Spartacus’ rebellion takes a city in brutal fashion in “Wolves at the Gate”.
This weeks episode of Spartacus: War of the Damned marked the arrival of Julius Caesar, and it was a strong continuation from where we left off in “Enemies of Rome”. Spartacus and his army devise a strategy in “Wolves at the Gate” to take the city by force, and and exact justice on the entitled upper class Romans that treat their slaves worse than animals. But in the process, an interesting question is raised: are Spartacus and the freed slaves losing sight of what makes them better men than the Romans?
Julius Caesar is introduced without much fanfare, though he ably shows off his combat training when reintroduced to Marcus Crassus. Tiberius whines about his father not having faith in him, and is in contention with Caesar for a position as a general. Ultimately, Crassus gives the command to Tiberius (which Caesar is none too happy about), but he hints that Caesar may yet earn a prestigious position in his army.
One of Spartacus’ freed slaves is coerced into giving information about the city’s reinforcements. He provides a solid plan for entry, and Spartacus, Crixus and Gannicus make their way through the city dressed as traders, being suspiciously eyed constantly. Spartacus draws attention when he ends a rather grotesque slave stoning by splitting the poor soul’s skull himself. His conscience tortures him throughout this episode, like when he greets a mother and daughter, only to find them brutally murdered in the wake of the rebellion’s taking of the city. By the end of the episode, when he kills an innocent grain farmer to stop him from burning the valued grains, it almost feels like they’ve gone too far, that they’re becoming just as bad as the Romans. As Spartacus tells the man’s wife how it was necessary and that he will carry the burden of the man’s death with him, it feels like he’s trying to justify his actions to himself as well as the woman. Spartacus needs to stay the rebels’ hands from taking the lives of a final few survivors; it’s obvious that their rage and lust for vengeance has overtaken them. Of course, the rebels were shown no mercy when they were beneath the Romans’ collective heel, and the brutal stoning earlier in the episode didn’t exactly paint them in a more sympathetic light.
“Wolves at the Gate” was an interesting episode, with some interesting questions posited, as well as great action sequences. The taking of the city was spectacularly brutal, with faces sliced in two, spears through mouths, and a particularly epic moment where a man was thrown into the air, only to cut down by an axe in mid-air. The episode also plants some great seeds toward the season’s climax- it’s obvious that the innocent bloodshed is taking a toll on Spartacus’ psyche, and he’s likely questioning his soldiers’ motives. I forsee dissension among the ranks in the coming episodes, which will make for compelling TV when Crassus and Caesar finally step toe-to-toe with the legendary Spartacus.