Separate Paths is the eighth episode of the final season of Spartacus: War of the Damned. It is a grim episode but also one of the best in the series. In my mind it gives meaning to the season title “War of the damned”. Separate paths refers to the dividing of the rebels between Crixus and Spartacus as they both seek separate goals. Spartacus seeks to be free and get his people to freedom, while Crixus wants to kill every Roman for his cause for vengeance. I suggest watching the episode before continuing as there will be unavoidable plot spoilers below in this review.
This episode belongs to Crixus, it is the episode where his character as a story comes to completion and he is fully realised as a leader, a lover, a friend, a brother and a true champion. This is everything he desired to be, but that’s not enough to truly describe the episode. Manu Bennet with his performance of Crixus in this episode must be commended; for his acting and portrayal was borderline inspirational. Such great speeches, the combat scenes and everything Crixus did in this episode was worthy of a true champion.
First off Crixus as a character is developed and truly comes into his own in this episode. For the most part in this series I saw Crixus as really in the end as someone who is following the commands of another. First Batiatus and Oenomaus in the Ludus, Lucretia his domina or later Spartacus who set him free. What Crixus seemed to do was follow their teachings (well not Lucretia) and for the most part excelled. He was a champion in the Ludus, he was a great leader with Spartacus. But in this episode he forges his own path under his own command and leads the rebels towards Rome itself. I think he is truly living his dream, he’s now a fully developed and complete character.
In this episode he makes speeches of slavery, of freedom, of fighting for what one believes and in watching it and after seeing the episode complete it remained in my mind for over a week since I saw it originally.
Crixus in the episode leads his new rebel force all the way to just outside the gates of Rome in what can only be said as victory after victory for the champion and his forces. (Spoilers) Towards the end of the episode Crixus gives one final great speech of motivation and inspiration for his troops for one final victory. In watching it marked the return of the champion I knew from season 1 of the show that had long been absent of such things this season under Spartacus. But in this episode he was let loose, the references to earlier events in the show and where his character was and is now made it a great end to what was his character. Only in watching the series in full would it have its full impact, but below is an excerpt from the great speech before the battle with Arrius.
In the end and this is why I said in the beginning that the episode brought meaning to the season title “War of the damned”. Even with such force and such a strong character, the show after all is based upon history. Historically Crixus separated from Spartacus and was eventually defeated by Rome and its forces so the show must follow the same path. It is a sad ending to the character as he came so far and so close only to have it all taken from his grasp by the might of Rome. Crixus is killed, it is sad, but it is memorable. In fact I have not stopped thinking about the episode since I watched it.
One of the things that did bother me about the episode at first was how he was killed. Here was the undefeated Gaul. Nobody had ever bested him, he was in battle with Caesar and was stabbed in the back by Tiberius!! The whole thing was absent honour for a character basing himself on it to be killed by a kid, who not only never really beat him (it doesn’t really count as loss if you’re fighting someone else and someone stabs you in the back) but also took the glory of the kill as their own. I’ve said it before I know but I think Tiberius is going to have a terrible fate by series end.
Other developments occur in the Roman camp aside from the large Crixus focus the episode had. There is quite the scene of frustration between Crassus and the senate’s man Metelus (branded a fool in history, it seems he is as so in this series). Crassus still frustrated abuses the man into submission for asking foolish question of the man that is Crassus. It’s actually a light point in the episode if that can be said, but something of note. Crassus is frustrated.
Another thing of note is the Tiberius to Caesar rape scene in this episode, I wasn’t particularly fond of this scene as I dislike the Tiberius character since the series beginning and I do think it doesn’t fit Caesar’s built up character to be raped by this kid of Marcus Crassus. But yet it did happen, and much like when it happened to Kore, or the way he killed Crixus, or any others I think the character of Tiberius is quite cowardly. He abuses his power and thinks position alone will keep him safe, he strikes from a distance as with Crixus and takes honour not earned as his own. But Tiberius thinks it is his by right because of his position. A lesson still not learnt I think from episode 1 when Marcus Crassus showed him the difference between Tiberius and the Gladiator (slave) he lost in a fight to.
The rape scene with Caesar was about power, which I now believe the scene with Kore was. While the killing of Crixus was to steal honour from Caesar to elevate himself in his fathers eyes. But just when will this all come crumbling down for Tiberius? Below is an interesting insight into the episode from one of the show’s creators about the rape scene and some others that I thought worthy of sharing for this review.
While I did have a problem with the scenes at first, once I thought about them and realised their importance to the season I understood why the episode was done they way it was and I appreciate the writers for it. Not often in television especially is such good writing presented, episode after episode, with such attention to detail for even lesser characters like Tiberius in their development. The directing and style, the costumes and special effects all come together to make a truly great viewing experience in this episode.
Overall this episode was a masterpiece, apart from some disagreements I had with the fates of some characters I enjoyed every single second of this episode. I didn’t even cover what Spartacus or Gannicus did but it was epic, everything was epic in this episode. The scenes were all phenomenal, the acting was excellent, the action was superb and the twists and turns and fates of the characters were something I just never did guess would happen. I was beyond entertained and was blown away by every event. I was left thinking about the episode for days to come and thought it was one of the best viewing experiences of the year. I can’t fault it on any level it was a masterpiece.