SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE 2.03 ‘The Greater Good’

Ashur tortures Oenomaus with long buried secrets as Spartacus and Crixus launch a dangerous mission to rescue Naevia.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "The Greater Good"

Writer: Tracy Bellomo

Director: Brendan Maher

Previously on "Spartacus: Vengeance":

Episode 2.02: "A Place in This World"

Story:

In the opening moments, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) and his men assail a slave wagon and liberate the slaves after a bloody battle. As Crixus (Manu Bennett) shouts out his description of his lost lover, Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson); one of the slaves mistakes him for Spartacus. Instead of dwelling on that, Spartacus repeats the description of Naevia; which captures the attention of a dying slaver who pleads for his life in exchange for information about Naevia. Agron (Daniel Feuerriegel) and Nasir (Pana Hema-Taylor) hear the man speak before Agron brutally kills him. Agron then tells Crixus that Naevia is dead.

Crixus is inconsolable in his grief, and even Spartacus can not lift his spirits with promises of vengeance against their Roman oppressors. Privately, Nasir is unsure about withholding the truth from Crixus, but Agron insists that it would be suicide to tell Crixus of Naevia's true fate and attempt a rescue. Back in Capua, Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) is less than impressed with Ashur (Nick Tarabay) and his gift of Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) in chains. To prove his willingness to follow Glaber, Ashur cuts the flesh from his arm that bore the mark of the House of Batiatus.

Shortly thereafter, Ashur is given permission to begin torturing Oenomaus for information about Spartacus. However, Glaber is blindsided by the arrival of his father-in-law and Varinius (Brett Tucker), whom Glaber's wife, Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) seems to be far too intimate with for Glaber's comfort. Further undermining Glaber is the reception of Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) as someone blessed by the Gods. Glaber is also commanded to supply his troops for the gladiatorial games and host them instead of committing his forces to the pursuit of Spartacus.

As Spartacus lays out a strategy for all of the fighting men in his group, Crixus returns and throws his support behind Spartacus in view of all. As the freed slaves pack what they can, one of the slave girls notes Nasir's infatuation with Agron, much to his embarrassment. Crixus takes Nasir aside and says that Spartacus was right to spare him and train him. Feeling guilty, Nasir confesses Naevia's survival to Crixus, who immediately attacks Agron for lying about it. Spartacus is also incensed and he strikes Agron for his deception and says that he will follow Crixus to free Naevia from the heavily guarded mines.

However, Agron refuses to risk his life for Naevia and other like-minded warriors join him; effectively cutting the slave army in two. Nasir chooses to accompany Spartacus and Crixus, and Agron tells the survivors to rejoin him at Vesuvius. At the House of Batiatus, Oenomaus proves to be too strong to break under conventional torture. So Lucretia let's Ashur in on a long held secret: Oenomaus’ wife Melitta (Marisa Ramirez) was unfaithful towards him with Gannicus (Dustin Clare); which is why Melitta accidentally drank the poisoned wine on the night she died.

Oenomaus is stunned by the accusation, but even he can't deny that their odd behavior now makes sense. In defiance, Oenomaus reveals that Crixus will be reunited with Naevia; which let's Ashur infer that Spartacus and Crixus will head to the mines to rescue her. At the mines, Nasir poses as their captor with Spartacus, Mira (Katrina Law), Crixus and the other Gauls pretend to be slaves. The Roman slave master berates them for being late, but Mira presents herself as a pleasure slave whom the Roman eagerly escorts back to his tent before attempting to rape her.

Instead, Mira gets the upper hand and forces the man to reveal Naevia's location and she even has to kill the man when he tries to overpower her. Outside, Spartacus and the others quickly dispatch the slaver's men and enter the mine with two of their own left behind posing as guards. Back in Capua, Seppius (Tom Hobbs) and Seppia ( Hanna Mangan Lawrence) are initially amused when Glaber's troops no-show the games. However, their joy is short-lived when Glaber announces to the crowd that he has sent his men to destroy Spartacus for the glory of Rome.

Glaber's men arrive at the mines and they are initially fooled by Spartacus' men. But Ashur recognizes them as gladiators from the House of Batiatus and he exposes their deception. Inside the mine, Mira leads the group deep underground where Nasir finds Naevia and reunites her with Crixus. Unfortunately, the Roman soldiers are closing in on them. Outnumbered and trapped, Crixus hands Naevia to Spartacus and bids him to keep her safe over her anguished cries. Spartacus waits as long as possible for Crixus to break away from the Romans and flee with them. However, Ashur delivers the blow that brings down Crixus, forcing Spartacus to leave him behind.

Breakdown:

It's a good sign that "Spartacus: Vengeance" wrapped up the search for Naevia after only three episodes. But it might be a while before the quest to free Crixus is over.

That's right, I don't believe that Crixus is dead. It's a great cliffhanger, but Crixus is far too important to this series for him to go down for good so easily. And Ashur's blow looked more like it was intended to knock out Crixus rather than deliver a fatal strike. Manu Bennett had some really good moments as Crixus lost himself to grief and committed himself to Spartacus. The writers have also done a great job of bridging the gap between them by constantly having Spartacus prove his loyalty towards Crixus, even at the expense of his own command.

Nick Tarabay got most of the best moments as Ashur continued to ingratiate himself with Glaber. Ashur is just such a snake that it's almost inherently funny to watch his poisonous words bare fruit. The revelation that Ashur saved Lucretia from her fatal wound also made sense, but it's a little unclear if their alliance is fully formed. I assumed last week that Lucretia was pretending to be devoted to the Gods as a scheme to allow Ashur to return and to help Lucretia once again rise in Roman society. But from their conversation this week, Lucretia seemed to really believe that her survival at Ashur's hands was the work of the Gods.

However, I'm still not convinced that Lucretia is as crazy as she's tried to portray herself. She's far too calm and reserved after her wild-eyed appearance in the season opener. In short, Lucretia doesn't seem to be hiding the return of her mental facilities… if she even lost them before.

Surprisingly, Nasir was a lot less objectionable this week and he seemed more sincere about joining Spartacus' cause. The angle with Agron was interesting because I don't think that he's going to reciprocate Nasir's feelings. And Nasir did betray Agron's trust to Crixus, which should leave some lingering bad blood between them. Even Spartacus might be on the outs with Agron now that his right hand man has broken the group in two. And it's not like the Gauls are likely to line up behind Spartacus without Crixus there beside him.

If there's anyone awaiting the return of Gannicus to the show, I think that it happened in this episode. And not just in the flashbacks to "Gods of the Arena." I believe that the masked gladiator who dominated the others in the gladiatorial games was Gannicus himself, to be dramatically revealed at a later date. Of course, the writers will need to explain why a freed man would fight in the games, but maybe Gannicus just can't live unless he's getting the glory he always wanted.

I do have to take issue with the way that Oenomaus learned the truth about his wife and Gannicus this week. Without Gannicus being directly present for that revelation, it seemed a little flat. I'm still looking forward to Oenomaus and Gannicus eventually fighting over the betrayal, but the potential impact has already been lessened.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.