartacus and Agron was captivating to watch. I'm excited to see if this group of misfits will be able to function from this point forward.

Spartacus and Crixus are not the only ones who are compelled by their hearts because Oenomaus has also loved and lost. Back in Capua, Ashur had to prove to Glaber that he's no longer tied to the brotherhood of the House of Batiatus, and he even volunteered to torture his former doctore for information. After he passed Glaber's test (he had to cut off the house's brand from his forearm), Ashur whipped and taunted Oenomaus to no avail. He was running out of options when Lucretia informed him that there are secrets hidden within the walls of the ludus that would break their prisoner once and for all. This was Ashur's cue to tell Oennmaus about how his wife, Melitta, had an affair with his best friend Gannicus, and how their indiscretions led to her untimely death. Apparently, the tactic worked because he let it slip that Spartacus' rebels were searching for Naevia, which was how Ashur found them at the mines.

At the end of Blood and Sand, I was worried about how the series would progress without Batiatus because he was the perfect villain, but it looks like Ashur could easily fill the void because he was fantastic in "The Greater Good." During Season 1, he was slimey and underhanded, but Nick Tarabay dialed up the evil to eleven during this episode, and it will be extremely satisfying to see him get his comeuppance once and for all. Although, seeing him somehow escape punishment would also be entertaining because he's that good of a baddie, and I'd like to see what other mischief he can stir up.

In a somewhat minor C-plot, Glaber and Ilithyia continued to navigate Roman politics, and things were further complicated when her father and another senator by the name of Varinius showed up to upstage Glaber in front of the people of Capua. Gaius was ultimately able to turn the tables on his adversaries, but his need to out piss Varinius led to him neglecting his wife which could end up making things interesting.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Here we go again with the slow-motion
  • What is Ilithyia up to? She might be the most intriguing character of the bunch.
  • The combination of Lucretia and Ashur's crazy scary.
  • How badass was Mira?
  • The Walking Dead should watch Spartacus to learn how to have conversations about morality and hope while allowing the narrative momentum to progress within a reasonable time frame.
"The Greater Good" was proof that this show does not need to rely on smoke and mirrors to be gratifying. The universal themes of love, passion, honor and duty should resonate with many viewers, but it's so hard for some to look past the violence and flesh to really appreciate what this show is about. If they could, then they'd realize how good this can be.


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