Spartacus: Vengeance “Monsters” Review

This show is so much more than most people give it credit for. I know I say this, week in and week out, and mostly I’m preaching to the choir; most of you who come to read my Sparty Party reviews are already fans of the show.

Yet I still feel the need to remind that rare and wayward traveler to these shores: Spartacus is art. And you either see what they’re doing, or you don’t.

Now I’m not saying it is a perfect production. Nothing is. But the thing they are trying to make…

The artistry of series’ like Spartacus: Vengeance is in the visual storytelling as much as it is in the plot and wordplay. “Bullet time” sequences aren’t just meant to draw an interested from viewers; they punctuate moments in time for various characters, allowing us to feel that visceral, glacial slowing-of-the-heart moments that usually mean life or death—or significant accomplishment—for any one of the characters involved (usually all).

It’s dramatic, it’s over-the-top and Avant Garde. It’s art, and not the lowbrow sort its skin-and-sin reputation has garnered. It’s operatic—and the good news is when the fat lady is singing, she usually is set to die, soon and violently.

Written by Brent Fletcher, “Monsters” took expectations and skewed them sideways, beginning with the “Roman” raid on the gladiators’ stronghold. This one was all about the big bait-and-switch; it was about the bluff, showing one hand and dealing the other. It opened with Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) pulling a surprise training exercise, and ended with a very similar scenario—the very sort they’d trained for—except (episode’s theme, boys and girls) that attack was itself a ruse.

Excellent beginning to the episode—and an even better end. But let’s talk about some of the other particulars, shall we?

“Time and again you tore my heart from my chest. Is it a wonder it now stands empty in your regard?” A rhetorical question, yet honestly asked. I have touted Craig Parker’s masterful performance as Praetor Claudius Glaber since the very first episode, and he does not let me down, ever. His freakishly kinetic synergy with Viva(!) Bianca(!) goes beyond simple chemistry, for me. It feels like they really rise to the fore when paired in a scene together.

And holy bloodbath! “We cannot be what were were,” Glaber said, painted red in Sepia’s sticky blood.

“Then let us be what we are. We are both monsters, Gaius.” Ilithyia answered in a whisper that seemed on the verge of madness. “Let us be so together, and seize the fucking heavens.”

A bad relationship takes a turn for the better. Balance that with a good relationship taking a sharp turn for the worse:

“I have given all that remains.” “It is not enough.”

“No. It is not.” Thus ends (?) the tumultuous and often one-sided love affair between Spartacus and Mira (Katrina Law).

Best line of the night: “The rise of the house of Ashur.” How Poe-etic!

The return of Varinius (Brett Tucker, or as I call him, the Obvious Aussie) was interesting, though I was most interested in how he died—with a face full of flaming tar, hurled by one of Glaber’s trebuchets. One has to wonder, exactly, how much of the “plan” Varinias was let in on. The ole “storm the temple walls while our allies drop fireballs on our heads” tactic seems problematic.

Saxa is impressive. Ellen Hollman plays her with a carnal sort of glee (though how’d that dirt taste?); she has a tightly-coiled athleticism, a rabid-wolf ferociousness as opposed to Mira’s stalking wildcat style. I sort of want both of them to throw down once again.

Forgotten occasionally amidst the masculine testosteromp is Lucretia (our Lucy FLawless), but we should not forget the role she plays; she is a wraith, whispering in one ear and then the next, seemingly at odds with even her own choices and allegiances. She’s crazy!

But ah… Crazy like a fox, methinks. I have a feeling we’ll get a sharp taste of her own version of lucid sanity before the season’s done.

Which is only one episode away. We don’t know what’s going to happen—other than All Hell Breaking Loose.

… And then of course two days following the Spartacus: Vengeance season ender, we’re on to Game of Thrones for 10 weeks.

It’s good to be me.

If you want to be me but can’t, you can at least follow me on Twitter! That’s @Axechucker!