Every time I think this series can't get more devastating for its characters, I'm proven wrong. This mini-series has been building towards a number of showdowns, but few will be more deserved than the fate of Tulius.
As much as the damage done to the House of Batiatus was largely self-inflicted, what we discover in this episode is that Quintus has been more right than he has been wrong. Sure, his impulsive nature factored into this debacle, but Tulius' actions demonstrate all too well why Titus Batiatus is wrong in seeking diplomacy. It's not about station or respect anymore. If it had been, Titus' capitulation in the previous episode would have settled the matter.
I've been waiting for the turning point for Lucretia, away from the dutiful wife to the creature she is in "Blood and Sand", and Gaia's death fits the bill. She doesn't look completely broken by the end of this episode, but the process has well and truly begun. I imagine the coming showdown with both Titus and Tulius will complete the process, concurrent with the fall of Gannicus and the rise of Crixus. Quintus may be required to make choices that drive the wedge between husband and wife made familiar in "Blood and Sand".
This is the brilliance of the writing for this show. Amid the spectacle is this utterly tragic turn of events. The orgy could have been simple "eye candy", but instead, it is all about the dread of what must inevitably take place once Tulius enters the house. I was reminded, over the course of the episode, of the classic "Babylon 5" episode "The Coming of Shadows", when Titus came to the conclusion that Quintus drew him away from Capua to find common ground. While son allows father to assume intent, death hangs over the House of Batiatus.
With Gannicus' death waiting in the wings, given his hubris and his absence in "Blood and Sand", his relationship with Melitta made his potential demise in this episode a tragic missed opportunity. We know Melitta meets an untimely end, but this is going to be even more of a mess than anticipated.
I've been waiting for some kind of movement on the eventual rift between Quintus and Polonius, given their feud in "Blood and Sand", and I suppose this fits the bill. Quintus could choose to interpret Polonius' departure as a contributor to Gaia's death and his own bad fortune, but it seems inevitable that it will come down to Polonius' decision to tell Tulius about the orgy in the first place. Quintus, being the man he is, will happily transfer all blame and responsibility onto Polonius' shoulders.
Ashur has been lurking in the background, having received his mark in the least honorable manner imaginable, and sure enough, we see the seeds of his future fate being sown in this episode. His lack of skill in the arena is hardly surprising, and it seems likely that we will see the moment he is brutally injured before "Gods of the Arena" comes to a close. How many brothers are betrayed along the way is the real question yet to be answered.