Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Spartacus: Vengeance "Balance"

Non Spoiler Review:
Ilithyia's capture creates shock waves at both the temple and the ludus. Spartacus is put in a difficult position that makes his decision with what to do with her far less simple. Meanwhile, Glaber tries to manage the issues around his missing wife, and his new love, Seppia. Lucretia endures further insults from Ashur, prompting her to come up with a new plan.

More fun melodrama this week, and some interesting internal struggles, especially with Spartacus, who is still coming to terms with revenge for his wife's death. The plot moves briskly, as usual, as plot points set in motion in the last couple of weeks get played out.

At this point it's growing tedious to say it all works. I can't remember the last episode where I thought the story fell short, so I'll just continue to applaud the writers for making every week just as compelling as the last. On a side note, I'm enjoying the forest setting, as it makes for some nice visuals that we're not used to, given the Capuan focus for the previous season and miniseries.

Spoilers Now!
Ilithyia is led through the forest by Gannicus, until they come upon a couple of travellers, requiring him to remove the blindfold and explain his wife fell off her horse on the road to Pompeii. Ilithyia takes the moment to plead for help, and Gannicus quickly dispatches all the men. He promises to hack out her tongue if she raises her voice again. 

Mira and Spartacus are hunting together as Gannicus arrives with his captive. He proposes Spartacus take the life of Glaber's woman as he took the life of Spartacus', and end the vengeance that is causing so much suffering. That leaves Spartacus with much to consider.

Lucretia is distraught that her slip of the tongue led Gannicus to know where Ilithyia was travelling. Spartacus and Gannicus have never met as far as she knows, but Glaber can't assume that she hasn't been taken there. They guess he must need her alive, but he forbids any word of it escaping his walls. Ashur has seen all traces of the attack covered up.

Training continues at the temple under Oenomaus' eye, and Naevia is showing quite a skill. Spartacus returns with the captive, much to Crixus' shock. Gannicus and Oenomaus meet eyes. Spartacus takes Ilithyia inside as she's taunted by the rebels, while Lucius wonders if their cause now involves killing a woman with child.

Glaber pays a visit to the brothel to ask about Gannicus' whereabouts. He has no patience for their silence and kills several people to extract the information.

Spartacus confronts Ilithyia and vows he'll have vengeance for his wife. He draws sword, only to have her reveal the child is his. Her monthly blood ceased after he came to her at the villa. She tells him to take her life if he choses, but his wife will turn from him in the after life. 

Saxa appears interested in Gannicus as she first lays eyes upon him. Crixus sits with him and suggests the disagreement with Oenomaus will pass, and congratulates him on the capture of the praetor's wife. But his only motivation is to end their cause, then goes to Spartacus, who tells him Illithyia still lives. Gannicus is not impressed. Spartacus wants Glaber, not a woman, so Gannicus informs him of the women tortured to death who whisper his name, and countless more will fall in the name of his rebellion.

Lucretia attempts to bond with Seppia, who is now firmly supporting Glaber. Lucretia suggests summoning Varinius from Rome—if she sends message she could regain his affections. But Seppia is more interested in Glaber now and suggests the gods have led her to this path as they've led Ilithyia away.

Lucius brings dinner to Ilithyia and recounts how Sulla ruined his life. He has no love for the Romans anymore. But she suggests she can help him, given her husband's influence. He tells her he can't free her. She just wants a message delivered and tempts him with suggestions all that was taken from him could be restored. 

Spartacus has confided the revelation to Mira, and how it was Ilithyia beneath the mask the night in the villa. She suggests Ilithyia be killed soon, but his mind has already turned from it, feeling he would become like Glaber.

Ashur was unable to glean any new information of Gannicus' whereabouts, despite massacring and torturing everyone at the brothel. As he sorts through his newly acquired treasures from his victims, Lucretia suggests she will entreat the gods for a response, but Ashur wants sex and tells her to abandon Ilithyia. She slaps him. Ashur pushes her to the ground and demands her apology, then rapes her again. On the floor she spies Seppius' serpent bracelet that has fallen out of Ashur's treasure chest.

Gannicus has words with Oenomaus again, who accuses him of simply wanting to lighten his conscience. Gannicus claims he would not see his brothers fall to their foolish cause, but Oenomaus feels they no longer stand as such—the brotherhood was all lies and deceit. He holds no further vengeance against Gannicus, given his death would not see Melitta returned, and would be a mercy only to Gannicus. He stands for nothing, as he always has.

Mira catches Agron and Nasir fooling around when they're supposed to be standing guard. She tells them to take to their beds and she'll watch over Ilithyia. She goes in to see her and asks if it's true. Mira won't let Spartacus be destroyed by having to kill her, so she'll take responsibility for killing her herself and begins to strangle Ilithyia. Spartacus arrives to save her, angry with Mira and tells her she doesn't know his heart. He orders her to leave them.

Lucretia finds Seppia in the morning, who his virtually gloating about her new position with Glaber (they finally got around to resuming their previously interrupted tryst). Lucretia warns her about the man she has affections for, and has something to show her. But Tarsus arrives with news of Ilithyia—Lucius has brought his message and reveals she's being held by Spartacus.

Glaber wants to know where she's being kept, promising reward for the information. Glaber assures him it's within his power to grant anything. What of his own wife and children, Lucius asks. Is that within his power, too? Lay a hand on him and his wife dies, he says. Lucius explains that if he does not return in a reasonable hour, she dies. Any attempts to follow—she dies. Lucius tells him he is to enter a nearby town on foot in exchange for a single wagon loaded with weapons, and he will return Ilithyia. If not, she'll be lost to him forever. Glaber lets him go.

Lucius returns to Spartacus and has done what he was asked. The rebels are in desperate need of good weapons, and the deal should see them well-stocked for battle. Spartacus insists that the rebels will honor their word and take just four men with them—Agron, Crixus and Oenomaus want to be counted among them, but the latter has not yet recovered, so Gannicus offers to attend, given it's a cause Oenomaus believes in. Mira says this is all madness. Spartacus trusts in his friends and will get his means to strike back at Glaber.

In the town, the Romans arrive with the wagon. Spartacus and his men emerge to greet Glaber, Ashur and Tarsus. Spartacus gives Glaber a strip from Ilithyia's dress to prove she lives. He refuses to kill a woman for Glaber's crimes, and one day soon he'll have his life. Glaber prays his decision is not one he regrets. The wagon is offered, and Spartacus assures him his wife will be returned, and then, when his child is born, he'll look into his eyes and see Spartacus' reflection. 

Glaber counters that he's not like him at all. He doesn't care about his wife. As Agron opens the wagon Ashur's men spill out and battle begins. Spartacus' men put up a valiant fight, but the numbers begin to overwhelm them. Spartacus shouts now! and Glaber is shot in the chest with an arrow (!). Mira and Lucius arrive to even things out. Tarsus takes Glaber off the streets as the horn is sounded, bringing more men towards the gates who have been lying in wait. Crixus is nearly killed by Ashur's deadly Egyptian mercenary, until Lucius shoots the man in the leg. Spartacus orders them to fall back but Lucius prefers to cover their escape and is killed by the Egyptian.

Wounded Glaber is being tended to back at the ludus, and Lucretia is horrified he never intended to make the bargain in the first place. Glaber is sick of hearing about the gods and announces he will grieve the loss of his wife and child in coming days, and that's the end of it.

Lucretia finally confronts Seppia as she gets wine for Glaber, telling her his actions have brought them to ruin. Seppia has grown increasingly impertinent with her now that she's sharing his bed, so Lucretia produces Seppius' bracelet, explaining the gods led her to the truth—hidden among Ashur's treasures from those who have died at his hand. And Ashur moves only upon the command of Glaber. 

That produces the desired result. Later in the bath with Glaber, Seppia is silent as he muses that without such tragedy they would not have found themselves in each others' arms.

Spartacus takes Ilithyia into the forest and asks if she knows what it is to love. As he removes her blindfold he tells her Glaber chose vengeance against him over her own life, so taking hers now will balance nothing, given Glaber doesn't love her as Spartacus loved his wife. He warns her not to think of it as a kindness, and leaves her in the forest. 

The Verdict:
Balance is another character-heavy episode dealing with the weight of Spartacus' vengeance versus the greater desires of the rebellion. He could easily have killed Ilithyia, but chose not to, and likely delivered just as sharp a jab by letting her know her husband was eager to sacrifice her. Ilithyia's fall from grace has been really satisfying (and so well-played by the actress).

Ilithyia's pregnancy and how it's going to play out now is certainly up in the air. Does Spartacus have any wish to see his child born? Will she want to keep it, knowing Glaber has absolutely no need for her? I'm guessing given Lucretia's move against Ashur and Glaber, Ilithyia might completely throw in with her now to attempt to free themselves from their mutual servitude.

It's good to see Oenomaus back to his old self, and not wasting time with further battles between him and Gannicus. And even shallow Gannicus gets a bit more depth with his interesting motivation at securing Ilithyia for Spartacus. He definitely seems to have the greater good in mind, and it does suit his past characteristics—a man with no motivation would want to take the easiest way to end the suffering of so many rather than pursue Spartacus' more grand scheme. And many thanks to the writers for not having Lucius betray the group. He was a noble character (albeit with a brief arc) who went out with honour.

Ashur's massacre at the brothel was pretty disturbing, even for this show. I will definitely be cheering when Lucretia (I hope) ends his life this season (I hope). Now that the incriminating bracelet has crushed Seppia's dreams, it could make for an interesting alliance between her, Lucretia and Ilithyia.

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