March 5, 2012

Episode Review: SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE, "Chosen Path"

So far, Season 2 of Spartacus has been a non-stop ride that's explored the birth of a slave revolution and Roman politics, and every episode has been pretty fantastic ... until now. In "Chosen Path," the narrative came to a halt while it briefly tried to rearrange itself. Admittedly, even a subpar episode of Spartacus is better than most other TV shows, but for some reason this one had me perplexed.

Back at Vesuvius, Crixus and Naevia are finally reunited, but it's clear that she's no longer the woman she used to be. Torture and rape have robbed her of her innocence, and she cannot be touched by her love, and she wondered why he would even want to be with her. He tried to convince her that her presence was all that mattered and that he would do what it takes to help her, and she decided that the only way he could was to teach her how to fight so she could protect herself in the future.

Meanwhile, Spartacus spent his time divided between planning their next move and convincing Gannicus to join their cause. The two champions of Capua did not see eye to eye, and it was clear that Gannicus did not intend to fight alongside his brothers. The only reason he stuck around was to clear the air with Oenomaus. Before he could leave the campsite, it was discovered that someone had taken the new plans and the little money the rebels had, and Spartacus assumed Gannicus took it, so a fight broke out between the two of them. As it turned out, Chadara was the one who robbed the camp because she planned on betraying them as a way to earn favor and status, but Mira stopped her with her newfound archery skills.

In Capua, Ilithyia mourned her father while Glaber and Ashur tried to remove themselves from under the thumbs that have been holding them down. With Albinius' death, Glaber wanted to make sure that Ilithyia remembered that she's still his wife and wanted to make her pay for her betrayal. Ashur, on the other hand, wanted to prove his worth to Glaber and wanted to prove that Roman soldiers were no match for gladiators. After he defeated three of Glaber's men, he was granted permission to recruit new warriors to face Spartacus. Before he left, Lucretia wanted to remind him that he worked for her, but he turned the tables on her and made his point by raping her. Once Ashur had assembled his band of misfits, they accompanied Glaber to Seppius' where they massacred everyone in sight since he refused to combine forces.

Now, I suppose this week's Spartacus replaced action and plot development with more character moments, which isn't a bad idea, but it felt like some air was let out of the balloon when "Chosen Path" was finished because the story didn't progress all that much. Sure, we got some wonderful character beats, but they didn't add much to what we already knew, and they really didn't push the plot forward, so what was the point. I suppose the moment involving Glaber and Ashur will have some ramifications down the line, but I couldn't help but feel like this episode was rebooting the season long arc. Maybe it was all of the black togas and badass mercenaries.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • I liked that brief scene where one of the gladiators shared the story of the fall of the arena. It was a nice reminder of the oral traditions of long ago.
  • Was it just me or did Mira seem awfully cocky this time around?
  • Usually, I'm not turned off by the graphic nature of this show, but it was hard to watch Ashur rape Lucretia. Maybe this show hasn't desensitized me.
  • Other things that were hard to watch: Naevia's flashbacks.
  • The Egyptian could make things interesting.
  • While I still don't see what Seppia brings to the table, especially now that her brother's dead, I did like it when she called out Lucretia and Ilithyia for trying to manipulate her. Maybe she has her sights on Glaber now that Varinius is out of the picture.
  • Was I the only one who thought Lucius was the one who betrayed Spartacus?
  • Poor Chadra. She didn't have a chance.
  • Of course it had to rain during Spartacus vs. Gannicus.
  • I'm all for natural aptitude, but Mira picked up the bow awfully quickly.
To be fair, "Chosen Paths" was not a horrible hour of television. It had enough strong character moments to compensate for the lack of action, and taking a breather after the last couple of episodes probably wasn't a bad idea. It just fell short of being as strong as those that procededd it, and I couldn't shake the feeling that it was either a stall or a turn towards a different story altogether. I'm sure Spartacus will be back to firing on all cylinders next week as it heads towards the finish line; I just wish "Chosen Path" had kept the momentum going.


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