Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: Spartacus: War of the Damned "Blood Brothers"

Non Spoiler Review:
Spartacus sets sail in a plan to undermine Crassus. With the surviving Roman prisoners keeping tensions high in Sinuessa en Valle, Crixus and Naevia continue to stir the discord. Tiberius broods in the followers camp, and Senator Metallus pays Crassus a visit to ask why he's yet to move against the rebels.

A good chunk of Blood Brothers felt a bit weak compared to previous episodes, mostly due to what seemed like a lot of jumping around between scenes. The growing enmity between Spartacus and Crixus still just doesn't ring true for me. However, the final act rescued the episode and pulled most of it all together. I can never fault the series for dragging its heals on anything, and this week is no exception, as events quickly accelerate to an exciting conclusion.

Spoilers Now!
The Roman dead are strung up as Agron and Spartacus arrive to review them drained of blood and salted to prevent rot. Nasir attempts to have word with Agron, but he's still holding a grudge, believing Nasir to have been with the Cilician.

Spartacus muses that Crixus feels he has the people's support for killing the prisoners, but Agron affirms his loyalty. Spartacus asks him to guard Laeta and her people in his absence, then leaves to join Gannicus, Saxa and Donar aboard the Cilician ship. However Heracleo isn't sailing with him, which raises suspicion. Caesar has been lingering by the docks to observe them depart. 

While Tiberius sits in disgrace in the followers camp, Crassus is visited by Senator Metallus who wants to know why the army stands idle and if the rumours are true he enacted decimation. He brings news himself—Pompey has defeated his enemies and will soon return to their shores. Crassus assures him Spartacus will have long been vanquished by the time he gets back to Rome. Crassus reveals Caesar is sequestered among the rebels but Metallus isn't reassured. 

Nemetes gives Caesar a sword to confirm his new trust in him. Caesar asks if Spartacus will be joining them in battle given he's sailed off. This raises Crixus' ire who was not told of this, so he sends Nemetes to seek out Heracleo to find out what's going on. 

Laeta thanks Agron for protecting her and her people, but he has no sympathy for and is serving Spartacus' will. Crixus and Naevia barge in demanding to know why Spartacus has left. Agron brushes off his questions, so Crixus taunts him by reminding him how the Romans took his brother's life. They're different men now, Agron counters. Crixus demands words with Spartacus when he returns. At the brothel, Nemetes finds Heracleo and learns of Spartacus' plans.

On the sea, Spartacus briefs Gannicus that they will be attacking a grain shipment bound for Crassus' army. But he also wants to know if Gannicus would step up to lead if he should fall. Gannicus remains uncommitted. On shore the rebels easily take the wagon.

Nasir and Agron have a jealous spat in front of Laeta. Nasir protests his innocence with the Cilician. They're interrupted by news that Roman scouts are watching from the hills. Crixus decides to send a message to Crassus and attack, all against Agron's orders. Crixus raises the crowd to battle and suggests it's his time to lead, but Spartacus and Gannicus have returned and demand to know what he's doing. Spartacus agrees the gates be opened, but only to release their Roman guests. Naevia and Crixus are infuriated at his latest affront, but Spartacus warns if Crixus should raise the gate without his command he'll find it forever shut behind him. 

Spartacus unchains Laeta and plans to free them from the city. She realizes he's abandoning Sinuessa for Sicilia, leaving behind those no longer loyal to him within the city. The mob curses the Romans as Spartacus and Agron lead them out.

Crixus worries the Romans will have heard too much in their time in captivity, but Spartacus reveals he hopes that's the case. It's his plan that Laeta will relay that particular information to Crassus. The real plan—Spartacus will take to the sea and attack Crassus' supply lines in Sicilia, leading him to believe the city is relatively defenceless. Crixus is to take his force into the ridge and engage Crassus, with Spartacus closing in from the other side by the sea. 

While impressed with the plan, Crixus is angry he was not included in it and Crixus points out the ridge may be impassable so late in the season as they were warned, but Spartacus is sure he can do it. It was necessary to keep him in the dark to prevent Laeta from learning the true plan.

Metallus brings Laeta in to see Crassus, and she bears information that Spartacus is moving against Sicilia and his ranks are breaking. Crassus is suspicious at how she managed to survive the fall of their city. She explains she gave aid to Spartacus to save her people, something that gives Crassus pause. Then he receives his own message that makes him pleased.

Meanwhile, Kore suggests Crassus make amends with Tiberius, but he wants his son to chart his own path. She later finds the disconsolate Tiberius and promises him she's working on his behalf. He comes to see her in her tent as they hear the legions called to formation. She consoles him, but he kisses her. She offers her apology, telling him he mistakes her intent. But it is Tiberius' intent, as he means to take something from his father just as he did from his son, and proceeds to rape her.

The dead Romans are hauled up along the wall to give the impression there are more men guarding the city. As the population evacuates, Naevia seeks to make peace with Gannicus. She knows now that Attius didn't deserve his fate, though she maintains he attacked her first. Gannicus warns her she's a true warrior now and if she lays hand on him again he'll treat her as such. 

Caesar plans on following Spartacus' force, but Nemetes catches up with him, telling him he'll be joining Crixus' band. That forces Caesar to make his move, killing the men around them and preparing to end Nemetes as he reveals he's Roman. Nemetes stops him, pleading if he spares him he'll offer aid. He would return to his lands east of the Rhine in exchange for seeing him close to Spartacus. Caesar appears to consider it, then informs him he made other arrangements and slits his throat. 

Sybil manages to get a word with Gannicus too, thanking him for delivering her from her dominus. He accepts her gratitude again and sends her on her way.

At the docks, as Spartacus and Gannicus prepare to embark, Heracleo reveals the Romans have made him a better offer, and the ship releases a force of soldiers. Caesar appears and stabs Spartacus in the shoulder and the docks turn into a battleground. Caesar takes some men to the gates. Spartacus kills Heracleo and they are rescued by the arrival of Crixus and his men. They secure the docks and Spartacus and Crixus appear to mend their rift. But Gannicus alerts them to Roman ships approaching. Spartacus orders them to fall back to the ridge.

At the city entrance, Saxa spots the soldiers and she, Agron and Donar fend them off as Caesar attempts to raise the gate. They dispatch all but Caesar, who throws pitch on the gate and sets it ablaze and then fends off Agron and Donar. Caesar is disarmed and about to be killed. Then a Roman battering ram breaks through and Caesar rises, warning them they had best run.  

The Verdict:
I was feeling antsy through most of this week, feeling the episode was jumping back and forth with some erratic pacing. But given the conclusion my opinion was greatly improved, simply because we got so much movement on storylines—Caesar's subterfuge is blown wide open and he inflicts a potentially fatal blow against the rebels, and nearly killing Spartacus in the process. The Cilicians and the Roman prisoners are gone. Nemetes' dissent is ended. The rift between Crixus and Spartacus appears to be mended. So quite a bit to catalog by the end of it.

I admire the fact that Crassus is more than a match for our hero and proves it this time. The only real satisfaction we can get is that he's vulnerable on his personal front (sadly at the expense of Kore). His weak point is his treatment of his son which will certainly backfire against him.

I was also relieved that Spartacus manages to avoid a usual dramatic cliché by delivering a death this week with Agron or Nasir. Given their (unconvincing) quarrel it would have been easy to have either of them killed before they can make amends. Unfortunately this spat isn't very strong dramatically, and I was finding it amusing watching them have their argument in front of the Roman prisoners, which I'm not sure was the intent.

Perhaps the biggest riddle is what is up with Sybil. I can't figure out the point of this character. She's confronted Gannicus twice with the same need to offer her gratitude. Is she going to be the one who manages to save their asses at some point, or will it be the reverse—she's really crazy and will end up putting a knife in Gannicus' back?

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