As the series nears its end, so do quite a few of its characters.
What They Say:
Separate Paths – Spartacus and the rebels reach a crossroads. Crassus and his men continue their relentless pursuit of Spartacus as the conflict between Caesar and Tiberius grows.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Spartacus: War of the Damned sort of slowed things down a bit previously but it worked well to showcase where everyone was and the lengths they would go to in order to secure their position. But it also knew to go big when it came to the action and we got a good bit of that towards the end that really made for some engaging material as Spartacus and his group found their way to deal with the trap that Crassus had set and to start moving forward against all the other soldiers that they’d come across in this instance. The impression left on Crassus was definitely distinct since they finally got close to him, but it was more of a tease than anything else when you get down to it.
With their numbers suffering some as they move forward trying to find some form of safety, the Romans are throwing small groups of soldiers at them to sow chaos and dissent until Crassus can bring all of his forces to bear on them. It’s a bloody, brutal and dangerous battle that’s being fought. Very, very bloody. The way the body count is rising is cringe inducing on both sides, but Crassus’ legion is finding itself to be dealing with being run hard in order to catch up as they’re a few days behind Spartacus and his group. Crassus is intense at this point considering how things went, especially with his slave lover having fled to Spartacus’ side rather than be kept close to Tiberius and the darkness that he brings. Crassus’ position is far less firm than it was on several fronts, but there’s a deeply personal aspect tot his one.
While there’s a lot of downtime here in the first half of the episode as Spartacus’ group does their best to take some rest and deal with the interpersonal issues. There’s some good material with Kore there as the truth about her is learned, a pregnancy occurs that provides for some good conversation between Crixus and Naevia. And then it leads towards the moment of truth as Spartacus starts to set course for everyone by having them cross the Alps and let everyone simply run free in so many directions. It’s something that becomes a real path that he wants to follow, to ensure that those that have followed him do not die needlessly. But Crixus is intent on having full out war with the Romans, pushing for an all out assault on Rome itself. It’s a brief but powerful push he makes, one that examines the bonds of these two men in words rather than fists for once.
Setting up for the separate paths of the men, the show does allow for a bit of fun to be had after the force storms a series of small nearby villas where they’re able to partake of wine, home and song in a good way. There’s a rawness to it of course, but there’s also a lot of heart as various people make clear where they stand, which side some will take and the pain of separating some of them from each other. There’s also a really good, if far too brief, moment where Crixus and Spartacus talk more in a way that reaffirms their bond as brothers of the sand and what it really means. The two have long had a very awkward relationship to say the least, but there’s an understanding between them that does exist even after all the back and forth.
The path tha Crixus follows is one dominated in blood in a way that hasn’t been seen since the first season it feels like, a large scale brutality, with moments of loved and tenderness as well, that gives him exactly what he’s craved since he first set out from the ludus with Spartacus and the others. His journey to Rome is far, far too short and could have been a full season in itself to show what could happen. But simply having him leading this strong force as they near Rome and prepare for the carnage that comes, it ties back to Batiatus and what was learned there and how it it can be the real motivator for everything. There’s such a great sense of power and charisma about it that Crixus firmly establishes himself here in a way that he never could before as a gladiator.
As well as his battles go, and as close as he gets, you know it can go only so far. When the tides do finally turn against him, just as he reaches his greatest of heights, it turns brutally bad as Crassus and his legion falls upon them. Crixus is a powerful person on this field of battle for many reasons and with those of note around him, they make for an engaging fight across the board, but the losses do start to come from it. Brutal losses as the cast starts to get winnowed out here from those that have been here since the start and have fought and loved for so much. Of course, it all boils down to Crixus himself, who we’ve seen face such tremendous odds before ansd is now in the largest fight of his life, one that he comes so close to having an amazing moment only to be taken out by Tiberius of all people. The final blow itself is one that’s filled with some powerful imagery, one that solidifies Crixus as a true player in the series with such a sense of honor and intensity about him that it leaves a lasting impression.
As we inch closer to the end of Spartacus: War of the Damned, the damned aspect takes a greater feeling as those that we have followed for the past few seasons start to fall. This is somewhat the norm for the series as it has many that die along the way, but as it gets to this point we’re now seeing some of the long term key players fall. There’s a great sense of scale and epic beauty to what goes on here with the battles and the bonds of men, but they also smartly bring in just enough raw sex and intense and emotional sensuality to the subplots to make it all larger than life but still hugely accessible. This is yet another strong episode in this wonderfully engaging and powerful series.