Monday, 6 May 2013

Spartacus War of the Damned: Spoils of War

I hadn’t forgotten Spartacus! Unfortunately sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but it’s a bank holiday here today, so what better way to spend it than watching half-naked men attack each other? Properly Roman behaviour, I think.

When we left off, Surfer Caesar had just revealed himself to the rebels and was facing off against a group of our heroes while Crassus’ forces broke down the gate with a huge battering ram. And so the start of this episode is all fighty, fighty, fight. All the named characters still seem to be alive.

Crassus enters behind his battering ram and Surfer Caesar welcomes him. More fighting. Also some fire. Bullet-time fighting. Spartacus fights with two swords, because he is the Darth Maul of ancient Rome (and we all know what happened to him). The Artist is conspicuous by his absence so Number One runs off to find him. Gannicus offers to lead a distraction while the others get away, which Spartacus tries to refuse, but unsuccessfully.  No need to worry Spartacus, Gannicus is perfectly capable of taking on half the Roman army by himself, because he is Gannicus.

The soundtrack, which is feeling particularly multiple-personality-disorder-y today and keeps switching genres, sounds kind of like James Horner’s Titanic soundtrack for a moment.

Number One picks up the Artist and a pirate, while Eponine runs whimpering after Gannicus, because that is her job. Our guys have set the city on fire, but Crassus keeps going anyway, because he is quite fond of fire in the right circumstances (he used to have buildings set on fire, then buy the land and the neighbouring buildings cheap, then have his army of slaves put out the fire – that’s how he made his fortune).

Romans attack our heroes as they’re trying to get away, and more fighting ensues. Surfer Caesar tries to grab Spartacus but Spartacus gets away thanks to a portcullis-y-thing. Crassus decides to leave off chasing Spartacus for now in favour of hunting down any remaining rebels in the city. Gannicus and Eponine, having decided that this is not a suicide mission however much it might look like one, hide under some floorboards.

Surfer Caesar cuts his hair and shaves, which is very disappointing. Historical accuracy can take a long walk off a short cliff, I liked the surfer look! Crassus is confident in their victory, though Caesar is concerned that Spartacus is still alive and they are all going to end up like Haldir. Eponine nurses Gannicus’ wounded hand and tries to make him feel better about their impending deaths, while Boudicca is brought back into what remains of the city and taken under Caesar’s pervy little wing.
Sure, it's much more Roman, but is it as cool?

Crassus tells Maid Marian she can stay with him now, to her immense relief, while Tiberius taunts her about having raped her with the most horribly inappropriate double entendres the series has yet produced. Crassus, for whom personal relationships are not a strong point, misses everything and gives Tiberius a promotion, but tells him they’ll be honouring Caesar as the victor of the battle, since he wants Caesar’s allegiance. Because Tiberius is still a stroppy, jealous child, he sulks at this.

Further adventures of Gannicus and Eponine under the floorboards. As Romans search the building, Eponine asks, ‘Is there nothing we can do?’ ‘There is but one thing,’ says Gannicus, ‘pray.’ Of course, he doesn’t mean this literally, rather it’s a set-up for a trick, as she prays and then Gannicus kills the guy who comes after her. He leaves her with a knife and heads off to find a way out.

Tiberius threatens Maid Marian some more. It’s very unpleasant.

Boudicca gets a bath from another naked woman, both standing up in knee-deep water while the camera lingers lovingly over both their bodies (it’s been ages since we some full frontal nudity in this series, now I come to think of it). The other woman is still naked even as she’s dressing Boudicca, though it’s the clothed and made up Boudicca that Caesar thinks is a ‘vision’ to rival his ‘beloved wife’ (how beloved is open to debate, though Caesar does seem to have been pretty attached to his first wife, refusing to divorce her when ordered to by a dictator and suffering for it). The soundtrack has now slipped into Memoirs of a Geisha, which might be significant.

Crassus quizzes Boudicca on Spartacus’ character. She is unimpressed when she discovers he won with the help of the Pirate King (or is it another pirate? They all look kinda the same, all long hair and big cloaks). It turns out that Crassus has sold her to the Pirate King as a reward for helping him take the city (which he is not legally in a position to do, but no one’s arguing).

More female nudity! Tiberius finds two random women fooling around with each other – turns out they’re with Caesar, which is unsurprising.  At one point Caesar stands in the most awkward position (back to the camera, twisting and pointing so we can see his face but not his meat and two veg) because apparently we’re allowed full frontal female nudity (and get an eyeful of the third such in this episode) but men have to stop at the backside this season. Hmm. Tiberius whines and Caesar explains why he is superior to Tiberius in every way (which, let’s face it, he is) and orders some oysters (of course).

The Pirate King insists that Boudicca would be no better off with the Romans because, as a woman, she’s no better than a slave to them. Since she seems pretty well off, that’s not entirely true, and Crassus really has no right to be bargaining her off the way he has, but maybe the Pirate King isn’t an expert on Roman law. Anyway, the point is rendered moot when he brands her as his slave, thus ensuring that she’ll need a freedman’s ring or equivalent if she wants to move freely and not be crucified as a runaway slave. Gannicus and Eponine turn up before he gets any further and the Pirate King spends an inordinate amount of time trying to justify himself and threatening Eponine, but all Gannicus does is point out that she’s not his woman and go for the attack (one on... several, but it’s Gannicus, he could take on an army of orcs if he had to).

The Pirate King holds a sword to Eponine (proving that Gannicus does care whether she lives or dies), but gets no further because Boudicca jams his own branding iron through his throat, which is pretty cool. Boudicca, well aware that she has little choice now that she’s stuck with a slave brand, tags along with Gannicus and Eponine as they make their escape.

Crassus, Caesar, Tiberius and the others are enjoying watching the few rebels who are still alive and didn’t get away be torn limb from limb because all that James Horner-style background music has put them in a Braveheart mood. The other random Roman who keeps hanging around but whose name and job I’ve completely forgotten asks after Boudicca and is told that she’s left. He is horrified to discover that Crassus plans to keep the entire city for himself, because clearly he doesn’t know Crassus very well.

One of Spartacus’ captured men goads Tiberius about how a Roman should face him in single combat instead of executing him, so Tiberius announces that Caesar will dispatch the guy personally and sneakily unties the dude first. Caesar is less than impressed with Tiberius, but he first declares the honour and glory for the fight to Rome in general rather than himself or Crassus, then successfully avoids being killed, calls Tiberius a boy, and defeats the gladiator dude in an almost fair sword fight (except Caesar’s wearing armour and the gladiator dude is not) because he’s Caesar and he’s awesome. The soundtrack has now switched to computer-game style chords mixed with power chords, and I want to see a version of Street Fighter where you can fight as Julius Caesar against Random Gladiator Dude.

Gannicus and the girls walk through some Romans, Gannicus covered up with an exciting hooded cloak but the girls, unhelpfully, not and of course Caesar recognises Boudicca while the soundtrack goes sort of electric-guitar wild west or... something. Fighting ensues and Gannicus ends up riding away on a horse with Eponine while the soundtrack switches to The Hunt for Red October, looking like a knight in shining armour, because he is even more awesome than Caesar. Boudicca has to follow on her own horse behind them and gets run through the side with a spear, but Gannicus literally tramples the Romans underfoot and rides away, having defeated them through the sheer force of his awesomeness.

Caesar has his various scratches fixed up in a nice warm room, in contrast to our heroes, who have withdrawn to a snowy mountain, which is uncomfortable for them, because although they have found some cloaks from somewhere, they still don’t seem to own too many clothes (Helga is bare-armed). They are all very pleased to see Gannicus, though Eponine and Helga are less pleased to see each other. Boudicca has somehow made it too, bleeding all over her horse and according to the Artist, still with a chance of survival (perhaps the freezing cold sealed the wound?!)

Spartacus shows Gannicus their new problem – Crassus has driven them to this frozen ridge, across which he has built a sodding great wall and ditch, from behind which his army can attack them. Spartacus has by now started to work out that this rebellion may not be going to end well...

I liked this episode, especially Gannicus’ positively heroic escape from the city with Eponine riding behind him like a medieval damsel, though I’ll miss Caesar’s surfer look. Let's face it, any episode featuring copious amounts of Caesar and Gannicus being awesome is going to go down pretty well with me.

I especially love that this series, and especially this episode, has used Crassus’ genuine personality quirks and vices to show his particular brand of dodginess, instead of attributing generalised supposedly Roman degeneracy to him. Crassus in Kubrick’s Spartacus seemed to have little in common with the real Crassus and represented the various ways in Romans were imagined to be degenerate and generally naughty in the 1960s, but this character is recognisably the historical Crassus – he’s ambitious and he’s greedy, and those are his only really major vices (the fact that Crassus’ main flaws are fairly common and socially acceptable in our own society is probably the main reason they aren’t depicted in him so often). This is in contrast to Caesar, about whom there were all sorts of rumours historically, so his voracious sexual appetite is more reasonable, historically speaking, and the producers can get their degenerate Roman sex in there (though I hope we see a better male to female nudity ratio next episode). I just hope Crassus’ horrible and unhistorical son meets a suitably sticky end, preferably at the hands of Boudicca or Maid Marian.


Helga to Gannicus: Do not die.

Crixus to Gannicus: You mad f*ck! (I think that’s Crixusian for ‘thank you’)

Crassus: Caesar is blessed with storied name and shall one day rise to shame the very sun.

Boudicca on Spartacus: He is not the beast one would have thought him.
Crassus: And in place of horns and sharpened claw?

Crassus (on himself and Spartacus): Each believes himself the hero, the other villain. It is for history to decide who is mistaken. Till that day we will play our parts upon Fortune’s stage, as each of us must.

Crassus: Greed is but a word jealous men inflict upon the ambitious.

Caesar: Must Julius f*cking Caesar risk life to kill every last rebel himself?!


  1. Crassus supposedly not only set those fires, but his men were said to have kept the vigiles and anybody else from fighting the fire until the contract was signed. Given the absolute terror of what an uncontrolled fire could do to a densely built urban environment up until not all that long ago, it's probably not true or something he only did once. Otherwise he'd have come to a very nasty end. (Well, I suppose he did anyway, but you know...)

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