Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Spartacus: Vengeance "Monsters"

Non Spoiler Review:
While dealing with his own personal problems, Spartacus attempts to create a new brotherhood among the rebels. Glaber gets a lead on their whereabouts and prepares to end the rebellion for good, but is met both with surprises from Rome and within his household.

Monsters sets up a precarious situation for many as the season races towards its end. The stakes are high for all the characters (and some meet a surprising death this week in typical fashion). Monsters left me with a bit of a sickening feeling in what happens, and I completely forgot that next week is the finale, so I'm both sad and excited to see it arrive so soon (at least season three won't be such a long wait this time).

It will take a lot top last season's carnage, but it appears all the pieces are in place to create a similar ending for what has been a fantastic comeback for the series.

Spoilers Now!
Three Romans manage to get into the temple while the rebels sleep. It turns out to be Crixus, Spartacus and Gannicus, wearing the armor they stole and testing their security measures. Oenomaus promises not to be taken unaware next time.

Glaber is wooing a frigid Seppia when Ilithyia suddenly and dramatically appears in the door and collapses in the pool. As she recovers, Glaber is more concerned to find out if she recalls anything of where she was held (stone, beams of wood, she recount, and writing on the walls that appeared to be Greek). She realizes he hasn't put her in their bed chambers, and Spartacus was correct that her death would have held no meaning for him. He confirms her fears—he's been turned into a monster out of necessity, due to her actions.

Spartacus attempts to calm the angry rebels who are fighting among themselves, but they want to know why he let Ilithyia go. He explains they're better than the Romans. Oenomaus begins training, but Crixus describes them all as fingers looking for purpose rather than a fist. Spartacus has Agron capture another wagon—this one full of wine—to forge some bonds among the freed slaves, and have sport between those with personal quarrels to work out their aggression.

Meanwhile, Mira confronts him about what happened, and Spartacus confesses that he cannot give any more of his heart to her. That's not enough, they both realize, and that appears to be the end of that relationship.

Lucretia finds Ilithyia (she hadn't been told she was returned), and they have a happy reunion. She confesses the child she has grown to love is Spartacus'. Lucretia informs her about Seppius' murder and how Seppia has been made aware of it and now burns with thoughts of vengeance. Ilithyia suggests she and her child may rise from the ashes.

Glaber and Ashur attempt to glean a location of where Spartacus might be, and determine they are moving around a central area. The Egyptian brings the head of Lucius to them, and once he is identified, know he dwelt in a temple in the shadow of Vesuvius. Glaber declares they march at nightfall.

Ashur continues to gloat to Lucretia about his rise and reveals he's discovered Spartacus' location. As a reward, Glaber will give him freedom—and has presented the ludus as a gift, and Lucretia as loving wife. She's mortified that he strives to see the rise of a new house of Ashur on the ashes of her husband's.

As Glaber makes preparations to fight, Varinius arrives with orders from the Senate to send him back to Rome. He says rumour of Ilithyia's abduction is known, but she abruptly makes an appearance and explains she's only taken to bed from the pregnancy. Varinius has brought an army to bring Spartacus to justice, and if Glaber refuses he will have no hope of rising any further.

Seppia is relieved to see Varinius, and apparently she had sent him message that Ilithyia was missing. He's annoyed that he's found her safe and sound and doubts the veracity of her story. The bracelet alone will not be evidence enough to incriminate Glaber for Seppius' death.

Oenomaus is pleased with the success of Spartacus' strategy as everyone is getting along famously now, so Spartacus offers a new contest between Agron and Crixus against Gannicus and Oenomaus. Crixus and Agron are bested but everyone seems to make their peace.

Lucretia consoles Seppia and continues to gain her trust. She suggests Glaber's desire presents opportunity and gives her a dagger. She convinces Seppia that they must spill blood to avenge all the wrongs that have been done.

Lucretia reports to Ilithyia, and she agrees with Glaber's death given there is no hope he will reason with them. Seppia goes to Glaber, who is about to return to Rome. She sends away his slaves as he prepares for the bath and confesses she doesn't have faith Varinius can defeat Spartacus. As he moves in to seek comfort, she smashes the wine urn over his head and knocks him down. As she raises the dagger it's Ilithyia that stops her hand and slits her throat, letting her fall into the bath. Glaber is in shock, but realizes she saved his life.

They can't be what they were, so she suggests they be what they are. She would see their venom turned to those truly deserving—Seppia, the Senate, and Varinius. They're both monsters and she wants to be so together. They kiss, and he vows to march to Vesuvius.

Crixus and Naevia finally reconsummate their relationship. As the festivities continue into the night, Gannicus joins Spartacus and tells him he still believes he'll lead them to their deaths, but it will be a glorious one. They suddenly spy the lookout signalling from the mountain that the Romans are approaching. Spartacus assembles the rebels and rallies for battle.

As the Romans make their way through the woods they're set upon by the rebels, but there are too many and they're forced to fall back. Spartacus and Gannicus attack the praetor directly. The battle is taken to the temple. Spartacus realizes it's not Glaber, but Varinius in charge. As Varinius is brought back to the temple, he's ordered to tell his men to lay down their arms. Crixus recognizes him from the ludus.

That's when a fireball is catapulted inside the walls and the temple comes under bombardment—this time from Glaber's force in the forest. Battle is resumed and Crixus pushes Varinius in the path of one projectile, and he's killed.

Ashur and the Egyptian lead the men inside the breached walls. Spartacus orders a fall back into the tunnels. Oenomaus fights the Egyptian and escapes, but loses an eye. In their retreat, Spartacus, Agron and Crixus break jars of oil and cover their escape with fire. When they emerge into the woods they're attacked again by Romans and Spartacus tells everyone to flee up the mountain path.

In the temple ruins, Ashur says there is no way up the mountain aside from the single pass, so Spartacus holds the high ground. Glaber is pleased with that, and will let them feast on mud and rock. When hunger drives them down he'll kill them all.

The Verdict:
Monsters really brought out the viciousness of Glaber and Ilithyia. I'm left wondering (hopefully) that Seppia's death was part of Lucretia's plan, because Ilithyia could have acted alone again to secure her own future. We won't see until next week, but I'm leaning towards Lucretia being behind it all along. It's quite the gamble if that's the case, given Glaber could have easily turned against Ilithyia too (and still may).

Spartacus' major defeat really shows their desperation, leaving them with just one tactical option to climb up Vesuvius. It's still so early in the rebellion I'm wondering how this will all play out and who might be sacrificed to make a more permanent escape. And speaking of sacrifices—poor Oenomaus can't get a break.

I dont know what to make of Spartacus' break up with seems to fall a little flat, given what they've been through together (on the run and back in the ludus)—that he would give her such grief for her good (albeit misplaced) intentions. That just seemed contrived to suit plot developments (could Saxa be his next gal, or has she already chosen Gannicus?). And could this breakup mean that Mira's number is up in the finale?

Next week is sure to be a bloodbath. Something tells me Agron's days could be numbered, too, so I'm hoping I'm wrong. But it seems the rebel cast is getting winnowed down enough that there are few sacrificial lambs left for the finale. As long as Ashur gets his just desserts at the hands of Lucretia, I'll leave the season satisfied.

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