Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Season 1, Ep. 6 – entitled The Bitter End – was probably the best episode drama-wise of the prequel mini-series. It also houses the longest and one of most well-executed fight scenes out of any Spartacus episode thus far. The fight also housed some surprises that the avid viewer will not see coming.
Gone are the over-the-top sexual exploits and in their place stronger story arcs and plotline resolutions.
All questions are answered about what happened to key characters in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena that do not appear in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Tullius (Stephen Lovat)’ end was pretty creative as was the scheme that surrounded his retainer Vettius. The betrayal of Solonius (Craig Walsh Wrightson) on Batiatus (John Hannah) was unforeseen and a welcome surprise. Batiatus had been belittling Solonius since the beginning of the Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, similar to the way Lucretia was treated by Ilithyia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Batiatus knew it but hated to admit to himself that Solonios was just in his action and that he had been wrong. In addition, his betrayal is exactly what Batiatus would have done to see his own fortunes raised. Their confrontation was one of the best moments in The Bitter End.
The viewer will be surprised that Diona (Jessica Grace Smith) did not get the freedom she had sought and that Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) did not speak a word of objection at her sentence. Seeing her lifeless body laying in her own blood then pulled away by own hair was horror movie gooey twisted gold.
I knew there was a reason no one spoke Ganniucs (Dustin Clare)’ name at the ludus. I never thought the reason given was it though. Solonius is far cleverer and vindictive than the viewer may have originally assumed. He learned from Batiatus well.
What I didn’t like was Crixus been given the champion necklace without earning it and Barca (Antonio Te Maioha) winking to the audience that he wants to be free, out of everyone gathered there. The viewer knows what happens to him and why. That foreshadowing was unnecessary.
Ashur (Nick Tarabay) limping out of the Medicus‘ office was fitting but I wish Crixus (Manu Bennett) was given a better reason for breaking his leg than the need to fight Gannicus. I suppose he did it to save Gannicus’ life but the real reason is that he wanted to face him himself. He could have easily punched Ashur and thrown him out of the fire ring but the heat of battle and a snap decision is what it is.
I wish the other episodes of this mini-series were as well constructed as this episode but perhaps they saved the best for last. Season 2 of Spartacus: Blood and Sand can not come sooner. Gods of the Arena reminds us all of what we are looking forward to.