Review – Spartacus: Vengeance Episode 6 – Chosen Path

The arena has fallen and Spartacus drives a crucial blow to the morale of the Roman people, the freed slaves have hit a crucial turning point in their battle that sets them as larger targets to the empire. All is not so simple though, Oenomaus has taken critical injuries during the collapse of the arena and rests at the will of the gods for his survival back at camp. Crixus and Naevia are reunited but it’s only the beginning of a very long road for them, just as their stories seem to all be gathering back together we see it’s only the start of another long road for everyone.

The Romans have their internal problems to sort out, a failed attempt to capture Spartacus brings stress upon Glaber but just as frustration begins to cloud his mind, Ashur has another plan to aid him and show the downfall of his men in a brutal fashion. The miracle worker for Batiatus is in his groove and pushing to do anything he can to rise from captured slave to loyal aid to the empire no matter the cost is to him or anyone else. Glaber doesn’t end there for story, triumphant over Ilithiya he sets the tone for her conduct from this point on and her dear Varinius is nowhere to be found, in fact he’s speeding back to Rome after the flop of the games and change of events.

Glaber finds himself at odds on many fronts including how to build his next pursuit against Spartacus, with ultimate control falling into his hands after the passing of Ilithiya’s father he takes it upon himself to force his will on those who hesitate to support including the often mocking Seppius. With Ashur at his side now, you can bet that things will only get ugly under their shared domination and pursuits of anything they wish.  Even Lucretia learns this as her role fades with importance and her plan ties her into the mess with Ilithiya, falling behind the rising Ashur who manages to crawl ahead at every opening.

The story isn’t all about the Romans, Spartacus faces his own challenges as his group struggles to figure out their next plan as a group, the loses they encountered and the pessimistic tongue of  Gannicus start to eat away at the group. Crixus and Naevia become a central point as they struggle with their first real encounter with each other after her enslavement and passing to the caves, it’s a hard adjustment for the couple that rings through each scene. The trouble with their group grows as a traitor emerges and sets off a battle that could be the end of their group in a single sweep, just as quickly as it begins we see Mira bring a close to save the sanity of everyone and protect the one she cares dearest for.

Chosen Path for Spartacus: Vengeance is a plot heavy episode, they’re putting a lot of the fractured stories back into a tighter box again, Lucretia and Ashur are no longer side stories, in fact they’re very much at odds with each other now and it will likely only get more heated given the actions of this episode. We see Glaber and Ilithiya taking a huge shift in momentum as the removal of Varinius and her father leave her relatively helpless, instead of being steps ahead of Glaber she’s completely without support now or any friends that could help. Some of that loneliness could have probably been avoided had she not thrown them as fodder to the Gladiator rebellion and bashed one of their skulls in though, it’s not likely she was thinking that far ahead. Spartacus and group face their next challenge to move forward with emotionally charged issues passing through key members and distrust shocking the entire party.

If you haven’t caught up yet, I’d suggest doing so now, the second half of the season arc is about to launch and it looks to be quite a violent and complicated one. Thankfully Starz airs the show quite a bit even during the day of the next episode.

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

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.

Spoilers ahoy – click to view or scroll to go onward

[spoiler show=”Show Episode 4 Spoilers” hide=”Hide Episode 4 Spoilers”]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.

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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 

Review – Spartacus Vengeance Episode 3 – The Greater Good

The hunt is on, with word of Naevia’s trades the group are off to chase their latest tip, unfortunately this trip will change the dynamic of the group in a way they could have never imagined. Crixus fans will no doubt curse the writers heavily for the news uncovered but don’t let it push you to rage channel change, there’s a method to all of the madness in Spartacus and Vengeance is no exception.

The group is met with a devastating finding in the opening scene, the men stand at a loss and their unity takes another hit. Their mission and future both come into question and they’ve only just begun on this path, not all is as it seems though within the ranks and questions rise forward from the viewer on what’s really going on. It’s a troubling scene and their return to the villa only shows the fracturing that has begun within this group of escapees.

Glaber faces his own problems, Asher’s return brings Oenomaus but his cooperation still lacks, on top of this situation of finding Spartacus, Ilithyia brings not only her father to the Villa but Vorenus as well. Their arrival brings an announcement of the city playing host for  2 weeks of games to distract the attention of the public from the rampage of Spartacus and his men. The twist of the knife comes from Glaber’s role to this event and further damage to his ego from this incident with Spartacus not only in this slaughter but from his attack at market as well.

Lucretia and Asher have their own story spinning off, the current role rides on Asher and his information extraction to prove the gods are really favoring Lucretia in her prayers and sacrifices to them. Will it be enough to win Glaber and keep control over him, it’s not exactly certain given Oenomaus has extreme loyalties to the house and to his fellow gladiators.

Spoilers if you can’t wait

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Spartacus and Crixus come to find trembling news, upon the latest capture of slaves they come to news of Naevia’s death. It’s a trembling shift so early int he episode and it destroys Crixus to the core. The news itself is deception meant to further the cause of their escape over the pursuit of Naevia into high-profile areas where they risk their necks even more with each move. The result of this is a dissolution of the two factions and where survival and brotherhood begin to split. It’s a tough scene to go through.

Glaber is putting all of his pieces on Asher’s ability to recruit information, he’s proven able to recover a critical piece to the rebellion but he hasn’t gotten anything out of Oenomaus so far. With Ilithyia’s father in town and Vorenus making waves to win favor of the people he has no choice but to press Asher and Lucretia to the limit to recover something he can use. Through mental abuse of the history of the house, Asher is able to bend his mind to give up a crucial piece of information that sets Glaber’s men on their way.

As the truth of Naevia comes to light, a reignited Crixus and Spartacus take on their worst mission yet, a trip to the strip mines to find Naevia, using the slave cart to enter the wasteland. It’s a gamble and a bit of heartbreak, if you’re not a fan of Asher you really won’t be after this.

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Vengeance episode 3 is a series a twists and turns and the fanning of the story is already in full swing as they scramble in every direction to find those pieces that matter most. Crixus continues a tale of woe and Spartacus struggles to find his place as a leader as his people conflict, the stakes get even higher and he puts lives on the line in these missions. He’s learning but he shows that he’s only human in all of this chaos and even the best plans are not immune to roadblocks. Episode 1 left many people concerned about the progress of the story, with these viewing’s it’s clear they’re on a very clear path with it and we just need to hold in. As a whole Episode 3 strikes hard at the viewers, the balance of good and evil will always sway side to side in a show like this, but there are those moments you just cringe hoping for the better and this was one of those times.

Visually they’re able to muster many creative areas, the Arena returns in full glory, the forests provide a pleasant change of pace and the mines even hold a unique touch in their presentation. The location and set design has evolved after being so isolated to simple dungeons and areas of the Villa and it gives Vengeance added depth. They’re not just figures locked in a box that goes a to b to c, they have dessert sections, forests, mountains and more and no story will just occupy one area.

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