Episode Title: "Sacramentum"
Writer: Seamus Kevin Fahey
Director: Jesse Warn
Previously on "Spartacus: Vengeance":
In Neapolis, Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel) and Liscus (Joseph Naufahu) pretend to be in the market for slaves while boarding a ship filled with recently captured warriors from Agron's region of Germany. Meanwhile, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) begins taking out the slavers' guards through stealth. The breakout is almost foiled when one of the captors understands Agron's words, but the Germanic warriors aid in their own escape, with the giant known as Sedullus (Conan Stevens) proving to be very formidable. Spartacus offers the warriors the chance to fight more Romans; which they eagerly agree to.
Back in Capua, Gannicus (Dustin Clare) attempts to collect payment for his appearance in the arena, but he is short-changed because almost all of Spartacus' men escaped. While in the streets, Gannicus comes across an assembly led by Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker); who blames the death of Seppius (Tom Hobbs) on his own slaves (despite the fact that Glaber killed Seppius himself). Glaber declares that any slave who so much as whispers Spartacus' name will be crucified and he targets the personal slave of his wife, Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) to set an example.
Ilithyia reluctantly backs up her husband's claims against her innocent slave, but she is horrified by the action and threatened by Glaber's obvious lust towards Seppius' grieving sister, Seppia (Hanna Mangan Lawrence); who agrees to move in with them at the Batiatus house. Later, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) finds herself increasingly dominated by Ashur (Nick Tarabay); who lords his new power over her.
At the previously abandoned temple in Vesuvius, Crixus (Manu Bennett) trains Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to fight before they welcome the recovered Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) to their ranks. Spartacus, Agron and Liscus soon arrive with their new recruits from the slave ships, but Crixus is clearly worried that the new warriors will follow Agron instead of Spartacus. Back in Capua, Gannicus is approached by a lovely brothel girl, who speaks glowingly of Spartacus. He tries to discourage her talk of rebellion before Ashur and his recruits arrive and escort Gannicus to Glaber.
Glaber reveals that he has the rudis that proves that Gannicus is a free man, but he implies that Gannicus must help him hunt down Spartacus if he wishes to keep his freedom. Glaber returns the rudis and gives Gannicus a few days to think about it before Ashur sends one of his men to shadow Gannicus. Elsewhere in the house, Lucretia slashes her arm to produce blood for Ilithyia as a pretense to fake a problem with her pregnancy and have her returned safely to Rome away from her increasingly hostile husband. Lucretia's gambit almost allows her to travel with Ilithyia as well until Ashur suggests that her presence will be needed in Capua.
The next day, Lucretia is in the market when she spots Gannicus, who is clearly upset that the girl from the brothel has been crucified for repeating her admiration for Spartacus. Sensing an opening, Lucretia points out the man following Gannicus and she suggests that he kill Glaber to defuse the situation and allow the hostilities on all sides to abate. Back in Vesuvius, Spartacus attempts to bond with the new warriors by hunting with them, but they leave without him at first light with Agron. When Liscus, Crixus and Spartacus locate them in the forrest, the Germans offer false apologies.
Complicating matters further, the Germans have recklessly raided a passing wagon; which alarms Spartacus and Crixus. That night, the Germans celebrate their hunt roughly as Mira (Katrina Law) and Spartacus question their loyalty… and hilariously rescue Oenomaus from unwanted company. The giant Sedullus corners Naevia and tries to force himself upon her before she stabs him. Agron comes across Sedullus' assault and he tries to stop him, but Agron proves to be no match for him. At first Crixus is amused by their fight, until Naevia alerts him that Sedullus bloodied her.
When Crixus jumps into the fight, all hell breaks loose between the German fighters and the original escaped slaves aligned with Spartacus. When Crixus and Agron fail to stop Sedullus from drawing his sword to kill them, it falls to Spartacus to brutally execute Sedullus and restore order. Spartacus tells the Germans that if they will not follow him then they should leave. But they are impressed by his fighting abilities and the pledge their loyalty to him. Back in Capua, Lucretia and Glaber see Ilithyia off to her carriage. And hours later, Seppia presents herself to Glaber before they make love in his bed.
However, Glaber's good times are interrupted by one of his men. Accompanied by Ashur, Lucretia and several of his soldiers, Glaber discovers that Ilithyia's carriage has been stopped, with all of his men murdered and Ilithyia apparently kidnapped. Inside the carriage they find the man who was following Gannicus stabbed with the rudis that marked Gannicus' freedom. And Glaber knows that he now has a new enemy.
The name of this show may be "Spartacus: Vengeance," but Gannicus is very quickly becoming one of the more interesting characters on the series. In the last three weeks, Gannicius has seemingly been getting equal or greater screentime than even Spartacus himself. And in this episode, it was Gannicus who had the most compelling story.
The irony is that Ganicus isn't a very complicated man. If he had coin and women, Gannicus probably wouldn't have been motivated to rebel. Glaber's fatal flaw is that he overreached with Gannicus. Glaber was so flush from his recent murders of Albinius and Seppius that he thought that he could just intimidate Gannicus into falling in line behind him by threatening to take his freedom away. That freedom was the only thing that Gannicus truly values; which basically forced him into rebellion despite his misgivings about Spartacus' chances for victory.
Ilithyia and Lucretia's relationship is also going in some interesting directions. It's unclear how much affection that they truly have for each other, but they are both trapped by the men in their lives with no other allies to turn to. And yet, some of that lingering mistrust was still there while Lucretia held her breath to see if Ilithyia would betray her plan to Glaber.
Ashur's domination of Lucretia has destroyed him as a fun antihero to root for. It's funny how the audience can overlook a character who murders multiple people to serve his own ends, but rape changes the equation. Now instead of an amusing schemer, Ashur seems like a bigger a**hole than ever and his eventual death at Lucretia's hands seems assured. Lucretia even seemed to be genuinely cowed by Ashur when he forced her to say that she enjoyed her rape. But that could still be an act on her part. Lucretia is rarely what she appears to be on the surface.
The opening raid on the slave ship was exciting and well executed. Spartacus' warriors needed an infusion in their ranks and some of the Germans seem like they will be amusing to have around. That said, the storyline about the Germans and their recklessness and questionable loyalty was actually the worst thing about this episode. Every time the action cut back the temple, the episode seemed to grind to a halt. It was somewhat redeemed by the brief action sequence at the end; which included one of Spartacus' most brutal kills to date.
But the resolution to that conflict was way too easy. Instead of letting Agron develop his own agenda, he openly throws his support to Spartacus at the end. More shockingly, none of the Germans seem to have a problem following the man who just killed their best warrior. You'd think that at least one person would be pissed about that.
Despite Agron's abrasiveness towards Crixus, this episode actually demonstrated that he isn't a bad guy. Agron's attempt to rescue Naevia from Sedullus was a redemptive moment, as was his pledge of loyalty to Spartacus. As for Spartacus himself, Liam McIntyre is still doing fairly well in the role. But the writing seems to be marginalizing Spartacus more and more in favor of his lieutenants and Gannicus. In short, the main hero of this show is too reactive and relatively passive when he should be driving the action forward.
For now, it's not a huge problem. But it could become one if the momentum doesn't quickly pick up again.