Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Spartacus: Vengeance "A Place In This World"

Non Spoiler Review:
The rebels take to the countryside and attack a villa in search of Naevia. Oenomaus returns to the place he began in an attempt to put an end to his dishonor. Glaber attempts some manner of rapprochement with Seppius to defeat their common enemy, while Ilithyia finds Lucretia's growing influence troubling.

While not filled with the shocking moments of last week, A Place In This World covered a lot of good ground and addressed some interesting conflicts—how the gladiators feel about treating the house slaves as their equals and what they're all really fighting for. We also got some flashbacks to Oenomaus' beginnings in the House of Batiatus. Lucretia and Ilithyia continue to be great foils for one another, with questions of how much the widow remembers and the games she might be playing. But it's evident Ilithyia is carrying her own secrets, and with them some possible revelations to come.

Spoilers Now!
In a flashback, a young and newly enslaved Oenomaus viciously fights for his survival in the pits. Though obviously the weaker one, he gets an opportunity to take down his opponent. That brings him to the notice of Titus Batiatus who sees the potential of channelling his potential to the arena. Meanwhile, in the present, Oenomaus has a death wish, and has returned to the same pits to bring a suitable end to his dishonor.

Glaber and Marcus attempt to determine the rebels' whereabouts, but sensible Marcus sees the need to make amends with Seppius in order to combine resources. They're interrupted by Lucretia who wishes to make offering to the gods in order to see her house restored. Glaber grants it, given any little bit might help his cause.

Spartacus' party commences a nighttime attack on a villa. The battle is heated, but they are victorious, and even Mira picks up a sword to join in. With the place secured, Spartacus addresses the slaves and attempts to explain to them they're free and may join them if they choose. The dominus of the house is brought out, demanding to know who he thinks he is. Spartacus, he announces, and all the slaves are excited and the dominus terrified. Crixus takes the master away for himself to glean knowledge of Naevia. She was there, he explains, begging for his life, but he sold her after he'd had his way with her. Crixus kills him, but Spartacus reassures him they'll still find her.

The villa is looted and supplies of food and weapons restocked. Mira meets one of the slaves, Chadara, who is being ordered around by Rhaskos (one of Crixus' Gauls). She takes notice of Spartacus. Mira isn't the jealous type, but explains that they're together, though Chadara raises some doubt that Mira might put more faith in the relationship than he does.

Ilithyia has another pleasant memory of her encounter with Spartacus, but is interrupted by Glaber telling her to escort Lucretia to market to obtain supplies for the ritual. He seems to believe her blessed and is willing to believe anything she says if it will hasten their return to Rome.

Mira and Spartacus sleep in a proper bed, so she takes the opportunity to ask his feelings of her. He admits she means a lot to him after he thought he could never find love again. They're abruptly interrupted by one of the freed slaves trying to kill him.

The young man is furious with his liberators, given he was body slave to the dominus, with position and respect. Spartacus refuses to kill him, despite Crixus and Agron's urgings, and instead wishes to train him, much in the way Oenomaus did him.

Back in the pits, Oenomaus continues to win his battles. There's another flashback to Titus' training (with a young Quintus in the background). Titus is kind and noble, and wants him to find his purpose for fighting, above and beyond that for his dominus. Back in the present, Oenomaus is noticed by Ashur among the spectators.

At market, Ilithyia comments that Lucretia is certainly talking more of the gods than she ever did before. Lucretia muses she has hints of the past—one of secrets passed between them. Ilithyia wonders what she's talking about, but Lucretia quickly puts her mind to ease that it's not anything terrible. They're interrupted by an increasing number of people recognizing Lucretia and calling her blessed. So Lucretia sets about blessing them, and is soon surrounded by the crowd. Seppia passes through and stops to chat with Ilithyia. The two trade some not so subtle barbs about class and standing. A hooded figure (Ashur) approaches Lucretia. She recognizes him immediately and he passes her a note.

Marcus and Glaber meet with Seppius, who points out that Spartacus was brought to their shores by Glaber. He's skeptical of any deal between them, and suggests Lucretia isn't the only one blessed, given his wife managed to leave the Batiatus household just before the massacre with many of Glaber's men who could have turned the tide of the fight. Glaber is infuriated at the implication. Seppius adds that Glaber holds title only at the favor of his wife's father. That pretty much does in the deal and Seppius refuses Glaber his men. 

Spartacus trains his new protege, much to Agron's disapproval. He feels he can't be trusted, and for once agrees with Crixus, as neither see the newly freed slaves as their equals, much less any kind of fighters, given they were not forged in the brotherhood. Agron later chats with the young man, who has the Roman name, Tiberius. He sees himself as more Roman than his native Syrian. Agron urges him to remain sensible and not even think of raising arms against them again.

Mira finds Rhaskos apparently raping Chadara but puts a stop to it and chases him away. Chadara confesses she chose to lay with the Gaul, given she doesn't have Spartacus to keep her and can pay for her protection the only way she knows how. 

Lucretia performs her ritual and sacrifices a goat. She tells Glaber and Ilithyia that the gods whisper of deceit and those who bring secrets will be brought to light. Glaber leaves, ordering his wife to see to it Lucretia is cleaned up. While Lucretia preys, Ilithyia takes the dagger and readies to kill her from behind, but is interrupted by a slave announcing men are approaching.

In the flashback, Oenomaus receives his mark of the brotherhood and tells Titus he fights for him, to honor the House of Batiatus. In the present, his search for an opponent who can kill him is about to come to pass. Before he receives the death blow the pits are invaded by hooded men who kill the other gladiator and drag him away.

Crixus alerts Spartacus men are approaching the villa. Tiberius is sent to greet them to advise the dominus is away. They are men sent from Seppius, and question why he is not at his dominus' side on his trip. Tiberius explains he has his master's full trust to run the household, but the soldiers seem suspicious and order him to return to his charge. Tiberius suddenly invites them in. Crixus senses betrayal and leaps out to attack them first. In the melee Tiberius grabs a sword, but uses it to save Spartacus.

When the situation is under control, Tiberius explains that the soldier saw he did not wear his collar. If he hadn't let them in, they would have returned with more men. He tells them his real name is Nasir.

The visitor to the ludus is Ashur, and he's brought Oenomaus as a gift to aid in the fall of Spartacus. Lucretia smiles and announces the gods have heeded her prayers (and she holds the note in her hand).

The Verdict:
While not full of the edge-of-your-seat shockers like last week's premiere, A Place in This World raised some delicate issues that are sure to come up again and again. Plus we got some Oenomaus backstory and the appearance of a younger (and much more noble and admirable Titus).

I can empathize with Crixus' attitude about carting along an increasingly resource draining bunch of house slaves that can't hold their own in a fight. Spartacus' goal of creating an army to meet the Romans seems out of reach at the moment just given their limited time and supplies.

That leads into Mira's own (valid) doubts about how Spartacus sees her, and Chadara's very true comments that, as a woman, she has to do what she can to survive herself (without the benefit of sleeping with the leader of the rebellion). But she's shown she can hold her own in a fight. It's a struggle that is sure to continue as the rebels continue on their way through the Roman countryside.

Poor Oenomaus. He's thrown his entire life to complete devotion to the defunct House of Batiatus, and I'm guessing that Lucretia isn't going to hold back her knowledge of Melitta's death for long. What exactly did the note say—his intent to grab Oenomaus? It worked out quite conveniently for her own ends and the timing of her ritual when he made his appearance.

I'm really questioning how much Lucretia remembers. If she's blanked out about the whole massacre, how is she dealing with the death of her husband? But if she's aware of most of what transpired, she seems to be playing a good game. Given she was alone for weeks, she would have had time to at least process Quintus' death and could be faking it all. And the way she has dealt with Ashur this week implies she's more aware than she lets on.

I'm not sold on either Tiberius or Chadara yet as new characters. His newfound loyalty is still pretty tenuous, though it would be nice to have at least one Syrian to balance out Ashur's scheming. Rhaskos, however, seems to be too much of a wild card for Spartacus to keep around too much longer without getting them into trouble. But Seppius is growing on me, and his exchange with Glaber was fun to watch.

Finally, I'm sure I'm not the only one who got the inclination Ilithyia might be carrying Spartacus' Thracian baby. How that could ever be proven (unless Glaber is sterile) is up for debate. 

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