Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Spartacus War of the Damned: Decimation



Well, the title is promising anyway. The word comes from a nasty Roman habit of killing every 10th soldier to punish the army for a mistake or disobedience, which according to Plutarch Crassus did indeed revive while fighting Spartacus, after a lieutenant called Mummius did exactly what Tiberius did in the previous episode (Appian mentions it too). Caesar may have gone in for it as well, so it's actually reasonably accurate, as well as being perfect for Spartacus, since it involved unnecessary violence on a large scale.

The pirates have brought some supplies, but only wine, as the greedy Romans are hording their grain for themselves. When one of the few barrels of grain spills on the ground, they all go after it like the peasants after wine in A Tale of Two Cities (brilliant film, check it out if you haven't seen it).

Boudicca is sneaking some of the precious bread to feed her little group of escaped prisoners, while Crixus and Naevia are still whining that they should kill them all. Number One is struggling with crowd control and checking people coming into the city for weapons and slave brands. Helga is helping, but her version involves getting to 2nd (3rd?) base with the bare breasts of incoming ex-slaves (OK I confess, I'm not clear on exactly what the bases are! I'm British, we don't do baseball metaphors). A discussion of whether or not to attack Crassus’ army is interrupted by the discovery of some Romans who are, needless to say, quickly dispatched. Except Surfer Caesar, who uses the oldest trick in the book, killing his own men, to blag his way in. He tells them he cut out the brand on his leg and shows them the gash from his pseudo-vampiric sex with one of the slave-girls a couple of episodes ago.

Tiberius, meanwhile, is not as nearly dead as I had hoped, and for some reason wears no underwear while having a wound in his abdomen treated. Crassus is mad at him but he does confide in him about Surfer Caesar’s mission (which is the reason he ordered the goatee to stay).

Spartacus is smart enough to realise that Crassus is using their own strategies against them and that they probably have a mole, while Gannicus’ main concern is that if Spartacus dies, Crixus will be in charge (Number One is too busy agreeing with Crixus that they should attack Crassus to complain about being passed over for promotion). Gannicus also points out that Naevia killed the blacksmith and now they have no way to make weapons, because he is the only character on Spartacus’ side, apart from Spartacus himself, with two brain cells to rub together. As Crixus walks off, Number One does indicate that he probably doesn’t want to be led by Crixus, but his solution is to make himself Spartacus’ personal bodyguard in an attempt to ensure that Spartacus lives forever.

Eponine is still hanging around and moping when Gannicus challenges Surfer Caesar, who tries to explain away his skill with a sword by claiming his old master trained all his shepherds to be that good (he then deliberately loses, which seems a better idea). Beardy German points out that Crixus and Naevia are watching Surfer Caesar suspiciously as he pulls out a tooth (hope he doesn’t lose many more, I don’t think Roman dentures were that great) and they decide to enter into some dodgy dealings together.

Boudicca is cheered a bit by the news that Crassus is after Spartacus, as she thinks he might actually win, though she also gives him some intel. that leads to Spartacus realising that Crassus played him in Episode 1. Not cool, Boudicca. Crassus finally lays into Tiberius for disobeying orders and, even worse, for being so un-intimidating that his men fled Spartacus rather than obeying Tiberius, and orders the titular decimation to make sure they never do it again. Tiberius' friend (who name-checks Marius in his horror at the order of decimation - yay! History!) is in the drawing of lots despite standing with Tiberius and hauling him away, so of course, he’s going to die, just like Neighbours Reject before him.

Surfer Caesar is still cosying up to Beardy German, while Eponine helps Boudicca with her sneaky prisoner-feeding. Gannicus catches a random beating up a prisoner who keeps asking about his sister, Fabia, and puts a stop to it. Helga whines at him in German, which does no good of course as he doesn't understand a word she's saying, and she also uses German to express her desire to see Eponine’s head on a pike.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled plotting and scheming for some random sex because this show used to be called Blood and Tits for a reason, and the tits have been sorely lacking this season. Crassus is having romantic, soft-focus, clean-sheet sex with Maid Marian, because he may be a vicious b-word who kills a tenth of his own men but he's still the closest thing we have to a sympathetic protagonist this season. This goes on for a while (presumably to make up for cutting away a couple of episodes ago). Apparently he’s particularly good in bed when removed from his wife. Maid Marian tries to stick up for Tiberius (who she may actually prefer, it's hard to say), though with limited success.

The pirate king becomes the latest to whine at Spartacus that he wants to kill all the Roman prisoners. Crixus, after an unnecessary vomit shot, talks to Beardy German about Surfer Caesar, whose loyalties Beardy German has been ordered to test. Crixus is rather unnecessarily harsh in the play-acting, risking actually turning Beardy German against him. Surfer Caesar, while all this goes down, is just after another drink (in another life, he and Gannicus would get on famously).

Beardy German decides to test Surfer Caesar's loyalty by making him rape and then scar a naked and terrified Roman woman who’s been taken prisoner – something Spartacus knows nothing about, making it extremely unclear exactly which loyalties are being tested. (Surely what Surfer Caesar should have done is run and tell Spartacus, thus proving his loyalty to their nominal leader? But then, this is Crixus' test, not Spartacus'). Surfer Caesar is not made for undercover work, and tells her everything - luckily for him, no one seems to be listening at the door. Still, it’s nice to know that while he’s a womaniser and his relationships with house slaves are very dubious, he draws the line at raping a bleeding, weeping woman. She begs him to ‘free’ her so he does (she is of course the sister of the guy who kept asking about her, Fabia). So Surfer Caesar kills her, then actually reveals his true loyalties, but this goes unnoticed because he says ‘I set her free, as I would all Romans held by Spartacus,’ which Beardy German just takes as a sign he wants to kill them all, like everyone else does.

Crassus is preparing to decimate his men, which Jupiter or the weather gods of television have heard about so the sky is appropriately dark and stormy. Even those not killed in the decimation will be sent to the followers’ camp with the slaves. Tiberius objects but he shouldn’t have spoken – Crassus apologises for not seeing him as a man and sends him off to join the lots for decimation. Lovely. Tiberius is OK but, as predicted, his bosom buddy is for the chop.

Boudicca tells the ex-prisoners that Crassus is on his way, but Eponine has blabbed to Gannicus and Helga and they are all in very big trouble. Meanwhile at the villa, Beardy German turns up with Fabia’s body claiming she came at him. Gannicus, who is now really mad at Naevia for killing Trojan Horse (since it was Boudicca who freed the prisoners) and calls her a mad bitch, leading to an inevitable showdown between Gannicus and Crixus. Beardy German has to pull Gannicus off Crixus, but opens himself to being half strangled by Fabia’s brother using his chains. Surfer Caesar kills Fabia’s brother – he’s getting the hang of undercover now – and Gannicus and Crixus get up, while Surfer Caesar, getting into the swing of 'undercover means lying' now, takes advantage of the moment to speechify – no one’s done that for ages, this is obviously where they’re going wrong. At his instigation  Crixus stirs everyone up to kill all the Romans, leaving Gannicus lying on the ground and probably thoroughly depressed.

Tiberius has to kill his buddy himself of course, because we actually are replaying Spartacus and Neighbours Reject here. Apparently decimation involves beating the soldiers to death with sticks in gangs (I always thought they just stabbed them or something). So Crassus’ men kill each other while Crixus, Beardy German and the others kill every Roman they lay their eyes on. The soundtrack gets very excited and the makers of fake blood celebrate another year in solid business.

Surfer Caesar looks fairly broken up about all the dead Roman bodies around him, while Crassus looks thoroughly satisfied until Tiberius comes to snark at him about a lesson well learned, at which point he seems momentarily worried about his relationship with his son. But it passes.

Spartacus is planning one last as-yet-undisclosed intrigue with the pirate king when The Artist turns up to tell him Crixus and the others have gone mad (Number One thinks this is an appropriate moment to snark The Artist about liking the pirates - he is wrong, as his relationship drama is totally lost among all the killing). Helga has clearly got tired of all the blood too and is sneaking Boudicca and her gang of refugees back to Spartacus when they get caught. The pregnant woman’s husband is killed but Spartacus turns up just in time to save Boudicca from Crixus, at which point Crixus declares open mutiny. Everything comes out about Boudicca helping the others escape and Spartacus complains about having been merciful and getting betrayed in return, but Boudicca tells him what for re: dead husband, sacked city etc. He points out that he doesn’t want to become the thing he’s fighting and spares her. He also informs Crixus in no uncertain terms that Crixus is no longer his second (Number One looks a tiny bit satisfied there). Crixus and Naevia decide they need to leave Spartacus once and for all, and Surfer Caesar smirks as they walk away.

This was better, with Helga, Gannicus and Surfer Caesar (plus Boudicca) being the most fun, interesting and sympathetic characters in this episode. I'm really starting to warm to Helga, and I'd like it if she and Gannicus were able to walk off into the sunset together at the end, though I doubt that's going to happen.

I've always liked stories about Julius Caesar, so I'm thoroughly enjoying the young, sexy version.

Crassus undercuts the sympathetic character he’s been shown to be so far by not only reviving the vicious practice of decimation (historically accurate) but also nearly killing his own son and forcing said son to kill his best friend (not accurate). He's still managing to be more likeable than Crixus, since he a) has a reason, albeit a bad one, for what he's doing and b) looks slightly ashamed when snarked by Tiberius. If it was just the decimation, this episode would be a thoroughly accurate protrayal of his character, plus a foreshadowing of his eventual crucifixion of thousands of Spartacus's followers at the end, but having him include his son and his son's best friend in the decimation, then force Tiberius to kill said friend, is going a bit far. Crassus has a reason for the decimation - but there's no reason to involve his own son in it, which just seems melodramatically vicious in the manner of Paris Hilton (and look how that turned out for her).

Caesar comes out of this episode best of the Romans, as all his actions, while extremely violent, are either mercy kills or part of maintaining his cover. If only he and Gannicus weren't on opposite sides, we could just have them and Helga go off and drink and have kinky sex with each other, happily ever after.

Quotes

Caesar to Gannicus: I shall re-match, upon a day. Sadly, probably true.

Crassus: Death at the hand of Spartacus pales against the wrath of the house of Crassus.

Laeta (to Spartacus, re: Agron): I did not think the slayer of the shadow of death had need of a protector.


Random to Saxa: I do not see Gannicus among you, nor cause to heed his bitch.
Saxa: I give cause, bitch!

All Spartacus: Insert Subtitle reviews

2 comments:

  1. I wonder what the real Caesar would make of being called the Surfer Caesar....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, quite a tough reading with all the nicknames....

    ReplyDelete

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