The question of whether Spartacus would find out about Crixus and his army being wiped out by Marcus Crassus is answered in the opening moments of “The Dead and the Dying” when a lone rider approaches Spartacus’s camp. Naevia, wounded but living, was released and returns to Spartacus carrying Crixus’s head as a way for Crassus to mock his enemy. But Spartacus learns even worse news, discovering that war hero Pompey has returned with his legions. Not wanting to be caught between two armies, Spartacus undertakes a dangerous plot. Using the rivalry between Crassus and Pompey, he kills several of Pompey’s advance scouts and uses their uniforms to have several of his men to pose as emissaries.
They invite Crassus to meet with Pompey at a neutral site with only 20 men each to work out strategy. Crassus is reluctant as he is worried that Pompey, and not he may get credit for defeating Spartacus. However Pompey is highly favored by the Roman senate and there is no way that Crassus can ignore the request. Caesar however suggests sending Tiberius in his stead. Ah, but you have to love Caesar! After his humiliation at Tiberius’s hands in the last episode, Caesar is looking for revenge. He knows, or at least strongly suspects that the men are actually Spartacus’s men in disguise but says nothing.
The trap is sprung as Spartacus himself captures Tiberius, dragging him off his horse as he attempts to flee. Tiberius and his contingent of men are taken to the remains of an old coliseum where they will be used as sport to fight the gladiators in the same way the Gladiators were used as sport for the Romans. The Gladiators take the turns facing the Roman soldiers. Spartacus takes on two Romans, even facing them without weapons, killing them both. Gannicus one-ups him by taking on and killing three Romans. Then Lugo, Saxa, and Nasir all get their chance before only Tiberius is left to face off against Naevia.
There’s a moment when Tiberius, beaten and trembling with fear, looks up into the stands of the assembled mass of the slave army and you can see him almost looking completely diminished. He looks younger and smaller than ever, like a child playing dress-up in his armor and holding his sword. What a striking and powerful scene and one had to hope that the arrogant little cuss finally got what was coming to him. But at the last moment a bargain is struck by Caesar who reluctantly arrives with an offer to trade 500 captured slaves for Tiberius. Yet fate intervenes again and things do not go according to plan.
For Spartacus, who has always thought with his head with remarkable clarity, this is the first time in a while that he allows himself to let loose his anger on the Roman captives. Using the battles as tribute to Crixus, he lets loose his long pent up aggressions and allows his men (and women) to do the same.
Todd Lasance again steals the show as Caesar. He’s a hard guy to root against because despite his deviousness he’s still a man of honor and wants to see Tiberius pay not only for what he did to him, but also for his assault on Kore. His rivalry with Crassus becomes more heated when Crassus orders him to take the trade offer to Spartacus, even if it means he might be killed. Another outstanding episode in what has been the best season yet of an already great series!