March 25, 2012

Episode Review: SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE, "Monsters"

The penultimate episode of Spartacus: Vengeance was able to brilliantly mix intrigue and action, but it didn't grab me right off the bat so I had mixed feelings about it at the start. Thankfully my initial hesitations gave way fairly quickly, and I realized that "Monsters" was one of the better installments of Season 2.

After being released by Spartacus, Ilithyia made her way back to Capua to find Seppia filling the void that she had left behind. She begged Glaber to take her back, but he reminded her that she was planning on leaving him for Varinius and that she helped turn him into the monster that stood before her. Speaking of Varinius, he returned to the former House of Batiatus to inform Glaber that he was instructed to return to Rome and that he would be taking over the hunt for Spartacus. Of course, Glaber protested because he was able to figure out Spartacus' location thanks to clues that Ilithyia was able to give him and Ashur's knowledge of the area, and he was close to getting his revenge. In the end, Seppia's time at Glaber's side was limited because she was goaded into killing Glaber herself by Lucretia and Ilithyia, but when she tried to take his life, Ilithyia showed up to save him and slit her throat. The two stood over her dead body, and Ilithyia told Glaber that they cannot return to who they were, but they could push forward as the monsters that they've become. After a reunion tussle while covered in blood, Glaber then set his sights on Vesuvius.

Back at the rebel encampment, Spartacus tested his army by pretending to be a Roman solider, along with Crixus and Gannicus, and he realized that they were unprepared. He tried to rally his troops with more speeches about freedom and what not, but they were not having the impact that he wanted. It dawned on him that one of the reasons they were not ready to take on the Romans was their lack on camaraderie, so he staged a celebration of drink and sport. The trick was he teamed up people who did not see eye to eye and pitted them against other teams. It looked like the plan worked, but the joviality was short-lived because the Romans attacked. The battle ensued, and it looked like the rebels were done for, but they were able to escape but were forced to head up the mountain essentially trapping them. Instead of following, Glaber decided to set up at the base of Vesuvius, wait for hunger and madness to take over, and take them out when they came down from the mountain.

My initial criticisms of "Monsters" had to do with the start of the episode. At first, it didn't seem like all that much was going to happen. We got more scenes of Lucretia scheming and Spartacus speechifying, and I was afraid that we had hit a pre-finale lull. Obviously, my fears were unfounded because things turned around when Spartacus decided to get his people drunk and had them fight one another, and Ilithyia made her move on Seppia to reclaim her position with Glaber.

The battle that took place at the end of the episode was also high octane and exciting to watch, but I do wonder if DeKnight played that card too soon. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that Spartacus bucked the trend and gave the audience what could have been a fine season ender a week before the actual finale, but I can't help but wonder where do they go from here. Other shows have been able to make this move work (DeKnight's former boss, Joss Whedon, being one of them), but I still think it's a bold move for such a young show to try. Ultimately, I have faith in DeKnight and his staff, and I'm sure next week's episode will be a bridge to Season 3 instead of a true end to Season 2.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Cinematically this was one of the best episodes of Spartacus yet.
  • I really don't watch this show for the romance, but I'm invested in Mira and Spartacus, so I'm genuinely intrigued to see where the show's going to take this pair now that they're technically no longer a couple. Then again, were they really a couple?
  • Ashur's knowledge of the Greek temple seemed a little too convenient.
  • When did Nasir become a cat-man?
  • Lugo makes me laugh. I hope he sticks around for a while.
  • While I enjoyed the main event of Gannics & Oenomaus vs. Crixus & Agron, it annoyed me that it took so long for the last two to bury the hatchet. Heck, Agron saved Naevia multiple times, but Crixus still couldn't let it go.
  • The Egyptian's becoming almost comical at this point.
  • I was sure someone important was going to die this episode. I'm glad that no one did, but I have a feeling that Agron's time is limited.
Once I got over the pacing issues at the start of the episode, I was able to appreciate "Monsters" because of the risks it took, but also because of its satisfying payoff. Sure, having a big battle occur before the finale could make next week's episode anticlimactic, but I have faith that it will be an appropriate end to what's been a very strong season of Spartacus.


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