Spartacus: War of the Damned: “Decimation” Review
Tensions rise and brutality ensues in the latest episode of Spartacus: War of the Damned.
Note: Full spoilers for the episode follow.
In a continuation of the last episode in Spartacus: War of the Damned, “Men of Honor”, we see tension rising between the rebels who want the captive Romans dead, and Spartacus who tries to cling onto some sense of honor. Crixus feels as though his attentions would be better spent elsewhere, but Spartacus knows that sending hungry men into battle is a recipe for disaster. Crixus and Naevia continue to disagree with Spartacus’ decision to keep the Romans alive- they see them as nothing more than a drain on the already short food supplies.
Early in “Decimation” , Julius Caesar managed to infiltrate the rebel base, taking the guise of a runaway slave who’s come to join the rebellion’s ranks. I had long thought that infiltrating Spartacus’ ranks was the reasoning behind Marcus Crassus’ order to keep Caesar unshaven, and now we see this plan brought to fruition. I was glad to see the question of why Caesar was cutting himself answered in this episode, as it just seemed such a random thing to showcase. Turns out it was all part of his plan to sneak into Spartacus’ camp unsuspected.
Tiberius is shown being bandaged up, after his ill-advised assault on the rebels. It seemed like a far graver wound in “Men of Honor”, and it seems like with hardly any time passed he’s back up on his feet, which was odd but I suppose necessary for plot purposes. Marcus Crassus visits him to bring him up to speed on his plans and Caesar’s incursion in the rebel encampment. He then tells Tiberius that it’s time for his soldiers to be punished for retreating in the face of danger against Spartacus’ men.
Crixus wants the city gates closed, and Agron and Gannicus appear to be of a similar mind. They mention that far too many unknowns have passed through, though Spartacus refuses to turn his back on any slaves that would join his cause (of course it was only a matter of time before Crassus devised a strategy to take advantage of this). Gannicus ponders that if Spartacus were to fall from the blade of an intruder, who would lead the rebels in his absence? When Spartacus immediately reveals Crixus as his choice for successor in such a situation, Gannicus appears a bit disappointed, or maybe dumbfounded. It’s no secret that these two don’t get along well, and Naevia only makes the situation between them worse. Agron pledges to be Spartacus’ shadow until the threat is exposed.
While the rebels are training, Gannicus lays eyes upon Caesar, and clearly has a bone to pick with him- he wants to see how he holds up against a worthy opponent. Crixus watches to see if any show signs of Roman training. Naevia mentions that this is pointless, as it would be easy to simply feign ignorance in combat, but Crixus believes that a cornered enemy would show his true colors. The match between Gannicus and Caesar was well-done, and I’m sure it’s a prelude to a far more intense match-up in the future. Also, the “defender of goats” line was hilarious to me for some reason.
Tiberius gets chewed out by Marcus Crassus, who is quite pissed that his first campaign battle ended in a win for Spartacus. Clearly, Tiberius’ plan to seize opportunity and gain favor in his father’s eyes has completely backfired. Crassus makes it abundantly clear that retreating from the enemy will not be tolerated; he makes it his mission to make his men fear himself more than the rebellion. He decides that decimation is the answer, an act where 50 stones are drawn by the soldiers. Those who draw the five white stones are brutally beaten until their death.
Tiberius’ close friend Sabinus seems to appear every so often just to play up their close relationship, but in my eyes it just falls incredibly flat. It’s obvious once the decimation is announced that it won’t end well for his friend. I sensed a bit of sexual tension between the two men as well, especially during their embrace, but I’m not sure it was intentional.
There was a great scene where Tiberius was scolded by Marcus Crassus before the decimation, when he was about to beg for the life of his friend. Showing absolutely no mercy, Crassus demanded that Tiberius stand with his men as any other soldier. Of course, Tiberius draws a black stone while his friend draws white, and so Tiberius is tasked with beating his friend mercilessly until he dies, all to set an example. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects his relationship with Crassus- will he respect him for trying to harden him into a man, or will he seek vengeance against his heartless father?
Naevia continues to manipulate Crixus with her words. It’s obvious that his love for her takes precedence over any kind of reasoning, and he’s essentially a mad dog being led by an even madder woman. Her whispers drive Crixus to lead the rebels in taking up arms and murdering all the remaining captives. The bloody massacre is shown side-by-side with the decimation, and it was definitely hard to watch.
Spartacus springs to action when he is told of the killings, but he’s too late to save anyone but Laeta. When it’s revealed to him that she is the cause of Attius’ death, Crixus begs him to take her life. He refuses to do so, saying he would not sink to the depths of those he fights against. He then calls into question his own reasoning in trusting Crixus as a leader, and vows that anyone who further disobeys his command will fall just as the Romans. The tension between these two is at an all-time high, and it will be interesting to see how things progress in the next episode, as it appears that Crixus and Naevia may be forming their own group.
While “Decimation” did a great job of building up tension, it felt longer than it was just because there were so damn many plot twists and turns, and not a whole lot of action. It succeeded at painting the rebels in a darker, more savage light, and there was some great characterization of Crassus and Tiberius, but hopefully there’s far less exposition and more fighting next week.