This episode, like episode 2×05 “Libertus,” felt like a season finale. At the beginning of the episode, I had two of assumptions:
• Ilithyia and Glaber would never reconcile
• Spartacus’ men would continue to fight with each other; particularly Crixus versus Agron and Oenamanus versus Gannicus
Both of those things went out the window by the end of the episode, and we had another fairly significant death to boot. It had all the feelings that an epic does—but more importantly, it was all earned.
There’s a popular secret to good narrative writing—the villain never actually thinks they’re the villain. In their own mind, they’re the hero of the story. When authors and creators fail to write that way, often times the villain isn’t believable or isn’t as fun to watch. But in “Monsters,” the villains of the story begin to see themselves as villains and embrace it. They still see themselves as heroes (they’re getting rid of who they see as the villain—Spartacus) but they’re doing it in a monstrous way.
Ilithyia and Glaber both recognize how monstrous they are… making them perfect for each. In perhaps what is the most fucked up scene I’ve ever seen on this show, Ilithyia murders Seppia before she can kill Glaber for killing her brother, and then they both have sex while Glaber is covered in her blood. No, they’re aren’t just specks of it on him—he’s COVERED in it.
They’re monsters. They know it. And they love it.
Just as they reunite, Spartacus finds the way to unite his growing army is also through violence. (And alcohol). Characters are able to start to let go of their long-simmering anger at each other as they stand next to each other in an “arena.” Rather than trying to get the army and soldiers to rally around him, Spartacus gets them to rally around each other.
The final monster of the episode this week is Ashur. Who rapes Lucretia again—which has become his thing to do in every episode. Made worse is his desire to try to make her his wife in the House of Ashur, contingent on him helping Glaber – and Glaber alone – stop Spartacus. While I’d love to see us remain in the house next year with Ashur, I’m thinking as Lucretia will somehow gain the upper hand and eliminate him. (Unless he dies on the battlefield with Glaber.) Where that leaves Lucretia for next season—I don’t know.
The final 15 minutes of the episode are as exciting as anything this past season, with maybe the exception of the arena burning down. While I normally sort of abhor the slow motion fighting on Spartacus, watching a fireball his Varinius in the face was pretty impressive. (And rewarding!) While Oenamanus lost an eye (he’s going to look so bad-ass with an eye patch), I felt for sure we were going to lose at least one main character in this episode. Making the audience feel like a big character could go at any moment makes a show feel exciting and feel willing to shake things up. Since we didn’t lose anyone this week, I have a feeling that means it will happen in the season finale next week. Any bets? (I have a feeling Crixus and Naevia are going to be separated… permanently in some way or another.)
The episode ends with Spartacus and his army trapped in the mountain with the only way down blocked by Glaber’s army. Most will not make it out of it alive, and surely Glaber will be one of them—but which of Spartacus’ men and women will survive?
I can’t wait to find out, and yet I’ve become so attached to some of these characters, that I almost don’t want to watch…
*Photos courtesy of Starz
Alan Danzis is a lifelong TV watcher, especially of serialized dramas. In his top five list of all time, you’ll find The Shield, The Wire, Deadwood, Lost and Friday Night Lights. (He’s not sure where Mad Men and Breaking Bad go yet since they haven’t finished airing.) But his favorite thing to watch are the sci-fi shows, like Battlestar Galactica, anything British and sci-fi, and shows with vampires. He even put up with Terra Nova, because, well, it had dinosaurs and time travel–you had him at just one of those things. If you can stand his nerdy interests, you can follow him on Twitter at @adanzis.
Full Disclosure: Alan Danzis works at Ketchum Public Relations, which is his day job. His opinions here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of Ketchum, nor the clients Ketchum works with. His BuzzFocus.com writing is wholly unrelated.