This review may contain spoilers.
4. Beneath The Mask
In terms of graphic content, this show just keeps raising the bar to the point that, this week, there are more breasts, more graphic deaths and more man-junk on display than ever before.
As the House of Batiatus continues to transform itself into a den of inequity in a bid to find favour amongst Capua’s finest, our wide range of characters are finding themselves more and more violated both mentally and physically. Of course, this being Spartacus, more often than not, it’s physically.
In Blood And Sand, Batiatus’ quest for power ultimately led to his downfall, but here in the prequel series, we’re seeing the side effects of an earlier grasp for power. Not only is a clash with his father becoming an inevitability, but you could know it is going to result in death.
Titus is everything Batiatus isn’t, content with his lot in life, traditional and careful not reach beyond his station. For Batiatus, though, this has never been enough. In a verbal battering from his father he learns that, not only has he disappointed him through his life, but Titus does not even approve of Lucretia, which, considering the antics of this episode, is understandable.
As the depraved activities of the House of Batiatus spread around Capua, Lucretia and Gaia are forced to host a veritable orgy for the rich and privileged of the city. Of course, word reaches the evil Tullius (who is only missing a moustache to twirl) and things take a turn for the worse. Tullius is more than happy to see the House of Batiatus fall, and what better way to do that then potentially kill its champion.
In a bid to impress the city’s elite and call Lucretia’s bluff on what activities they can get away with, Tullius challenges Gannicus to a sparing match, knowing full well the gladiator will be essentially handicapped by not wishing to hurt such a prominent member of society. As a result, Tullius wounds Gannicus, who is forced to hold back in the fight, instead of killing him in a few seconds.
Gannicus also further endangers himself by pursuing Oenomaus’ wife, Melitta. As the two snatch a brief embrace, Gannicus is asked what he would do if his and Oenomaus’ roles were reversed. In what is sure to be a prophetic statement, Gannicus answers that he would “kill us both”. Time will tell if this is the case.
The show’s big surprise was in the brutal murder of Gaia. Capua’s latest she-bitch was always going to suffer a downfall due to her manipulative ways, but one didn’t suspect it would be so brutal. However, as we have come to expect from Tullius, he is not one to be easily played, especially by a woman who is so devious.
Actor Stephen Lovatt, who is best known as starring as Max Hoyland in Neighbours, is fantastic in the role and is clearly having a ball being a complete bastard. However, spilling blood in the House of Batiatus is clearly going to come back to haunt him, as Lucretia plans her revenge.
Forbidden lust, murder, betrayal and, in the case of the poor Syrian gladiator, man-rape, it’s all going on for the Gods of the Arena. It’s still astounding to see how much the filmmakers are able to cram into 50 minutes, and I haven’t even mentioned Crixus’ steady rise to prominence, Ashur’s constant struggle for respect and the gladiator who has a trident shoved into his face!
Read our review of episode 3, Paterfamilias, here.
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