“Show an animal kindness, and it will give loyalty until the Heaven’s fall. Show nothing but the lash and wonder not why it bares teeth.” Laeta (Anna Hutchison) may be a late addition to the show, but already she’s cemented herself as the most intelligent character to grace the script. More than anyone else, she realizes that the rebel army is a monster of their own making, even before Spartacus learns that lesson the hard way towards the end of the episode.
The episode opens with everyone’s favorite horse trainer sparring with Naevia. Fitting, considering the heavy-handed animal themes of the episode. He is summoned to Spartacus’ side because Spartacus has decided he needs a city to protect his ever-growing family. Specifically, he wants the horse trainer’s city because it is well supplied with grain, nestled safely against the coast, and the best access point from Rome is blocked for most of the winter due to mountain passes. A small group could open the gates from the inside at night, but the guards at the gate take all weapons from people entering the city. Which isn’t a problem, because Gannicus has a rather shifty blacksmith friend who, swayed by enough coin, would be willing to aid them in the cause. Spartacus has an endless supply of coin for this endeavor as well, that was surprisingly not pick-pocketed.
Of course, Spartacus wouldn’t be himself if he wasn’t constantly drawing attention to his action. Like, killing that slave when he was being stoned to spare him the pain. Or making friends with Laeta. Or generally doing things that make him stand out. He would make the world’s worst spy. Night falls, and they discover that the guards are constantly armed on the streets at night to prepare for rebellion. So they enlist the help of the blacksmith again, and he is quickly becoming my favorite character. The rebels invade and they not only kill the guards, but they also slaughter the women and children living inside the city walls as well. One of the more provocative themes of this season is the notion that Sparatacus and his rebels were not necessarily the good guys, a point that is driven poignantly home to Spartacus himself. Even if Rome turned his army into the pack of wild animals it has become, not all Romans were responsible for turning the lash upon slaves. There were plenty of Roman citizens who didn’t even have slaves. The reality of what his army is becoming sinks in when he finds the body of a mother and child he had spoken with earlier.
As for the Roman side of things, Caesar (Todd Lasance) is also an animal. His lineage is described as being descendant of Romulus himself, likening him to a wolf. Even better, he acts like a jackass ninety percent of the time, and Tiberius thinks he engages in some bizarre sexual practices. (Most likely, he was engaging in blood-letting as a treatment for some disease, possibly epilepsy.) He also looks like a blond Cesare, which is actually quite fitting.
The real animals portrayed in the show also deserve a special mention. Everyone’s favorite horse trainer met his end at the hand of his former master, after Spartacus assured him that his master would be the one to kneel before him. Last week when we saw our good friend, he was cutting up a horse, a valuable animal, for food. He respected the horse about as well as the Romans respected their slaves, thus furthering the notion of turning into your enemy. The other animals that have been featured this season, albeit in a more subtle manner, are Crassus’ dogs. In both episodes, we’ve been treated to these beautiful, loyal, obedient dogs. A far cry from our favorite horse trainer indeed.
Obviously the question remains as to how long Spartacus will be able to keep his rebels under control. Already they’ve started slaughtering innocents, their hatred twisting the entire group into a monster that sees all Romans as enemy, irregardless of guilt. Obviously this change doesn’t sit well with Spartacus himself, but as he also helped fuel their hatred of this monster, it’s difficult to say if he’ll be able to stop it.
Special mention goes out to Indiana Crixus and his super roll under the gate and the dramatic dive to catch the flame before it hit the oil. He’s a regular super hero.