Part 2 of 6
Date of airing: January 28, 2011 (Starz)
Nielsen ratings information: 1.136 million viewers, 0.5/1 with Adults 18-49
In which Gaia turned into the sex broker of the House of Batiatus, because without her Batiatus and Lucretia would be unable to force the attention of Quintilius Varis. The writers definitely did themselves a favor by creating Gaia and have her drop into the House of Batiatus, because she managed to drive the story forwards within two hours, where the characters are already facing doom and emotional harm. Without Gaia, Batiatus would not have the primus. Without Gaia, Crixus would not have fought Gannicus, which was driving Doctore nuts and angry towards Oenomaus (although the latter is the fault of Batiatus’ hatred of his own father, wanting to get rid of the establishment in the House of Batiatus). Without Gaia, Batiatus would probably not have seen a way to go against Tullius and have his shit-eater student Vettius beat up by the Syrians and the other recruit whose name eludes me (who cares about that guy, now that his throat has been cut out of his neck after the attack on Vettius?), because Batiatus would not have found a way to keep Varis happy or occupied with other thoughts, so in a way you can blame Vettius’ wounds and the dead gladiator on Gaia as well. And while all of the movement in the narrative looks good, when you think about it, how it came to be, and who was behind all that moment, you start to question if Gaia could ever become anything more than the one who steers the story. Can she be her own character with her own emotional depth or will she be too busy to create yet a few more twists on the road?
It has become noticeable how low-key SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA is so far. The first two episodes of SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND already had the titular character trying to defy the norms of establishment and having to pay for it with disrespect and almost-death by the Crixus’ sword, while also trying the best to introduce all the characters, but after two episodes of SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA, all we had to deal with so far was Batiatus’ efforts to get one of his gladiators into a primus, as well as the marriage of Oenomaus and Melitta, now to be troubled by an extramarital rape which will most likely complicate Gannicus’ friendship with the new Doctore. Those are storylines you would normally get within one and the same episode, but the writers expanded it to two hours, showcasing once more that the Spartacus television show likes to create back story. And let’s not forget that these episodes were initially planned to be just one (maybe two) flashback episodes for the second season, if its necessary expansion into a miniseries hadn’t been forced by Andy Whitfield’s illness and later retreat from the titular role.
The low-key narrative of this miniseries does give attention to the character arcs, which in this episode happened to be somewhat fine ones. I don’t know yet whether or not I should care about the extramarital rape and if it is going to trouble Oenomaus’ marriage with his slave wife, but fact is that there is some predictability in the story and it doesn’t get me any more excitement about what’s to come. As previously stated, “Delicate Things” mentioned the dead wife of the Doctore, but for this miniseries she is alive, which means her death is most likely going to be depicted. Leading towards that death by creating a story that could ruin a marriage (and it doesn’t even matter here that it is a case of rape) might be interesting for this very batch of episodes, as well as for Oenomaus, but at this point it only helps the show to take a bit of a distance from the blood and sex and instead focus on a character-based narrative. It wouldn’t hurt SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA at all if it were to focus on the characters a little more in the future and has some of the sex and gore scenes reduced for the sake of a narrative. But then again, maybe we wouldn’t have a story set in ancient Rome then.
The aftermath of the beating Batiatus has experienced was great though. The man may have been on the path of evil before, but after he was wounded in the back alleys of Capua, it almost felt like Batiatus was not just beaten for the sake of entertainment and bullying, but also to give him a path towards the villain he will become in SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND. He has already taken action against Vettius, and the fact that the little shit-eater isn’t dead right now could be explained by the fact that Batiatus hasn’t ordered someone’s death yet, let alone killed someone himself. Meanwhile, Batiatus has become the scheming mastermind that we have come to meet and fall in love with during the first season, and once more the man knows how to make sure that loose ends are removed. Having the slave whose name I still cannot recall be killed by Ashur after the deed was done was a gruesome scene (okay, this may have been the first time Batiatus ordered someone’s death, so this episode may have broken new ground with the character) and it proved that Batiatus was ready to do everything to get his bidding done.
In the meantime, Crixus was fighting towards championship in Capua and the gods heard his pleas to take that position from Gannicus during a showing for Varis. I loved the sparks that flew when their swords clashed, and I generally loved the notion that Crixus’ fight skills have proven Oenomaus’ status as a teacher in the ludus, which also means Crixus fought so well against Gannicus, he indirectly caused Oenomaus from being removed from arena fights forever. Should Oenomaus be angry at Crixus for being such a great fighter? I was also impressed by the notion that the whole showing in front of Varis led to the death of the original Doctore, although questions remain why Oenomaus had to turn into the new Doctore this quickly in the miniseries. Grated, there is a story to be told with a character on a new path, but this episode teased Batiatus’ unhappiness with the status quo his father left him, and suddenly that status quo was gone when Oenomaus’ sword found way into Doctore’s body. If only there had been time to play with the premise of the status quo being challenged by Batiatus.