Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
After a forgettable second episode and a third episode that felt like it was written hungover, Spartacus gets it together and delivers the goods. This episode reminds its audiences exactly how good the show really is and why it’s one of the boldest, most intense shows on television.
This week’s very grim episode had mirrored story lines for the Romans and the rebels. Both Spartacus and opponent Marcus Crassus dealt with disobedience in those they lead this week and both story lines concluded great violence. How the disobedience was dealt with and the fallout from that though, was jarringly and fantastically different.
In the rebel city, Spartacus is struggling to provide food for the now thousands of slaves who have fled to his city. Unrest grows among ranks, furthered along by Caesar who infiltrates them and fans an already volatile flame. Empty stomachs and idle hands become disastrous to Spartacus as his soldiers and civilians start fighting among themselves and killing the Romans Spartacus worked so hard to protect.
This difference of opinion becomes even greater this episode, the gap further widening between the majority of the rebels who wish to see Roman blood and Spartacus, trying to not let his army become like the Romans they fought against; a dynamic that was fascinating to watch play out. Spartacus stands alone among the rebels in his defense of the Romans. Even his closest followers only believing or following his command in degrees, or not at all. This clash of ideals leads to a fantastic fight between Gannicus and Crixus, a scene that was completely engaging to watch as it escalates further and further into an all out massacre in the city. At the end of the episode Crixus steps down as Spartacus’ second in command because of his disagreement about the Romans; a moment that was shocking and perfectly dramatic.
In the Roman camp, Tiberius is dealing with the fallout on his failed attack last episode and the retreat of his soldiers. Marcus Crassus, as way of striking both fear and loyalty into the hearts of his soldiers orders decimation, a punishment in which five out of the fifty soldiers at his command are randomly selected to be beaten to death by their comrades.
The decimation scene itself was an incredibly powerful scene. Mostly due to the overly dramatic music used in this scene, there were a few moments where it might have went to a place a bit over the top, but the overall effect of the scene was quite shocking. Watching Spartacus sometimes makes its audience desensitized to the violence in the show as it is so constant but the scene of decimation hit the mark full force and left a memorable impression on the viewer.
With the act of decimation, Crassus manages to unite and gain control over his army. In parallel, Spartacus is losing control and his army is fracturing. This mirroring of story lines was fascinating to watch and the fact that Crassus manages to do what Spartacus cannot, makes him appear as a truly frightening enemy, one who could actually beat Spartacus and his army.
One of the best things about this episode was how well it used its large cast of characters. On the rebel side, most of the main characters were in at least one scene doing something useful. Each had a small but crucial part to play that connected to the story lines of the other rebels leading to an excellent overall episodic arc. It was especially good to see Nasir being useful, Nemetes doing anything, and Sibyl being relevant to the plot.
The thing that was most fantastic about this episode however, was the intensity. Decimation is a truly edge of your seat viewing experience where you will watch scenes through your fingers or with your eyes wide open. The rising tension among the rebels and the quiet but strong fear felt from the very presence of Marcus Crassus both build and build until they ignite, ending with a truly gory and deadly scene, even by Spartacus standards.
The negatives of this episode were comparatively minor and mostly lost in the overall excellence of this episode. Saxa’s German accent sounds more like a mixture of Swedish and Jamaican, Agron’s attitude regarding Nasir was too inconsistent and his jealousy too petty and Caesar’s infiltration of the rebel camp just seemed a shade too easy or too lucky.
The only truly disappointing moment of the episode was the love scene between Marcus Crassus and personal slave Kore. Throughout the scene it was clear the director was trying to impress upon the audience that this is a sex scene between two people in love, but surely there is a better way to show that than to film it mostly in slow motion, have incredibly cheesy background music and filter the entire scene in warm yellow. The effect of the scene became completely tacky. It felt too different in tone from the rest of the episode or even the overall series.
This episode of Spartacus could be one of the best this season. It was a very classic Spartacus episode, full of violence and sex, but it also succeeds in having great plot and atmosphere. The writing this week truly makes you care about the characters and what happens to them, something Spartacus occasionally struggles with as it can lose its plot or characters under the amount of violence and sex. This episode however, truly rises above such things and stands exemplary. If the episodes this season manage maintain this standard of quality, the last season of Spartacus could be the strongest one of all.
The post Spartacus 3.4 Review, “Decimation appeared first on WhatCulture!.