This Friday's episode of Spartacus was the most intense yet. Viewers were kept on the edge of their seats as Gannicus made a last stand with Donar (the axe wielder) in Sinuessa, the city overtaken by the Roman army. Despite the show holding his name, Spartacus is put in the background as fan favorite Gannicus shines in 'Spoils of War'.
The episode starts out exactly where 'Blood Brothers' left off: Caesar having a standoff with Agron, Saxa and Donar. We see the Roman army burst through the wooden gate and the three rebels take off. Spartacus, Crixus, Gannicus, Naevia, Nasir and Lugo are disposing what was left of the Roman army that tried to kill them when they get really confused as to how so many soldiers were left over. Agron comes running and explains that the wooden gate is open and the Roman army is coming. Desperately hoping to get out, Spartacus orders a retreat, which of course, Crixus doesn't like. But cooler heads prevail - that is until Gannicus says that he'll lead the soldiers away in order to give them time to escape, believing his life is not nearly as important as Sparty's. No one - and by that we mean not one single person - likes this plan but Gannicus insists. Knowing their words mean nothing when Gannicus has his mind set, the men say goodbye and tell him they'll wait for his return. In the meantime, viewers at home had heart attacks and began to breathe heavily into paper bags.
Gannicus and Donar stay behind in a noble attempt to delay the army's capture of the rebels. Sparty and the rest put Olympic runners to shame until they come across another batch of Romans, only this group contains a few special people. This was one of the most nail biting sequences in the show's history. After what feels like an eternity, Crassus finally sets his eyes on the man he both despises and respects immensely. In a fatherly tone, he calls out our hero's name and the two men lock eyes. But Spartacus isn't stupid so he doesn't stick around to shake the man's hand and/or cut off his head. Caesar wants to go after them but Crassus says he has a plan and Spartacus has fallen right into it. (Hey! It was never implied that Spartacus was a genius okay?)
That opening scene and the ending was all viewers saw of the rebel king. Shortly after they are left behind, Donar and Gannicus fight their way to the grain storage and there find Sibyl, whose escape had been cut off thanks to the Romans. After grabbing the 12 pound slave, the two men set the room on fire, calling the attention to themselves. They are trapped in an alleyway and Gannicus fights for both his and Sibyl's life when Donar gets struck down. Quickly, they hide in the stable where Laeta had previously kept the hidden Romans. As the pair sit and wait, soldiers hunt them above. Later, a few soldiers were gathering wood and Gannicus knows it's only a matter of time before they're found out. He kills one and hands Sibyl a knife, telling her that if he dies she should take her own life because it will be better than what the Romans will do. And as we find out later, that was definitely not a lie. He ends up killing the soldiers, although for a second there it looked like he had become the victim. When he opens the hatch both Sibyl and the audience breathe a deep sigh of relief. The longer haired gladiator makes a quip about her gods being real and the two make their escape.
Then we switch to Kore, who is clearly upset at being raped in the previous episode by Tiberius. Crassus confides that she'll no longer be in the follower's camp but instead in a villa with him. She is overjoyed until Tiberius interrupts the moment. Behind his father's back he threatens Kore to not say a word. To his father's front, he ominously says that he is what he is thanks to his father. Crassus hugs his son but Tiberius can barely show the love back. That is squandered when Crassus says that there is to be a celebration to honor Caesar. This doesn't make Taylor Launter 2.0 happy at all and he goes searching for Caesar. He finds two women (of course) in the man's bed but doesn't seem to care. Maybe if it were three women, he would have. Regardless, the two men exchange words as Julius Caesar taunts the boy.
Now, viewers of this show expect certain things. For instance, we know there will be more naked girls than guys; someone will always die; and we know that in a weird, twisted way, something will shock us. All three of those have been done. We've seen jaws ripped open, bowels spilling, throat slitting, and a face cut in half. So what else was there for the series to do death-wise to shock us and make us go, 'No way! They did not just go there!'? Well, apparently, there was a lot. Historically, Romans were never pleasant people to their POWs and in this episode we caught a tiny glimpse of what awaits the rebels. A leftover rebel being literally torn limb from limb and two men whose heads got bashed in till it looked like a shepherd's pie was a cringe worthy scene, one that will no doubt stay with viewers for a while. To make it worse, the Romans were laughing at it. And people think today's generation is bad. It was a sick but accurate punishment that the rebels will most likely face. But the biggest surprise came in the form of a captured Donar, who very nearly claimed Caesar's life. Tiberius had manipulated Caesar into doing a fatal blow to the man all the while knowing the chains were loose. The two men fight when Caesar decrees that Donar stands a representation of the rebellion. But to their astonishment, Donar has more skill than they thought. It takes several blows and a bowel displacement to bring the man down and then as his last defiant act, he takes his own life…by shoving a freaking sword into his head. Seriously.
Meanwhile, Gannicus has his own problems to deal with. He sees that Laeta cleans up nice but thanks to Crassus she has been promised to the very un-Disney-like pirates. The head pirate guy, who had betrayed Spartacus, brands Laeta - an ironic twist to her fate as she becomes a slave. Gannicus interferes and naturally kills them all. Sibyl showed she had a little bite to her as she tries to defend herself but it is no use as her lack of physical prowess is lacking and she is captured by the pirate captain. In doing so, Gannicus reveals that he has some feelings toward the fragile girl. In another shocking move, we see the red hot poker come through the pirate's throat by the hands of Laeta. Gannicus wants to leave her but Sibyl refuses. They cook up a plan as the celebration continues. Gannicus wants to rescue his fellow rebels but it is too late. Instead he keeps his head down and lets Laeta guide him around the back streets with Sibyl in tow. They almost make it to a pair of horses when who should round the corner but Caesar. It was another nail biting moment as the trio hold their breath and try not to stand out. But Caesar notices something odd and calls for a stop. He asks where Sibyl came from since the pirate that Gannicus was masquerading as was only promised Laeta. Seeing no other way around it, Gannicus reveals himself and gives Caesar a lesson in underestimating the gladiators. He gives two deep cuts to the man and kills several other soldiers as the women run to untie the horses. The trio flee as Romans try to stop them but there are too few of them not celebrating and hey, it's Gannicus. Laeta gets speared but is able to escape with the others.
Back at the camp, Spartacus is troubled as Agron and Crixus talk about what to do next. It's snowing and freezing and there is nowhere to go. Gannicus comes riding in and Saxa is the first to greet him. Jealousy creeps in as the blonde notices the bond between him and Sibyl. Spartacus helps Laeta down from her horse and Nasir declares that if they can get the wounds patched up, she can live. Is anyone else sensing a future love scene between these two - Spartacus and Laeta that is. Not Nasir. That would be weird. Spartacus and Gannicus take a walk and the former confides that they have only delayed the inevitable: the mountain they are on is blocked at the other side. Gannicus and his leader both keep their emotions in check but it is obvious they realize they were herded into this place from the start. This scene parallels an earlier one in which Crassus also declares that Spartacus has only delayed the inevitable to an impatient Caesar. Spartacus met his match in Crassus but Gannicus also met his in Caesar.
As the series draws to an end, it seems as though every episode has ended in some sort of a cliffhanger. Yet this is truly the first time where Spartacus is trapped in a no-win situation. With only four more episodes to go, DeKnight is delivering on his promise to end the series on an epic note. Fans anxiously wait to see what fate holds for their favorite characters. Who will live and who will die?