Decimation finds rivals Spartacus and Marcus Crassus forced to deal with disciplinary problems among their soldiers. After the disastrous, Tiberius led attack on Spartacus and his new pirate allies; Crassus decides to take extreme measures to instill fear within his men. To punish those who fled the field of battle Crassus enacts the ancient practice of decimation, i.e. putting to death one in every ten soldiers by having them randomly draw lots. How much of a badass is Crassus? He even has his own son take part in the drawing random stones to determine his fate.
Meanwhile, as Spartacus tries to barter with the Celician pirates for more food to feed his troops, his men grow increasingly disgruntled over the keeping of the Roman slaves. Many of his soldiers, notably Crixus, Naevia, and Nemetes want the Romans to be killed outright. Nemetes soon finds a new ally when Julius Caesar, in the guise of a former slave, infiltrates the city and begins fomenting unrest amongst Spartacus’s forces.
The former slave girl Sibyl discovers that Laeta has several Romans hidden in her husband’s stable and informs Gannicus. Gannicus orders Saxa to take the Romans safely to Spartacus while he confronts Naevia over the killing Attius, the Roman blacksmith. This leads to a fight between Gannicus and Crixus in which Gannicus quickly gains the advantage until Naevia coldcocks him with a rock.
Throughout its three plus year run Spartacus has earned its reputation as the most bloody and brutal show ever seen on TV. Spartacus’s blood soaked action has even made The Walking Dead seem tame in comparison. Yet nothing seen in any previous episode compares for the ruthless ballet of gore that takes place this week. Alternating between Crassus’s camp and Spartacus’s stronghold, we see the helpless Roman captives butchered by the slaves, while Crassus’s soldiers use heavy clubs to beat to death the five unfortunate men who drew the random white stones. This is shown in almost torturous slow-motion, fully emphasizing the equal cruelty of both Romans and slaves alike.
This was as powerful an episode as the series has ever produced. In a heart-wrenching scene that showed another side of the character, Caesar finds a Roman woman has been held captive without Spartacus’s knowledge. The slaves have taken turns raping and mutilating her until she lies near death. Caeser can barely contain his rage and his sorrow and ends her torment by putting her out of her misery. It’s a scene that leaves you conflicted because it fully demonstrates that despite Spartacus’s best efforts, his men are proving to be every bit as heartless as their former captors.
Crassus also proves again why he is far more formidable than any other Roman commander that Spartacus has encountered previously, even willing to sacrifice his own son to make sure his men know whom it is that they should fear. Spartacus is going to have some serious issues to deal with. Crixus and Naevia have become out and out mutinous and I for one would love to see that crazy witch Naevia dealt with. How about a Naevia and Saxa brawl to the death! Gannicus, while generally supporting the idea that the Romans should be killed, at least maintains his honor in following orders.
Powerful, emotionally draining, and savage to the extreme, this one of the best episodes since the first season finale.