Episode Title: "Men of Honor"
Writer: Brent Fletcher
Director: John Fawcett
The third episode of “Spartacus: War of the Damned” proved two things: the former slaves have learned how to be cruel from their former masters and that there are only two rebels who retain their honor: Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) and Gannicus (Dustin Clare).
The rest of Spartacus’ followers are apparently getting more bloodthirsty by the minute; which has some fatal consequences for one of their allies.
Full spoilers are ahead for “Men of Honor,” so if you’re not caught up on “Spartacus” then don’t read this review or else Naevia will say that you weren’t reaching for the bread.
In fact, it’s Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who has become the most frightening of all of the protagonists. Through her tale of terror and rape, it’s understandably why Naevia has hardened herself and why she sees kindness as a weakness and a mask for Roman cruelty. But she goes way too far in this episode when basically murders Attius (Cohen Holloway), the blacksmith who helped them capture Sinuessa in the previous episode. Attius gives Naevia a good fight and he had clearly grown disenchanted by the actions of the rebels. However, Attius wasn’t guilty of aiding the captured Romans... not that it stops Naevia from painting him as a traitor after his death in part to hide what she did.
There was more ambiguity as to whether the Roman baker was reaching for the bread or the sword when Naevia nearly sliced his hand off. I was more surprised by the way that Crixus (Manu Bennett) had turned a scuffle over a piece of bread into an impromptu gladiatorial match between two captured Roman citizens. That was the incident that really soured Attius on Spartacus’ followers and Gannicus also looked extremely displeased.
To hear Spartacus tell it, he can barely hold back his followers from executing the surviving Romans. He and Gannicus alone seem to be opposed to abusing the Romans as they had been abused. While that allows them to maintain their moral high ground, the same can’t be said of the rest of their group.
I had almost convinced myself that I was misinterpreting the romantic sparks between Spartacus and the captured Roman noblewoman, Laeta (Anna Hutchison) last week. But those unmistakable signs were once again present this week as Spartacus sought her help and even freed her to look after her people. And either Laeta (the character) is a really good actress or she’s starting to fall for Spartacus. Either way, Laeta betrays his trust by hiding away some of the Romans whom Spartacus’ people were viciously harassing.
Is Laeta trying to get close to Spartacus in order to put the proverbial knife in his back? Or is she really attracted to the man who murdered her husband in front of her? Those are the more intriguing questions in front of us, but the series can’t stay in Sinuessa forever.
The main plot of the episode introduced Heracleo (Vince Colosimo) and his band of Cilician pirates as potential allies against Rome. It’s been a long time since I’ve read up on the historical Spartacus, but I’m fairly certain that I remember pirates betraying Spartacus in his time of need. Expecting that betrayal added tension to Spartacus’ scenes with Heracleo, who seemed wary of Spartacus as well.
When Tiberius Licinius Crassus (Christian Antidormi) launched a sneak attack against Spartacus and Heracleo outside of the city, his goal was to make sure that they made no alliance. Instead, Tiberius presents them with a common enemy and a common purpose just as negotiations were going south. Tiberius actually demonstrated some bravery by wading into battle himself, but he still hasn’t learned the lessons of his father, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Simon Merrells). Tiberius doesn’t respect his enemies and so he blindly rushes in against the orders of his father and he winds up seriously wounded as a result.
Tiberius’ friend, Sabinus (Aaron Jakubenko) gets the Romans’ lone heroic moment when he manages to get Tiberius to safety. It’s not always easy to tell on this show, but my first impression of Sabinus from the first episode of the season was that he was in love with Tiberius... and that the feeling was mutual. The events in this episode seemed to reinforce that interpretation.
I seem to be in the minority when it comes to Todd Lasance’s performance as Julius Caesar, but I think he’s insufferable and completely wrong for the part. He’s like Eric Northman-light (Eric Northlight?) as a Roman icon and I’m just not buying it. If there is a Caesar spinoff coming from “Spartacus” then I’ve suddenly lost interest in that project. The best villain on this show is still the elder Crassus, who was sorely missed this week.
Back among the rebels, Gannicus seems to be displaying a lot more depth than he had in “Gods of the Arena” and “Vengeance.” Aside from Spartacus and Attius, Gannicus appeared to be the only one who was upset that the rebels have become a twisted reflection of their former captors. Gannicus also showed some compassion towards Sibyl (Gwendoline Taylor); a young slave girl whom he deemed too young to share his bed. If all Gannicus cared about was his pleasure then he wouldn’t have dismissed Sibyl and told her to stay away from men like him.
Although I am pretty tired of the bedroom scenes between Gannicus and Saxa (Ellen Hollman) and Agron (Dan Feuerriegel) and Nasir (Pana Hema Taylor). If people want to watch porn, it exists. But these repeated scenes between Gannicus/Saxa and Agron/Nasir just take up screentime that could be used to actually advance the story. We already understood that Agron was a jealous lover from his earlier scenes. The makeup scene between them didn’t really add anything to the episode.
I’m assuming the romantic focus has shifted to those two couples since Spartacus currently doesn’t have a partner and Crixus and Naevia have kind of played out. And expecting a series like “Spartacus” to show some restraint is almost always going to be a losing argument. But there are interesting stories at play here and I’m more invested in “Spartacus” when it actually tells them.