TV Review: SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED Episode 4 'Decimation'

Spartacus: War of the Damned is the final season of the hit series and stars Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Dustin Clare (Gannicus), Simon Merrells (Marcus Crassus) and Todd Lasance (Caesar). The series is led by showrunner Steven DeKnight and the next episode airs March 1st, only on Starz.

Spartacus: War of the Damned takes place following the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber. Spartacus and his men have amassed major victories against the Romans after the Battle of Vesuvius. These victories have not only forged the legend of Spartacus, but have greatly increased the ranks of the rebellion slaves to more than 30,000. Rome is indeed beginning to tremble at the threat Spartacus now represents.

Episode 4

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As much as I've been enjoying the final season of Spartacus, I have noticed a drastic shift in the signature 'mood' of the series. There's always been this disturbing and underlying sense of danger that followed the show on past seasons and I think they recaptured that atmosphere with 'Decimation'. In what has primarily been a war themed season, we can tend to feel at times a bit disconnected from the characters, when we've only really seen them fight in these big battles as opposed to the close-up one on one encounter.

'Decimation' is the best episode of the season so far and it's also the start to a radical shift for our main group of rebels as Spartacus and Crixus' views on their mission differentiate for the last time. You knew it would happen historically and you had this idea that maybe Spartacus' peaceful warrior vibe wouldn't fly with the rest of his crew so here you go. These two warriors will always respect each other but they can no longer fight together for the same ideals. The way that Crixus commands the rebels to slaughter Roman hostages while Spartacus was away on business, was shocking and one of the most brutal scenes in series' history.

On the other end of the spectrum we see Crassus answer brutality with justice of his own as he commands his son's troops to enter a draw of Decimation. Every soldier who was part of the weak-ass attack and retreat from the prior episode draws a stone and five unlucky winners who grab a white one, are swiftly beaten to death by what appear to be massive wooden spoons. Those aren't spoons man, and this is one helluva gut-wrenching scene to watch. This has been the only scene thus far that makes me question the Romans' sense of honor but it also comes at a time when Crixus is marching death on helpless captives.

While Crixus and Gannicus have a disagreement that ignites the first important shift of this rebel war, Caesar is planting seeds of mistrust and betrayal within the ranks. Going undercover as a slave who joins the uprising is an extremely clever move and it hearkens back to the oldschool days of Spartacus when we were caught up in the politics and vindictiveness that this series does so well. Todd Lasance has a scene as Caesar in this episode that steals the entire season so far when he comforts a beaten and raped Roman captive.

Lasance has done a great job capturing this rock-star vibe for Caesar but in these emotional moments he not only captures the essence of the historic leader but shows how tremendous of an actor he is too. If you were conflicted before about whose side you're on, be prepared to face even more of that stress as there are no longer two opposing sides but THREE. Team Spartacus, Team Crixus and Team Crassus (with Caesar of course). Oh the blood-drenched drama of it all.

4-5 Stars

Spartacus: War of the Damned sees the return on Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Dustin Clare (Gannicus), Dan Feuerriegel (Agron), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia) and Ellen Hollman (Saxa). This year, Todd Lasance joins the cast as Gaius Julius Caesar, along with Simon Merrells, who will be playing Marcus Crassus and Anna Hutchison as Laeta. Spartacus: War of the Damned premiered on Starz, January 25th, 2013.