Spartacus: Blood and Sand, "Kill Them All": he was mine

Quick Take: Spartacus: Blood and Sand, "Kill Them All"
"Let us finish it." – Crixus to Spartacus

spartacus

Review: Spartacus: Blood and Sand, "Kill Them All"
(S0113) For what has often been written off as a trifling little show, a T&A escapade, a 300-derivative blood-soaked sword-and-sandals orgy, this turned out to be one damned fine powerhouse of a show by the end of its first season. I understand where the critics are coming from – particularly as it took a few episodes for the fine storytelling, outstanding action, and performances (John Hannah as Batiatus and Lucy Lawless as Lucretia particularly stand out, but the rest of the mostly unknown cast in the states is all around good) to overtake its more "out there" sensibilities. But for those who hung in there, I believe it was well worth the time invested.  

I was thinking about this during the opening scene of "Kill Them All," as all the careful plotting of the first season came together: Batiatus exultant under the hard fought and brutally obtained patronage of Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker), Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) and his loyal gladiators eyeing the guards while waiting to pounce, and the announcement of a final showdown between bitter gladiatorial enemies Spartacus and Crixus (Manu Bennett).

Lucretia had a role, we learn, in pairing Crixus and Spartacus in a final showdown. Whereas in the past she sought to bring down the upstart Spartacus, now it is vengeance she seeks in seeing Crixus dead for having an affair with her slave, Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt). The pot stirs in other directions as well as Spartacus works to bring the majority of slaves at the ludus around to his plot, including Mira (Katrina Law), whom he needs to get the gate open at a crucial time.

As the episode progresses, we see Crixus and Spartacus going at it on the Gladiator School's training ground (as appropriate a place as any for the climactic moments of this season), and we have to wonder who is with the rebellion and who is not? Loyalties and pleasantries are not nearly what they seem as well. We learn that the power dynamic between Ilithya and Lucretia has completely reversed, with the former's high praises in front of Capua's dignitaries penned by Lucretia and Ilithya a virtual slave within the ludus, so ordered by her husband  Glaber himself.

Even the enmity between Crixus and Spartacus is not what it once was. On a show of many violence- and sex-related shocks, it was a shock of a whole different sort to see Crixus and Spartacus have a conversation that was not only civil, but took on an air of comradeship. Spartacus is desperate to have Crixus and the Gauls loyal to him on his side for their escape, and reveals to Crixus the truth about Sura's fate. Spartacus seeks to play off Crixus' desire to be reunited with Naevia but is convinced that the only hope of this is to kill Spartacus and gain his freedom under Doctore's new ludus administration. However, it is not without regret that Crixus declines, saying: ""You know that in another life, you and I may have been as brothers."

And then, after a full season of build up, the fight, the real fight, the "kill them all" fight, is on, with Crixus and the full contingent of gladiators in tow. Spartacus uses Crixus' shield to jump and perform an Air Jordan-like leap to stab a Capua dignitary through the skull, causing the melee to begin.

The carnage that follows is everything that you would expect from Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I enjoyed thinking about how well this moment had been set up, how a society that uses human slaves as playthings to fight with one another to the death for amusement and sport should not be overly surprised when the toys get out of their cage and wreck havoc among the daintier class.

A particularly delicious moment comes when Batiatus assures his guests that everything is fine, just fine, just before all hell breaks loose with a sweaty horde of gladiators storming in looking for purchase. And for her part, Ilithyia has her own sweet moment of revenge, using her personal guard to further seal he House of Batiatus to its chosen fate.

The final scenes provided sharp resolution to a number of other storylines: Doctore and Ashur face off, Doctore telling his former student that his blood would dishonor the sands of the arena (yet it seems conniving Ashur escapes?). Crixus, blood-streaked and ailing, slowly sends his sword through Lucretia. It was a fitting end of course, but I was truly sad to see Lucretia and Lucy Lawless out of any future equation for the show.

And Aurelia (Brooke Williams), now set onto the right target in the end, takes her vengeance on Numerius (Lliam Powell), who always was a bit naïve, even after blithely cancelling out tragic Varro's (Jai Courtney) life for no reason (well, there were a few reasons, thanks to Ilithyia).

And then there was the final, inevitable, and satisfying confrontation comes between Spartacus and Batiatus. "What would you do to hold your wife again?" Spartacus asks, before taking out his master and strange partner of sorts.

The ludus now literally drenched in blood, Spartacus frees the gladiators yet promises those who would join him that together they will make Rome tremble.

I'm so there to witness the trembling! Let's hope that Andy Whitfield recovers from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and that Season Two is put into production soon.

More thoughts on "Kill Them All":

  • "Let us finish it." – Crixus to Spartacus
  • I really love the way that Spartacus and Crixus' battle transitions into a flashback from Two Days Earlier. One of the more inventive transitions I've seen in a while.
  • Batiatus promises Doctore (Peter Mensah) his freedom, along with a promotion to run the ludus as Batiatus goes on to seek loftier political goals. Doctore, not as amped as Batiatus might have thought at the news, questions Batiatus about Barca's granted "freedom." Batiatus admits that he did murder Barca (Antonio Te Maioho).  
  • "She is the sun that will never rise again." – Spartacus on his deceased wife, Sura (Erin Cummings)
  • Something I've been thinking about lately is that the use of modern rock/metal riffs during gladiatorial fight scenes works rather well, infusing a crazed blood thirsty energy into the action.
  • "Your services have been deeply appreciated. Yet more is needed." Lucretia to Ilithyia (Viva Blanca). There always is with Lucretia!  
  • Lucretia's visit with Crixus in his cell before the climactic fight was a nice touch, with a vibe of ex-lovers who might be truly honest with each other for the first time. I kept wondering if Lucretia would reveal that his food had been altered with drugs, but her pain at Crixus' love for Naevia prevented it.  
  • Doctore, who always deserves more screen time, is convinced by Crixus to allow the gladiators to flee without his interference. I hope we see him back in some form in future seasons.
  • It's kind of messed up that Calavius' widow buys it in the fashion she does, but I suppose it was a good indicator that (seemingly) innocent people often got caught up in the bloodlettings that punctuated ancient Roman life.
  • I really love how crazy the ludus looks post-sacking by the uprising gladiators. It made me think of history and the thousand-year stretch of the Roman Republic/Empire. For a Friday night popcorn show, it really brought history alive for me in some small way.
  •  

    Recap: Spartacus: Blood and Sand, "Kill Them All"
    'Kill Them All' - Spartacus' fury culminates in the stunning season finale.

    From Around the Web: Spartacus: Blood and Sand, "Kill Them All"

  • The Watcher: What show kills off one of its main characters, let alone a character played by an actor of such brilliant intensity and charisma? This show does. I think in television it's easy to get used to shows cheating, in a sense. So many shows take forever to set up character departures or deaths, or will only kill off someone well after they've worn out their welcome.
  • The Edge: No, this show is not for everyone. On “Spartacus,” the violence and sexuality are necessary staples to the serialized story. To creator Steven S. DeKnight’s credit, he’s struck a balance between depicting the carnage and the fetishizing that marred early episodes.
  • Nashville Scene: The second year is titled Spartacus: Vengeance and will focus more on the political fallout that results from the gradual buildup of the slave army challenging the Roman empire. Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) will sharpen his diplomatic skills and concentrate as much on strengthening his resources as he does in the first season's climatic episode on eliminating almost all his foes at the gladiator school. Meanwhile, look for perhaps the highest body count on any episodic show this season.
  • By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

    About the author

    Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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