“Separate Paths” is a truly disappointing episode in Spartacus: War of the Damned’s homestretch.
Note: Full spoilers for the episode follow.
As we near the end of Spartacus’ legendary war against the Romans, I’ve prepared myself for what was, I suppose, predetermined to become a pretty bleak ending to the rebels’ story. That said, I wasn’t sure exactly how close the show’s writers would stick to history. I’m just going to come out and say it though – this was one of my least favorite Spartacus episodes ever. Yes, I knew that quite a few of the protagonists would likely soon meet their end, but the way that things went down this week left me both dumbfounded and quite livid. The writing in this episode was just horrendous. I love this show, as the scores I’ve given in my reviews this season will attest, but “Separate Paths” let me down greatly.
The only redeeming factor of this episode was the strength of Manu Bennett’s and Liam McIntyre’s performances as Crixus and Spartacus. Both men’s point of views are thoughtfully fleshed out. Spartacus wants to flee from the Romans to give the rebels a chance at survival, especially all the unarmed women and children. Crixus would rather strike at the heart of the republic, ending the Romans’ reign of terror once and for all. He reasons that the slaves built their republic with their blood and lives, and can see it fall at equal cost. Crixus would rather die fighting than live in a world where he and the rebels are not truly free. I loved his line, “You opened my eyes to this Spartacus, do not ask me now to close them.” Their final celebration and conversation about life in Batiatus’ ludus and taking down the arena at Capua before parting ways, was emotional. It’s such a shame that Andy Whitfield could not reprise his role for these final scenes, as they would hold much more weight. Agron’s choice to follow Crixus into battle, and part ways with Nasir, was equally emotional. When he broke this news to Nasir, I knew he would fall alongside the Undefeated Gaul in combat during this episode.
The real downfall of this episode began with the absolutely surprising and ridiculous raping of Julius Caesar by Tiberius. Caesar has been built up all season long as the ultimate badass, and he can’t take out two nameless guards and a 15 year old boy? It will be incredibly hard for me to stomach now if this is the same man that is to take down Spartacus or Gannicus. And the shot of him standing alongside Crassus and Tiberius, unable to ride a horse because his ass was too sore? It was like something from a South Park episode. I’ll never again be able to take this guy seriously.
Beyond that, the whole side story with this Sybil girl and Gannicus feels way too forced. They just don’t feel like a good match, and Saxa is way cooler. I keep waiting for this girl to murder Gannicus in his sleep or something. I just don’t trust her. And while I don’t mind Laeta, her sex scene with Spartacus felt even more forced.
The final straw for me was Tiberius killing Agron, then spearing Crixus through and finally decapitating him. I get that the writers are trying to shape Tiberius into the ultimate heel, but we all very much hate him already at this point. I would have been fine with Crassus taking him down. It strains credulity that Tiberius would be able to escape retribution for so long while continuing to commit heinous acts. Tiberius’ death needs to come soon, and it needs to be this show’s most memorable.
Overall, “Separate Paths” featured some strong acting, but that couldn’t save this extremely weak episode. Crixus deserved a much better swan song. The wind has definitely been taken out of this show’s sails in the homestretch, which is truly disappointing. Next week’s episode better be a masterpiece.