Synopsis: Tiberius is restored to command and Kore told that she will remain in Sinuessa with him after the war. She asks Caesar to help her but when Crassus makes it clear how much he loves his son she flees to the rebellion. Meanwhile Crassus' troops make camp near the ridge and wait out a passing storm. The rebels huddle for shelter while Spartacus and Crixus argue over their strategy. Gannicus and Sibyl take shelter together and have sex.
The Good: Come on Gannicus, she needs those clothes to stay warm! I continue to think the romance with Sibyl is a simple and effective story to make Gannicus into a lovable hero. If you feel it's cheesy or too much of a male fantasy I won't argue with you.
To have Spartacus and Laeta travelling a similar path does feel repetitious but I did enjoy the little moment they shared. Laeta offers to share her blanket with Spartacus but he refuses. So she reframes it as needing his help to keep herself warm and he joins her. I liked that a lot. It seemed to understand his nature nicely, he will give help but does not need it from a Roman. Agron finally trusting Nasir's judgment was also a positive development.
The Bad: The Kore story was very unsatisfying. In previous seasons the writers have excelled at showing us the helpless situation of slaves who live under capricious Roman masters. Yet somehow they have failed to communicate adequately the truly horrible position Kore is in. Despite Crassus' clear love for her, she can't hope to compete with Tiberius. If Crassus learnt the truth he would find a way to forgive his son while presumably losing desire to be around Kore. It's a deeply sad scenario and although the bones of the story are there for us to see, the direction never gave us a chance to feel her pain and empathise.
The underlying problem is the brevity of the season. We don't know Kore outside of her role as slave. Despite yet another sex scene we haven't had a chance to get to know her as a separate person. Her rape by Tiberius was rushed into and now he threatens to do so again for no reason other than because he is a dick. To have no motivation beyond being a bad guy is poor writing and the Kore-Caesar scene took things to another level. Again her position as a slave seems to have been forgotten. I don't buy that Caesar would have listened to her for a second. The writing also tried to position Caesar as if he desperately needed to crush Tiberius and be Crassus' deputy. Again there is no basis for this in the story. This is just one campaign and Caesar has already benefitted from it. There will be other wars for him to gain advancement and he would understand that Tiberius was always going to benefit from nepotism. For him to conspire with Crassus' live-in slave could only have bad consequences for him.
And after all that it seemed like Kore didn't tell him the truth. So a slave basically said to Caesar "please take me to Crassus and it will help your political position"? Unless I missed something I don't see why he would have lifted a finger on her behalf.
The Unknown: The structure of this season has been strangely pro-Crassus. His trap using Donar's crucified corpse saw him outwit Spartacus yet again and even the escape from the ridge felt more like a retreat than a victory for the rebels. It's certainly stacking the odds against our heroes as they bicker over what to do next. Perhaps it's capturing the essence of the real conflict in this shortened version of the story. I'm just not sure how the producers are going to make the conclusion satisfying given the likelihood of Crassus emerging victorious and almost all of our characters ending up dead.
Last episode we were treated to scene after scene which contained the trademark Spartacus attempt at twists or shocking reveals, most of which were solid. This episode those same tricks seemed to fail. Crixus' one-man slaughter of Roman soldiers would have been far more exciting if filmed in normal speed. In slow motion it just gave me time to take in the incompetence of the Romans. Similarly Crixus and Spartacus once more fight each other and yet the slow motion added little to the drama. I don't mind their difference of opinion leading to blows but it had no emotional impact. The discovery of Donar would have meant so much more if it were a main character and if the surprise attack hadn't seemed so foolish. To attack with all the leaders of the rebellion seemed pretty dumb.
The misses piled up around Crassus' wall too. The episode opened with the sight of slaves dead in the ditch and yet no comment was made about why they were there. I assume they were foolish enough to break camp and try to flee but it would have been nice for someone to explain that. Similarly the girls who froze in the snow received so little attention that we didn't discover which Gods they were praying to. An examination of religious belief amongst the multi-cultural rebels would be interesting but clearly we don't have time for that. The attack on the trench was underwhelming. Yet again a few gladiators charge at a hundred Romans and take them out easily. I would also have preferred if Spartacus' calculation of Crassus' army size was based on detective rather than guess work.
Then the final revelation of the dead bodies was a big miss. Surely it should have been a great emotive moment to see the Rebels pile up their own dead friends to ensure their own survival? It's the kind of desperate horror The Walking Dead would have lapped up. The producers went to the trouble of giving us the horrific site and yet instead of that being a sign of the rebels willingness to survive, the tone was immediately destroyed as Crixus laughs and cheers at the fleeing Romans. That moment underlined the uneven presentation of events this season.
Kore joining the rebels would be more interesting if there weren't only three episodes to go.
Best Moment: The site of the dead bodies was a surprise, as was the blow Crixus felled Spartacus with. But Gannicus and Sibyl steal it for simplicity.
The Bottom Line: Another action packed episode but all the big swings missed their targets.
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