Review – Spartacus: Vengeance Episode 4 – Empty Hands

Crixus stabbed and his skull smashed, Naevia freed, everyone is on the run from Glaber’s guards as they charge the mines. Episode 3 gave a moment of resolution and wiped it away with a hard swipe. Spartacus and the survivors are now set to flee for freedom to the rest of their party, the problem is… they’re not alone and they’re still barely armed against a large army of soldiers hot on their path. Glaber’s men approach from all angles out to catch the prize that will enable him to regain position with the locals, the problem is Spartacus and crew are struggling to stay alive with each wave. With medical attention on their hands and the worry of alerting the men in the dead of night they risk it all to avoid abandoning or slaying any of the wounded.

Back with Glaber he continues his face off with Vorenus, setting up a spectacle show to challenge his ability to get his hands dirty and empower his success with the captured gladiators from the mines. Who appears in this magical lineup? You’ll be pleased to find out when it airs. Needless to say they get a wave of mercy in this tense stand-off and the obvious mystery man in the captured lineup gets picked off immediately in an almost Star-Trek like fashion. The night takes a detour that gets a bit more graphic to levels not really seen since the first episode and the arena itself, Glaber is pleased with his captive playing entertainment to the night and conversations strike up.

The episode focuses heavily on development this time around, we see changes in tactics from Lucretia, Ilithiya, Spartacus and Glaber to come out ahead in the turmoil of the situation. We learn more twists and plots and see growth in many ways even if it might be a damaging shift down the path.

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Spartacus is learning the struggles of loyalty and responsibility for those around him, his pursuit with Crixus brought the rescue of Naevia but many of his men were captured and slain in this pursuit and left him with dead men at hand to the point of only his own will to save them. Vesuvius awaits them in the distance but as a degrading machine the odds of their survival are beyond low.Glaber is attempting to have a show down with Vorenus, the battle of the Roman titles is in full swing and Glaber is doing everything possible to show he has the favor of the locals over all others. While his success in recovering Spartacus is low, he’s currently stockpiling key members of the rebel force that escaped Batiatus that night. With Crixus now in his slave roster it’s sure to spark the attention of Spartacus and crew even as they move away from the region.

Vorenus is enjoying himself in the meantime, his hands free from the taint of blood and shining with diplomacy, he’s the bastion of success and glamor that drives Glaber up the wall. He finds himself courted left and right through the episode and we learn a bit more about his character through each dealing, even Ilithiya has a few jabs of her own when they meet.

Lucretia bats her first strike in this revival, with Ilithiya right on her tail she turns attention toward her brewing plots and works to support them to gain favor. With so much damage between them it’s not a surprise to see Ilithiya questioning every move she makes and maintaining a critical eye to her moves. What Lucretia has up her sleeve next is entirely unknown, she’s still holding onto Glaber’s favor in all of this as her lifeline.

Those who thrived on heavier action will be a bit dismayed in this episode, the devotion to the story development was a critical step in short seasons like this as it allowed the whole story to launch onward and create critical twists to the foundation. I do feel that future episodes will be stronger for having this bluntly brought up now, having it strung out through each episode is a risky move as it eats up valuable air time for other plot points and development. We also see a hanging point with the Roman side and Spartacus, fortunately it’s not as cruel as the Crixus moment but still it leaves the unknown in the air.

The photo and editing teams have nailed the atmosphere changes and even time of day for the show, while scenes were often predictable to happen in certain times of day it’s not the case anymore. Fight scenes in the moonlight, the fog, dusk and so on all provide essential atmosphere to illustrate the characters in a dynamic environment. Combine that with the story and it’s maturing as a product out there. Although sometimes it might reach to the hyper real, the revenge scene with the nobles illustrated that’s always possible now as well.

Story:★★★★☆ 
Cinematography:★★★★½ 
Dialog:★★★★½ 
Overall:★★★★½