SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE 2.04 ‘Empty Hands’

Ilithyia plans to ditch her husband for another as Spartacus and his companions fight for their lives in the forest.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Empty Hands"

Writer: Allison Miller

Director: Mark Beesley

Previously on "Spartacus: Vengeance":

Episode 2.03: "The Greater Good"

Story:

We find Spartacus (Liam McIntyre), Liscus (Joe Naufahu), Nasir (Pana Hema-Taylor), Mira (Katrina Law), Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and the last members of the rescue party hiding from a group of Roman troopers who nearly pass them by. But the recently freed Naevia is unable to hold down her terror and she runs off with a soldier in pursuit. Spartacus and his men have no choice but to engage the Romans in battle, while Mira takes it upon herself to put down the soldier threatening Naevia. But one of the former slaves dies in the battle, causing Liscus to question the wisdom of bringing Naevia if Crixus (Manu Bennett) is dead.

Back in Capua, Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) finds himself pressured by his father-in-law, Senator Albinius (Kevin J. Wilson) and his rival, Varinius (Brett Tucker) because Glaber diverted his troops from the gladiatorial games to pursue Spartacus at the urging of Lucretia (Lucy Lawless); who continues to cultivate her reputation as a conduit for the Gods. Glaber's wife, Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) suggests throwing a lavish celebration in Varinius' honor to make amends and she seems to clearly be attracted to him. But Ilithyia is soon upset that Seppia ( Hanna Mangan Lawrence) appears to have the inside line on landing Varinius as a husband.

Some of Glaber's men return to the Ludus with their three captives: Rhaskos (Ioane King), Acer ( Alex Way) and Crixus. But because Spartacus is not among them, both Glaber and Lucretia risk losing face. The three prisoners are taken to the cells below, where they are reunited with Oenomaus (Peter Mensah); who is so disillusioned by learning about the betrayal of his late wife that he basically says that Crixus threw his life away for love. Back in the forest, the Romans happen upon Spartacus' group while they were sleeping and in the attack, Nasir is seriously wounded by a sword. Now down to three warriors, two women and the wounded Nasir, Liscus advocates putting Nasir out of his misery.

However, Naevia finds her voice and angrily points out that Crixus survived a similar injury when the wound was cauterized by fire. Spartacus tells Liscus and the other warrior to go on without them with a promise that they will follow if they can. Back in Capua, Ilithyia has put on a debaucherous party of epic proportions as Glaber and Varinius try to politically outmaneuver each other. The rebel prisoners are offered up for battle in the arena, but not before Lucretia gets to have her pick of victims to be killed at the party. 

Although Lucretia lingers on Crixus, she chooses Acer as the sacrifice and she also whispers to Crixus that she will savor his demise. Deciding to make her move, Ilithyia tries to convince her father to dissolve her marriage with Glaber so she can be Varinius' wife. However, Albinius forbids it, noting that she is pregnant with Glaber's child. Meanwhile, Acer is viciously tortured by the party guests before Seppia is offered the killing strike by Varinius. But when she looks into Acer's eyes, Seppia finds herself unable to act.

This gives Ilithyia the opening she's been waiting for, as she takes the knife from Seppia and finishes off Acer without hesitation. Varinius is suitably impressed, and in private, Ilithyia allows Varinius' fingers to explore her lower regions while she pitches him on the idea of getting married. He seems to agree, if Ilithyia can get Albinius to dissolve her marriage to Glaber. Disheartened, Seppia finds comfort in her brother, Seppius (Tom Hobbs). And when Ilithyia seeks out Albinius, she finds him in bed with Lucretia. Back in the forest, Spartacus is able to close Nasir's wound and they are soon reunited with Liscus, who is now the only warrior besides Spartacus who is still standing among the rescue group.

Spartacus and his remaining group are attacked once more. Liscus is fatally wounded as Spartacus fights like a madman, with Mira helping as she can. Ashur (Nick Tarabay) drags Marcus (Luke Pegler) away from the battle. However, Ashur is forced to murder Marcus himself rather than risk another encounter with Spartacus. Back in Capua, Ilithyia confronts Lucretia, who admits that she now remembers everything that went on between them. But Lucretia says that she slept with Ilithyia's father to convince him to dissolve her marriage, just as Ilithyia wished. This seems to satisfy Ilithyia and Glaber doesn't appear to realize that he has no allies around him.

As they get within sight of Vesuvius, Spartacus and Mira get ready for their last stand as Naevia tends to Nasir. But the approaching warriors turn out to be Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel) and the rest of Spartacus' forces; which gives their crestfallen leader a badly needed taste of hope.

Breakdown:

More than any other episode this season, "Empty Hands" felt like it was just dragging its heels instead of trying to advance the story. And while there was some good drama in the forest scenes, the party at the Ludus went on way too long.

"Spartacus: Vengeance" has a reputation for depicting a lot of nudity and sexuality; which it never fails to live up to. But how much is too much? The orgy sequences felt like they were taking up too much time within the episode; which could have been better spent on more of the intrigue among Glaber and his inner circle. And although Glaber is an arrogant and unlikable jerk, it's almost hard not to pity him because he can't seem to pick up on the fact that everyone is plotting against him… especially his "loving" wife, Ilithyia. Nor can Glaber count on Lucretia for support. The only side that Lucretia is on is her own.

Ilithyia may actually outdo Lucretia in terms of sheer audacity through her plan to dump Glaber for Varinius while carrying what is likely to be Spartacus' child. No matter what Lucretia did during "Blood and Sand" and "Gods of the Arena," she always seemed to be devoted to Batiatus at her core. The scary thing about Ilithyia is that she has no core, no morality and no real love for anything other than herself. That might make her considerably more dangerous than anyone else around her.

Watching the party guests cut off Acer's lips and his other flesh was brutal, but it led to an interesting scene with Seppia when she found herself unable to murder Acer. I don't believe that this means that Seppia has suddenly developed a heart. Rather, I think that Seppia may have been the only person at the party to discover that she has a limit to the violence that she can inflict on another. It's not a great spiritual awakening or anything like that and the crowd seemed to take it as a sign of weakness instead of a virtue. By contrast, they were impressed by Ilithyia's actions. She's a woman after their own heart.

Meanwhile, Spartacus and Mira remain the heart of the series; and I especially enjoyed Mira's fierceness during the ongoing battles with the Roman soldiers. The potential last stand of Spartacus and Mira was also a great visual before giving way to a rare moment of joy when Agron and the other freed slaves caught up to them. Even Nasir is starting to grow on me, as apparently getting a sword through your chest is a great way to prove you won't betray the cause.

It was actually heartening that Crixus and Oenomaus were reunited, as it seems to increase their chances of escape. And if they're going back to the arena, than I think that Gannicus' return is just around the corner.

Overall, there were enough entertaining sequences to keep "Empty Hands" from falling too far. And I'm still eager to see what's next.

Crave Online Rating: 6.8 out of 10.