Spoiler Alert. Spoiler Alert! #Spoiler Alert – You’ve been warned, spoilers lie ahead, so don’t come crying to me because I don’t want to hear it.
Episode V, Libertus, is hands down my favorite episode of the season, thus far. Spartacus and his dysfunctional band of rebels have been terrorizing the Roman Empire with guerrilla tactics and bold assaults, but none have been so ballsy as what they do in Libertus. I enjoyed Libertus for so many reasons; one being that it marks the return of Gannicus, who was my favorite character in Gods of the Arena, Cossutius learns what it’s like to be forcibly penetrated, and Glaber gets his world turned upside down. Just to name a few great moments.
Upon learning that their captured brothers, Crixus, Onememous, and Rhaskos, are not only still alive but have been sentenced to be executed within the arena they once fought upon, Spartacus decides to crank shit up to 11. Despite their dwindling numbers and being faced with overwhelming opposition, they do the unexpected; attack the arena, rescue their imprisoned comrades, and put on a pyrotechnics display, the likes of which the Roman Empire has never before seen.
In the previous episode we learned that Glaber had planned to have them executed in the arena in Capua in order to rally support in his campaign against Spartacus. The bombshell is dropped in this episode that Capua’s only Undefeated Champion and the only gladiator from Capua to earn his freedom, Gannicus, is to be their executioner.
Before we get to the festivities in the arena, in an effort to prolong his life, Ashur tells Glaber a dirty little secret that Lucretia shared with him. He explains to Glaber that he came across a red vile which Illythia was planing to use to abort their child. Ashur was simply supposed to switch it out, to prevent Illythia’s abortion, but he figured that putting Illythia in Glaber’s crosshairs would be a better idea.
First you poke holes in the condoms and now this?!
When Glaber confronts Illythia about the vile, she pulls no punches; she effectively guts Glaber, telling him that he’s unworthy of an heir and unworthy of her. Oh, and she’s going to leave him for Varinius the very next day. Damn, what a cold bitch. If you recall from Blood and Sand, Batiatus had a similar moment where he transitioned from being kind of an asshole to a complete psychopath. This was Glaber’s moment where he was figuratively pissed on, whereas Batiatus was literally pissed on. I’m sure the sting is much the same though. We’ve seen Glaber be mocked and disrespected throughout Vengeance but nothing’s taken the jam out of his donut like the betrayal of his wife and the threat of losing his heir.
When I first learned that Gannicus was going to be in Vengeance I was incredibly excited. I had no idea how he was going to be incorporated into the storyline but I’m pretty damn satisfied with the role he plays. I found it intriguing to witness how the events from Gods of the Arena have changed him. For those who are unaware, Gannicus was introduced in the prequel to Blood and Sand: He was the Champion of the House of Batiatus before Spartacus was thrust into the Ludas and while Crixus was still earning a name for himself. Fast forward and freedom hasn’t been the best look for Gannicus; he’s a shell of his former self. He looks as though he’s simply going through the motions of life; attempting to drown his guilt in wine and loose women. His life isn’t all gloom and doom however, he apparently still receives groupie love from his former days of glory. There are certainly worse things in life.
When you roll like Gannicus, you get plenty of groupie love
Spartacus and his rebels move stealthily; they enter the arena through the sewers where the bodies of the fallen are butchered and piled up. Spartacus and Argon disguise themselves as Roman soldiers. They plan to enter the arena and lead their captured comrades to safety. Mira and the others however have a different objective. I honestly didn’t see it coming so you can imagine just how much I geeked out when I realized that their plan was to set the arena ablaze. Mira and the others literally drag the arena down around them; pulling down a support beam as fires rage, causing a chain reaction which engulfs the arena, bringing it to ruin. It’s enough to make your inner arsonist squeal with delight.
Imagine seeing this while you’re taking a bath
The brief exchange between Spartacus and Gannicus gave me chills. Spartacus is perplexed as to why Gannicus would choose to work with the Romans when he too once fought under the House of Batiatus alongside his brothers. Gannicus coldly replies that they deserve an honorable death. Oh the joys of brotherly love.
As far as Onememous is concerned that “B” may as well stand for betrayal
As much as I enjoyed this exchange, it pales in comparison to when Onememous sees Gannicus standing opposite on the arena sands. Onememous questions Gannicus about plowing his wife, Melitta. Onememous doesn’t quite wait for much of an explanation before he completely rages on Gannicus, attempting to take his head off. Needless to say, being betrayed by a man he once considered a brother and the woman he loved is one of his hot buttons.
As the arena topples, swallowed by flames, Spartacus sets his sights on Glaber. He does his best King Leonidas impression, hurling a spear towards Glaber’s head. Glaber manages to evade a fatal blow and the spear grazes his cheek. Cossutius, on the other hand is not so fortunate, and he’s hit square in the chest. Certainly not a bad consolation prize. Cossutius lived through Blood and Sand, never getting his comeuppance for what he did to Diona, so it was especially sweet to see him finally meet his end. Death via long rigid object rammed into him was certainly a fitting death for the resident anal rapist.
Once their skybox begins to feel the effects of the flames surrounding them, it’s pretty much every asshole for themselves. Before he departs, Albinius decides that it’s a good time to give Glaber one final kick in the balls. He tells him that his senatorial career is over for a myriad of reasons; failing to capture Spartacus which led to Cossutius’s death as well as the deaths of numerous Roman citizens, the destruction of the arena, and not to mention endangering their own oh so precious lives. Not exactly what you want on your resume, especially when you’re already universally disliked. It probably would have been prudent for Albinius to scold Glaber after he was somewhere safe but hindsight is 20/20 and not long after threatening to bury the last good thing Glaber had in his life, he has the audacity to ask him for help. Couple this with the fact that Glaber’s looming divorce was being thrown in his face the entire time and from all sides; Varinius, Ilithyia and Albinius himself. Sorry guys, but I’m on Glaber with this one. Even a complete asshole can’t be push so far and not be expected to crush your skull with a large wooden beam as you lie helpless.
Despite everything going up in flames Glaber manages to cling to desperate scrapes of his tattered life. He puts an end to Ilithyia’s divorce talk when he put an end to Albinius’s life. Of all the despicable acts Glaber has done throughout the series this is easily the most forgivable, in my opinion at least. After Albinius completely tears Glaber apart, dissolving his marriage, lambasting him for being unfit for his daughter, fate would have it that Glaber would hold his life in the balance. When Glaber reunites with Ilithyia, he tells her a little white lie, that Spartacus killed her father, not him. It’s unclear if Ilithyia realizes that Glaber is lying to her, regardless she realizes instantaneously that she couldn’t be more fucked. Glaber wastes no time reminding her that she’s stuck with him now. Til death do they part, it would appear. Varinius sprints out of there, only taking a few merger seconds to process everything, as if to say, well that would have been nice. But, oh well, moving on. Most likely off to finger bang another naive, doe eyed, admirer.
The hallmarks of Libertus are the important turning points for both Glaber and Ashur. Glaber comes completely unhinged as does Ashur, only figuratively though. Ashur takes his first step away from being Lucretia’s slave and redefining his own role, at her expense, of course. The Machiavellian power struggle between Lucretia and Ashur is one of my favorite aspects of Vengeance. The coup degrâce of Spartacus and crew burning the area down was magnificent and also unexpected and I loved every moment of it. From the point when the first section of the arena sinks into the flames below it sending a handful of Romans plummeting to their deaths, to the arena collapsing on top of Gannicus and Onememous, to Rhaskos being viciously killed in the arena, from top to bottom Libertus was damn enjoyable.
– The “Damn Satisfied” Prometheus