It’s a testament to how well-drawn the characters of Spartacus: War of the Damned are that an episode dedicated primarily to matters of the heart, and, eventually, parting ways can be so affecting, especially when it’s as tragically rushed as this episode sometimes feels.
With the entire series drawing to a close, there is the inevitability of what history has in store for Spartacus and his rebels, and it’s certainly no easy task depicting events that conclude contrary to how most stories of “good vs. evil” typically end. As was discussed during last week’s review, it’s clear that as bad as those in Spartacus’ army want total victory, the best they’ll be able to hope for is an everlasting reminder of this campaign’s impact on the Roman way of life. This has proven to be a difficult thing for Crixus, Naevia and, as we find out, Agron to ultimately grasp.
So when Crixus speaks to Naevia about his dreams for their future, she essentially tells him that she’s grateful for what freedom there has been, even if that time was mostly spent in harrowing situations and engaging in brutal combat; it was the ability to make the choice to fight alongside Spartacus and his rebels that matters most – that and killing as many Romans as possible before being sent to the afterlife.
And that is the fundamental difference in how the couple sees their situation, and how Spartacus views things: for them, the glory is in fighting the battle. As Crixus told Spartacus in ‘Mors Indecepta,’ he’d rather not die with a Roman sword in his back, and that, in a way, is another facet of the freedom this war has granted these men and women. They may be facing certain death, but they do so of their own freewill.
Perhaps that’s why, when Crixus argues against Spartacus’ plan to traverse the Alps and see what’s left of the freed slaves to some form of enduring freedom far from Rome’s shadow, Spartacus realizes their objectives have become too divergent and it’s no longer suitable for him to deny Crixus the opportunity to seize that which he most craves. To that end, it becomes almost immediately clear that ‘Separate Paths’ will see Crixus to the conclusion of his story.
Naturally, with just a 10-episode season, there’s going to be certain aspects of the narrative that would need to be sacrificed. Here, the writers decide what’s most important is for these characters to come to face their end by acknowledging the shared path that brought them to this point. The departure of Crixus and Naevia was a foregone conclusion, but Agron’s decision to leave Spartacus behind so he could join the legion marching toward Rome was slightly unexpected, and his farewell to Nasir – though brief – offered some surprising insight as to the limits of Agron’s belief in what is ahead.
At the same time, DeKnight and his writers have the difficult task of creating characters on the other side of the conflict that the audience can invest in – even though they are, for lack of a better term, “the bad guys.” But as determined as Marcus Crassus is to get his man, and as wild and impudent as Julius Caesar has proven to be, it would be a disservice to their characters to label them as such. As such, they’ve seen fit to fill the narrative with the increasingly loathsome Tiberius – who has found his villainous niche in life by becoming something of a serial rapist – as he follows his assault on Kore with one on Caesar.
Tiberius also manages to deliver what appears to be (but probably isn’t) the deathblow to Agron and, as bitter a pill it is to swallow, runs Crixus through with a spear to the back before beheading the mighty Gaul at his father’s request. Naevia, injured in her run-in with Caesar, can only look on in anguish.
If anything, the abruptness of the march to Rome illustrates just how the series would have benefited from extra time and space to tell its story. If we could have followed Crixus’ army over a few more episodes, there may have been the opportunity to see some greater depth out of the decision to part ways with Spartacus, and, especially, more insight into Agron’s choice to leave behind Nasir. In the end, Crixus’ death stands as a powerful reminder about how close the series is to its conclusion and just how truly pressed for time these characters are.
Spartacus: War of the Damned will be taking a week off to allow everyone a chance to catch up. The next episode, ‘The Dead and the Dying,’ airs Friday, April 5 @9pm on Starz. Check out a preview of the episode below: