After the cinematic highpoint that was 'Libertus,' Spartacus: Vengeance was hard pressed to find another hour this season that was as entertaining, or thrilling. But with 'Monsters,' the program may have done just that.
As last episode, 'Balance,' sought to finally arrange the pieces that would see Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) and Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) finally square off, those moments serve to offer a comparison between the Thracian warrior and the Praetor – with some striking similarities. But arguably, those similarities are nothing new, since Spartacus struggled during 'Balance' to deny his thirst for vengeance by releasing a captive Ilithyia (Viva Bianca), and therefore proving his stance has now grown beyond retribution for the death of his wife.
While Spartacus' cause expands, Glaber finds his more focused on a single foe than ever. He confesses to his recently returned wife that he is no longer the man she knew, but a monster born of circumstance and necessity – not unlike his nemesis.
Spartacus is in the midst of becoming a leader – something we see Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) and Crixus (Manu Bennett) recognize, but many of the others still do not. Sure, they are willing to follow him into battle, but the Thracian has yet to unite them as a singular unit. Unlike Glaber, Spartacus seeks to rise above his origins and do battle with his foe without emulating his methods. His means, however, prove difficult, as the rebels under Spartacus' command are a disjointed group that, like Crixus says is "not a fist, but fingers twitching, absent single purpose."
In finding purpose, Spartacus tasks Agron (Dan Feuerriegel) to obtain some wine so that the rebels can bond over drink and violence. While similar circumstances have elicited scolding from Spartacus in the past, under his watchful eye the proceedings serve as a much-needed oasis from worry and as a way for many to bury the proverbial hatchet. Of course, the highlight of this bonding session is Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and Oenomaus against Agron and Crixus. It's a brief tussle, but an important one that sees Gannicus earn a small amount of acknowledgement from man he betrayed, and the disdain between Crixus and Agron reduced to verbal jabs born from mutual respect.
The revelry will be short-lived, however, as Glaber uses Ashur's knowledge of the area (and Lucius' head) to surmise where Spartacus has been holed up all this time. Despite such an advantage, Glaber's house continues to weaken, as every woman in it seems to conspire in one way or another to end the Praetor's life.
Young Seppia (Hannah Mangan Lawrence) is set to task after being given evidence of Glaber's involvement in her brother's death. Perhaps as indication of the her naiveté, Seppia calls Varinius (Brett Tucker) back from Rome, but given her pitiful proof against Glaber, Varinius is less than convinced – especially when Ilithyia sides with her husband while he is being grilled by Varinius.
And with that, it is clear that Seppia has fallen victim to the far more cunning and devious minds of Ilithyia and Lucretia (Lucy Lawless). The fact is cemented as Glaber and his wife celebrate their reunion bathed in the blood of the young woman who, moments earlier, set forth to murder Glaber. Ilithyia's swift and shocking attack is further confirmation that no character is safe from the specter of death in Spartacus: Vengeance.
After all the bonding is done, the attack on Spartacus' camp is soon underway. Though it seems that the first wave was insufficient, resulting in Varinius' capture, and the rebels seizing much-needed weapons, Glaber shows up making good on his threat of bringing the firey might of Rome down upon the rebels. The ensuing catapult attack is devastating, ending the life of Varinius in a moment where he closely resembled a young Peter O'Toole. Sadly, any such comparison is forgotten after Varinius' face is burned away.
The rest of the attack is as exciting and visually splendid as it is a nerve-wracking experience. Close-quarter combat and tight camera focus prepares the audience for the inevitability that one of the rebels (Oenomaus) is surely about to lose his life. But in the end, Oenomaus settles for losing an eye in battle with the fearsome Egyptian – a maiming that should provide a certain poetic reprisal.
As Glaber pays homage to the season 1 finale by assuring he will "kill them all," 'Monsters' ends teasing a climatic battle between Spartacus' retreating troops and the seemingly insurmountable might of Glaber's army
Spartacus: Vengeance airs its season finale with 'Wrath of the Gods' next Friday @10pm on Starz.