Spartacus: War Of The Damned episode 8 review: Separate Paths

This week's Spartacus provides a satisfying pay-off to a number of plot threads as the show approaches its finale. Here's James' review...

This review contains spoilers.

3.8 Separate Paths

Well, we knew this was coming, but that didn’t make it any less awesome when it happened. Crixus and Spartacus finally part ways, as demanded by historical record – only this time, it wasn’t a fundamental disagreement, but an amicable parting made of everything that came before. Of course, at this late stage in the series those goodbyes felt palpable and real, and the subsequent battle between Crixus and the Roman forces contained the promise of death for much of the cast. Promises that were realised.

But before we get to that, what about the lead-up to it? A number of plots were paid off in this episode, and paid off well. As suspected, the nascent “romance” of Spartacus and Laeta was consummated, but casually enough that it’s a look at what could have been, rather than what was. Kore’s insinuation into the ranks was brought to light more quickly than expected, although not explored as thoroughly as I’d hoped (presumably future episodes will deal with that, though). The Agron/Nasir/Castus love triangle also got paid off in a particularly brutal way for both Agron and Nasir.

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And, of course, there was the question of how the series would deal with the inevitability of Crixus’ demise. The answer: as gloriously as possible. Obviously, it hurt to see Crixus get so close to his goal of routing Rome and then fall. Had Crassus not turned up, he might even have succeeded. But it was a death tinged with glory, even if it could have been handled slightly better: Tiberius, despite proving himself a monster multiple times over (not least in this episode) isn’t the complex or worthy foe the series wants him to be, and seeing him be the one to take Crixus down feels unearned. At least Caesar had the fighting skills to do it.

Much can be read into the final shot of Crixus’ death. We didn’t actually see it directly – only as a reflection in Naevia’s eye. We’re seeing it as she’s seeing it: just another violation of her hopes and dreams committed by Romans. Given that Agron was felled in a reasonably non-committal way AND we didn’t see Naevia die, it’s a safe bet that one or both of them might make it to Spartacus next episode to deliver the bad news.

On the Roman side of things, Crassus was finally compelling in this episode. The scene of him losing his nerve and beating the hell out of poor Metellus (who was completely reasonable in his displeasure with Crassus having allowed Spartacus to escape) was a great moment that let us see how deeply the typically cold, calculating Crassus had been affected by his campaign. It’ll be interesting if his vendetta ultimately destroys him, turning victory into defeat.

Elsewhere, the rivalry between Caesar and Tiberius took a completely unexpected and unpleasant turn in this episode, but in a show as uncompromising and egalitarian in its depictions of both violence and sexuality as Spartacus attempts to be, it would’ve almost been unfair for the show to avoid depicting male-on-male rape when it made sense for the plot. And here, it made sense for the plot. Still, since we know that Caesar survives, we can perhaps guess how Tiberius will meet his end now…

Overall, though, this was an episode that got by on the strength of its character moments. Plot-wise, there was a lot here that felt truncated or skipped over, not least the montage that shows Crixus and his army fighting the Romans – exploits that could have filled an episode (or series) in themselves. Similarly, seeing him die a matter of moments after saying “goodbye” to Spartacus was disappointing, but at this late stage there’s only so much time they can give each plot, and Crixus’ death had to happen for the story to reach the end. Next week the show’s taking a week off, though, so we’ve plenty of time to mourn the (mostly) undefeated Gaul. Back here in two for the entry into the closing straits.

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