Victory is the tenth and final episode of Spartacus War Of The Damned and also the final episode for the whole Spartacus series. On many levels this was one of the most entertaining and emotionally charged episodes of the series, giving true meaning, to the name Spartacus. (Caution: Spoilers from this point)
In this episode Spartacus’ and Crassus’ forces move towards final confrontation in which there can only be one victor. The episode starts with Spartacus and his rebels laying waste to some Roman cities all in the name of Spartacus in order to delay/cause question for Crassus as to Spartacus’ movements. Spartacus’ idea is to delay Crassus as much as possible so that he can see most of his freed slaves over the mountain. Buying time is his focus and the intention of the confrontation with Crassus.
The focus of the episode is also the anticipated fight between Crassus and Spartacus which had been building since episode one “Enemies of Rome”. We see Crassus train, fight and prepare for anticipated confrontation, this is further built up in this episode making it quite dramatic in viewing. Apart from this there is also the much built up fight between Caesar and Gannicus which has been building since Caesar entered Sinuessa under the disguise of Liciscus in “Decimation”. What I think this episode does well is highlight these battles particularly the one with Spartacus and Crassus while drawing them out. The battle with Crassus is particularly dramatic as Crassus’ tactic learnt in Enemies of Rome backfires….
One of the things with War of the Damned is that as the title suggests all those who are at war are indeed the damned. Due to the historical background for these characters we know that Spartacus cannot win, but in watching this one cannot help but wish it. The passion, the determination and perserverance from the rebels even in the face of defeat is something to be admired. If this were any other TV show I feel that Spartacus would win and everything would be happy in the end. But it isn’t, everything is emotional and in the end quite sad for the Rebels. Like Crixus in “Separate Paths” it has the feeling of coming so close to victory, coming so very close only to get cut down in the end. This leaves most emotionally wanting more, possibly even wanting justice for the characters they loved watching so much (Gannicus, Saxa, Naevia, Spartacus, Lugo). As Spartacus says in this episode “there is no justice…. not in this world” in a conversation in which Crassus agrees during “Victory”. The conversation between Spartacus and Crassus is intersting in dynamic because of the rivalry between the two, but also because they never have met before. Both are to set to purpose to do anything to avoid battle, much like their set purposes for victory, the battle is set along with it.
Apart from the Rebel intense scenes before the battle there is also the finishing of the Crassus and Kore story arc stemming from Kore’s decision to leave upon Amelia ridge in the episode “Mors Indecepta”, due to the mishandling of her person by Tiberius’ hands throughout the season since “Decimation”. Then continuing his torment until his death in “The Dead and the Dying”. The true nature of Tiberius’ death is uncovered by Crassus in conversation with Spartacus but all appears forgiven of Kore until episodes end. Crassus has Kore Crucified amongst the rebels for being known of the rebellion.
What I feel is there is a certain sadness for the fate of Kore as the show goes to prove the freedom of slaves is something of value particularly with Spartacus’ final words. But in one of the final scenes Kore is crucified by her Dominus; not free as the other rebels as she is now returned as slave. I thought it also was an interesting place to put her next to Gannicus as well as the only freed slave in the series. The contrast between the two being crucified next to each other leaves much to think about, Kore given much freedom by Crassus as a slave and Gannicus the only free man amongst the rebels. It was a bitter end for both the characters and particularly Kore.
Many characters fall in battle during this episode including Saxa, Lugo and Naevia each having their moment of remembrance and also glory in death as gladiators and also warriors fighting against the Romans. Saxa in her death appears most memorable as her character is left slightly unfulfilled by seasons end. Saxa’s relationship with Gannicus went from simmering interest to being sidelined as Gannicus favoured Sybil as the season progressed. Her death I think symbolised the end of the life she dreamed, her freedom to choose and all that she was fighting for, her future with Gannicus all taken away as another of the many so damned in this seasons war. Naevia too dies, in battle, but is different in that her life isn’t really filled with much for the future she is likely better off sent to the afterlife with Crixus. But Saxa I thought really had much more to survive for, there is no justice in war.
Gannicus’ death is brought even more meaning than most. As all the rebels fight as escaped slaves given their own freedom, Gannicus was granted his during “Gods of the Arena”. In this episode he finally takes up leadership, something he has been avoiding all season. Gannicus has always been a character fighting not for others causes and almost stands as such in this episode but deviates from it in leading the rebels alongside Spartacus’ ideals of fighting for freedom. He does have final confrontation with Caesar but is subdued by overwhelming force (of Romans) and crucified next to Kore as mentioned as a free man. What’s interesting is his final hallucination where he is in an Arena, alongside his best friend Oenomaus. The Arena is sort of like where Gannicus was truly free, where he was himself the most and at his most comfortable. I think this element of his character was shown in the last episode “The Dead and the Dying” where he made comment about there being no better thing than a life in the arena, I felt it was something he missed. His death scene really brought his character to a whole new level of completion but also made him as a developed character throughout the series one that is most interesting. Did Gannicus really want freedom? Did he want to leave the Arena? Or was he just avoiding what he did to Oenomaus? Either way he died a champion; a “God of the Arena”.
Finally we come to the character of Spartacus, the one the series places its main focus on and the driving force of everything that has happened throughout the series. If I was to critique Liam McIntyre’s acting I would say that it was at its best in this episode “Victory” along with a very good performance in “The Dead and the Dying”. Liam McIntyre I thought really did well to portray the changing character that was Spartacus and acted the best I have seen him in this episode, I think he deserves to be commended or possibly awarded for his performance and passion for the role. Particularly since he did fill a character already started by Andy Whitfield in “Blood and the sand”. In this episode and in “the dead and the dying” I felt that McIntyre really made Spartacus something memorable.
Spartacus as a character developed throughout the series is particularly interesting. He went from being captured by the Roman’s losing the very identity he had and everything he was before Glaber punished him in “Blood and the Sand”, even to the extent of losing his name, to forever being called “Spartacus”. He becomes this force for freedom and a leader and man inspiration to thousands of slaves all over Rome, he becomes the “Bringer of Rain” and truly makes Rome tremble at the thought of the name “Spartacus”.
In this episode Spartacus fights to allow freedom for his freed rebels into the mountains. He still fights for his wife as his purpose but adds many to this cause. People such as Varo, Mira, Laeta and many more that Spartacus cares for ignite his passion to fight further and stronger than he has ever been fighting before. His speech before battle resembles something of passion for his beliefs and one not to be forgotten but also had the feeling of damnation. In the episode “Separate Paths” Spartacus mentioned to Crixus in a conversation about feelings he had of fearing the reprisal of the shadow of Rome, although his main speech showed nothing of fear he did make an interesting comment when looking at Agron’s shield in which he says “Great and unfortunate things” and when asked just said it was something his wife said to “a man that no longer exists”, just what was he thinking in that quiet moment?
As the action scenes go there are some great Spartacus battle moments, the way he strikes Crassus down as if nothing, the way he takes down Crassus’ bodyguards and finally meeting Crassus in proper contest is dramatically entertaining beyond expectation. Interestingly there is no music played during the confrontation with Crassus as is common in the battle scenes in the series, value is placed on each and every blow of the swords. Of course Spartacus easily bests Crassus 1v1, no man can stop a man possessed by a cause believed in so much, not even mighty Crassus. Spartacus is not struck down by Crassus, but by unknown Romans who place spear in back. Spartacus is not killed though and is retrieved by Agron and Nasir.
As in history Spartacus’ body was never found after the battle. As far as I know I don’t think he thought Crassus 1v1 in history though. But as the show is an entertainment programme it fit the series perfectly and I wouldn’t have it any other way because it wouldn’t fit the character built up not to have the confrontation.
Being one of the Damned Spartacus fights until the end, his battle with Crassus proves his last but he isn’t defeated by Crassus. While he is physically put down by some unknown Romans, Spartacus’ Victory is not in physical form as I see it but in symbolism, hope for freedom and his message “there is no greater victory than to fall from this world a free man”.
Spartacus’ death meant more also in symbolism, many I’m sure are wondering what the snake may have meant presented on the shield in this episode of Spartacus, the shield Agron held, the one Spartacus looked at before his speech and the one he was buried with. But what could the snake shield have meant? So far I have 2 theories as to its meaning from researching snakes and their meaning in ancient Rome and Greece:
- Spartacus of course is of Thrace and much of the series made mention to the Gods of the time and as was the time much of it was based on Greek/Roman mythology and Gods. Snakes of the time meant not the same thing they do in modern culture, snakes in Rome often meant immortality due to the way they shed their skins, this meant renewed life. Spartacus as a character was new when he was captured; the name he held gone, that life gone, his name wasn’t Spartacus it was like a separate life in a way. In his death he was going to a new one, shedding the skin (Spartacus) of his current life.
- Snakes upon a shield are also similar to what the Greek Goddess Athena had upon her shield, the meaning of such was that Athena as the goddess of wisdom was also one of enlightenment and could guide her followers from the afterlife and protect them in their future, this could potentially be what the shield with the snakes meant as well.
Is Spartacus and immortal protector of freedom? Many references in the series say he was truly blessed by the Gods and constantly spared for his cause, was he? Spartacus I think stands for much more than victory over the Romans, he stands for hope, for freedom and is remembered as so, his character was always one of great wisdom for battle and will always remain something truly interesting.
Apart from the plot and meanings spoken about for the story telling that was this episode I believed it was also superbly directed. Particularly in the battle scenes I was impressed by the sheer visuals presented on screen and the vastness and scale of the battle shown between the Rebels and the Roman legions. The sound and music throughout the episode was loud but immersive and the tension in the dialogue scenes was excellent. There was no boring moments or slowdown, in fact I thought it; if anything it was to compressed for a finale for Spartacus and if I could have asked for anything it would be that it was 2 hours long instead of 1 hour.
Rick Jacobson as the director did a superb job with this episode, particularly in the battle scenes, to have one surprised in a TV show watching a battle play out and the originality in the battle scenes with the chasm Spartacus set, mixed with the sound of the trumpet and the roar of the armies is a thing I don’t think had been seen on any TV show to this standard and I doubt will be matched by anything for a long time to come.
Along with the directing, the acting is something to be mentioned as well. As mention Liam McIntyre truly did well in his role but so to did Dustin Clare (Gannicus), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia), Ellen Hollman (Saxa), Anna Hutchison as the rebels. Crassus also stood out in memory as the episode’s antagonist played by Simon Merrells while Caesar played by Todd Lasance was menacing in his role as well.
Overall this episode proved to be one the of the best, in terms of entertainment it was flawless, in terms of special effects, directing and sound it was superb. In terms of acting, storyline, symbolism and meaningful impact it was phenomenal As an ending to a series it was both emotionally memorable and excellently positioned both historically and dramatically for the fans of the show. As television goes, Spartacus: War of the Damned proves itself to be of the best when it comes to entertainment.