Reveal what's behind the curtain. Unravel the ball of scum the characters have been throwing at each other. Collapse the ludus of cards and make its residents clash like titans, or not. With Ovidius arrest and the anticipated return of Gaius Claudius Glaber this episode story could only be edgy.
Batiatus plan to bury his rival continued his vicious circle around him like a scavenger. Its development was entertaining even if I was expecting something more surprising. As often fights were also featured at the beginning and even if they shouldn't blow you away they at least warmed up the gladiators for the rest of the episode. Indeed the Thracian was tortured by vengeance so in some way Revelations was similar to Delicate Things even if it wasn't as theatrical and fascinating. Even if the story was captivating many of the recurring elements were missing, the surreal daydreams and creative editing for example. So let's hope they'll redeem themselves in the finale. But it's not necessarily a bad thing as it allowed them to focus more on the secret relationships and social ascension arcs. Old Wounds proved that when it comes to manipulation Ashur and Batiatus are the perfect match. They're interesting characters because their mental profiles balance the more physical ones. Their mind games definitely make the story more exciting and following its numerous boomerang arcs is quite challenging because you never know who they aim.
With Ashur knowing about Crixus and Naevia I was wondering what he would do. As expected his intentions were pure evil but it's not the what that matters with him but the how. His Machiavellian plan was bitter sweet to taste and like a praying mantis he waited for the climactic scramble to prey the pawns he had been toying with. Do I hate him ? Definitely. But he's so unscrupulous and cunning that without him the show liquor wouldn't be so excessive. It leads us to the apparently More Roman Than Thracian. To the greedy eyes of Batiatus he's only the new Champion of Capua but we only know that he's more, much much more. But before the Superbeast unleashes his fever in Kill Them All the writers decided to dominate him a little longer. Imagine his Delicate Things valiant and naive story without Varro, six episodes and probably hundreds of dead meat gladiators later. But when Tracy Bellomo and Andrew Chambliss writing was exquisite I found Brent Fletcher's approach far less subtle and even incongruous at times. The Thracian is not the smartest character but he's definitely not dumb. That's why I found some of his dialogs with other ludus residents slightly awkward and lacking the delicate words of Bellomo, because I suspect her happy neurons to be behind such a brilliant and antiheroic portrayal.
But among the what went wrong elements there was one that could have wiped them all. No the Thracian didn't thunder kissed Mira's tender lips. A fierce and surprising fight happened. It could have been as jaw dropping as seeing a living dead blonde woman walking naked in a graveyard but a very poor execution ruined it all. Indeed for once it took place at the ludus and not the usual virtual arena. I don't mind the digital seams of it as it allows the CG artists to express their talent, from the blood waves to the slow motion scenes. But it seems their production pipeline wasn't ready to migrate its assets from the sand to the stone. It's even more disappointing considering how excellent the fights were in The Thing in the Pit. From the brutality to the choreography it was pure audiovisual madness. Here it reminded me of a randori practice, when you have to take multiple opponents at the same time in aikido. The editing wasn't dynamic and it was obvious the performers were faking it. And when you add no blood and no visual effects you get one of the worst collision of the show to date yet. Smallville's Checkmate was aired the same night and even if its director lacked experience he at least found creative ways to get things done in time and on budget. They mixed stroboscope and bullet time effects to film a scene where Clark Kent, the Blur, has to interact with many characters. One second the screen is all black and you picture him as fast moving, the next it's white and you see him punching or grabbing someone. Now once you have watched the fight from Spartacus imagine it occuring at night during an apocalyptic storm, like in Jurassic Park for example. The rain would be pouring from the ludus roof and the characters would react as lighting strikes. Like in video games, God of War and Painkiller for example, they could also have used a physics engine to destroy walls and render water particles. It would have made the scenes far much more intense, dramatic and even horrific.
But in the end I still enjoyed this installment. It wasn't as good as gems like Party Favors but at least it succeeded in reinventing itself, again, and should definitely entertain you. It's easy to criticize and point out the mistakes but it doesn't make the show less impressive. Moreover there was some major character development, from Doctore to Aurelia, so the finale season episode should be mind blowing. So be gentle Thracian because we're all TV virgins !