Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena episode 3 review: Paterfamilias

"If there is one thing this show does not do, it is follow normal TV conventions," says Ti of Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena. He's right, too...

This review may contain spoilers.

3. Paterfamilias

In television series and sitcoms, whenever a character’s parent visits the storyline, it’s always the same. Our beloved character is forced to face up to the fact that they have never been able to live up to their parent’s expectations/hopes/dreams and are generally a failure in their eyes. Normally, the show ends with a lovely resolution, but not before both child and parent confront their own personal inadequacies.

Rarely, though, does the parent walk in on their child engaging in a threesome and drinking wine poured over a woman’s breasts. Still, this is Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena.

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If there is one thing this show does not do, it is follow normal TV conventions. As such, when Batiatus’ father, Titus, comes home to see how his son is treating his beloved ludos, the stage is set for some serious father/son clashes.

Titus is, of course, dismayed at how his son has been treating his institution, not to mention his underhanded dealings at securing Qixus’ primus. However, rather than side with his son, Titus makes the decision that business is business and strives to repair relations with Tullius and Vettius, namely, by giving up the primus. Instead, four of Batiatus’ gladiators will be put forward for combat, including Barca, his lover, Auctus, and Crixus, who is still a recruit.

Like previous episodes of Spartacus, this crams a hell of a lot into 50 minutes. Not only is Batiatus clashing with daddy, but Lucretia and Gia have to deal with the return of Qixus, and a friend who enjoys wearing a lot of guyliner.

After enjoying his last visit to the ludos, Qixus is keen for a repeat performance. The only problem is his friend is even more of a sexual deviant than he is. Not only does he want to watch a slave girl be deflowered by a gladiator, but he wants to join in. Yes, this episode features gang rape, something that no-one particularly wants to see. However, the filmmakers create a very powerful scene that is played out mainly on the character’s expressions, not only that of the slave girl, but of  Naevia, whose relief is evident in the aftermath.

However, this episode is all about John Hannah, who, despite his character’s demise in the last season’s finale, is truly one of the best things in the show. If he’s not bellowing dialogue such as “Once again the Gods stuff cock in arse” or engaging in threesomes, his passion and the fact he is clearly enjoying everything about the role is a joy to behold. That is why, when Titus announces he is staying (and that the illness which you assumed was the result of poisoning amounted to nothing), you know things are going to get interesting.

This episode also sees Gannicus put into the background, providing council to Crixus as opposed to drinking/fighting/whoring. Gannicus (and Oenomaus) have been playing mentor to the Gaul, whose potential they all see.

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When I first started watching Spartacus, I honestly dismissed Manu Bennett as a well chiselled meat head. However, over the course of the series, he really impressed me with his emotional intensity and this episode was no different.

Picked to fight in the arena, without being a member of the Brother, Crixus is both honoured and determined to establish himself as a gladiator. As he’s paired against Auctus, the result is never in doubt, but like everything in this series, it is all about the journey. And this journey has plenty of twists and turns.

That is one of the great things about this show. The writers set things up that you assume will go one way, and then pull a complete about-turn. It keeps things interesting for a prequel show where you think you know everything that is going to happen, and then it turns out nothing is what it seems.

Read our review of episode 2, Missio, here.

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