Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Spartacus War of the Damned: Mors Indecepta

Dead bodies in snow. Lots of them. Two guys start trying to crawl away up a hill. They don’t last long.

Spartacus wants to know the exact number of the fallen (that’ll take a while to count). The Artist tells them Crassus’ army are on the way (that wasn’t them?) so Spartacus orders those who can’t fight to go to a safe distance and those who can – well, not to suit up, because even though there’s snow everywhere still none of them are wearing tunics, trousers, nothing. But to get ready.

Crixus gets everyone ready for some violence and bloodshed but Spartacus tells them to calm down because he is a giant buzzkill. Also because he’s realised that Crassus’ army aren’t about to advance. He remembers his time in the Roman army and knows they’re not in a battle formation – they’re waiting for Crassus.

Tiberius tells Crassus that Caesar is still on sick leave, enjoying women. Crassus praises Tiberius for not doing the same thing and Tiberius replies with more creepy innuendos. Crassus asks him to move a very important chest out of sight. I really hope he’s testing Tiberius in some way, but no, he’s given Tiberius his armour back and wants him standing beside him in battle (at least this increases the opportunities for Tiberius to die horribly).

Full frontal naked woman – ah, that must mean we’re joining Caesar. He has two of them on the go, as he usually does, though he’s still nursing a bleeding wound. One of the women flatters him by calling his bits ‘Jupiter’s cock’ which is amusing since Octavian later made him a god (though not actually Jupiter).

Gannicus is all doom and gloom over the fact a freezing storm is coming, and Helga’s response is, as usual, to suggest jumping into bed. Gannicus refuses (she tells him he sounds like Spartacus) and seems distracted by Eponine staring at him. Some random dude finds the pirate guy from last episode, calls him a traitor and punches him, but is stopped by the Artist, who apparently wields some authority by virtue of being Number One’s boyfriend (or random dude is just scared of Number One). The pirate dude tries to flirt a bit, but seems mostly interested in fighting Crassus, or so he says – they seem to have him prisoner and he wants set free.

Spartacus – still wrapped in the Kingly Purple Robe of Hubris – goes to visit Boudicca in what seems to be the hospital tent and persuade her to eat because apparently having ridden all the way from wherever and escaped with her life this is the moment she’s chosen to give up. She is feeling very sorry for herself, but Spartacus points out she’s no worse off than the rest of them. She asks how you move past it, and he suggests ‘live’ and help him.

Back in the city, Maid Marian is cooking when Tiberius turns up to sleaze all over her some more. She makes it pretty clear she doesn’t give a monkeys about him, and is pretty relieved when she hears he won’t yet be coming back to Rome with them – until she finds out she’s to stay there with him. She goes to see Crassus, who is unimpressed that Tiberius told her before he could, but she doesn’t have time to explain why she really doesn’t like that idea nor he to explain just what he was thinking before duty calls.

Number One observes that Crassus has put up stands as if they’re fighting for his entertainment in the arena, because like certain other series that tried to make the climactic battle look arena-like, this one has struggled with what to do with fighting outside of the arena. Spartacus, having analysed the formations, has decided Crassus has got over-confident and wants a small group of the best of them to mount a sneak attack in the middle of the storm and kill Crassus in his bed. Crixus disapproves of killing men in their sleep but Spartacus insists (in a fun nod to the Iliad, in which Odysseus leads a party to kill men in the camp because he’s a brain over brawn sort of guy).

The Roman soldiers are apparently incapable of seeing beyond their noses in the storm, even though we as TV viewers can see reasonably well, so Spartacus’ attack team – made up, naturally, of basically the named characters – do OK until they get into what they think is Crassus’ tent and find a naked crucified man with mors indecepta (death undeceived) carved into his body, looking like a particularly gruesome X-File. Crassus is not that daft, Spartacus. Romans who can see better appear and attack in bullet time, so we know this is an important battle, and the soundtrack is quite excited too.

Naevia takes a spear in the leg and goes down, which of course distracts Crixus. Spartacus goes after her and carries her on his shoulders because he is the Hero. They’re nearly out of there when some Roman yells something unintelligible that makes Crixus really mad and he goes beserk and tries to take on several Romans all at once on his own. To be fair, this has worked well for him in the past. He survives (just) and runs off after the others.

Crassus is unimpressed that Spartacus has got away and decides that he’s had enough of tricks and wants to finish them off in a proper battle. He puts Tiberius in command, including putting him in command of Caesar, which goes down about as well as you’d expect and looks ridiculous. (Romans did not usually follow boys no matter whose son they were. Octavian is the awesome/financially generous exception to the rule). However, since Caesar is already heavily in debt to Crassus, both financial and otherwise, he doesn’t have much choice in the matter. Crassus also insists that he, having commanded Caesar, took the city, not Caesar. Crassus says they equally have the glory of it but Caesar’s not entirely fooled and not impressed. (We need a sequel series about these two and Pompey and the First Triumvirate. Now!) Tiberius decides to rub it in because he is a suicidal idiot.

Caesar, in the middle of a temper tantrum, runs into Maid Marian, who decides to enlist him in getting rid of Tiberius. Caesar is in a foul mood and doesn’t want to be part of her plots and schemes, but she points out if Tiberius does well Crassus will work with him instead of Caesar, so Caesar demands to know plainly what she wants. And the camera cuts away, of course, because if we ever actually understood what the characters were trying to do TV would be much duller and episodes much shorter.

A bunch of Spartacus’ people are sitting around a pile of something (burning? it’s hard to tell), praying. I’m not sure what or why. Crixus is still sulking even though Spartacus saved his girlfriend, so he takes him outside so they can yell dramatically against the wind. Crixus still thinks they should have just attacked Crassus and points out that Spartacus has been outsmarted. Spartacus, on the other hand, points out that if they just attack from the front, they’ll die. Crixus would rather do so than hang around.

They get mad and Crixus punches Spartacus, which the director gets very excited about, all slow-motion and flying blood. They get into a proper punch-up (more slow motion, heavy rock soundtrack) which threatens to seriously damage both of them before they get anywhere near any Romans. Eventually, having reached a sort-of stalemate with Spartacus on top, Gannicus breaks them up and Number One points out this isn’t the time to fight as the storm is still coming (apparently this much talked-about storm hasn’t actually arrived yet. It’s starting to resemble winter in Game of Thrones).

Crassus is actually a bit narked that the rebels might be wiped out by the storm (gods) before he gets the chance to finish them off himself (there’s less glory in that. Though you can always claim the gods were helping you out, that usually goes down well). Caesar brings Maid Marian to see him. Tiberius catches Caesar outside Crassus’ tent and Caesar warns him not to interrupt at that moment and taunts him a bit.

Crassus tells Maid Marian he claimed the city for her, so she can live there and he can visit her freely without his wife sulking, as a proper mistress by the sounds of things (rather than a random slave he happens to be having sex with). He thinks having her around to help Tiberius will be great. She says she doesn’t want to be blamed if Tiberius screws up, which Crassus, having temporarily taken leave of his senses, insists won’t happen. He is bizarrely unperturbed by the fact she’s openly weeping throughout this conversation and proceeds to enjoy this unexpected treat while the storm lasts.

Number One is unimpressed that the pirate guy is still hanging around and threatens him with a knife, but uses it to free him. The Artist smiles and gets, ‘Do not f*cking cast that look’ in response (but with a smile too).

Helga complains that she can’t find Gannicus as Spartacus settles Boudicca in a tent. Eponine appears to be sitting in the middle of a snowdrift, cutting herself and chanting at the fire… bundle… thing. Gannicus is trying to persuade her to come into a tent and get warm, and when she keels over, he picks her up and takes her to the nearest bit of over-hanging something.

When Spartacus can’t find Gannicus, Helga says she’ll go find him, but Spartacus stops her (he insists that, ‘Gannicus will not fall to wind and ice’ and Gannicus is so awesome that might just be true). Boudicca offers to let Spartacus share her blanket so they can, in the grand tradition of romantic dramas, warm each other. Everyone’s hair and facial hair has that fabulous white stuff so beloved of movies like Titanic stuck all over it.

Gannicus gets Eponine huddled under the random bit of something and binds up her cuts (which were a sacrifice for Spartacus, apparently). Even Gannicus seems to be starting to believe in her gods now. They also huddle together and Eponine, who has seen the romantic dramas, sneaks in a snog. Gannicus, romantic that he is, decides to take off her top layer and expose her breasts in the middle of the snowstorm. To be fair, their subsequent activity (accompanied by insanely melodramatic swelling music) is probably keeping them warm, but really. Maid Marian is naked too, but she is in a well heated fancy tent.

After the storm passes, Spartacus and Helga find the group huddled around the tiny fire, dead, all creepy and frozen and zombie-like (but not actual zombies, because this show is crazy, but it’s not that crazy). They’ve lost 1000 people in the storm – but random dude is still. not. wearing. clothes! (I’m sorry to keep on about this but – the plot is all about how everyone’s freezing to death. At least Spartacus has his Kingly Purple Robe of Hubris). Gannicus turns up with Eponine and Helga gives him an ‘I will murder you when I get you home’ look. Eponine decides the fact that the others froze to death when they sat out in as snowstorm is a sign she should have a crisis of faith just at this particular, somewhat inconvenient, moment.

Spartacus says he’s decided Crixus was right after all, while Crixus has changed his mind due to their numbers being 1000 down. Spartacus points out that nothing is ever as it appears with Crassus and suggests that the reason there are unnecessary fortifications on the trench is to hide the fact that Crassus’ numbers are not as great as believed. And if he’s wrong, they’ll embrace glorious death absent Roman swords in their backs, just like Crixus wanted. So our heroes pull down Crassus’ not overly sturdy fortifications and head into battle. It seems there are only a few hundred Roman soldiers there (and Naevia has very quickly recovered from that nasty leg wound). Fighting ensues.

Crassus has to be woken from a bizarrely sound sleep (what did Maid Marian do to him?) and is discombobulated to see a dead Roman soldier just outside his tent. Maid Marian, it seems, has run away to join Spartacus, which of course Crassus blames on Caesar. Tiberius wants to know how Spartacus got over their trench, and it turns out he did so on a huge pile of his own people’s dead bodies. (And now the show has truly become 300). Crassus is grossed out but quite impressed. He is also newly motivated to ‘reclaim what is mine.’

Our heroes attack the Romans from behind their own fortifications, rebuilt on the other side. Spartacus declares that it’s time to get rid of Crassus once and for all and get the heck out of there. End of episode.

A fast-paced episode that keeps things moving fairly well, but only three episodes from the end, I think things really need to start happening now (other than Gannicus exposing Eponine’s boobs in the middle of a snowstorm). Watching Caesar have to defer to Tiberius was almost painful – the little squirt’s horrible, lingering death cannot come soon enough. Still, Spartacus' use of his own people's frozen corpses to get done what needs to be done was both fabulously gruesome and wonderfully practical on his part - a nice, gothic-horror-y touch that lifts the episode a bit and lets it go out with a kick.


Crixus: We shall see Roman blood upon f*cking snow! (How poetic).

Tiberius: Caesar at last rises from the dead.

Caesar: Many a giant has tumbled to the afterlife believing himself too big to fall.

Spartacus: I will not march my people to the afterlife.
Crixus: And I will not die with a Roman sword in my back!

Caesar: Cut circle to straightest line and give voice to what you would have of me. (A man after my own heart).

All Spartacus reviews


  1. Snow? Temperatures cold enough for people to freeze to death? I'm not sure it gets that cold even at the top of Vesuvius. I know it's not impossible, but it sure seems unlikely. IIRC, Thrasyboulos fought a battle in the snow, maybe the conquest of Phyle, against the Thirty, but the mountains north of Athens are pretty tall.

    1. They aren't on Vesuvius any more, they're further south (but presumably higher up)

  2. I'm really going to have to catch up on this whole lot, probably by DVD....


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