Spartacus: War Of The Damned “Men Of Honor” Review – Argh, Here Comes The Cilician Pirates!
Spoiler Alert: This article is a recap and review of Season 3, Episode 3, titled “Men Of Honor”.
To put one’s trust in another often brings about an untimely end in the world of Spartacus as witnessed by the fallen victims of Ashur’s serpent tongue and Quintus Batiatus’ dirty dealings. Treachery is every bit the equal to the swiftest blade and those that do not learn this hard lesson die the most gruesome, bloody death.
Spartacus himself has been a target of deceit and manipulation under the Romans’ iron fist. Having endured the death of his wife and best friend Varro, even tricked into fornicating with Ilithyia, the wounds may have been stitched closed but what remains is a dark, emotionally hardened scar.
As seen at the end of Wolves At The Gate, due to Spartacus’ growing cynicism he could not put his faith in Laeta to talk her husband out of torching the granary, resulting in another casualty to be added to his moral ledger.
For Laeta, her trust was betrayed when Spartacus killed her husband and in discovering Ennius was not the man she thought he was. Beneath the veil of an honorable husband was a corrupt man who made a secret pact with the Cilician pirate leader Heracleo to dispatch of his rivals in exchange for the aedile’s seal.
Laeta feels like a fool for blindly trusting in Ennius and warns Spartacus not to make the same mistake by bargaining with the Cilicians whom she describes as plagues of the sea. Based on their reputation as thieves, Spartacus must consider the possibility of Heracleo double-crossing him but at the same time, it’s a risk he needs to take in order to secure enough food for the coming winter.
On the flip side, Spartacus’ reputation as the leader of a bloodthirsty rebellion precedes him. Tales of Spartacus slaying Glaber at Mt. Vesuvius, burning down the arena in Capua and now overtaking Sinuessa en Valle, belie his merciful nature. If it was up to Agron, he would put an end to all the captured Romans whom he views as hungry mouths to be fed.
From Heracleo’s standpoint, there’s nothing to stop Spartacus, other than his honor, from seizing the supplies during the exchange at the beach which is why he did not bring them ashore (or was he planning on taking the coin and bombing the rebels?).
By keeping his word, Spartacus earned the trust of Heracleo, but will this very trait prove to be his downfall? Further, it’s interesting that Tiberius’ ambush to prevent the rebels from aligning with the Cilicians inadvertently solidifies the bond between ‘thieves of equal nature’ in their fight against a common enemy in the Romans.
The episode’s thematic thread is woven into the scenes with Naevia. Her temperament causes her to only see the duplicity in others whether it is warranted or unfounded. Following the mock gladiator fight, Naevia attacks the disgruntled pudgy baker as he reaches out for either a sword or more likely the piece of bread.
Crixus voices concern over Naevia’s rash actions to which she explains of her torment in watching her abusive Dominus “greeting wife with kiss and warm smile … the beast from the previous night transformed into a man who held no threat.” Because of her damaged psyche and deep-rooted distrust in others, she is quick to accuse Atticus of stowing away several Romans.
Atticus’ allegiance can easily be bought but he has also shown empathy towards his fellow Romans, including the baker whom he came to aid after the man’s hand was mangled. However, in a little twist, it is Laeta who is revealed to be hiding Romans in the stable. When Laeta told Spartacus, “You are not the man one expects”, does she really mean it or is this just part of her scheming?
Earlier in Men of Honor, two captured Romans are made to fight like animals over a piece of crusted bread. The tides have turned in that the slaves who were once oppressed, now have their heels firmly on the throats of their oppressors; reenacting the same wrongs done to them.
This memorable scene highlights one of themes of the season on how the rebels’ desire for retribution is turning them into the very thing they are fighting against. It also subtly poses the notion that in order to break the cycle of vengeance, one must fight for a higher principle.
Men of Honor focused primarily on the rebels while Marcus Crassus was noticeably absent and there was a lack of meaningful development on Julius Caesar. This will probably mean that the next episode will have lots of scenes with Crassus and Caesar as they approach Sinuessa en Valle.
After three episodes, the framework for the season is built and is on solid footing. If Blood and Sand is a good indication, viewers can put their confidence in the show’s producers that this is the point in the season where the story is about to really take off.
Odds & Ends:
Meanwhile, the characterization of other rebels are fleshed out, laying the ground work for possible upcoming story lines. Agron is intensely jealous and protective of his bedfellow Nasir. Rule number one, do not mistake Agron as a Gaul or disparage the region east of the river Rhine from which he hails and number two, Nasir belongs to him. Apparently one of Cilician pirates did not get the memo and a quick-tempered Agron pummels his head repeatedly.
As for Gannicus, Saxa presents him with a very special gift – a demure girl named Sibyl. Sibyl is infatuated with Gannius ever since he killed her master and has been following him around like a love-sick puppy. But Gannicus is reluctant to take the girl’s innocence, preferring to find comfort in women (at least for now).
Julius Caesar may have backed down from Tiberius, but he’s probably thinking, – I’m going to let this kid get himself killed by going after Spartacus alone.
The twist and turns of the final battle was fantastic, especially the firebombs that rained down on the Romans. Tiberius is pretty bull-headed. Luckily for him the muscular rebel he fought was already weak and vomiting before the battle even started. Hopefully after his near-death experience we’ll get to see some more layers to his character.
Don’t mess with Naevia, especially if she’s holding a hammer! That girl is messed up.