February 8, 2013

Episode Review: SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED, "Men of Honor"

After last week's table setting episode, War of the Damned finally took its first step towards the epic showdown between Spartacus and Crassus. It's just too bad we had to put up with Tiberius, but it was still an entertaining hour nonetheless.

Things should be hunky-dory for Spartacus and his misfits now that they pillaged Sinuessa en Valle, but certain challenges still existed like feeding the horde and its prisoners. Luckily, a band of pirates led by Heracleo seemed to be their saving grace. As it turned out, Heracleo had a deal with Laeta's husband which involved family seals and sanctioned marauding, and Spartacus decided to continue the relationship long enough to get food for his people. Of course, rebellious ex-slaves and sea-faring raiders have no reason to trust one another, but a bond was forged when their meet-up/exchange/ambush was interrupted by Tiberius (who was tipped off by an escaped Sinuessan guard) and a small outfit of his soldiers. The skirmish didn't last long, and unfortunately the son of Crassus was only wounded, but it was the first of many battles that will probably take place.

But pirates and spoiled brats with swords should be the least of Spartacus' worries, because it was becoming clear that the society he created was not so different from the one that enslaved him. The rebels took pleasure in torturing those who were imprisoned, and Crixus even pitted two seemingly ordinary men against one another for a scrap of bread for sport. On top of that, a darker Naevia took it upon herself to pick a fight with Attius the blacksmith when she thought he betrayed them. Oh yeah, and there's Laeta's underground refuge for the Romans. It's not easy being king.

It was nice finally seeing some forward momentum in terms of the actual war, but I have to admit that the glimpses of character development were by far the best aspects of the episode. While I could've done without some of Naevia's ordeals in the mines, they did give some insight into who she's become and why she would not trust Attius, but killing him seemed a bit overdramatic. Plus, her actions will undoubtedly cause a rift between her and Gannicus since she slayed his friend who was only trying to become a man of substance.

Speaking of Gannicus, he had some other great moments involving the slave girl (Sibyl) who was introduced during the last episode. Saxa offered her up to Gannicus so Sybil could properly thank him for saving her life, but he turned her away and warned her about getting involved with men like him. What makes Gannicus great is the fact that started out as a man of simple and primal needs, but his tribulations over the years (the loss of Melitta and Oenomaus) have given him some shading and purpose. It would've been easy for the old Gannicus to bed Sibyl, but his rebuffing of her was a strong sign of who he's become.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Another reason why Spartacus is such a captivating show is how this world's not black-and-white, and "Men of Honor" did a good job at driving home the point that the heroes are just as bad as the villains.
  • Heracleo could be a fine addition, but I felt the same way about Attius, Diotimos and Hilarus.
  • Not enough Caesar, but at least he utilized what little screen time he had.
  • Damn you, DeKnight and Co. for making me worry about Agron every time he goes out on a mission!
  • Laeta could be Sparty's most intriguing love interest because we all know that's where this is going.
So, despite the fact that we got too much Tiberius and not enough Crassus or Caesar, "Men of Honor" was still a successful episode because it reminded us about the realities of war while giving some of our favorite characters much appreciated depth. All-in-all, pretty good stuff from Spartacus.


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