This week’s Spartacus episode was in many ways a “typical” Spartacus episode – a good stretch of the running time was spent at a drunken party, filled with female and male nudity, a handful of sex scenes and, of course, bouts of violence born of mistrust or competitiveness. The conclusion went from a confrontation between Spartacus’s men and the just-introduced Cilacian pirates (led by yet another Aussie actor, Vince Colosimo, playing Heracleo) to a battle punctuated by various twists – a spear out of nowhere thoroughly trumped by balls of fire that rained down upon the Roman legions.
What elevated the episode, though, was the context. For most of season two Spartacus was that titular man of honor, but he’s now realising that waging a real war requires compromise. The deal with the Cilacians was struck in an attempt to purchase food – both for Spartacus’s men and their Roman prisoners – but the scrappy battle between innocent Roman prisoners at the beginning of the episode provided a murky, grim mood that overshadowed the proceedings. It’s becoming clear that many in Spartacus’s army are little better than the Romans they fight, the kind of men to force prisoners to fight for their own amusement.