This month, Netflix released Spartacus via its watch-instantly feature. I’d been a little iffy on whether it was something I was interested in seeing. I’d heard a lot of good things, but I was definitely hesitant. On the one hand, I am a history buff so I do like period pieces. On the other hand, due to unfortunate circumstances, the show has a slightly rocky storytelling order which is something that can really bother me, not to mention seeing a man tortured by having his junk sliced off is something I definitely could do without. In the end, it was all the Agron and Nasir gif-sets on tumblr that eventually did me in.
So, I went to bed a 5am this morning because I had to finish season 2. This afternoon I got in the first few episodes of season 3. I’m thinking I should be finished by Saturday, though there’s a part of me that just wants to scream GO BIG OR GO HOME and just pull and all-nighter to knock out the last seven episodes.
I should have known I’d get super into it. Yes, I feel the writers could have toned down the constant use of the words “cock” and “cunt” (not that I’m adverse to cursing, just a little variety and originality would be much appreciated), and I could have done without some of the more gory bits (specifically the more prolonged torturous scenes or the sheer amount of ladies being brutally raped) but even they felt…appropriate, I guess? For the time period. That dichotomy between the orgiastic decadence of the Romans vs. the abject horrors of the brutality of slave life was incredibly visceral, spurring the audience to more fiercely side with Spartacus and his rebels. And that’s the things, really. For all it’s a show about Ancient Rome and gladiators, the thing that really got me was that it’s essentially just an upstairs-downstairs show, not so different than say Downton Abbey. Just perhaps with a little more death.
For me, that upstairs-downstairs separation of stories really added an element of complexity and ambiguity to the show. I can take a step back, look at the whole picture, and state the obvious: the slaves are the good guys and the Romans are the bad guys. And so I obviously want the slaves to eventually win. But when you have story lines that are completely about the political maneuverings of the Romans, you can’t just paint them all with the Bad Guy brush. Yes, Batiatus and Lucretia are slave holders and villains: he murdered Barca and Sura while she serially raped Crixus, among many other crimes for both of them, but I still watch the prequel rooting for them to win against Bartiatus’ father. Glaber sold Spartacus and his wife into slavery, but I still want him to win against his father-in-law and not let Ilythia dissolve their marriage. Ilythia and Lucretia were both murderers and yet I still wanted them to win out against each other. These characters were fascinating: complex and ambiguous, sometimes even likable or sympathetic to some degree. And so I wanted them to succeed. And then in the end, when they’d succeeded against the other Romans, then it’s time for the slaves to take them down.
And I guess that’s it then. It’s not so much that I wanted them to succeed, it’s that they had to maneuver themselves to such a degree that the right person took them down. It’s not enough for Glaber to be killed, he had to be killed by Spartacus. It’s not enough for Ashur to be killed, he had to be killed by Naevia. Ilythia and Lucretia, Lucretia and Crixus. Etc, etc. This is a story of vengeance after all.
Like I said, I still have seven more episodes left to go. More vengeance is yet to be had. A lot of characters I like have died so far (Varro’s death especially just gutted me), so I’m really steeling myself for the inevitable fall of more favorites. Since they’re the reason I started watching, I’m really hoping Agron and Nasir make it to the end. Would the Gods make it so.
Update: It’s currently 4:20am. I’m finished. I’m not sure why I went into this show thinking it was going to have a happier ending. At least Agron and Nasir made it out alive.