Friday, 30 March 2012

Spartacus Vengeance: Monsters


Previously: Spartacus abaondoned Paris Hilton in the woods like a more evil Snow White.

The Artist Formerly Known as Tiberius and some doomed random are guarding our heroes' ruined-temple-squat. Not very effectively, as Naevia ends up having to wake everyone with a warning that they've been invaded by Roman soldiers. Except they haven't - it's Gannicus and Crixus, testing them. This seems like a pretty stupid plan, given most of these characters' tendency to spear through the face first and ask questions later.

Gladiator Groupie is moping by the bath, her unhappy state of mind symbolised by the camera starting off upside down. Haldir doesn't seem to have noticed that her attitude towards him has completely changed. He's also cheerfully confident that Paris Hilton is definitely dead - which is her cue to make a super-dramatic entrance, throwing open the doors like Aragorn at Helm's Deep, hair all messed up like an avenging angel, then ploughing headfirst into the pool in the atrium, since walking goodness knows how far with no food and little sleep while heavily pregnant is not, in fact, all that good for you.

She's not sure whether she's still alive or not when she wakes to find Haldir bending over her (the Romans didn't have a concept of purgatory, or I'm sure she'd have thought she was there). He's not at all happy, but he does take the oppportunity to pump her for information. She doesn't seem 100% sure if the writing she saw at the temple was Greek, which suggests she never paid attention to whoever educated her, because a well-off young woman in this period ought to know Greek. Haldir has also, rather untactfully, stuck her in a new bed so he can continue shagging Gladiator Groupie in theirs - though he points out this is hardly surprising given her previous behaviour towards him.

Spartacus' men are squabbling over whose fault the not-Roman-invasion was, and then they all fight over what weapons they should all use (I love the way Number One holds a warning finger at German Blonde when she insults GirlFriend in German). Spartacus is forced to defend letting Paris Hilton go without letting on it's because she's pregnant with his baby. DSG takes charge and things calm down, because he is awesome. Spartacus realises his speechifying is getting him nowhere - he is starting to turn into Buffy from Season Seven, which is not a good sign. But it's OK - he has a Plan. A cunning one.

Whatever it is, it's unlikely to help him with his current personal situation. It seems to be him who's done the dumping in his broken relationship with GirlFriend, over the attempted murder of Paris Hilton, and because she wants him to love her, which he doesn't. So they have The Conversation and she goes off to train more archers.

(By the way, someone asked me earlier this week if I thought there was a link between Katniss and Artemis because they both use archery. I think archery alone isn't enough of a connection - women, elves and children all get put with the archers in fantasy or historical fiction, because it's the most logical way to have someone smaller and not as strong fight a big tough man with a sword. Artemis/Diana uses a bow and arrow because she hunts, which Katniss also does, but the goddess does it for fun and exercise and because she's deliberately taking part in a traditionally masculine activity, rather than hunting for survival. Anyway, I'm yet to be convinced that there's much of a link there, but it's something I'll keep an eye out for, and that goes for the ladies of Spartacus as well).

Xena and Paris Hilton are reunited and seem genuinely delighted to see each other (which they probably are by this point - though I'm still suspicious of Xena's motives. She wants that baby, I'm telling you...). They catch each other up on all the important developments - the baby is Spartacus', Haldir and Gnomey Guy killed Gladiator Groupie's brother and Gladiator Groupie now knows it, etc etc. They both seem to have matured and grown and understood their past mistakes - it can't last. They cement this bond by plotting Haldir's potential horrible, untimely death.

Haldir and Gnomey, through a combination of plotting Spartacus' attacks and, even more helpfully, getting people to identify Crazy Old Guy's decomposing head, have worked out where Spartacus is and plan a final attack. Which is a shame because Spartacus, it turns out, has finally come round to Gannicus' way of thinking and sent Number One out to steal them all some wine. He gets a party going in which they'll punch out their differences in non-lethal slow-motion wrestling matches, to cheer everyone up, and finally, we get some genuine joy in these characters. Spartacus spoils it all by speechifying again, falling prey to what I'm going to call Buffy Season Seven Syndrome (constant speeches intended to build tension and bond characters, but which actually just bore the pants off the audience and even, in severe cases, the characters themselves). Since Spartacus' creator, Steven DeKnight, was a regular writer on Buffy in the later seasons, this may not be a coincidence...

At this point it was apparently necessary for Gnomey Guy to pick up the Idiot Ball and really run with it. He appears to have totally lost it, as one of the series' most clever and cunning characters decides to tell Xena, the woman he's been repeatedly raping, all his secrets. He tells her that he and Haldir will attack Spartacus that night, where they're attacking (at Vesuvius), what he's getting out of it (freedom) and he finishes the cocktail of idiotic gut-spilling by adding that, once free, he intends to force Xena to marry him and re-open her dear departed hubby's ludus with himself in charge. He seems really to think that they're having some kind of love affair. This does at least explain why he bothered to save her life at the beginning of the season, but still. It's far too dumb for this character.

Haldir's plans are interrupted by the return of Varinius, who tells him the Senate would like politely to suggest that he leave the Spartacus-hunting to someone better qualified and come back to Rome. Paris Hilton emerges to stick up for him, pretending she was never kidnapped (using a fabulously wispy-little-girl voice to do so). She shoots Varinius quite the look as she leaves though. With Gnomey not in the scene, Haldir picks up the Idiot Ball and lets slip that Spartacus is at Vesuvius, and Varinius plans his own attack, telling Haldir again to go home. (I gotta say, the area around Vesuvius is pretty big, so really only Gnomey Guy and Haldir, who have a precise location, should be able to find our heroes).

It turns out Gladiator Groupie sent for Varinius, who now refuses to believe that Paris Hilton was kidnapped at all and is doubting Gladiator Groupie's accusations about her brother - apparently she wants to prosecute Haldir in court, but Varinius refuses on the basis of lack of evidence. Gladiator Groupie is not impressed.

Back at the squat, the slow-motion wrestling is still going on and seem to be working, with everyone venting their anger on each other and then making up afterwards. Even German Blonde and GirlFriend work together to bring down one of the guys. Spartacus then puts Number One with Crixus against Gannicus and DSG. You would have thought these two pairs would hate each other far too much to solve it by beating the snot out of people together but amazingly, it seems to work, and even Number One and Crixus shake hands, while DSG and Gannicus grin at each other. Apparently, if you sleep with your best friend's wife, it's all better and forgiven if you beat up two of your other friends together. Men. Though since this gives us an excuse to see the quite fun spectacle of four of the main characters punching each other for a prolonged period of time, I suppose we should let it go.

Gladiator Groupie is much less happy, sobbing on Xena's lap about Haldir. Xena has given up on subtlety and just gives her a frickin' big knife to go stab him with. Gladiator Groupie really ought to consider why Xena is making her do this, instead of just doing it herself.

The soundtrack starts to get really excited as Xena and Paris Hilton run and stalk about the House of Death, dresses flowing dramatically behind them. Haldir is getting ready to leave for Rome, as ordered, and stripping off his armour (and everything else - woo-hoo, hello tackle!). As he goes over to Gladiator Groupie looking for some sex to take his mind off things, she whacks him over the head with a vase and then prepares to stab him - at which point Paris Hilton jumps her from behind and forces the knife on her instead, stabbing her and then slitting her throat. The camera lingers on the huge amount of blood spurting out from her neck for at least a minute while Paris Hilton waves around dramatically in the background. The director is practically screaming at us, 'Look! Look at this Important death! I bet that's not what you expected to happen, eh? EH?!' (Well, actually Mr Director, it was pretty darned obvious it was never going to be as simple as 'Gladiator Groupie stabs Haldir and that's it'). Gladiator Groupie falls in the bath and Haldir gets absolutely covered in blood but remains alive and well.

Paris Hilton tells Haldir they should give up on feeling affection for each other and just join forces to be totally evil together. She'd mentioned to Xena earlier that she'd give him one last chance, and have blood if he didn't take it - this is his chance. He takes it. They have some blood-covered make-up sex before Haldir rides out to fight Spartacus and show his quality.

Crixus and Naevia are also having some rather more romantic sex, as it seems she has started to recover enough to do so. Gannicus still thinks Spartacus will be the death of them all, but has cheered up because it will be a glorious death. Which is handy, because at that moment a signal appears to warn them that the Romans are coming. Spartacus summons the troops and gives them some hints on how Romans fight before leading them out and both the soundtrack and the director think they're in Lord of the Rings now, with a big pan over the (correctly pointy, as pre-eruption) mountain and swelling music as they leave.

Fighting happens. Our heroes get in the first arrows, then all Hades breaks loose. At one point they trick the Romans into thinking they're retreating, then jump them, which is quite entertaining. The Romans make it into their squat, but another group, led by Crixus, are there to meet them.

It turns out this particular group of Romans is led by Varinius, who is allowed to live because he's the wrong praetor. Spartacus takes him prisoner, steals all his weapons and just as they think it's all over, Haldir attacks them with fireballs (one of which soundly dispatches Varinius - face first, of course). Haldirs' troops are led by the random Egyptian from the well, I think.

As the battle starts to go really quite badly for them, it seems our heroes have an escape tunnel prepared and they start heading towards it (are they bringing a special sword and have they remembered the household gods?!). DSG gets stabbed in the hand and eye, though he still seems to be alive, and they all start heading for freedom while a full choir sings enthusiastically on the soundtrack (this isn't the wailing woman, this is a full on, mostly male voice choir, as if all the miners of Wales got together to make noise as one). Crixus, Spartacus and Number One glare angrily at Haldir and Gnomey one last time, and they run for it.

On their way out, however, they run into yet more Roman soldiers. They manage to escape up the mountain, but Spartacus has to give up on Haldir. They get away up a narrow path, which they manage to hold, and Haldir decides to starve them out. End of episode.

I've been assuming all season that we're working up to killing off Haldir in the final episode, and I still think that's probably the case (he's an historical character, but since we don't know what happened to him after he fought Spartacus, there's plenty of leeway - they've already divided the historical Varinius Glaber into two characters, Varinius and Gaius Glaber, anyway). But I'm even sadder about it than I already was. Glaber and Ilithyia deciding to just be totally evil together, more or less for the lolz but also for power and possibly some money is a fantastic scene. With her scheming and both of them throwing themselves into pure villainy with gusto, this is the sense of over-the-top, ridiculous fun that this season has been lacking (and I'm not especially mourning Gladiator Groupie while she bleeds out behind them, she had promise but not much bite in the end). If I turn out to be wrong, and these two survive to come up against Caesar and Crassus next season, I'll be very happy. He's pretty easy on the eyes, too. Even Paris Hilton doesn't really annoy me any more, she's too gloriously evil.

Talking of next season, I've noticed the body count has been significantly higher among the Romans than among our heroes this season (of course, that may change in the next episode's season finale, but at least a few of them are historical and will probably last out the year). I suspect this is a balance of sorts to last season, when they were dropping like flies both in and out of the arena, and next season - there's a particular historical event I expect next season to lead up to as its season finale, which I won't spoil for the moment. Season Three will also bring us a lot more unkillable Romans with well known historical fates, so I expect Spartacus' group to really start to suffer...

This was a step up - a lively episode with plenty of action, forward movement, some significant secondary characters getting killed off and most importantly of all, a sense of joy, fun and pleasure coming from both Roman and rebel characters. Long may it continue! Well, you know - into next season.

Quotes

Asher: Together we shall see The Rise of the House of Asher. I laughed out loud at that. I knew the House of Death wasn't done with murder and mayhem yet.

Ilithyia: We are both monsters, Gaius. Let us be so together, and seize the f*cking heavens!

Glaber, echoing the title of the Season One finale: We shall kill them all.

All Spartacus reviews

4 comments:

  1. Dear Juliette,

    I just wanted to say I love your blog! I am at McMaster University in Ontario Canada and you have inspired me to take Classics for my electives which is a pretty big deal because I am in Economics and Finance! So thank you for opening up new doors for me.

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  2. Thank you! :) I'm so glad you enjoy my stuff and that it's got you interested in the ancient world - I hope the elective is good!

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  3. Amo another great recap! But I'm sure I saw Vesuvius with a crater! Are Glaber and Varinius definitely the same person as I thought there was some doubt over this? My highlight was definitely the scene with Glaber and Illythia - sometimes in film or TV you can really get a feeling that the cast are enjoying themselves, and I felt that here.

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  4. I thought it looked pointy, but I might have been looking at the keyboard at the time! And I'm sure there were previous eruptions - though descriptions of the mountain imply it lost its point when it obliterated Pompeii.

    Appian refers to someone called 'Varinius Glaber' but he's not the only source, none of them agree with each other, and they were all written 150 years or more after the events, so it doesn't really matter!

    I loved that scene with Glaber and Ilithyia - more like that please!

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