'Spartacus: War of the Damned' Review: "The Dead and the Dying"

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Spartacus: War of the Damned’ honors the fallen with its ninth and penultimate episode of the final season “The Dead and the Dying,” as Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) captures Tiberius (Christian Antidormi) to hold gladiator games in honor of Crixus' memory, while a desperate Crassus tasks Caesar (Todd Lasance) with rescuing his son.

Last time’s ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ episode “Separate Paths” saw Spartacus and Crixus (Manu Bennett) saying their goodbyes to pursue different ends for the rebels, while Tiberius taught a lesson to Caesar in the wake of his father’s growing recklessness, so what will the penultimate 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 9, “The Dead and the Dying!”

One night in the wild, some stray Romans are startled by a noise, soon revealed to be Spartacus and his men on the attack. When all the men have fallen, Spartacus observes the bodies and sees an unfamiliar crest on their armor. Laeta recognizes it as the sigil of Pompey, before Spartacus is informed of an approaching rider. Outside, we see it to be none other than Naevia, passing out atop her horse, and carrying the head of Crixus!

Naevia recovers, still clutching the head as she tells Spartacus and the others of his fate, dampening Nasir’s spirits with news of Agron as well. Spartacus takes the head from her, but Gannicus reminds him not to fall into Crassus’ trap for revenge.

Elsewhere, Tiberius and Crassus debate their captive slaves, before word of messengers from Pompey arrives. Crassus greets them, learning that Pompey uncharacteristically wishes to lend his aid, but Crassus balks at the idea that he would meet up with the man alone. Caesar presses that there would be practical purpose in joining forces with Pompey, and urges Crassus to send Tiberius in his stead.

The next day, Tiberius and his men show up to Pompey’s tent, but something seems amiss. Tiberius enters the tent to find none other than Spartacus waiting for him, disappointed he hadn’t lured Crassus himself! The boy attempts to flee, but Spartacus catches him, and urges all the other men be spared in order to give honor to the dead. Spartacus proposes that they put the Romans through gladiator games, saving Tiberius specifically for Naevia.

Back at the Roman camp, Agron is revealed to be alive as Caesar taunts him, ultimately crucifying him for his refusal to confess. Just then, another messenger from Pompey arrives with the same purpose, and no knowledge of the previous messenger, revealing to Crassus that his son was deceived and taken. Caesar urges him to be grateful it wasn’t the Imperator himself who was taken, but Crassus commands Caesar seek the rebels out for a bargain, even if costs his life.

Tiberius curses that Caesar must have known of the false messenger, all the while urging his men to give no fight in the coming games. Kore appears, taunting that he now is the one in chains, but even as Tiberius assures Kore that Crassus still loves her, she wishes only to see him killed in the games. Meanwhile, Spartacus and the others dress in their classic gladiator gear, before entering a makeshift arena, and drawing the praise of the crowd.

The first Roman refuses to fight as ordered, causing Spartacus to slit his throat immediately. Demanding two more be sent out, Spartacus takes them both on, as Gannicus admires him and explains to Sibyl that their brutal days of gladiator combat were nothing if not simpler. Spartacus fells his two opponents, as Gannicus joins, asking for three. Sitting in the crowd, Laeta explains to Spartacus that she finds the games distasteful, though she understands and celebrates their purpose against the Romans. As Romans fall to different gladiators, Gannicus comes to Spartacus with word of a visitor.

After a rough beating, Caesar offers up a return of 500 men in exchange for Tiberius life, forcing Spartacus to consider the offer. Outside, Tiberius is finally brought into the arena to face Naevia, as the boy demands his old sword from her hands. The two fight, evenly matched for a time, until Naevia gets the upper hand and prepares the killing blow. Spartacus stops her, informing the crowd that Caesar has offered up a trade, but that he will offer the decision to Naevia. Conflicted, she spares Tiberius life in favor of the others.

The following day, Spartacus leads Tiberius through the crowd toward Caesar, as Caesar ominously threatens the dangerous ride home, but Kore leaps forth and shoves a dagger into Tiberius. The boy bleeds out and dies, but when Spartacus and Caesar go to restrain Kore, she insists Crassus will still honor the trade, if only they return her to him as well.

Later, Crassus stands over the body of his son, and prepares a grief-fueled march of his men, while Caesar lies about the identity of Tiberius’ assassin. Caesar returns Kore as the reason he honored the trade, to which Crassus tearfully embraces her, but demands that she refer to him as Dominus going forward. Back at the rebel camp, the many wounded rebels return to their friends and family, as Nasir is stunned and overjoyed to see that Agron is yet among them.

That night in their makeshift arena, Spartacus delivers a speech to the crowd praising their joyous reunion, as Naevia lights Crixus’ remains in a pyre. Lighting the fire for her fallen Gaul, Spartacus and the others yell out the names of the many fallen, from Sura and Varro to Oenomaus and others, before the crowd collectively chants “Crixus” into the night, and Spartacus boasts of their imminent final stand.

Considering how far 'Spartacus' has come in only 4 seasons (3.5 really), how fortuitous that actual history gave the Starz series the opportunity to honor its roots before the imminent end. Fans will no doubt place great sentimental value in seeing Spartacus and the others decked out in their gladiator gear once more, if only to remind us of the series' beginning before its end. Not only that, but fans are given a special reprieve to both Naevia and Agron, revealed to have survived the events of the previous week. There isn't much tension to be held within "The Dead and the Dying," as the hour largely serves to pause before an imminent end and honor the fallen, adding the deserved Tiberius to their ranks. The vengeance of Crassus will no doubt make next week's series finale a battle for the ages, but "The Dead and the Dying" pays fitting tribute to all who came before, as we approach the 'War of the Damned's conclusion. Shall we begin, indeed.

What say you? Did you get your fill of blood-spattering ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ action? What did you think about “The Dead and the Dying?” Join us next week for another all-new ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ episode recap of series finale event “Victory” on Starz!

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