This review may contain spoilers.
Lies, secrets, guilt and betrayal have always been a part of Spartacus: Blood And Sand, but one fails to think of an episode when so many subplots have come together to unleash a complete clusterfuck of tragedy, loss, and in a strange way, honour. So, let’s jump straight in, shall we?
Firstly, Gannicus and Melitta are still sharing lustful glances across the ludos, and despite their mutual love and respect for Oenomaus, their desire for each other is jeopardising their lives. For Gannicus, his constant distraction is leading to him losing his position as champion, and for Melitta, a fear of discovery by her husband dominates her dreams.
However, when Tullius offers Titus a deal to restore glory to the House of Batiatus in exchange for Gannicus, it looks like a solution could be found. By leaving the ludos, Gannicus would be free of his forbidden love and Melitta and Oenomaus would be able to live happily ever after. Of course, this being Spartacus, you know this is not going to happen.
In order to re-evaluate his gladiators, Titus organises a contest between his men to see who are the true champions and who are potential mine odder.
Crixus has rapidly become the ‘next big thing’ and it is no surprise when he and Gannicus are in the final. Learning he would be sold if he loses, Gannicus deliberately allows himself to be beaten, so that he will no longer have to see Melitta and her husband together. It also means that there is a chance he could appear in Spartacus: Vengeance once the gladiator army starts liberating other slaves.
But then Lucretia throws a spanner in the works.
We’ve always known Batiatus and Lucretia were ruthless after their exploits in the first season, but their love for each other has always been limitless (even with Lucretia sleeping with Crixus). Titus’ ultimatum to Batiatus to choose between the House and his wife was never going to end well. It was just a matter of how.
For a while it looked like Batiatus would commit patricide, but one must never underestimate the love between a father and son. On the other hand, one must also never underestimate the wrath of a woman scorned. With Titus demanding the ‘Gia incident’ be swept under the carpet and his constant bad-mouthing of his son, as well as herself, Lucretia decides enough is enough. Taking advantage of Tullius’ gift of wine to Titus, she adds a hefty poison to finally end his rule once and forever. Of course, she never counted on Melitta taking some wine to Gannicus’ cell for a farewell drink and sheet shuffle.
So, with Titus and Melitta dead, the stage is set for Batiatus to enact revenge against Tullius, as well as having the grieving Oenomaus and Gannicus on side. I guess it explains also why Oenomaus doesn’t drink in Blood And Sand. The only question is why is Lucretia so bothered that Oenomaus not know that Melitta was in Gannicus’ cell? They were friends, after all. It’s not that suspicious, is it?
However, that’s not all that is going on.
In the first season, female slaves were essentially treated as eye candy, with Batiatus and his champions regularly using them like meat. It seems that the writers have now developed a conscience about that, with female slave, Diona, traumatised over her rape and ‘whoring out’ to various Roman members of society. Close to suicide, Naevia allows Diona to flee the ludos and start her life over, possibly in the new season? The show may be beloved for its liberal use of the female form, but it’s refreshing to see that the show is attempting to go deeper than merely being eye candy.
Elsewhere, Ashur’s continuing self-interest sees him blind his fellow Syrian in order to retain position among the gladiators, and Crixus gets to enjoy the first of many sessions with Lucretia in a last minute plan of hers to get pregnant. Again, this is all impressively shoehorned into 56 minutes.
With one episode of the prequel series left, all the subplots are coming together for what is guaranteed to be an epic finale, and it is full credit to the writers that they have managed to do it in such a way that it remains fresh, original and constantly surprising.
Read our review of episode 4, Beneath The Mask, here.
Follow Den Of Geek on Twitter right here.