March 16, 2013

Episode Review: SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED, "Mors Indecepta"

Spartacus has done it again. As the series winds down, Steven S. DeKnight and Company have amped up the drama and tension to make War of the Damned the strongest installment yet and one of the most enjoyable shows on TV right now.

Morale was low in the mountains as Spartacus and his band of rebels tried attacking the trench and wall to no avail. Things got even worse when more of Crassus' men showed up on the ridge, but many were ready to take the fight to the Romans. Spartacus was able to calm them down because the soldiers were not there to attack but to wait for their leader. After Crassus' lodging was erected, Spartacus decided to sneak in and kill him in his sleep, but it turned out to be a trap because the only thing in the tent was Donar's corpse. Another skirmish broke out, and Naevia was injured, but everyone was able to escape. The misstep caused Crixus to doubt Spartacus even more, and the simmering tension finally boiled over, and the two traded blows. Meanwhile, a storm was brewing, and Sibyl partook in a prayer circle as others made preparations. Once the blizzard moved in, Gannicus and Sibyl were separated from the others yet again after he trekked out to find her. Luckily, there were able to find shelter and you can imagine what happened next.

Back at Camp Crassus, the imperator decided to reinstate Tiberius since his son had proven himself over the last couple of days. Sinuessa was even promised to Tiberius after Spartacus was crushed, and Kore would be stationed there with him. After Kore overheard an argument between Tiberius and Caesar, she approached the latter to see if they could create an alliance to take down their common foe. Caesar decided to take Kore to the Roman encampment on the ridge so she could talk to Crassus. Before she was able to tell Marcus the truth, he made it clear that he'd forgive his son for pretty much any transgression, so she figured that she was doomed and fled in the middle of the night to join Spartacus.

When the storm passed, Gannicus and Sibyl reunited with their comrades, but she was distraught because those she was praying with froze to death along with nearly a thousand others. Spartacus tried to comfort her by saying that their deaths were the key to their survival. It finally dawned on the Thracian that Crasssus' moves were built on deception, and he assumed that the Romans manning the wall were few in number. His next move was to fill the trench with dead bodies and take the wall. His assumption proved right, and the rebels once again evaded Crassus.

The brilliance of War of the Damned has to do with the fact that every episode's chock full of tension because any of these beloved characters could die at any time. Sure, that sounds like a clich├ęd and easy tactic, but DeKnight's been able to use it well over these last couple of hours. Every Friday, I find myself on the edge of my seat hoping that Gannicus doesn't die because he's too busy taking care of Sibyl, or cringing at the thought of Agron falling before he makes up with Nasir. And I logically know that these events will not happen until the last handful of episodes, but the writers have done a great job at building this type of suspense to the point where I'm happily freaking out on a weekly basis.

Now truthfully, War of the Damned's not perfect and it has its creakier bits. Right now, the prime example of what this show's not doing well is the Tiberius and Kore drama. I know that what he's done to her was supposed to be the unforgivable act that cemented him as the evilest of villains, but he's such a poorly written character that it all comes off as lazy. Obviously, the spoiled child's going to lash out at those closest to him when he doesn't get his way. OK, that may not have been fair since he did have to kill his best friend, but his actions up until now have been too cartoonish to take seriously. As for her, the scene where she hesitated to tell Marcus about how his son raped her had me screaming at my television because it made no sense whatsoever. Yes, it was supposed to set up her joining Spartacus, but it was unbelievable and such a stall tactic that it was just annoying.

As for the rest of the episode, all of the internal strife that exists in Camp Sparty is getting a little repetitive  namely the rift between the Thracian and Crixus, but I can let all of that slide because it's at least building towards something interesting unlike what's going on between Tiberius and Kore (the animosity between him and Caesar's a whole other story). Ditto for the would be love triangle between Agron, Nasir and Castus, but hopefully that's behind us. It's just a shame that we're in for another one now that Gannicus gave into Sibyl's advances. I know it's starting to sound like I was down on this episode, but I really wasn't. It was mostly solid from start to finish, and I'm just nitpicking at this point.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Don't ever call Crixus a coward.
  • Laeta didn't let her wounds keep her from flirting and snuggling up with Spartacus. I just hope she's not playing him and is in league with Crassus.
  • Poor Saxa, but she ain't no fool. Gannicus is going to be in trouble.
  • Is it wrong that I'm rooting for Caesar at this point? I'm sure that's by design, but cheering for such a smarmy a-hole makes me feel dirty.
  • "Do not fucking cast that look."
Spartacus has been able to keep emotions high and the storytelling strong over the course of its final run, which is a blessing since so many shows limp to the finish line. With only three episodes left, it doesn't look like Spartacus will be whimpering out as it meets its glorious death, and fans will undoubtedly benefit because of it.

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