Review: Spartacus Vengeance: "Libertus", Season 2 Episode 5

Gannicus returns in the latest episode of Spartacus Vengeance!

Burn It To The Ground

Tales of Spartacus’ defeat at the mines have spread across the region and imprisoned rebels Oenomaus, Crixus and Rhaskos are to be executed in the arena as a message that Rome will smother any flame that burns against its rule. Spartacus sends his own message: one that would ignite the hearts of all enslaved by attempting a daring rescue at the arena.

Spartacus libertus

“Libertus” treaded very carefully by balancing character motivation with the advancement of the plot. Spartacus has always believed in the worth of every human life (although his kill count must be approaching triple digits) and there’s no doubt he would risk his own to save Crixus and Oenomaus. However, one might think there would be some trepidation in attempting another rescue that could cost him more lives including Mira’s and Agron’s. Spartacus is bold but is not the reckless man he once was when he unleashed his anger on Glaber’s man at the end of the season premiere. This time he has a plan, loyal followers he can depend on, the element of surprise, and a greater purpose to fulfill.

Had Oenomaus and Crixus died in the arena, especially in public view, it would have been a devastating blow to the rebellion’s cause. The arena was used by politicians to gain power and status, to distract the crowd from social inequalities and injustices, and to influence public opinion and beliefs by staging executions of criminals, traitors and runaway slaves. The arena also represented Roman wealth, dominance and their disregard for the value of human life.  Destroying the arena was an act of defiance, terrorism and empowerment to those under the rule of the Roman empire. Its destruction symbolized everything Spartacus is fighting against, marked an end to the gladiator fights on the series and foreshadows things to come for Rome and the rebellion.

It is clear that Agron believes in Spartacus’ cause to bring down the Roman empire but his decision in “Libertus” is a complete turn around from two episodes ago when he was adamant in not risking his own life or others to save Naevia. This time Agron joins in the rescue at the arena because he believes he could have made a difference at the mines and prevented the loss of many lives. The character whose motivation to fight at the arena that made the least sense to me was Gannicus.

Gannicus vs Oenomaus

As the arena gates opened revealing Gannicus, a shot of adrenaline pumped through my veins. In the “Previously on Spartacus” segment, it was made obvious Gannicus would return this episode but it didn’t take away from my surprise of the imminent battle between Gannicus and Oenomaus since there wasn’t any on-screen lead up to their confrontation. Of course, we cut to “One Day Earlier” and rewind to the events leading up to the arena. This is an often used narrative device in television and film but it works in “Libertus” because it gives a sense of urgency, purpose and builds anticipation in each scene.

My understanding of Gannicus is that he fights for glory, money, wine and women. His belief that if Oenoamus is going to die, he may as well be the one to give him an honorable death and reunite him with Melitta in the afterlife is a bit of a stretch although it makes for entertaining television. Gannicus was commanded to have sex with Melitta but it was their lust for each other that made him feel he betrayed Oenoamus. Gannicus already has Melitta’s tragic death on his guilty conscience so it doesn’t make sense to me he would want to fight his best friend. In the end though, he doesn’t kill Oenoamus and rescues him instead.

It must have been fun for the writers to envision how a fight between blood brothers Oenomaus and Gannicus would play out. Oenomaus was the first man to survive a battle with Theokoles the Shadow of Death, former Doctore to the House of Batiatus and savage fighter as seen in the Pits. On the other hand, Gannicus is the only gladiator that we know of to win his freedom in Capua and even killed a man while blindfolded. With wrists chained together and given a sword with no edge, an enraged Oenomaus quickly gets the upper hand on Gannicus by kicking his leg which resulted in him dropping to the ground.

Luckily for Gannicus a solider jumps in and saves him from a potentially fatal death-blow. As the fight ensues, Oenomaus disarms one of Gannicus’ duel wielding swords but soon gets his own sword knocked out his hand. Gannicus presses the attack and delivers a flying knee connecting flush to Oenomaus’ head. Flaming debris from the arena descend upon Gannicus preventing him from finishing off Oenomaus.

The Oracle’s End Game

Watching from above Lucretia is savoring every moment Crixus gets slashed, speared and punched. And for good reason. Lucretia has lost her wealth, position, security, house, husband and at the hands of Crixus, her unborn baby. In previous seasons, Lucretia’s primary motivation was to help her husband gain power and status whether it was by poisoning her father in-law’s wine, trying to provide an heir for Batiatus, or blackmailing Ilithyia.  After coming back from the brink of death, Lucretia is now “all in” in her game of lies, vengeance and schemes to win back everything she’s lost.

If a woman is not born into a noble class in Roman times, the only way she could ascend the social ladder is by marriage. Since Lucretia was stabbed in the uterus she is unlikely to bear any children and would not be considered a suitable prospect for a new husband who would undoubtedly want an heir to carry on the family legacy.  Also, the fact that she is a widow may not be appealing to potential suitors.  With no family or husband to protect and provide for her she has to fend for herself.  Her biggest obstacle since the massacre was to befriend Ilithyia who threatened her survival and could have exposed her as a false prophet.

In order to continue her ruse as the oracle of Capua, which has been very useful in manipulating both Praetor Glaber and Albinius, she needs to ensure Spartacus’ capture, punishment and death. The one card she has up her sleeve is that the father of Ilithyia’s child might be Spartacus’ which is why she persuaded and prevented Ilithyia from putting an end to her “encumbrance”.  It’s also something she can use against Ilithyia to her advantage in the future.  Lucretia’s alliance with the unpredictable and conniving Ashur might backfire on her. She petitioned Glaber to free Ashur and gave him a key to the house so he could replace Ilithyia’s “abortion vial” with water and herbs.

Instead, Ashur turned it into an opportunity to show his usefulness to Glaber by revealing Ilithyia’s secret agenda. Ashur plays by his own rules and if he does get out of line, I’ve no doubt Lucretia will find a way to put him in his place. Lucretia has a prophecy she intends on fulfilling, including the capture of Spartacus and may involve taking Ilithyia’s child as her own. However, I think there is more to her end game that will be revealed in the episodes to follow.

Brief Thoughts

• The action, special effects, and production value were top-notch. A lot of work must have been put into the fighting sequences in the arena. Too bad it will be the last of the gladiator fights we will see but it means the rebellion is now full on.

• Spartacus throwing the knife to save Crixus’ life was pretty awesome! If the series follows history, Spartacus and Crixus will eventually part ways during the rebellion but that’s hard to imagine  at this point since they have bonded. Plus Spartacus risked everything in rescuing Naevia at the mines and Crixus himself at the arena.

• Spartacus throwing the spear that grazed Glaber’s cheek and impaled Cossitius was sweet. Very reminiscent of 300. I was pretty sure Glaber was going to die since Ilithyia ditched him for Varinius.

• Nasir and Agron’s kiss was really sweet. Hopefully their love will have a chance to grow. Unfortunately on Spartacus, relationships usually end tragically.

• Agron is such a good sidekick for Spartacus. He brought some levity when he commented on the roof (or lack thereof), the wasted wine by Lucius and his outburst for being mistaken as a f*cking Gaul.

• Glaber lifting the heavy lumber off of Albinius as if to rescue him, saying “I’m not the fool you and your daughter think of me” then proceeds to bash Albininus’ head. Gotta love it!

• Poor Rhaskos. He was starting to grow on me. But I guess a price had to be paid for the rescue. Besides, Gannicus is back!

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