This review contains spoilers.
3.9 The Dead and the Dying
Well. That was an episode, alright. Obviously (and appropriately) Crixus’ death in the previous instalment overshadowed everything, but it was also time to start knocking down the carefully-positioned pieces as the series draws to a close. This didn’t feel like the penultimate episode – more like the first half of the closer. Much of that was down to just how much was going on, and the way various character threads are starting to wind up.
Naevia’s, for one. Although the initial idea of Crassus letting her go to “goad” Spartacus was a little weak, it didn’t really matter in light of what she did in this episode. The character has been all over the place since her introduction, but in many ways, the journey from slave to a free individual with her own agency is the real arc of Spartacus. She represents what he was fighting for and why.
Tiberius’ arc was also concluded in this episode. It’s interesting that despite an occasionally one-dimensional slide into villainy, the character finally felt real in the moments before his death. Confused, frightened, and finally left caught between three different parties (Caesar, Kore and the slaves), all of who would see him dead. It’s safe to say the character learnt a little too late that assuming the position of brutal manipulator doesn’t work if you don’t have the power to back it up. Chalk that up to bad parenting.
In general, though, this was also the show’s version of a victory lap. The finale will almost certainly involve a lot of the cast dying, so this was their big chance to stand together one last time. Everything from the welcome return of the games, to the honouring of Crixus, to the mention of just about every named (non-evil) character to have died since the first season was designed to remind us of the good times. I’ll be completely honest: if that had been the end of the series, I’d have taken it.
But obviously, it isn’t. With Tiberius dead, and Crassus feeling the sting of being finally (finally!) outsmarted by Spartacus, there’s just about time for history to take its course. And speaking of people’s fate, with one episode to go it’s a favourite pastime of mine to speculate on what’ll happen to the various characters in a series. Having completely missed the mark with about 90% of Lost‘s Finale (although to be fair, how could we have predicted THAT?) let’s see how I do with this one:
Naevia: She’d rather be dead than live without Crixus, so it’s likely she will end up that way.
Gannicus (et al): He earned his freedom, I think he’ll get to keep it, even though history has him dying. Saxa probably sacrifices herself to save him or Sibyl.
Agron (et al): A happy ending with Nasir seems likely, just because someone in this show deserves one. Historically speaking, Castus dies, so maybe he’ll save Nasir or Agron in the process. (Man, it’s narratively rough being the third side of a love triangle.)
Kore/Laeta: This episode clearly showed that Laeta hasn’t just been adopted by the cause – she’s also adopted it. Enough to die for it? Maybe. There’s a small chance that she and Spartacus escape and head anonymously into history, but either way I think she’ll live in the long-run. Kore, however, doesn’t have as much of a future. Sticking with Crassus now would be difficult, but I don’t see her rejoining the rebellion either. Possible suicide?
Crassus/Caesar: They’ll have their victory, but how does the show let that happen without it feeling like a downer? I’m wondering if Caesar might take Crassus’ credit. He’s the more sympathetic of the two, after all, and it’d be one last insult to the Crassus name that has caused him so much trouble lately.
Spartacus: This is the big ‘un. There are three ways it can go: he could die a glorious-but-principled death (as history would have it). He could escape death while appearing to die (a historical fake-out). Or they cut away and leave it up to us what happens next. Personally, I’m betting he dies to save the lives of his remaining followers, but… we’ll see. Odds are good that the last thing he says will be “I am Spartacus” given that they’ve taken great pains to avoid him saying that line in recent years.
Bonus bleak ending: Everybody dies! Everyone except Crassus and Caesar, that is. Bleak, but cathartic. Everyone has to die eventually, after all. An unlikely ending, but not impossible.
Bonus Hercules ending: The entire episode is set in the future and all of the actors play themselves, discussing the show’s themes and concluding that Spartacus may be dead, but the way history remembers his rebellion makes him the real winner.
Feel free to leave your own guesses as to where this is all going, though, and come back next week for the big finale!
Read James’ review of the previous episode, Separate Paths, here.
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