I’ve been a huge fan of Spartacus from the first season, but due to a lack of Starz and the inability to see every episode of the current season, I have yet to mention my love for this show. However, recent events in the series and subsequent discussion have prompted me to break my silence.
On this show sexuality is about revealing one’s true self to others—even if one’s true self is manipulative (like Lucretia and Albinius) or violent (Lucretia and Ashur.) It’s not pretty, but Ashur’s scenes with Lucretia have told us more about his character and his character’s motivations than any other scenes in the previous two seasons of the show. On Spartacus, sex reveals the person within—it’s intimacy that is physical, emotional, and psychological. And while it’s thrilling—seriously—to keep witnessing the excited, playful giddiness of Agron and Nasir as they romp and kiss, I feel as though we’re being deliberately denied a key aspect of their development. When Agron said to Crixus a few episodes back that he now understood why Crixus wanted to go to the mines to rescue Naevia, it was a beautiful sentiment. But it left me asking, in all sincerity, “Why?” Since we haven’t seen that kind of real intimacy between the two characters, part of their development as a couple—and as characters to the audience—remains sorely lacking.
In the end, when it comes to media, representation is important. Representation is everything. And, in the end…we’re not being represented. Not quite equally—and, maybe sadly, we’re used to that. But, after a while, the old lesson dawns on us yet again: separate really is not equal.
– From the afterelton.com review of Episode 2×08: Balance
I am going to have to respectively disagree with the above statements. Despite its short length, the scene in question not only gives us a new dynamic to explore with the characters, but it also works into greater themes of the entire season. In fact, for a 52 second clip, the writers, directors and actors managed to fit a lot in.
We’ll start with the aspects of character development. Its clear from very early in the scene that Nasir has complete control over the sexual aspect of the relationship. He pushes Agron away and tells them they have to wait (which he quickly recants on), and he initiates the sexual part of the scene by trailing his hand down Agron’s stomach and lower. However, as soon as Mira interrupts them, he quickly defers back to Agron’s leadership, looking to him to come up with an excuse for why they weren’t standing guard and waiting for him to relent before following Mira’s advice to go to bed.
Which brings me to the larger point this scene represents, that of sexual freedom. Sexual freedom has been an undercurrent throughout the entire season, with some characters like Mira and Nasir gaining it, while others like Lucretia have had it taken away. Personally, I feel the fact that the creators are even exploring the concept of sexual freedom in a mostly heterosexual show with a homosexual couple is refreshing. We can safely presume that Nasir has been a body slave for most of his life, much like Mira has. He has never actually had the option to choose who he wanted to have sex with, nor has he ever been allowed to say no. So, at the beginning of the scene, there is a moment I initially found awkward where Nasir tells Agron they have to wait but then immediately decides that a quickie never hurt anybody.
What was at first disconcerting quickly became clear that Nasir was experimenting with his newfound sexual freedom and his ability to say no. The fact that he has a choice is alluring enough that he concedes for them to just go at it right against the wall, not even very far from Ilithyia. Mira, however, also spent most of her life as a body slave and should be getting that same sense of sexual freedom, freedom that she seems to be lacking. It’s no coincidence that she was the one to walk in on them, and the parallels between her relationship with Spartacus and Nasir and Agron’s relationship has built up since the fifth episode.
The first time Agron kissed Nasir in episode 5, after Spartacus tells them they need to move, the camera cuts away from Agron to Mira, making that face in the upper left picture. At first, I was confused that they would cut away to Mira, but then things kept happening. While watching Crixus train Naevia, Nasir comes up to Mira and they start talking about how lucky Naevia is to be so loved. Nasir informs her that she is too, because Spartacus loves her. Meanwhile, Mira is sitting on the temple steps alone, playing with a knife while Crixus refuses to leave Naevia’s side, and even Nasir has Agron’s coat while he’s away. Then when Agron and Spartacus return, Agron moves straight towards Nasir to give him a hug and kiss while Spartacus… doesn’t even greet Mira upon his return. At this point, I’m doubting that Mira is feeling the love. Which brings us to episode 8, where Mira walks in on Nasir and Agron getting hot and heavy in the corridor, unable to come up with a good reason as to why they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, right before Spartacus tells Mira that she doesn’t know his heart. Harsh. Where the writers are headed with it at this point I can’t say for certain, but I know it will be epic.
On a related note, Mira doesn’t know the concept of sexual freedom in the same way Nasir does, despite having the same former status as Nasir and being a regular bed companion for Spartacus. Because in the long run, she didn’t chose Spartacus. The first time she had sex with him, she really didn’t know him from any other gladiator. He was chosen for her, by Batiatus, and when Spartacus turned her down, it became just enough of a challenge for her to think that she actually wanted him. I don’t believe Mira ever stopped to think if she was with Spartacus because she really loved him, or because if she remained with him after the rebellion because it was comfortable and familiar while everything else was getting turned upside down. Because quite frankly, when compared to the way Agron treats Nasir, which is demonstrated quite frequently on the show, Spartacus treats Mira like dirt. Like she’s nothing more than another warrior at his side and a warm body in his bed. If that. Since Mira has rather grown on me this season, I’m kind of hoping that the Agron and Nasir story line is going to help her come to that conclusion, and as a result, make her a much stronger character.
Finally, this is a point that I cannot stress enough in regards to the sex scene that people are both clamoring for and lamenting the lack of. They are happy and in love. There’s not really much that a sex scene is going to add to that. Crixus and Naevia only had their sex scene when Ashur was watching them, which quite frankly was the end of the honeymoon period for them. So please stop asking for their demise. As to the point afterelton.com made about gays not getting equal representation: Nasir and Agron are not lacking in sex scenes because they are gay. They are lacking sex scenes because they are in love, and most of the other couples on this show are dysfunctional, to say the least.