“What would you do—to hold your wife again? To feel the warmth of her skin, the taste of her lips? How many men would you kill? A hundred? A thousand? There stands but one between you and her. ”
There’s a thrilling poetry in this final episode. A number of lines have been echoed by different characters, throughout the season, but it’s Spartacus taunting Batiatus, surrounded by his former gladiators, the fountains of his villa red with the blood of his guests, and then Lucretia, stabbed in the womb by Crixus, stumbles out and collapses, that really underscores how often the characters in this show live on hypocrisy, how their plots are powered by it, and how complete revenge is when it’s had.
Spartacus ends the episode with a rousing speech about ending slavery and making Rome fearful, but that’s just highfalutin rhetoric, as far as I’m concerned. No amount of ideals about liberty can compare to just how complete his victory over the Romans is in this episode. It even may justify those early slogs of episodes, in that understanding Spartacus as a free Thracian first allows the viewer to understand him not as merely a cog in the Roman machine, like Doctore, or Crixus, or even Varro, but as an outsider forced to conform through circumstance.
The episode’s structure mirrors this complexity. We’ve seen in media res episodes of Spartacus before (the very first episode, for instance), but the finale creates an interweaving mosaic, starting us with Batiatus’ triumphal party for all the bigwigs in Capua to announce Glaber’s patronage and support for his run for Aedile (one of the historical stepping stone offices for patricians seeking high office) and then to the announcement of Crixus and Spartacus’ big fight in the courtyard below. Spartacus begs Crixus to reconsider, but Crixus is resolved to fight.
Regular readers will note that I’ve been skeptical of the pacing of Crixus and Spartacus bouts—the first half of the season threw them together all the time—but the intervening time between Crixus’ injury from Theokoles and the development that’s happened since then serves to heighten the dramatic stakes of the conflict. We’ve waited a long time for this, and even the characters feel the same.
But what I truly love about this episode is that, in the immortal worlds of Lucille Bluth, it gets off on withholding—the Crixus/Spartacus rivalry is one of the hallmarks of the show, and it could have easily let Spartacus simply cut his way through Crixus to get his revenge (albeit messing with the historical Crixus’ narrative), delivering both the climactic fight and the culmination of Spartacus’ plotting. The show even gestures at that—the two men acknowledge that one of them has to die.
But the show robs the viewer of the satisfaction of settling scores. In a show that’s hung its hat on gladiator fights, what you’re truly rooting for is for these two men not to fight, but to get along. Because Crixus is central to Spartacus’ revenge plot, and because we’ve already seen that this is not a fair fight, as Lucretia has used it to kill Crixus in revenge for loving Naevia. And then, when they do, it’s a gloriously earned—not just because earlier in the episode they agreed they could’ve been friends under different circumstances and that, whoever lived would try to achieve the fallen’s goals, but also because they call back to the Theokoles fight where Crixus and Spartacus first learned to work together.
This episode has some wondrous rotten flourishes, too. Doctore (or should I say Oenomaus) learns that Batiatus will free him and make him lanista while Batiatus pursues political office. It’s hard to say whether this is a pipedream or not, given Batiatus’ history with freeing slaves, but it feels genuine. Oenomaus even confronts him with Barca’s death, which Batiatus admits, although he changes the context to blame Barca for killing the whole family—Oenomaus seems to easily overlook this.
It’s on that promise that Oenomaus secures Crixus’ loyalty against Spartacus (though he’s not even aware of Spartacus’ plot). And it means that when things do change, when Crixus realizes he’s been poisoned, the betrayal felt by Oenomaus when Crixus cuts his whip and the gladiators turn to slaughtering the guards and Glaber’s soldiers is palpable.
What follows in the back third or so of the episode is an unflinching slave revolt—the gladiators storm the villa, slaughtering the Romans, sparing no one, although part of that is because the show gives Illythia one last horrid turn—when Lucretia urges her to get Glaber’s men, she instead has them escort her away and bar the doors of the villa so no one can get out.
And, so, naturally, as in every slave revolt, the masters receive their violent comeuppance. Guards are killed and looted for their weapons, gladiators cut partygoers to shreds. Batiatus, Lucretia, Numerius and Numerius’ mom have a tense few scenes like some horror film (only, of course, they’re the monsters) where they sneak around the villa as the gladiators extract their revenge. I don’t recall how the mom dies, but, as with so many horror films, they eventually all split up. Numerius’ chickens come home to roost when he’s sent off with Aurelia, who peppers him with questions about Varro (whom he really goes out of his way to badmouth) and then gets stabbed to death by.
Lucretia fares little better. She comes face to face with the man she’s abused for sex, and now has separated from his lover and had whipped for the temerity of it, plus she’s just poisoned him, and for it she’s repaid with Crixus stabbing her in the womb to ensure their child is never born.
Which leaves old Quintus Lentulus Batiatus, stumbling through the water in his villa, as gladiators goad him from all sides. And then Spartacus spits his words in his face, and just like Barca’s death, slits his throat while he’s kneeling.
I don’t think it’s too charitable to say this is one of the truly astounding climaxes in any TV show’s ever season finale. The ending of “Kill Them All” is a sublime ending to a sublime episode. This is no cliffhanger making sure that we tune into next season’s premiere to find out what happened. This is a fully realized, complete story that’s run the entirety of the 13 episodes presented in Spartacus: Blood and Sand and is now capped off by one of the most satisfying conclusions you could ask for. That you’re still hungry for the next season is a testament to the beard the show grows throughout its run.
There is one hint of a sex scene in this episode, which is Mira’s condition for helping Spartacus, which is that he have sex with her so she can experience a fraction of what Sura got. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the whole Mira storyline thus far. It’s clear she’s taken with him, but Mira’s far too headstrong a character to be starstruck (she often takes the Varro role of pointing out flaws in Spartacus’ plans). This is the one thing I’d say is an actual setup for Spartacus: Vengeance.
- Man butt: 0
- Lady butt: 0
- Frontal nudity (men): 0
- Frontal nudity (women): 3
I wanted to do a full accounting here, because episode by episode can vary greatly. I think it’s fair to say that equality of nudity on camera hasn’t quite been reached here. There’s a lot of naked man butt in this show (nearly two butts an episode!), but there’s quite a bit more in topless women. Like an absurd amount more. And while this is more male frontal nudity in thirteen episodes than in all of Games of Thrones combined, it’s just not equitable.
The nudity is also presented differently. There are very few instances of the naked men appearing in a sexualized context, and I can think of only one scene where frontal male nudity appears in concert with a sex scene. Otherwise, it really is mostly just that the viewer has been put into the locker room, which is titillating, I suppose, in a voyeuristic way, but presents a hard contrast with the women, whose nudity I’d say is at least presented in a sexual context half the time. Even when they’re not, it’s hardly equitable. The male characters are presented as naked largely because they want to be, they’re cleaning themselves. The female characters are naked because they’re window dressing. For instance, there’s a scene where eight women are completely naked except for masks, because one Roman character is choosing a mask. For what purpose, I ask.
- Man butt: 22
- Lady butt: 12
- Frontal nudity (men): 8
- Frontal nudity (women): 106
- Thank you everyone who’s stuck with these recaps! It was lovely watching and talking with you all. Hope anyone who comes in late gets something out of them! I will keep doing these, but I’m gonna take a weeklong breather before I post Gods of the Arena’s first recap.
- The only clear survivor of the massacre at the end of this episode? Ironically, a slave—Ashur. The little shit wriggles out of a severe asskicking and then murder from Oenomaus by stabbing the doctore in the leg with the gladiator sweat pick (by the by, it’s called a “strigil”).
- Duro bites it in this episode, pushing Agron out of the way of death only to take the blow himself. He’s really quick to point out the irony of this. I haven’t written much about Agron this season, mostly because he hasn’t really been given much to do except chastise Duro.
- Illythia Catty Putdown of the Week Award: I mean, she locked all the Romans in when there was a gladiator revolt going on. I’m not sure anything she could say would be as effective.