Spartacus: War Of The Damned episode 4 review: Decimation

Review James Hunt 25 Feb 2013 - 06:00

Spartacus: War of the Damned delivers a belter of an episode, and promises to continue the trend. Here's James' review...

This review contains spoilers.

3.4 Decimation

Now this is more like it. After spending a couple of weeks treading water, Spartacus: War of the Damned has started moving forward again. Finally, Spartacus is held to account for his increasingly hard-to-defend views, and the rebellion pays for it in exactly the way you'd expect: mutiny.

Indeed, even Spartacus' right-hand man Crixus can't bring himself to stick with Spartacus' rule, and it's a decision that's nicely played. In addition to giving the character something to do that doesn't involve fawning over Naevia, there's a strong sense that Crixus actually agrees with his friend to a large extent. However, it seems that he recognises that the tide of opinion has turned against such compassionate rule, and is more dedicated to seeing the rebellion succeed than the ideals behind it. A fair perspective, if one that's less lofty than Spartacus'.

Of course, we expected that there would be a schism between Crixus and Spartacus at some point in the campaign – history suggests it – but we didn't know when it would happen, or how. Now, we appear to have our answer. It's often said both that an army marches on its stomach, and that civilisation is only a few meals away from barbarism. This episode took both maxims to heart, using the siege mentality to ramp up the rebellion's distaste for live Roman prisoners, presenting them as mouths to be fed. The build was slow and deliberate, and spilled over at just the right moment.

Of course, it helped that Caesar was around to nudge things along. Aware of the possibility that there was a wolf in the fold, Spartacus and his men were high on paranoia even before Caesar began to stoke the embers of the dissatisfaction in their ranks. He's still an unlikeable figure despite the best efforts of the show's writers to bring out his softer side as he weeps over Fabia and gives her the mercy killing she wants, but let's face it: no matter how well-rounded he gets, we're all just waiting for someone – Spartacus, Crixus, Gannicus, whoever – to give him the beating that beard demands.

All of this said, it's worth remembering one thing about this episode that went seemingly unresolved: Spartacus promised Laeta that he and his men could outsmart Crassus. There's a chance – albeit a small one – that some of what we've seen is just for show. Heracleo was being given some kind of mission at the end, so maybe that ties into what Spartacus said. Something's going on behind the scenes of what we're seeing, but right now we can't quite guess at what.

Speaking of not knowing where things are going, it's interesting to see Tiberius fall from grace so definitively. It's likely that the plan here is to build him back up into a foe worthy of Spartacus' attention. Crassus is historically bullet-proof, so what better way to give our hero a win than by killing his opponent's son? It's not exactly an unsafe bet to say "this character will probably die" when it comes to Spartacus, but given how we're being made to feel for Tiberius, the kid who wants nothing more than to please his father and just had to kill his only friend, it's pretty certain that we're going to be invested in him before he does go – and those are the best deaths. I'm looking forward to seeing Tiberius rise back through the ranks and become the foe Spartacus' rebellion deserves.

So overall, it's a good week – and since previous series have all had major twists happen around episode five, there's a strong suggestion that next week's might be even better. 

Read James' review of the previous episode, Men of Honour, here.

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I was surprised when Ceasar showed off his leg with a gaping hole in it to get in the city. I didn't know what he was having that servant girl do to him previously but I sure wasn't expecting that. I still wonder if she did that to him for his infiltration plan or if it just happened to work out for him that way...

Maybe it's a lot simpler than that. Tiberius is just a kid and we already have the roman equivalent to Palpatine and Vader. I think the surprise will be that lots of viewers will prefer seeing the rebellion kicked in the butt by the romans: (1) Gannicus will just walk away from all that madness. (2) Crixus and Naevia will die at the cross (she's just insane and he stopped thinking by himself, becoming just a dog). (3) The fate of Spartacus will not be clear. (4) Caesar will learn a lesson from Spartacus, becoming a better man on his way to become the father of the Empire.

(and sorry for my english)

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