Spartacus is and always has been a show drenched in violence (also sex, though that’s mostly peripheral to the narrative). This is clear from opening scenes where we see Spartacus and his men slice their way through countless nameless Romans. This is a concern for me in this final season. The violence in the first season, while clearly over the top, was rarely without a purpose – battles in the Coliseum always had something else at stake, furthering the intense character dynamics of this sword-and-sand soap opera. Whereas the violence of last season was often just eye candy, with little at stake … but plenty of dead Romans.
By now the show has moved from the melodrama of Batiatus’s ludus to the sweeping plains of Rome (where the show’s budget often struggles). In this episode, the plot develops quickly, particularly in developing a new antagonist (after they were all dispatched last season).
The introduction of Crassus is promising, providing the episode with a tense fight: his (well-directed) swordfight against his ex-gladiator slave. It’s a welcome reminder of the show’s ability to make the most of its tapestry of blood, and it provides a worthy opponent for Spartacus and his men to face.