Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Season 1: Episode 6 – “Delicate Things”
Written by Tracy Bellomo & Andrew Chambliss
Directed by Rick Jacobson
Originally aired February 26th, 2010 on Starz
While Ashur tries to push Batiatus into acting quickly at the news of Barca’s apparent betrayal, he tells his dominus that “When a man is pressed, lies flow with greater ease.” Daggers and deceit seem to run rampant in Spartacus, and not just in the Roman storylines. If the slaves are learning anything from their masters, it’s how to twist the tongue to their own ends.
Spartacus, our hero, is not exempt from the tactics. With newly-earned street cred., Spartacus uses the attention he receives to shape an elaborate escape fantasy for when his wife arrives to Capua. Part of that web is extending an invitation to the magistrate’s son to visit Batiatus’ villa so that Spartacus can gain access to an easily-concealable (and, of course, Thracian) dagger. It’s a bold move, even for the new Champion of Capua, Slayer of the Shadow and Bringer of Rain. And while it makes sense what Spartacus is doing in preparing for an early exit from his reign of the sands, “Delicate Things” also shows that Spartacus isn’t so narrow-minded as he’s sometimes portrayed.
He may be Sura-oriented at all times, but the news of her eventual return prompts him to speak well and honestly of Batiatus: “You are an honorable man. And will forever bear my gratitude.” This is one of two moments in which Spartacus shows slightly different colors from his bitterness at his situation. Dealing with Glaber will certainly put someone off trusting any Roman, but Spartacus has little experience with them on a personal level. Yes, the ones that we’ve seen don’t exactly give much hope for them as a group of people, but it’s still a relatively small sample size. While people in power tend to abuse it to either gain more or maintain what they have, even they are capable of being human in other ways. Granted, Batiatus has set up the death of Sura, but the way it’s played in the moment is convincing enough that Batiatus at least used to be capable of benevolence (and perhaps still is), because even he can’t front that well and has shown remorse in the aftermath of some of his more bloody deeds, including the unfortunate death of Barca after it’s revealed there had been some sort of mistake.
The other moment in which Spartacus shows more of his colors is during his talk with Doctore. After finding out about parts of Doctore’s past, Spartacus seems genuinely moved. Maybe I’m being naive, but his claim that he wishes he could tell Doctore’s deceased wife about the quality of her husband appears as genuine as Varro’s pleas to have Spartacus reconsider his escape plan. Spartacus can’t, after all, bank on Doctore stopping him one hundred times out of one hundred after he’s turned to leave. That doesn’t mean Spartacus wouldn’t deal with Doctore in the morning in a different way if he stood between him and Sura; it’s just that Spartacus retains that part of him that recognizes and respects honorable people despite becoming such a recent slave.
In the end, though, none of it matters. Sura winds up dead, leaving Spartacus more permanently tied to Capua than he ever thought possible. Considering how heavily the first half of this season has been playing the romance angle, the power of Sura’s death is two-fold: it’s a bold move whose effect is enhanced by how surprising it is, and it forces Spartacus to become something else as a series. Love has the ability to persist well beyond death, but since Sura has been the endgame thus far, now Spartacus needs a different goal. Freedom via revenge is the obvious pathway, but even if that’s the case, the journey there requires soul-searching and the kind of introspection that hasn’t been allowed for this character while he’s been so single-minded. The transition has been quick for the Thracian. Two episodes ago, he found himself in the pits of the underworld, fighting as a disgraced warrior on a quick descent into insanity. Last week, his rise took him to the heights of the gods, defeating The Shadow of Death and bringing much needed rains to the insatiable people of Capua. Now, his heart has been ripped from him, leaving him with little more than the fair-weather favor of the crowd and Varro’s shoulder to lean on. It seems nearly impossible to come back from that, but even disregarding the length of the series and the history of the figure, it has constantly been said of this Spartacus that he has a baffling amount of luck and resilience to keep him going.
– Sean Colletti
Denarri for Your Thoughts:
– Unfortunately, we have to quickly say goodbye to both Erin Cummings (Sura) and Antonio Te Maioha (Barca). Regarding the former, we lose a symbol of hope in Spartacus, which is already low in numbers when it comes to that. Regarding the latter, we lose a socially important piece of the series’ progressiveness in attitudes towards sexuality. The Barca-Pietros relationship isn’t treated with the kind of gravity that the Spartacus-Sura one is, but that’s because Barca’s not our main character. Instead, their relationship stands for something else, and considering how macho-male-skewed Spartacus might seem on the surface, Barca and Pietros have been essential components for promoting acceptance. That said, the twist of the knife in having Pietros believe that Barca would actually leave him there is brutally effective in its own right as a narrative decision.
– Lucretia complains about secrets upon secrets, which is about as hypocritical as it gets.
– Spartacus’ victory in the arena, Doctore says, puts “an end to my shame.” Doctore has proven to be nothing but honorable, making the lifting of this shame earn him even more sympathy. It’s why Spartacus poisoning him is kind of annoying, since we like Doctore at this point. He even backs down from whatever punishment he was thinking about doling out once he sees Spartacus cradling Sura.
– Speaking of that, we were almost beginning to really like Batiatus. I guess we can now revel in how utterly fantastic John Hannah is at being the sly bad dude.
– Plenty of comedy here in how Spartacus envisions his escape with Sura, riding on a stallion and all. Varro asks him “That’s your plan?” We were all thinking it.
– Poor Medicus. He can’t do anything right. How difficult can it be to heal Crixus back from what was basically death?
– “I shit myself.” Poor Gnaeus as well…?
– That was the first instance of the Spartacus number one hit, “His Cock Rages On,” that the gladiators were singing while partying. Yes, that’s a thing.