‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ Episode 4 Review – Idle Purpose

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Liam McIntyre Spartacus Decimation Spartacus: War of the Damned Episode 4 Review – Idle Purpose

It is definitely a good sign that, after his captivating introduction in the season premiere, Simon Merrells’ turn as the crafty Marcus Crassus would leave the audience wanting more. Spartacus has always had an interesting character filling the series’ need for a villain or larger antagonist – a face for everything Spartacus was fighting against, if you will – and on the surface of Spartacus: War of the Damned, Crassus certainly fits the bill.

His steely demeanor and penchant for playing his enemies against themselves certainly sets him up as the kind of man who could bring down the mighty Thracian. So, after the series took a week off to allow fans to catch up, and with Crassus nowhere to be seen during ‘Men of Honor,’ it feels like one of the most interesting characters to be seen so far this season has been gone too long. Now, in the aptly titled ‘Decimation,’ Crassus returns, but not necessarily to the delight of his son – or the men who’d failed him.

Although he’s pitted against the series’ hero, there’s something different about Crassus. Unlike those who’ve come before him, such as Batiatus and especially Glaber, describing Crassus as a villain doesn’t do the character justice – he’s more of an intimidating challenger, really (a character trait Crassus shares with Julius Ceasar) – which certainly helps to make him more exciting than if he’d simply been depicted as simply another baddie.

That’s not to say he hasn’t been uncompromising and sometimes ruthless (facets he shares with Spartacus), but those traits certainly aren’t all that comprise his character, either. In addition to his cunning and sense of respect and honor for those “beneath” him, one of the more interesting aspects of Crassus’ characterization has been the love/hate relationship he has with his son. Following Tiberius’ ill-advised assault on an exposed Spartacus, late last episode, the question of how his father would react, once news of the failed assault reached him, quickly became an issue.

Simon Merrells in Spartacus Decimation Spartacus: War of the Damned Episode 4 Review – Idle Purpose

For the answer, the episode navigates another of Crassus’ key relationships, peeling back another layer of his development. Kore, the slave that Crassus loves, and the woman who fills in as something of a confidant and caretaker for both he and Tiberius, has acted as a bridge for much of their father/son interaction. Here, Crassus confesses to Kore that no matter how much Tiberius aims to please, he continues to be a child to his father. In his opening up to Kore, Crassus comes to realize that his inability to see Tiberius as a man is due less to his son’s shortcomings and more because the young man had been treated as just that, the son of Marcus Crassus. However, after being forced to take part in beating Sabinus to death, Crassus may have inadvertently ensured that Tiberius no longer sees him as his father.

The scene depicting the action from which the episode gets it title (“Decimation”) is intercut with a similarly violent event at Sinuessa en Valle that brutally shows how close both sides are to resembling one another. Naturally, in keeping with the comparisons of either camp, there were similar themes of sacrifice and insubordination being pursued between Crassus’ army and the idle rebels stationed at Sinuessa en Valle.

But most importantly, after two episodes of seeing the writers push around the various pieces, we start to see some hints of how those movements have begun to pay off.

One of the biggest sources of movement comes in the form of Julius Caesar’s infiltration of Sinuessa en Valle, under the guise of being a slave. His appearance answers several questions about the character that have lingered since his arrival at the House of Crassus; namely, putting Tiberius in charge instead of Caesar; the refusal to allow him to shave; and, thankfully, the answer to what the slave girl was doing with that knife. What appeared to be questionable character decisions (and one unpleasant idiosyncrasy) were revealed to be further examples of Crassus’ meticulous planning and keen mind – making him seem even more dangerous than ever before.

Manu Bennett in Spartacus Decimation Spartacus: War of the Damned Episode 4 Review – Idle Purpose

While Crassus might not be called a villain in the classic sense, Spartacus’ army probably cannot be called heroic, or more to the point, justified in the classic sense now either. As much as the writers were moving things around, skillfully setting up Caesar’s infiltration, they were also intent on illustrating just how delicate a situation Spartacus has on his hands. Early on, Crixus warns that remaining idle for too long will lead to problems for the rebels beyond a need for food or shelter to last them through the winter, and here we see those warnings come to fruition.

Last episode saw Naevia take center stage as the poster child for the rage that continues to swell within the hearts of those who’d been forced into chains and suffered greatly at the hands Roman master. While her representation of it was both a little more personal (and somewhat off putting), it was clear that this group had at long last tasted revenge, and found they had an insatiable appetite for it. Add up Caesar’s incitement of the mob, Gannicus’ proof that Naevia lied about Attius, and the growing resentment toward Spartacus for keeping Roman prisoners alive, and the situation quickly devolved into disturbing display of violence against those incapable of defending themselves.

And yet, the real trouble seems to come not when Cirxus, Naevia and several others go against orders and kill the Romans that remain in the city, but when it becomes clear that there is a growing faction of Spartacus’ army he may no longer control. To make matters worse, a quick questioning of Laeta leaves Spartacus with the sneaking suspicion that he’s been playing into the hands of an increasingly dangerous adversary he’s yet to face in battle.

This is proving to be a War of the Damned indeed.

Manu Bennett Cynthia Addai Robinson and Dustin Clare in Spartacus Decimation Spartacus: War of the Damned Episode 4 Review – Idle Purpose

Various Items:

  • As increasingly toxic as Naevia seems to have suddenly become, there is quite the opposite happening with Gannicus. Whether he is shunning the advances of Sibyl for good cause or saving the life of a Roman prisoner whose head he’d just as soon see on a pike, Gannicus (and Dustin Clare) continues to set himself apart from the others.
  • Speaking of Gannicus: round one of Gannicus vs. Caesar goes to the former. But with a promise of a rematch, there’s a good chance that these two will put on quite a show before the series comes to an end.
  • Todd Lasance does some skillful work in an incredibly unpleasant scene involving the reveal of Fabia and her fate at the hands of Nemetes and his crew. Normally, there’d be the tendency to overplay it, but Lasance seems to keep it in check while still demonstrating himself capable of playing more than the charming braggart.

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Spartacus: War of the Damned continues next Friday with ‘Blood Brothers’ @9pm on Starz. Check out a preview for the episode below:

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24 Comments

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  1. An awesome episode that show the horror of war. This final season definately has the right subtitle. War Of The damned indeed.

  2. The scene with Caesar and the beaten/raped Roman girl was touching and very well acted. Shows there’s more to his character than we’ve seen in previous episodes. Naevia has been dragging Crixus down ever since season 2 and now she’s playing him against Spartacus while using him as protection to go about doing as she pleases. Gannicus needs to step up and start taking responsibility, he’s a leader and he needs to admit it.

    • I agree…Naevia is really dragging Crixus down…she’s becoming a loose cannon and I can actually see her biting the dust in the upcoming episodes.

  3. This episode removed the tags of good vs evil and added much more gray unlike last two seasons. I throroughly cannot wait for Friday. I thought Caesar was going to knife Naevia at the end.

    They also set up for the army split which is historically correct

  4. im really thinking that either gannicus or crixus is gonna fall by hands of ceaser and naevia needs to go already ishhh

    • I think gannicus will fall on Ceaser’s blade. Ceaser did hint to Gannicus about a rematch…and that’s foreshadowing. I would like to see Crixus be done in by Spartacus, because it would bring their rivary full circle.

      • History disagrees with your last statement.

  5. Who knows if they are going to follow history. Lots of things might change. I’m hoping Spartacus defeats Crassus. I would love to see Gannicus own Ceaser in a real fight. I just hate knowing what most likely is coming… the defeat of Spartacus.

    • Brian, I’m with you. I sort of wish they would pull an Inglorious Bastards and rewrite history.

      Gannicus’s transformation along with Crixus’ has been wonderful and well acted by both guys. Agron is getting lost in the shuffle though.

      • Well….They’ve pretty much done that already. Ceaser had amassed his own Roman army by the time the final show down between Rome and the slave army had their final clash. I think it’s unclear if his army was part of the over all force in that fight, but it seems very unlikely that a general would go under cover as they show here.

        I think they’ve had to fudge history in order to make it one action packed adventure after another. Otherwise it’d be a bunch of drama about former slaves trekking from point to point to crush Romans and find real freedom

    • The spartacus legend ends with his defeat but nobody knows if he died in the last battle. His body was never found.

  6. Best show on TV right now ! Shame it has to end !

  7. Naevia is going straight Lori Grimes this season. Everyone just wants her dead.

  8. lol at Lori Grimes. I really hope they make a spin off of Crassus and Caesar. I find myself more interested in what they are doing.

  9. However the Italians are now the worlds best fighters. HaHa

  10. Naveia is going to get Crixus killed. Crixus is good, but he is not even close to the intellect of Spartacus.

  11. this show is a double edged sword. on one hand I love watching it and on the other I hate watching it cause I know its only getting closer to the end. I wish they did another season after vengeance with spartacus kicking ass and taking names then do this last season when it all falls apart. I really dont like naevia and I like the show the least when there is infighting in the rebel group and problems such as ceaser infiltrating the city. I like the show most when the rebels are winning. Its gonna be tough watching episodes 9 and 10 as I can picture how it will play out because I know the history. What a great series. Starz will soon have nothing left now that spartacus and boss are gone. Magic City cant touch those two

  12. I love the mentality between the two opposing forces (Rome versus slave rebellion/Crixus versus Spartacus/Spartacus versus Crassus). I might be one of the few people that love Naevia as well. The little conversations she has with Crixus -though touching- barely reach the depths of trauma when the camera pans over to either fighting or a sex sccene. I can imagine being raped by countless men in the mines, defiled by Asher (that alone should cause anyone to pick up a sword and swing it madly at the air), and tortured by a sociopathic Roman (in episode 3, after killing Attius, she talks about this Roman master she had that by day appeared to be a great father and loving husband, but transformed into a thing of nightmares by night) why she should be filled with bloodlust. I know there’s a lot of ways the brain could deal with trauma (splitting personalities for example), and the writers could’ve had her become helpless and depressed (as we saw in season 3), but I prefer this side of her: batshit crazy. I mean hell we saw Crixus go all insane trying to rescue her for her previous fate and not giving a damn about the others forced to help him.

    Speaking of Crixus, I’m conflicted. I’m glad that he’s settling into his leadership role away from Spartacus, but I also love Gannicus and their fight scene caused a lot of torment.

    This post is basically blabbering about episode 4 -it’s been the best this season so far!- but I can I just say I love Marcus Crassus. Unlike Batiatus and Glaber, it is impossible to not want to root for Crassus. Like the review said he’s not a villain, but a challenging opposition. And that sex scene with kore…wow! All other scenes involving slaves had been rough and for the amusement of the bourgeoisie Roman masters. The only sex scene to have shown two characters mutually enjoying each other and showing that they truly loved each other were the scenes between Lucretia and Batiatus. So, to have a slave and her dominus mirroring their intimate moments is amazing. Similarly, his ability to rely on Kore’s insight on Tiberius is also a welcome surprise and further adds dimension to his character. At first, I thought perhaps Kore was his mother (his wife, I forgot her name, had blue eyes and so does Crassus), but then I thought of the praticality of that situation. Also, someone on tumblir noted an oedipal complex for Tiberius and Kore -she’s a mother-like figure to him and yet he seems attracted to her- which makes more sense and is perfect tragedy. Perhaps that will provide a further disconnect between father and son.

    I am so glad that they gave Julius Cesar more of a 3-D personality. I felt myself almost crying as he helped Fabia end her life. His ability to blend in perfectly with his enemy and have sympathy for his brethren make him equal to Crassus, in my opinion. Both are deadly and both make me believe they can end a man like Spartacus and his rebels. If the writers ever visit this review and comb though my rambling (it’s 4am), I hope they make a spinoff with Crassus and Cesar (same actors!). There’s so much to cover after the rebellion has been laid to rest.

    Lastly, Tiberius who I almost always called ‘that little twerp’ has earned respect points for killing his friend/lover/confident. At first I was like ‘don’t do it!” but after Sabinus gave up so easily, I was like ‘lead the way.’

    Okay, seriously the last thing I say. Am I the only one that thinks Agron is going to start some sh-t with those pirates just because he’s jelly that his gorgeous boyfriend is talking to them instead of being just his boytoy?!

  13. I wanna see the look on Crassus’s face when Kore gets preggo. :D

  14. Hate the romans

  15. could you please tell me when is the last episode to air Spartacus war of the Damned

  16. I am so mad this great show is over I loved loved loved it I want it back the best ever great great great

  17. Make a show with ceaser Spartacus was the best every actor ANd actress the best and very very beautiful loved it

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