‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ Review: “Decimation”
‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ turns brother against brother with its fourth episode of the final season “Decimation,” as Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) struggles to prevent his men from turning on the Roman captives, as Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance) slips in among the rebels, while Tiberius (Christian Antidormi) and his men face the brutal practice of Decimation for their actions in fleeing the last battle.
Last time’s ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ episode “Men of Honor” saw Spartacus bargaining with a group of morally dubious pirates in order to secure his rebel city’s food supply, while Tiberius attempted to get out from under the shadow of Caesar by staging a bold attack on the rebel forces, so what will the latest episode of ‘Spartacus’ final season bring? Will the rebel armies triumph over Rome, or go down in history as a failed slave uprising?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ episode 4, “Decimation!”
Heracleo (Vince Colosimo) and his pirates bring in their latest plunder, as Spartacus argues with Crixus that their dwindling food supplies cause greater concern than potentially going after Crassus in his men. As Heracleo explains that many Romans have taken to buying up all the grain in preparation for winter, Spartacus receives word of imminent Roman arrivals at the main gate.
Passing a bound Roman man pleading for his sister, Spartacus arrives at the gate to find a great influx of new slave rebels, not all of whom can be easily identified on their way in. Speaking with a woman who claims to have knowledge of Crassus’ army’s size, Spartacus and his men find themselves interrupted by a small Roman cadre storming the gate, who are swiftly defeated by an arriving hooded slave…none other than Julius Caesar himself in disguise! Caesar shows the wound on his leg as evidence he cut off his brand, and Spartacus allows him entry.
Elsewhere, Sabinus watches Tiberius’ wound tended to, lamenting that Crassus has not come to see his son since he arrived back at the camp in defeat. As the pair wonder where Caesar went, Crassus himself arrives to explain that the man went on a secret mission among the rebels, and that after his son heals, they’ll discuss punishment for the earlier breach of command.
Spartacus and his lieutenants continue to strategize, noting how Crassus seems to use their own tactics against them, but Spartacus assures Crixus the smarter move is to keep their advantage within the city walls rather than attack. Of greater concern for the moment are the influx of new, potentially dangerous slaves, for which Agron volunteers to act as bodyguard to Spartacus.
Gannicus continues training the new recruits, including Caesar, as Crixus and Naevia eye him with suspicion. When Gannicus soundly bests Caesar in combat, Nemetes (Ditch Davey) introduces himself to the disguised man, who calls himself “Lysiscus.” Noticing Tiberius’ sword at Crixus belt, “Lysiscus” proposes to Nemetes they might both look to find coin within the city.
Spartacus visits Laeta (Anna Hutchison) to ask what she knows of Crassus (not noticing the Romans beneath the stable), but she only extolls the man’s virtue, and reveals the general’s habit of deceiving enemies with false correspondence. Elsewhere, Crassus finally scolds Tiberius for his actions breaking command, and threatens that the men will have to be punished so as to fear their commanders more-so than the enemy. Ordered to prepare the white stones doomed men will draw in "Decimation" at random out of a bag, Tiberius laments the task while Sabinus (Aaron Jakubenko) assures him they will both do as commanded.
When Spartacus and Agron appear in the local bar looking for Heracleo, Caesar notes to Nemetes that Spartacus tends not to treat his brothers as equals, and preys on Nemetes’ doubts by suggesting they work together to relieve the city of its errant coin. Nearby, Laeta secrets a cache of bread to take to her Roman survivors, dropping the load when she bumps into Sibyl (Gwendoline Taylor). Noting the kindness the woman had shown in the past, Sibyl nervously promises not to speak of it.
While the Roman man from earlier continues pleading for news of his sister Fabia, Gannicus and Saxa prevent the rebels from harming the man any further. Both continue to question the wisdom of Spartacus’ choice to keep the Romans alive, when Sibyl appears and explains she has an urgent matter for Gannicus' attention.
Back at the Roman camp, Crassus and Kore continue their affair in secret, noting how much better they feel together away from Rome, though Crassus still worries about the attitude his son carries toward his position. Kore urges Crassus to recognize that Tiberius has proved himself a valuable soldier, which Crassus seems to take less comfort in. Meanwhile in the city, Spartacus finds Heracleo, and proposes they add to the mutual arrangement with a special plan he has in mind.
Back at the bar, Crixus and Naevia make a show of roughing up Nemetes, asking for an update of his evaluation of “Lysiscus.” Nemetes reveals that he has but one more test of loyalty for the man, and brings Caesar before a naked, captive and bloodied Roman woman. Nemetes explains that Caesar’s loyalty will be confirmed if he rapes and marks her as they have, but once left alone, Caesar explains to the woman that his forces will soon overtake the city. In agony from the repeated abuse, the woman begs Caesar to take her life, before identifying herself as Fabia. Tearfully, Caesar obliges and carries her body out to Nemetes, claiming he would see the same done to all the captive Romans.
Back at the Roman camp, Crassus stands before the men and announces their failure to uphold the sacramentum of their oath, for which they will suffer the deadly consequences. Tiberius pleads one last time for his father to relent, but in doing so, Crassus admits he has favored the boy, and will now treat him as one of the soldiers. All of the men draw from the bags of stones, as Tiberius is relieved to find his own black, though Sabinus carries one of the five white stones that mark him for death.
Gannicus and Saxa catch Laeta in the act of feeding her Romans, learning that Attius had nothing to do with their disappearances, and races off to find Naevia while instructing the Romans be delivered to Spartacus. Meanwhile in the town square, Nemetes and Caesar bring the Roman man’s dead sister Fabia out, declaring that all the slaves deserve to kill their former Roman oppressors. Gannicus arrives, coming to blows with Crixus over Naevia’s unjust murder of Attius, before Naevia breaks up the fight. Reluctantly, Crixus caves to the crowds demands and leads an uprising to kill any remaining Roman slaves.
As per Decimation, Tiberius tearfully joins in beating Sabinus and the others to death, while back in the city Crixus and his followers brutally slaughter the remaining Romans. Word of the uprising reaches Spartacus as he negotiates a secret mission with Heracleo, and Spartacus rushes off to quell the madness.
Attempting to lead the remaining Romans to Spartacus, Saxa and Laeta find themselves cornered by a number of bloodthirsty rebels, who slay Ulpianus. Spartacus rushes in at the last moment to save Laeta from being killed by Crixus, though Crixus and Gannicus reveal it was Laeta who lied to Spartacus by hiding the Romans. Laeta admits the treachery, and Spartacus nearly kills her, before finally relenting and expressing his disgust with what Crixus has done. Spartacus opts to house the remaining Romans in his own villa, as Crixus and Naevia begin to suspect they should forge their own path elsewhere.
Whereas the previous few episodes have shouldered a great deal of plot maneuvering, "Decimation" really opens up the season to the inevitable questions that plague the doomed rebellion. More and more as 'Spartacus: War of the Damned' positions Spartacus and Crassus as parallel figures, we see the dubious morality inherent in either side, most notably this week with the rebels' appalling treatment of the captive Romans. So too does Crassus endure a position of labored cruelty, one some what balanced by the earnest love he feels for Kore and the hard choices required of his son.
Most intriguing is the divide between brothers, particularly Crixus and Spartacus, which Manu Bennett and Liam McIntyre sell with exceptional conviction. Even Todd Lasance's Caesar creates a powerful divide in his "release" of the Roman captive Fabia, blurring the lines of sympathy in an altogether decimating episode that marks a turning point for the final season.
What say you? Did you get your fill of blood-spattering ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ action? What did you think about “Men of Honor?” Join us next week for another all-new ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ episode recap of “Blood Brothers” on Starz!