As Spartacus: War of the Damned rushes headlong into its final episodes, it has started to become clear just what is really at stake in terms of Spartacus’ rebellion and the war that has brought such a cunning and frightening foe (quite literally) to the mighty Thracian’s doorstep.
History has already informed us that things do not end well for the rebellion; it is a conclusion that will not see Spartacus laughing heartily while drinking wine with Crixus and Gannicus, as they look out and marvel at the utter ruin they have brought to Rome.
Last week’s ‘Spoils of War‘ spent nearly the entire hour depicting the Romans, i.e., Crassus, Caesar and Tiberius, savoring their victory at Sinuessa, and saw them call the rebellion all but quashed. Yet they were a bit thrown when Donar took exception to what would be his very public execution at the hands of Julius Caesar and instead took his own life in gruesome fashion.
It was a smart move by DeKnight and his writers, shuffling the storyline away from Spartacus and his dwindling army, to focus on the Romans. For one, it allowed for the shock of the rampart Crassus’ wealth had built to be revealed in a grander fashion. But more importantly, it gave the viewer some intriguing insight into Spartacus’ adversaries, and it became clear these are men who believe that upon victory, the world will once more be as they have known it.
But no matter how much time the series spends letting the audience get to know characters like Crassus, Caesar or the increasingly reprehensible Tiberius, the fact of the matter is: all of these men stand at the forefront of a war that will irrevocably change their world.
The storyline surrounding Gannicus and, to a certain degree, the freed slave Sibyl, has been one of the more potent indicators that while Spartacus’ life will likely end in battle with Crassus’ army, the importance of that life has taken on something far larger than pursuit of victory on the battlefield.
Unlike Crixus or Naevia, Gannicus has come to realize that a life lived with purpose and filled with acts that may have been perceived by him as small, can fundamentally alter another individual’s world. In that sense, and how Spartacus’ battle against Rome is no longer really about revenge, the battle they are fighting will continue to have an impact long after any one man has fallen victim to his enemy’s sword in the theater of war. In the end, the scorecard may read in favor of Marcus Crassus, but the true victor may just be the man whose actions will serve as inspiration to countless others.
This feels fairly evident through the actions of Kore after she convinces Caesar into escorting her to Crassus, despite his being set up on the field of battle. After suffering trauma at the hands of Tiberius – which he accentuated with additional threats – Kore’s future was dealt another blow by Crassus’ intention to keep her housed in Sinuessa alongside his son, as something of a private getaway, a respite from the prying eyes of those who would look down on his romantic involvement with a slave.
Rather than be forced into whatever terrifying situation the wicked youngster could cook up, or, even worse, suffer whatever punishment might come from either man for telling Crassus the truth, Kore steals away in the dead of night to join Spartacus’ band of freed slaves as they traipse across a bridge of frozen bodies, ducking underneath the wall Crassus built to ensure their demise.
There’s much more going on in ‘Mors Indecepta’ than the tribulation of the slave Crassus loves more than his own wife, but the significance of a character like Kore (apparently) walking away from a place she’d seen both comfort and horror to a far more uncertain future amongst others like her who seized freedom from their oppressors is indicative of the larger endgame War of the Damned - and, more to the point, Spartacus the series.
Despite a bloody quarrel with Crixus, who again accuses him of inaction, things briefly look up for Spartacus and his legion. After narrowly escaping another of Crassus’ traps involving Donar’s dead body and a horrendous snowstorm that leaves a thousand rebels dead, the Thracian and his men begin to think like the man who has outwitted and outmaneuvered his adversary at every turn. With Crassus’ own wall dividing them, the rebellion lives to fight another day, but Spartacus may have already claimed a greater victory against Crassus than he’ll ever know.
Spartacus: War of the Damned continues next week with ‘Separate Paths’ @9pm on Starz. Check out a preview of the episode below: