This review contains spoilers.
6. Chosen Path
After a slow and steady beginning, last week’s episode brought the fire back to the series (quite literally) with the return of Gannicus, the destruction of the arena, some major deaths, plans unwravelled and plot revelations aplenty. How on earth could this week follow that?
As it turns out… pretty comfortably. Sure, we didn’t get the big set piece of last week, but it took the full hour to examine the fallout.
Most obviously, we got to see Gannicus back in the cast. The Gladiator who earned his freedom was one of the lead characters in prequel mini-series Gods Of The Arena, so a chance to catch up with wasn’t just welcome, it was long overdue. As it turns out, for Gannicus, freedom isn’t all its cracked up to be. With the ability to do anything, it seems, comes the lack of motivation to do anything. He may end this episode spurning the rebellion, but it’s a safe bet we’ll be seeing him again soon.
Similarly, Crixus and Naevia discover that their reunion isn’t as smooth as either hoped, but the end of the episode gives them both a new purpose to continue, and one that continues the attempt at setting up a more egalitarian approach to contrast against the highly gendered structures of Roman society. Still, Spartacus has always been an equal-opportunities programme with regards to nudity, so it’s only fair the same is true of violence too.
Indeed, the only failing this episode was that the lead character barely got a look in, spending most of the episode either making plans or telling off his troops. Even his best fight – a long-awaited duel between the both-undefeated Spartacus and Gannicus – was cut short in its prime. Is it too much to hope for a rematch?
At least the villains are lining up nicely. Glaber has finally become interesting after ruthlessly asserting control of his situation in the previous episode, and this one continues to take the character in an unexpectedly brutal direction. He’s still no Batiatus, but at least he’s not the butt of everyone’s conspiracies anymore, having reminded everyone – not least Ilithyia – who’s boss.
And indeed, as Glaber’s rise continues, so does Ashur’s. The episode opens with him practically naked, fighting for his life and literally scrabbling in the dirt, only to end with him rising higher than ever before – and once again underestimated. Although once a cowardly comic relief character, Ashur is perhaps the most dangerous villain in the cast at this point, with no apparent loyalty to anyone but himself, nor any interest in anything except his own wellbeing. A terrifying combination of id and cunning.
Now that Ashur has stopped being funny and started being terrifying, it’s up to the comedy trio of Seppia, Lucretia and Ilithyia to provide the laughs, and you only have to look at the latter’s face when Seppia accuses her of being old to know that these three have an excellent chemistry together. One that will doubtlessly be exploited when the veneer or friendship drops.
And, of course, no discussion of this episode could be complete without mentioning Ashur’s new team of crazies, assembled like some kind of Roman-era Avengers. The best fight scenes in Spartacus are always those where the combatants have a visual or stylistic hook, and Ashur is now commanding a team comprising entirely of them. “Looking forward to what happens next” doesn’t begin to cover it.
Read our review of the last episode, here.
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