Spartacus: Vengeance: “Libertus” Review

Gannicus! Gannicus! GANNICUS!

My first reaction to seeing the Spartacus: Gods of the Arena vet Gannicus (Dustin Clare) was euphoria. Great (bleep)ing character played by an excellent, emotive actor. My second reaction to seeing him… faced off in the Capua arena against Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Oenomaus (Peter Mensah)…

Well that was more akin to “Oh no! It’s too early!”

As a fan of this intense show, I wanted to see these dudes interact. Not just open one another’s chest cavities for plebeian gratification. Yet at the same time… there they were, right before my eyes, about to throw down. I leaned forward in my seat expectantly.

Cut to “One Day Earlier…”

(There was cursing heard in my home, but it was a vaguely joyful noise.)

I want to call them a bunch of teasing bastards, but it’s generally unfair, since that’s not how Spartacus: Vengeance usually rolls. Sparty’s idea of a “tease” is nicking a cheek with the spear two seconds before running you through.

“I am for wine, and the embrace of questionable women,” Gannicus muttered, but it’s just a brief salve for the deep wound in his heart. I like that the ghost of Melitta still haunts Gannicus as much as their union haunts Oenomaus—so much so that Gannicus is driven back to the thrill of the arena. (How great is it that Gannicus mirrors our modern superstar athlete, for who among them can ever truly retire before their bodies actually force the issue?)

Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) is still driven to the point of obsession when it comes to vengeance against the Batiatus ludus; one supposes that’s why this season is Spartacus: Vengeance and not Spartacus: Meandering About. I do like it when they get right to the point of it.

And what a point! I certainly wasn’t expecting the plan to be “Burn the (bleep)ing Capua arena down to ash and bone!” This was the kind of climactic ending one would usually expect from a season-ending cliffhanger, not in episode four. Bloody good!

We met old Lucius “Pleasure to make (bleep)ing acquaintance” Caelus, which was fun. Dude’s a B.C. version of Burgess Meredith if I ever saw one. I half-expected him to immediately start a training regimen that included Spartacus stabbing slabs of beef in an abandoned warehouse. “You’re a bum, Spart! You’re a bum!”

Craig Parker was especially excellent in this episode. The salt in the wounds of Praetor Glaber just continued to be ground in, hour after hour, until we got a very satisfying dénouement with Ilythyia’s scheming father. (Yes, for the record, Glaber would kick Haldir’s ass.) I love that Glaber was reminded of his uncle Appius Claudius Pulcher’s failure to defeat Hannibal; showrunner Steven DeKnight and his writers continually give apt lip service to the story’s storied place in history.

Lucretia (Lucy FLawless) seems to have Ilithyia (Viva! Bianca) exactly where she wants her; we actually got very little Lucretia tonight, but her plots do continue to bear fruit. Lucretia’s urgings to delay Ilithyia’s attempt at aborting her child were at first seemingly humane… and then of course the other shoe drops when Ashur (Nick Tarabay) slithers into the room, and we’re reminded of Lucretia’s vendetta against Ilithyia, her most worthy frienemy.

Speaking of whom… “Libertus'” best scene was Glaber’s confrontation with his wife. Parker and Bianca have a chemistry made sharper in every episode I see. There’s deep regret, and even a little bit of self-loathing in Ilithyia’s eyes when she she says of her love, “It is a speck upon distant shore, too small to draw notice.”

Glaber bared his heart, for once, because he still loves her: “Is there nothing left of us?”

“Memories only. And yet they too shall fade.”

No, I don’t think they’ll fade. Judging by the ending, nothing is going to “fade.”

I think that’s just Ilithyia being hopeful, as well as purposefully cruel. She has not lost all regard for him yet.

But perhaps he has finally lost it for her. Or at least, by show’s end, it had become something darker. What an end. And it promises only darker things to come.

Ye gods, you people. This is good shit! “Libertus” was tremendous.

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