Warning: Minor Spoilers included!
The final episode of the first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand was titled, “Kill Them All”. That might as well have been the title of the season finale of Spartacus: Vengeance as we have the deaths of not one, not two, not three, not four, but five…and possibly even six…of the show’s main characters, not to mention a couple of recurring supporting characters. These are characters that have been around from the beginning, several in fact since the very first episode. I cannot recall a TV series with this extensive of a character purge in a single episode.
Spartacus and his gladiators have been forced to retreat to Mt. Vesuvius. Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) is content to wait the rebellious slaves out and let them starve on the mountain rather than risk and attack where Spartacus holds the advantage of the higher ground. Glaber’s tactic is changed when his wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) pleads with him to end the rebellion so her baby can be born back in Rome. Spartacus knows he cannot wait any longer and must devise a dangerous strategy to attempt to defeat the Romans.
The machinations and treacheries of several characters are finally played out, and for some the results are disastrous. To say that some of the more despised characters finally get what’s been coming to them would be a vast understatement. As a fan I have to admit to having a mark out moment and giving a huge “HELL YEAH!” to Gannicus for what he did during the finale.
“Wrath of the Gods” resolved the strained relationships between several of the characters before its conclusion including Gannicus and Oenomaus, Spartacus and Mira, and Crixus and Naevia. Glaber, for all his bravado and arrogance, proves that ancient men, even those in authority such as the Roman Praetor, can be just as whipped as modern men by their wives. Ultimately it is Ilithyia, whom Glaber was content to let die just a couple of episodes earlier, who pushes him to ultimate ruin. And then there is Lucretia (Lucy Lawless)…Oh that conniving, crazy Lucretia. The finale shows that despite the fact she was in show throughout the second season, she really did in fact die, for all intents and purposes, as the end of the first season.
The finale accomplishes a couple of main goals. First, it effectively wraps up the main plotlines that were started back in the first season. Secondly, with these plotlines wrapped up, and all of the non-essential characters killed off, it sets the table for season three to infuse the show with several new characters and take the show in a new direction. Historically, this is the point where Spartacus eventually raises an army that included tens of thousands of former slaves forcing Rome to send some 50,000 thousand soldiers in response. Whether or not season three will reflect that vast scope remains to be scene, but for the most part, Spartacus’ battle with Glaber at Mt. Vesuvius was historically accurate. If the show follows history, Marcus Licinius Crassus should become the main antagonist next season.
“Wrath of the Gods” was also noteworthy for a couple of other reasons. Liam McIntyre was put into the unenviable position of replacing Andy Whitfield as Spartacus. A difficult prospect not only because Whitfield was so good, but also due to his tragic death due to cancer. For most of the season, the writers have protected McIntyre by making the show much more action focused as well as having other characters such as Glaber, Illithyia, Ashur and Seppia get significant screen time. McIntyre doesn’t have Whitfield’s presence or charisma, but the finale was his finest hour. He displays a level of emotion that he hasn’t shown all season and his speech at the end of the episode was every bit as rousing as Whitfield’s at the end of season one. The other thing noteworthy from the finale is that there wasn’t a single exposed boob in the entire episode. For a show that has become as well known for its sex as much as its violence, the complete absence of the usual T&A was surprising. And one other thing I want to make not of… Stephen Dunlevy who played the silent, Egyptian mercenary set a new standard for badass characters.
“Wrath of the Gods” was everything a season finale should be…it was exciting, emotional, loaded with surprises, and whet our appetites for the next season.