Sunday, 3 March 2013

Spartacus War of the Damned: Men of Honour



...As in, there aren't any.

Spartacus et al, with their new friend Trojan Horse the blacksmith, are melting down shackles. There’s lots of dramatic pounding of hot metal into sharp objects, and I keep expecting them to re-forge the ancient sword Narsil and re-name it Anduril, the flame of the West. Despite all the exciting weaponry, Number One is not happy. He wants to slaughter the captured women and children to save food and free up some more shackles.

Crixus and Gannicus have found a nice villa with a courtyard to train in that looks just like Batiatus’ villa and training ground. Funny, that. (It has Doric-looking columns, though I would have thought Corinthian more likely in this period. Maybe Doric were cheaper). The Trojan Horse wants to join in and is still whining about being paid more, so Crixus glowers at him and sends him off to Naevia for training.

Gannicus and Helga are still a thing, which causes the girl who fell madly in love with him last week to stand by a wall and sulk. She’s following him around the way Rue follows Katniss in The Hunger Games, except in a dodgier way and looking more pathetic; I was going to call her Rue, but naming anyone in this show after a character from a children's novel is just too icky, so I'll call her Eponine instead. She has Eponine-like hair. Meanwhile, Spartacus’ less pleasant men are busy taunting and stealing from pregnant women in chains, until Crixus steps in and suggests they should make the men fight each other like gladiators for bread. Trojan Horse protests and Gannicus points out the hypocrisy, but no one cares. I sort of expect one of the men to start singing ‘I stole a loaf of bread!’ Instead the woman’s husband reaches for a sword to attack Crixus or possibly to grab the bread, Naevia cuts him down, Trojan Horse calls her a see you next Tuesday and bandages the guy and everyone yells at everyone else. Naevia tells Crixus about a particularly unpleasant guy who tortured her after she was sold by Batiatus (who sounds like the bad guy from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and claims this is why she doesn’t trust Romans who seem nice, because apparently she thinks everyone who seems nice is secretly a villain.

Apparently there are ships at the coast and I'm getting quite bored now. Where are the Romans?  What’s happened to Crassus and Caesar? They’re much more interesting than this lot. Sadly the ships do not contain Romans, but pirates who embrace Spartacus and tell him they want to join him against Rome.

Huzzah! Romans! Boo! It’s Tiberius and his squeaky friend. But Surfer Caesar is with them so it’s all good. Tiberius sulks because Camp Commander Guy would rather talk to Surfer Caesar than him. Meanwhile, the pirates want to be compensated for the loss of their arrangement with the town’s aedile since Spartacus stuck a sword through his throat. The pirate calls him ‘King Spartacus’ which is kind of cool, but Spartacus badly needs better advisers, since Number One and Crixus are all for killing everybody at random, it seems, and have no idea why alliances are useful or necessary.

Don't be a messenger on this show. Your blood ends up spattered all over Tiberius' face.

Gannicus is hanging out with Trojan Horse, who is still sulking (given that they’ve essentially destroyed his whole life, you can’t really blame him). A messenger finally turns up to tell Tiberius that Spartacus has taken the city, which apparently only the pirates had noticed. The messenger calls Spartacus the bringer of death, which is kind of funny given how he and Crixus first got together. Surfer Caesar is so unimpressed with the messenger for surviving the city’s sacking that he chops up his skull, which the poor guy was still using, getting blood all over Tiberius in the process  Tiberius tells Surfer Caesar ‘you serve beneath me’ which doesn’t seem like a good idea. He keeps calling him Gaius too, which seems pretty disrespectful. Even if Tiberius survives this series - which seems unlikely - there's no way he's going to keep breathing once Caesar is consul.

Spartacus summons the aedile’s wife from last week, having realised that his own advisers are so useless he needs to ask his prisoner for help. (She needs a nickname - her character is called Laeta, which is fine but dull. The actress played Jules in The Cabin in the Woods, but since I'm reluctant to give anyone on this show my own name, considering the sort of thing that usually happens to them, I shall christen her Boudicca, because she has red hair and she's a sort of freedom fighter on the sly). Despite her protests that Spartacus killed her husband last time she helped him, not to mention what Crixus and Naevia have been doing, she’s bizarrely swayed by the revelation that her husband had a deal with the pirates and helps him anyway, on the promise of freedom.

Spartacus strikes a deal with the pirates, though they’re unimpressed when he refuses them Boudicca because he doesn’t trade in slaves. Everyone drinks a lot and has a lot of sex to celebrate in a scene that’s sort of half a Roman orgy and half the party scene from The Matrix Reloaded. Eponine is still gazing adoringly at Gannicus, when Helga catches her. Crixus and Naevia are lying back and watching the whole thing like Antony and Cleopatra in their court. And suddenly we're all distracted by some full frontal male nudity, though not from a regular.

Boudicca is still upset that her husband was doing things she didn’t know about, but Spartacus unchains her and tells her to take charge of feeding the prisoners and reporting mistreatment back to him. She refuses to sleep in the villa because the people wouldn’t like it and heads off to the stable, giving Spartacus a little smile on her way out because when your husband is killed and turns out to have been involved in some dodgy business dealings, naturally you start contemplating jumping into bed with his murderer.

One of the pirates comes on to The Artist, which is not a good idea and puts Number One in an even worse mood than he already was. He proceeds to beat the guy senseless, which does not do wonders for Spartacus’ and the pirate king’s alliance, though The Artist seems to find it romantic and inevitably, sex ensues.

Gannicus stumbles into a random villa to find Helga waiting for him, wearing actual clothes for once – a really rather pretty dress. She’s brought Eponine too, in a slightly skimpier dress (with sparkles!) and appears to have spent the whole time doing all their make-up. She quickly deprives Eponine of the skimpy dress and her and Gannicus make an Eponine sandwich briefly, but Gannicus sends the girl off because he prefers a tougher, less jailbait woman.

Later, Eponine is sitting outside, still waiting to thank Gannicus for saving her life, which she is determined to do despite Gannicus’ protestations. He tells her to stay away from him and everyone like him in an attempt to protect her from herself that will almost certainly fail.

Everyone meets up at dawn, all the worse for wear for all the drinking and brawling and most of them hoping the pirates betray them so they can kill them. Meanwhile, Tiberius and his friends watch the pirates approach the city and Tiberius decides to attack the pirates, against his father’s express orders (what a surprise).

A series of misunderstandings leads to Helga telling Naevia that Trojan Horse is freeing some Romans, and Naevia going after him. I'm not wild about what they've done with Naevia's character this season. Her motivation has been reduced to that of a straight-to-video- slasher protagonist, and she was never stupid before.

In the middle of arguing with each other (out in the open, clearly visible from above) Spartacus and the pirates are interrupted by Tiberius' attack. Long story short, Naevia kills Trojan Horse (by smashing his face in, natch) and when Camp CommanderGguy turns up to reinforce Tiberius (who does pretty well for his first fight, slitting people’s throats and everything) the pirates attack the Romans with flaming cannon balls from their ships. The music even sounds a bit like the score for Pirates of the Caribbean. Camp Commander Guy goes up in flames and Tiberius et al. are forced to retreat. Tiberius is wounded by some random with a beard who I think is one of Spartacus’ men, kills beardy guy and leaves his sword in him. Tiberius’ friend helps him stagger away but it’s not looking good. Spartacus and the pirate king cement their alliance and Crixus finds Tiberius’ sword in beardy guy and sees the label Legio IV.

By this show's standards, this is a surprisingly tame and restrained shot of face-smashing.

The Artist whines that Beardy German (a different, still living beardy guy) wouldn't let him out to play but Spartacus says he was only following orders. Everyone believes Naevia when she says Trojan Horse betrayed them (which of course she genuinely believes, albeit incorrectly), though in fact Boudicca has freed a small group of Romans including the pregnant woman and her husband and is hiding them under some floorboards, WW2-movie style. Gannicus, mourning the loss of Trojan Horse, bows his shoulders under the weight of being the only character with any common sense whatsoever.

A bit boring, this one. Far too much of Spartacus and the others being unpleasant – even Crixus, though Gannicus remains awesome – and no Crassus. Tiberius is still alive at the end, but surely not for long, after that sword wound. All the series' nominal heroes except Spartacus and Gannicus are becoming increasingly unpleasant, but in a plain nasty way rather than Batiatus' gloriously evil way, and in the absence of anyone to root for, we at least need some major Roman action to form a prequel to Rome, if nothing else.

Quotes

Spartacus (on not paying people): Knowing effort serves higher purpose is reward enough. Yeah right.

Pirate king: You are Spartacus?
Spartacus: I stand so named (still no 'I’m Spartacus,' but a nice, subtle reminder that 'Spartacus' isn’t his original name).

Random naked guy: My cock is magic!
Crixus: Then see it vanish from sight.

Gannicus (hungover): There was a fight. It was very loud.

All Spartacus reviews

4 comments:

  1. Yikes, this Surfer Caesar is really not working, is he? The look was so-so when he was in his civvies, but in military armor he looks ridiculous. And slaughtering the bearer of bad news is so un-Caesarean. He's some completely different person.

    I wonder if the pirates will turn out to be the bunch that held Caesar for ransom. Severely unhistorical, but an interesting plot twist.

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    Replies
    1. I was hoping that about the pirates! No sign so far though. I think the messenger's crime was that he'd run away and survived, so I put it down to youthful arrogance on Caesar's part. I have to admit, I love Surfer Caesar! Sure, it's totally bonkers and there's no way Caesar would have been caught dead with long hair and a beard in real life, but it's also kind of awesome...

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  2. Reading this, I find myself perpetually confused, like I've been tossed into the proverbial deep end.

    At some point if this turns up on regular cable, it might start to make sense!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it makes some sense - but not always a lot! It depends on the episode...

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