Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Spartacus: War of the Damned "Separate Paths"

Non Spoiler Review:
Separate Paths brings the inevitable parting of ways for Spartacus and Crixus. As Spartacus has a change in strategy, his brother in arms can no longer follow and opts to chart his own path. Kore attempts to keep her identity secret within the rebel camp, but it's her loss that has Crassus behaving erratically, raising Caesar's concern that the war (and their future glory) is at risk.

The momentum continues with another epic chapter. This week brought a host of wonderful scenes, most notably between Spartacus and Crixus. Meanwhile, the situation in the Roman camp was equally eventful as Tiberius rises from mere annoyance to true villain.

Separate Paths will be a memorable episode in this series for several reasons. It delivered some shocks beyond the obvious ones, and quite an emotional punch (and considering I watched it on the heels of this week's Walking Dead it certainly made for a draining evening).

Spoilers Now!
The rebels continue their long march even as the Romans attack their rear position. Crassus only sends a few men, enough to slow their advance so his legions can catch up. Spartacus interrogates a prisoner for more information, learning they are four days away. The Roman begs him to spare his life, but Spartacus ignores him, allowing Crixus to finish him off.

Three days later Crassus arrives among the dead on the battlefield. Caesar warns him not to push his legions to collapse in pursuit but Crassus is bound to not let Spartacus slip again from his grasp. He's called back to camp by Senator Metallus who demands an explanation why his campaign hasn't ended the rebellion.

Crassus warns him not to forget their arrangement, and promises to grind Spartacus beneath his heel. But Metallus has already heard rumor his most trusted slave has joined the rebellion. Crassus strikes him, much to the horror of Tiberius and Caesar, who watch him beat the senator until they call him off. Crassus orders him to return to Rome and speak nothing of it lest he put his fortune towards his death. He has the senator put on his horse and the second legion sent after Spartacus.

Crixus continues to disagree with the plan to flee from the Romans. Spartacus is thinking of those less able to engage in battle, even though Crixus points out they're still taking up supplies. Agron confirms their stores are running low. Spartacus realizes they will have to stand and fight eventually. 

Agron remains suspicious of Castus, but Nasir assures him he need only prove himself against the Romans. He suggests Nasir is attracted to him, something the latter denies. Agron lends some aid to Laeta, if more for Spartacus whom he says carries some affection for her. He warns her that Spartacus deserves some small measure of happiness.

Kore rushes to get help as a woman is about to give birth. Spartacus and Agron see to her, as well. Kore delivers the baby boy and Spartacus notes she is good at it. Laeta asks of her master. Kore lies, but Spartacus sees her mark is from Marcus Crassus, forcing her to admit she fled. They fear she's a spy but Laeta comes to her defense. Spartacus gets her to confess that it was not Crassus but his son who had raped her. He gives her to Laeta as her responsibility, but if she's lying, her life will be forfeit. Spartacus confides in Agron they cannot turn away any slave wanting freedom.

Caesar shares his concern with Tiberius that his father's manner has grown erratic since losing Kore. He suggests he provide measured counsel and restore his reason. Tiberius accuses Caesar of giving Kore the opportunity to betray his father but Caesar counters she wanted to speak to Crassus about his son's actions, and asks what he did to her to make her run away. He promises to uncover the truth and Crassus will fall to reason when he realizes Kore was not the one who betrayed him. 

Gannicus and Lugo return from scouting and have found a valley that would provide them with food. Spartacus is pleased and announces they will press north to the Alps and cross them, seeing them free. Thousands of slaves running free beyond the Republic would be beyond Crassus' ability to follow. Crixus is against that. Spartacus asks how many more will fall if they continue in their fight. He would have them finally free. Crixus wants to turn west and attack Rome before Crassus can reach them. Spartacus orders the others to leave so the two rivals can discuss it in private. 

Spartacus admits he fears the reprisal they have drawn from Rome. His concerns have moved beyond revenge. Crixus is tired of running and wants Rome to fall beneath their feet and be truly free. He doesn't believe the Republic will let them slip away after they've shown they can challenge the status quo. Spartacus can't ask him to close his eyes to that notion after having opened them. With or without him, Crixus vows to march on Rome. Spartacus tells him they've fought for the choice to forge their own path, so he will no longer stand in the way of his. Crixus announces they will part ways at the break of dawn.

Spartacus asks one final thing of him. Come morning their army takes the valley and Spartacus declares a feast for Crixus and those who follow the undefeated Gaul. 

Agron feels conflicted about Crixus' departure and admits to Nasir that he's marching with him. Spartacus is his brother but he's not of like mind. There's no life for him beyond the Alps. Nasir assures him he'll be at his side, but Agron wants him to leave with Spartacus. Agron can't bear the thought of leading him to his doom and asks he aid Spartacus and live. 

Spartacus shares a drink with Crixus and confesses it's a wonder they've not killed one another. Crixus muses they've done the impossible, ruined the house of Batiatus, devastated Capua and the Roman horde. If they'd never met fate would have led them to a less glorious path. He hopes they may greet one another again in this life. 

Agron tells Spartacus his intent and they part on good terms. Laeta informs him Kore is grateful she still draws breath. He comments how interesting it is that Laeta has grown fond of her given she was once a domina. He muses her wounds must be healed given she's so argumentative. Their flirtation quickly turns into a kiss. He tells her he can never hold a Roman close to heart, but that's not what she's after, so they enjoy a night of passion.

Come morning Gannicus has final words with Crixus, who asks him to join him. Gannicus admits his journey is to other parts, and Crixus understands, as it appears he and Sybil are now together. Crixus' forces are ready to advance on Rome. Spartacus gets his people prepared for their journey north. Crixus tells him that he will always hold him as a brother. 

Crassus confides in his son that he wonders what he did to send Kore away, but Tiberius admits it could have been his fault for not seeing a closer eye on her. News of the dividing forces reaches them. Caesar realizes with alarm they are moving towards Rome. Tiberius feels that Rome can defend itself, and that Crixus is leading that force while Spartacus moves north. Crassus believes women and children will slow his nemesis.

After their discussion, Caesar remains adamant Rome could fall, infuriating Tiberius that he is questioning his direction. Caesar warns him he knows he forced himself on Kore. A whore witnessed him leave Kore's tent and Caesar can persuade her to talk if necessary. But he won't push Crassus into madness by revealing betrayal. Instead he wants him to advise his father to bring him to reason. Tiberius smashes his cup across Caesar's face, leading them to fight. Tiberius orders his men to seize Caesar and vows he will never lay hands on him again. Caesar warns him he can't kill him, so Tiberius has him held down as he rapes him.

Crixus's army engages the Romans and cuts a bloody path towards Rome. They stand within reach of the capital and Crixus addresses his army to face their last legion, recalling Oenomaus' words to him in the house of Batiatus, that they stand on sacred ground. They win the battle and Crixus kills the general, but as they celebrate they hear the horns of new legions approaching—Crassus and a surprisingly silent Caesar enduring Tiberius' command.

Crixus, upon Naevia's urging, meets the attack. The battle is brutal and Crassus is pulled off his horse. Crixus orders a fall back to reform their forces but Tiberius mortally wounds Agron and he falls on the field. Crixus attempts to kill Crassus to win the day but is set upon by Caesar. Naevia comes to his defense but she's thrown off. When Crixus is about to strike down Caesar Tiberius spears him. Tiberius would not have Caesar taken so easily from the world, and orders the screaming Naevia silenced. Crassus comes up to them and tells his son to retrieve his sword which has been in Crixus' possession. 

Tiberius would see him crucified but Crassus wants to send a message to Spartacus. Crixus shares a last look with Naevia as Tiberius takes his head. 

The Verdict:
The writers wasted no time resolving Spartacus and Crixus' ongoing (and often tiring) dispute by setting them on their separate destinies. It all felt ominous and inevitable, with some the most poignant and well-acted scenes of the season as these powerful and beloved characters said their good-byes to one another as friends and brothers. Yes, we knew they would never see one another again, and Crixus' end is just a precursor to the ultimate resolution of the war that lies ahead, but it was all very well done.

Agron's fate was questionable. After all this time as Spartacus' loyal right hand, to have him opt to go along with Crixus because he saw no life for himself outside of battle had me scratching my head. It seemed an easy out to send Nasir off into the waiting arms of Castus after so much was invested in their relationship. His death came so quickly I would have hoped for a more herioc send off for him.

After the visually spectacular Mor Indecepta, this week brought an even more fantastic series of battles that kept me riveted to the screen. Only once (when Crixus prepared to attack the advancing Roman army) did the rendering look a bit sketchy. The series should be applauded for delivering such quality on a weekly basis.

And Spartacus wastes no time in exposing plots either—Kore's true identity could have been played out awhile longer, but is revealed right off the bat, so she seems to be an ally, and now in the care of Laeta, perhaps ensuring she might make it out of the series alive, as well, if the other does. Spartacus and Laeta's union was hasty, but didn't seem too forced, given they both admitted they only wanted a no strings attached romp before facing the new day.

Despite Tiberius' will it would seem that Crassus regained his reason and marched towards Rome's salvation. Most surprising was Tiberius getting the upper hand on Caesar with the shocking and unexpected rape. Not only that, but he killed both Agron and Crixus, and has sealed his fate as the true villain of the season. I can't see the writers allowing him to survive this, especially since Crassus and Caesar's destinies are in stone.

That leads to my only criticism—the vague passage of time from Crixus leaving Spartacus' ranks and reaching striking distant of Rome. One would think it would be at least a few weeks, but Crassus' comment about Caesar having difficulty sitting on his horse seems at odds with that. I realize the series can't take its time getting them to battle, and they did and effective job with their bloody montage showing Crixus' progress, but it was jarring finding them suddenly in sight of Rome given the more leisurely pace of the first half.

So much for my theory that Agron and Nasir would survive to find a life together outside the Republic. According to historical accounts Gannicus died with Crixus, so now I'm leaning towards him and Sybil making their escape in the series' final scene. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...