Episode Title: "Libertus"
Writers: Aaron Helbing & Todd Helbing
Director: Rick Jacobson
Previously on "Spartacus: Vengeance":
In Capua, the arena is filled with screaming hordes as Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Rhaskos (Ioane King) are led out for their pending executions for the entertainment of the crowd. And among the gladiators sent to dispatch them is none other than Gannicus (Dustin Clare). Oenomaus seethes when he learns of Gannicus' presence and his former friend reluctantly confirms that he slept with Oenomaus' wife; which sends Oenomaus into a rage as the battle begins.
One day earlier, intrigue abounds at the former house of Batiatus. Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) prepares to take a potion that will kill her unborn child, but she hesitates. Sensing an opening, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) advises Ilithyia that the potion will make her violently ill for several days, leaving her unable to attend the games the next day. At around that same time, Ashur (Nick Tarabay) returns with the body of Marcus (Luke Pegler); which infuriates Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) and he orders Ashur to be executed alongside his fellow Batiatus brothers.
But Lucretia has other plans for Ashur and she assures him that she will not let him die. She also orders Ashur to swap out Ilithyia's potion for something else without being discovered. Meanwhile, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre), Mira (Katrina Law) and the rest of their band are clearly weary before they stumble upon an abandoned Roman temple that may provide them with sanctuary. But they find that a single Roman named Lucius still lives there… and he is not amenable to visitors until he learns who Spartacus is. After a brief standoff, Lucius explains how he was wronged by his own people and he says that he welcomes Spartacus and his group.
More importantly, Lucius reveals that Crixus is still alive and slated to be executed in the arena the following day. Despite the danger, Spartacus makes plans to rescue Crixus and their other captured comrades while sending a brutal message to Rome. Elsewhere, Gannicus is recruited for the event; which he accepts due to being "low in coin," but his heart is not into it. Back at the ludus, Ashur uses his newfound freedom to warn Glaber about the potion in his wife's room and what it is meant for. Outraged, Glaber confronts Ilithyia.
In the face of her husband's rising anger, Ilithyia calmly explains her intent to be wed to Varinius (Brett Tucker) once her father, Senator Albinius (Kevin J. Wilson) dissolves her marriage to Glaber. With little recourse, Glaber accompanies his wife to the games one last time as man and wife. After sneaking inside the arena, Spartacus and Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel) overpower some Roman soldiers and steal their uniforms while Mira and others from their group being spreading oil to burn the wooden foundations of the arena's seating areas. Before they enter the arena, Spartacus recognizes the brand on Gannicus' arm and wonders why he would kill his brothers.
Gannicus replies that if they are to die then he only wishes to give them an honorable death. During the main event, all three of Spartacus' men fight bravely as he and Agron wait for fire to work. But in the meantime, Rhaskos is killed and Crixus is repeatedly injured while Oenomaus and Gannicus wage an epic fight against each other. In the higher level, Glaber is clearly displeased that his rival Varinius will soon have everything that was his, but none of them notice the smoke coming from the stands until it is too late.
With extra help from Mira and the others, the stands begin to collapse into the fire as the crowd panics. Seizing upon the confusion and chaos, Agron and Spartacus make their move. Spartacus even notices Glaber in the primary seating area and he throws a spear that narrowly misses him. The man behind Glaber is not as lucky. Meanwhile, Gannicus and Oenomaus are trapped beneath a collapsing portion of the arena. As the nobles start to flee the arena, Glaber comes across Albinius pined beneath the wood and he takes the opportunity to kill him and blame it on Spartacus.
In the arena, Spartacus, Crixus and Agron dispatch the last of the Roman soldiers and gladiators before finding Gannicus standing over a fallen Oenomaus. Gannicus seems to think about fighting them before throwing down his sword and ordering them to help him carry Oenomaus. Spartacus and his remaining men escape through the underground waterway as the arena burns to the ground. Outside, Glaber tells Ilithyia that her father has perished, but they will carry on "as husband and wife" as a dejected Varinius walks away.
In terms of sending a message to Rome, it doesn't get any clearer than burning down the entire arena during the middle of the gladiatorial games. More than any other episode this season, "Libertus" lived up to the name "Spartacus: Vengeance."
Spartacus is so single minded in his goal that it doesn't seem to have crossed his mind that he probably killed several hundred civilians during his latest attack on the Roman empire. But Spartacus may not consider those civilians to be innocent bystanders since they were present only to watch men slaughter themselves for the amusement of their Roman masters. This is a war, and right now, Spartacus is winning.
But in defeat, Glaber found himself in the right place and at the right time to take out one of his enemies closer to home and prevent the loss of his status and his marriage. On my first viewing of this episode, I was sure that Spartacus' spear had struck Varinius; which would have also made Glaber very happy. Even so, there's no way that the destruction of the arena can be spinned as anything other than a staggering loss for the Romans and Glaber, in particular. Nor should Lucretia be able to maintain her reputation as someone favored by the gods when destruction is all around her.
It was interesting to see Lucretia's schemes blow up in her face. Lucretia definitely wanted Ilithyia to keep that child at least until it suited her, but Ashur's disobedience exposed Ilithyia's plans before they could be acted upon. And if Lucretia finds herself unable to manipulate either Glaber or Ilithyia then her power is considerably lessened. I do wonder if Lucretia has any real affection for Ahsur after he saved her life, but she may have spared his life just because he's usually a worthy pawn.
The return of Gannicus opens up some new possibilities for the current season. Gannicus was a little underdeveloped in "Gods of the Arena," but he could be a legitimate co-lead of the series if Dustin Clare steps up his game and the writers give him an interesting story arc. The moment where Gannicus pondered whether to fight or aid Spartacus and his men was very well played; although I would have enjoyed seeing Gannicus and Spartacus fight in the arena. But at the very least, Gannicus' reunion with Oenomaus did not disappoint.
If there's one thing that's become too predictable about "Spartacus: Vengeance;" it's that only Spartacus, Crixus, Oenomaus and Mira seem to survive when everyone else around them tends to die. Maybe we should call Rhaskos and the other fallen gladiators "red chests," since none of the warriors seem to wear shirts on this show. It also seemed like Spartacus' plan for the arena worked out a little bit too easily.
Lucius was a welcome addition to the supporting cast and I like the idea of Spartacus' rebels working closely with a Roman who hates the empire as much as they do. A few minor gripes aside, "Libertus" had the scope and scale I've been waiting to see all season. I want more episodes like this and fewer like "Empty Hands."
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.