Spartacus: Blood & Sand – 1.01 – The Red Serpent

PREVIOUSLY ON SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND!– technically, nothing happened, because this is the first episode. Derp. Go watch Gods of the Arena, I’ll wait here.

*****

A grimy, longhaired, hotass loinclothed man in chains opens his eyes and lo, it is our darling friend Spartacus! He’s sat in some grotty bloodstained cell, while above him, the rafters shake and spill sand from the arena in fair Capua. Yes, within the first 30 seconds of the series, WE HAVE BLOOD AND WE HAVE SAND. I love the utter lack of subtlety in this show. I love it forever.

Outside in the arena, a similarly longhaired and beloinclothed (but far less hotass) man is battling an unfairly armor-wearing gladiator holding a large shield, upon which we see the title of today’s episode, The Red Serpent. And man, is serpent dude kicking lumpy loincloth dude’s ass.

The pulvinus is full of old friends and old enemies – Batiatus and Lucretia on one side, and Solonius on the other. All three look sleeker and more prosperous than last we saw them, ~5 years ago in canon time. Joining them is an older man in purple (a Senator) and a fine young couple (an army officer and his blonde wife).

Down on the sands, Lumpy Loincloth and Red Serpent are still thrashing the crap out of one another, with Red Serpent clearly gaining the upper hand. Blood splatters everywhere, dripping down through the sand to land on Our Man Sparty.

(Much like my unholy lust for longhair wooby Crixus, I find longhair wooby Sparty exceptionally appealing, as, I assume, do all right-thinking people. Mmm.)

*****

Flashback time! Spartacus, looking clean and quite delectable, pushes through a crowd of angry men at a Thracian town meeting. All the (swarthy, muscular, longhaired) men are wearing tiny skirts and red capes and very little else, and I am suddenly far more interested in local politics than ever before. An older man shouts down the noise of the crowd, demanding that “the Roman” be allowed to have his say.

OHOHO, it’s the young army officer from the arena, the legatus Claudius Glaber. He’s there asking for the Thracians’ help in an upcoming battle against the approaching armies of Mithridates. The Thracians are not particularly interested in helping out their enemies, the Romans, until Glaber points out that the Getae, a northern barbarian tribe, will take advantage of the confusion of battle to invade Thracian villages. Glaber, having roused the men’s anger, encourages them to join the auxiliary and fight Rome’s enemies, but Spartacus has some demands of his own – if the Thracians join with Rome, then Rome must in turn help them annihilate the Getae completely. God, he is so delish when he’s being all bloodthirsty.

The legatus agrees to the terms, and all the Thracians cheer wildly… all except Spartacus, who is too busy eyefucking Glaber, while a thousand fanfic writers squee with delight.

*****

Sparty returns home to find his fine fine wife, Sura, at prayer, and gives her the news that the council has voted for war. She looks less than pleased, but simply tells him she’s asked the gods to bless his sword. Aww. Sparty the Optimist says that once the Getae are defeated, he’ll never have to pick it up again! LOL IRONIC FORESHADOWING.

Sura basically laughs right in his face, because what on earth would her husband do without a sword in his hands? Apparently Sparty wants to be a farmer. With goats, y’all. GOATS. Oh, and also he wants to make some babies. Sura and every single other woman on earth is suddenly quite intrigued. They’re so adorably in love, you guys. It could not be more obvious that she will die in a gruesome and horrible way. SIGH.

Upon discovering that the men mean to leave first thing in the morning, Sura makes the executive decision to commence the boning immediately, and I salute her wisdom. Epic sexytimes follow, and I am confused by the lack of wailing orgy guitars but delighted by Sparty’s perky ass.

*****

The next morning, in front of a truly terrible greenscreen leaf-strewn hilltop sunrise, the Thracian men say their goodbyes to wives and children. Sura tells Spartacus about a dream she had the night before, one that she’s certain came directly from the Gods. In her dream, he’s kneeling before a red serpent (dun dun duuuun), “his life draining away”. Sura’s decided the dream means that if Sparty goes to war, he is destined for great and unfortunate things. Sparty, resplendant in his leather battle skirt and greaves (have I mentioned my greaves fetish lately?), sees no parallel to be drawn between a red serpent and his enemies, the Getae, who worship a mountain wolf. (Oh Sparty. Your enemies are the Romans, you silly creature.) Plus, he’s given his manly word as a manly man!

Cunning Sura appeals to something more important than manly honor – COCK. However will she survive the winter nights without Sparty in her bed? Sura, honey, I have been wondering the same thing. The answer: Restoration Hardware’s down blankies. Trust me.

Sparty apparently thinks RH is overrated, and instead tells Sura to lift up her dress. (I am forced to admit I like this idea much better than blankies, even the green one I named Tom Hardy.) Alas, no sexytimes interlude is scheduled for this morning. Instead, Spartacus rips off a bit of decorative purple fabric from his scabbard and ties it to Sura’s delectable thigh, and I feel warmer already. Instead of weeping and wailing over her man going off to battle, Sura tells Sparty to kill them all. YAY.

*****

Spartacus then begins an utterly hilarious greenscreen journey through the mountains, snow flurrying around him as he runs on through the night and into gory, firey battle, and I am left to ponder the confusing spectacle of a Thracian in a Corinthian helmet, because I am a giant nerd.

The Thracian auxiliary handily slaughters what I assume are the shrieking hordes of Getae, with few losses of their own. Glaber and his men ride up lazily amidst the battle, and seem rather alarmed at all the carnage. Apparently they are little girly men. Heads and limbs are flying willy-nilly, intestines are flapping in the breeze, and blood is splashing in technicolor glory all over the camera. Oh, show of my heart!

*****

Later that evening, the exhausted Thracians are huddled scruffily around a small fire on a snowy hilltop, while the Roman army rests below in a tidy tent encampment. One of the soldiers, Drenis – also known as Lumpy Loincloth – is disgusted by the crap food the auxiliary has been provided, and throws his bowl to the ground in a rage. His tantrum leads him to kick over the cookpot and stamp his feet like a tiny baby, while rousing the men to join him in deserting the Romans completely. Our Man Sparty doesn’t want to hear this kind of shit – he’s given His Word, by god, and he is going to keep it. In his village, at least, these things still mean something, he snarks.

Drenis is pretty sure honor and giving one’s word has nothing to do with Sparty’s decision – clearly Sparty’s only in it to impress his hot bitch. That right there’s some fightin’ words, and Sparty takes him down with a Glasgow kiss.

The two men engage in a blood-splattery brawl while the rest of the Thracian soldiers cheer them on happily. As Spartacus gains the upper hand, the legatus and his henchmen ride up on their horses, and could not possibly be less impressed with the scene before them. Sparty stops battering Drenis mid-punch in order to eyefuck Glaber once more. Glaber’s henchman announces that they’re looking for volunteers to scout ahead of the army lines, and when no one steps forward, he tells Spartacus and Drenis to get going, and to be back with a tactical report by sunrise. Or they’ll all go without rations, adds Glaber. What a douchebag. Sparty and Drenis abandon their brawl amicably, agreeing to continue kicking each other’s asses in the afterlife if they die in battle.

*****

Glaber returns to his clean, warm, well-appointed tent within the Roman encampment, where a cloaked and hooded stranger lurks in the shadows. Unfortunately, it’s neither an assassin nor Sparty set on hot manlovin’. It’s Glaber’s glorious golden strumpet of a wife, Ilithyia, bedecked in wolf furs. Glaber, ever the tightass, wants to know if her father, Senator Albinius, has any idea she’s in Thrace, but as far as Ilithyia knows, Daddy thinks she’s still at their villa in Capua.

They discuss the battles so far, and Ilithyia is outraged to hear that her husband will not be leading the Roman armies against Mithridates, obnoxiously pointing out how disappointed Senator Daddy will be if Glaber is not successful in this position acquired for him. Glaber is naturally fucking irritated by this line of conversation, but luckily, Ilithya’s brought a few things along to distract her husband and remind him of home – a skin of Sestii wine, and her own fine bareass naked self under the fur cloak. Glaber quite naturally bones her atop his toy soldier-covered map of Thrace.

*****

Sparty and Drenis crawl to the edge of a snowy outcropping, to spy out the enemy’s movements. To their dismay, they realize that the Getae have broken camp and are heading not homewards to the north, but westwards, towards the undefended Thracian villages.

Back in the Roman encampment, Sparty and Drenis are in Glaber’s tent, explaining the Getae’s movements using the Map of Sex. Glaber’s not particularly interested, and tells Sparty they must have gotten turned around in the mountains at night, and are confused about the direction in which the enemy is headed. Sparty’s not taking any of that shit, and continues on with his explanation even after Glaber gives him the brush-off. Glabey no likey, and throws Sparty out of the tent.

An eavesdropping Ilithyia points out that the barbarians are headed east, in the opposite direction of Mithridates and his army, and Glaber concurs that he will head west, towards MANLY GLORY against the enemies of Rome. Apparently giving one’s word means nothing in his village.

*****

Spartacus and Drenis stomp towards the Thracian encampment, grouching all the way. Sparty is in quite a rage over Glaber’s foolishness, but Drenis is far more interested in the skin of Sestii wine he lifted from Glaber’s tent. Sparty just barely refrains from rolling his eyes.

Come sunrise, Spartacus grimly sharpens his sword while Drenis lies nearby in a sodden heap. He awakens grumpily as the Roman battle horns sound. Sparty assume that Glaber has had a change of heart, and that they’re off to fight the Getae, but quickly learn that they’re to head east instead. As Glaber and his henchromans arrive on horseback yet again, Sparty moves to confront them. Glaber could not fucking care less about the Thracian’s concerns, reminding them that they’ve allied themselves with Rome and has best do as they’re told.

Oh no he din’t. Sparty tells Glaber to kiss his firm round ass, and it’s on like donkey kong, y’all. As Glaber draws his sword to presumably wave it around in a menacing fashion, Spartacus grabs the horse’s bridle, causing it to rear and Glaber to fall upon his head in the mud, unconscious. Glaber’s henchromans fly into a terrible passion and attack the Thracians, who kill the henchromans in a matter of moments. As the last henchroman rides off to warn the rest of the army, Sparty masterfully takes him out from 20 feet away with a thrown spear, and my panties fly off, never to be seen again.

In the aftermath, Drenis advises that the Thracians flee and return to their homes, to save their families. They make the incredibly foolish decision to leave the unconscious legatus facedown in the mud, instead of killing him as any wise person would do. SIGH.

*****

Sura is out in a snowy orchard picking plums (maybe persimmons? idefk) when the Getae barbarian hordes arrive. (Shut up, 4 men can TOO be a horde.) She flings down her basket and runs like hell, but a fifth barbarian jumps her from the side, tackling her to the ground. Sura smashes him in the face with a rock and knees him viciously in the nads, taking advantage of his nadcrushed paralysis to grab his sword and start swinging. Before she can go head to head with any of the barbarians, a thrown sword comes spinning out of the fog and plants itself to the hilt in barbarian #4’s face. DADDY SPARTY’S HOME, SUCKAS.

Sparty, now swordless, leaps onto barbarian #3 and cracks the dude’s grill open with the edge of his shield. Teeth and blood fly in slo-mo. Barbarians #1 & 2 take advantage of the commotion and try to drag Sura off by her hair, but Sparty is on them like white on rice, taking a moment to first hack at a recently recovered barbarian #5 with his own sword.

Sura, grabbing barbarian #4’s discarded sword, leaps into the fray, and between husband and wife, they hack the remaining barbarians to bloody barbarian bits. They’re about to engage in some celebratory snogging when they see the smoke pouring from the distant village, and hear the screams and slaughter. Sparty realizes it’s too late for the two of them to help anyone, and they scamper off into the hills.

*****

That evening, they set up camp around a small fire, and Sparty kicks himself over ever having left her in the first place, especially on the word of a Roman. Sura goes to clean and bind his wounds, but I think it’s really just a ploy to get him out of his battle skirt. They decide that since the Romans are heading east to fight the armies of Mithridates, they should flee to the south, where Sparty once had family.

And then, in a move unbefitting a clever warrior, he and Sura bone the night away instead of keeping watch out for their many, many, well-armed enemies. SIGH SIGH SIGH. Whatevs, it is hotass slo-mo sexytimes and I am not going to argue with it.

Imagine my total lack of surprise when they awaken to see Glaber atop his pretty white horsie, surrounded by legionnaires. Sparty lunges for his sword but is too late, and Sura is dragged off naked and screaming to presumably her gruesome and terrible fate. Spartacus is flung naked to the ground and beaten, and left lying homoerotically at Glaber’s feet.

Glaber is much more interested in listing Sparty’s supposed crimes than any manlove, alas – apparently the legatus’ tribune was killed in the previous day’s fracas, half the auxiliary deserted, and now Glaber’s been recalled to Rome. And it’s All Sparty’s Fault. Spartacus frantically agrees that he is a bad bad man who should be punished, but his innocent wife should go free. BUT NO. Glaber condemns her to slavery instead, because he is a great big stupid dick. Glaber seals the deal with a wicked backhand to poor Sparty’s face.

Spartacus regains consciousness chained in the hold of a leaky ship, amongst the rest of the Thracian auxiliary, most of whom are barfing from seasickness. Drenis, chained across from him, reveals that they’re sailing upon the Adriatic, and are bound for Capua.

*****

Back in Capua, Ilithyia stands on a balcony watching the sun set over the arena. Glaber sneaks up behind her for a welcome home grope, to her extreme delight. Unfortunately, she fends off his wandering hands to remind him that her father, although in town and not at home, is very unhappy with Glaber. While she’s happy to see the husband she’s missed, she worries that he’s returned to Capua too soon, and too unvictorious. But Glaber’s got big plans to regain the Senator’s favour; namely, the blood of his newly acquired Thracian slaves, to be spilled for the crowd’s amusement in the arena. Glaber thinks that Senator Albinius, always concerned with pleasing the crowds, even outside of election years, is sure to go for his plan. Ilithyia agrees and the two set off to convince the Senator of its potential efficacy.

*****

Later that evening, as nude slaves writhe and a cock-hat-wearing dwarf capers amongst the drunken guests, Albinius and Ilithyia address the cheering crowd, thanking them for attending the festivities. Albinius then calls forth our dear old frenemy Batiatus, who enters the atrium with Barca and Crixus, both oiled to a high gloss and looking terribly pleased with themselves. Batty the inveterate showman presents the gladiators to the crowd, and the three strut off complacently.

Batty’s complacency is shattered by the next arrival to the party – Solonius and a string of six gladiators. Batty fumes and rages quietly to himself as Lucretia approaches with a fixed smile of polite goodwill on her face. They bitch companionably about Solonius’ good fortune in having half a dozen men in tomorrow’s games to their two.

Albinius has one more trick up his sleeve to please his guests, however. He calls Glaber in to the atrium, followed by the chained Thracians. One of the henchromans shoves the chained men to their knees, while Glaber crows over their impending horrible deaths in the arena at the hands of the assembled gladiators. Predictably, the bloodthirsty Roman crowd goes wild, but Albinius is not moved.

Lucretia and Batty mingle through the crowd, scheming to have one of their men perform the executions in the arena, but a smug Solonius overhears them and smarms that his men have already been chosen for the task. He then leers appreciatively at Lucretia, as is only natural in the eyes of all people with eyes, to Lucretia’s enjoyment and Batty’s icy rage. Solonius oozes charm all over Lucretia until he’s beckoned away by Albinius, and Batty vows to end him and all that he loves, for what is surely the 12 thousandth time.

The chained, kneeling Thracians gawp at the naked slaves a-writhing, but Spartacus, cunning Spartacus, is watching Solonius’ gladiators fight with practice swords instead, gauging their skill. The gladiators notice his interest, and respond with smug amusement, and Our Sparty rolls his eyes. *hearteyes*

*****

We return to the opening scene of the episode, where Spartacus is chained in a cell beneath the arena, grimly awaiting his turn. As the distant crowds above cheer, two of Glaber’s soldiers enter the cell to unchain him and bring him up to his dooooom. Sparty seems a bit dazed, and struggles a bit halfassedly. But by then, it’s far too late. The soldiers shove a sword into his hands and push him up to the bars of the arena door.

A wounded Drenis is still out on the sand, fighting Red Serpent Dude. (I originally thought Red Serpent Dude might be Crixus, as their showoffy fighting styles are similar, but it occured to me that Batty would be cheering much more intently if that was the case. I assume he’s one of Solonius’ men.) Drenis is clearly tiring and doesn’t look likely to last much longer. Red Serpent backhands him with his sword hilt, and as Drenis staggers away in pain, his eyes meet Sparty’s across the arena ~dramatically. Drenis laughs and throws himself back into battle, only to have his throat cut in the next instant, to the gleeful screams of the crowd. Sparty stares aghast as his last friend in the whole entire world dies bloodily before his eyes, sobbity and woe.

Before him, Spartacus sees the cheering crowds, and behind him, the mangled dead bodies of the rest of his men, and appears to gain a new sense of determination. I mean, yeah, it could very well just be gas, idk. I’m going with determination.

Glaber informs the Senator and the rest of the group in the pulvinus that he’s saved the best for last; namely, Spartacus, evil auxiliary-deserting, plan-ruining, Glaber-punching Spartacus. Despite the promise of an excellent fight, Albinius still looks like he’s chewing a lemon with a wasp in it. I assume grumpy cat anus is his default expression.

The heralds sound their trumpets, and Spartacus is pushed out onto the sands, blinded by the setting sun. The restless crowds are vaguely intrigued, but mostly unexcited by this lone man walking cautiously out into the arena – they’re used to smug egomaniacal gladiators or terrified prisoners.

Spartacus looks carefully at Red Serpent, holding his sword at the ready, while Red Serpent taunts him in a most unsportsmanlike fashion. Before they can get down to business, another door opens in the arena, and three more well-armed gladiators enter: a retiarius, a murmillo, and a secutor.

Oh man, the crowd does not like this turn of events, and they boo the shit out of the approaching trio. Albinius, noting the crowd’s disfavour, wonders aloud at the wildly unfair odds. But Ilithyia and Glaber are quick to point out that Spartacus is a bad awful horrible bully who was meeeen to Glaber and stole his lunch money and then pushed him offa the swing, daddy! So mean! So obviously Sparty has to be humiliated before his death! Albinius, with an epically long-suffering expression on his cat ass face, tells Glaber to give the command and get shit started. Lucretia and Batiatus share a similarly long-suffering look at their lack of men in this fight. Oy vey.

With a wave of his fist, Glaber orders the gladiators to begin fighting. The four men fall upon him quickly, and the retiarius trips Sparty up with a net, taking first blood. The three others take it in turns to slap him around while the crowd laughs and cheers. But as Spartacus kneels in the sand, wounded and bleeding, he looks up to see the red serpent painted on the first gladiator’s shield, and remembers Sura’s voice telling him to “kill them all”.

…. so he does.

Before Red Serpent can finish him off, Spartacus leaps up from the ground and buries his sword to the hilt in Red Serpent’s chest, gutting him as the crowd goes batshit insane. Sparty then slices off the arm of the second murmillo, continuing with a slash to the throat. As the final secutor comes at him with a battle axe, Sparty shields himself with #2, who dies with #3’s axe in his neck.

The retiarius tries to net Sparty as he rolls away from #3, and Sparty counters by hacking off netboy’s legs at the knee, right then left. The crowd has lost their fool minds, and are screaming and shaking their tits with ecstatic fucking delight. The axe-wielding gladiator makes one last rush at Spartacus, but Sparty slaps him down with a cut across his belly, and then jams his sword up through his chin into his brain with a demented roar of triumph.

Spartacus is drawn out of his berserker trance by the crowd’s shouts of “KILL! KILL! KILL!” and notices the terrified and legless retiaruius crawling away over the sand. Sparty stoops to pick up the trident and, with a wild-eyed look of epic bloodthirst, pins Netboy McLegless to the sand as fountains of blood spurt dramatically (and biologically impossibly) into the air. The entire crowd, as one, jizzes in its pants, and begins cheering for Spartacus to be allowed to live, as befits a hotass crazy fucking warrior such as he.

AHAHA, Glaber is so fucking pissed off. Albinius is just irritated. Glaber wants the death sentence to remain in effect, but Albinius knows quite well that to go against the will of the crowd after such a memorable and amazing fight would be to their distinct disadvantage. Glaber descends into a spitty hissy fit, greatly alarming Ilithyia, but before he can have a full-blown tantrum, Batty the Eternal Businessman offers a clever and face-saving solution: he will purchase Spartacus and put him in with the training class of new gladiatoral recruits. Batty predicts that Spartacus won’t live out the week in training, so Glaber will have the satisfaction of his painful death while the crowd will have the satisfaction of seeing him live to fight another day.

Before Glaber can stupidly refuse the offer, Albinius grabs onto it with both hands. He prepares to announce his decision to the crowd, asking Glaber for the correct name – but Glaber never even bothered to ask. (Because he’s a jerkface, see?) Batty opines that since he fights as wildly as the Thracian king of old, so should he too be called…. SPARTACUS. The name appeals to Albinius’ sense of showmanship, and he takes the name and runs with it. When Albinius tells the crowd that he and Glaber have granted Sparty his life, it’s BONERTIME.

Sparty is fucking astounded at all this adulation, the teeming hordes shrieking his name fail to distract him from one very important thing: his burning hate for legatus Claudius Glaber. The two men share a final passionate nostril-flaring eyefuck across the arena as the crowd soils itself copiously.

*****

NEXT WEEK: Wave upon wave of gladiator training montages! Sparty makes a friend! Glaber is a dickwad! And Lucretia makes a new and unforseen conquest: Ilithyia. AW YEAH.

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  • Geeka

    Yay!! I’m so glad you started recapping these. A little something to tide me over till the next season…still wary of a new Sparty.

    • Liz

      I TOTALLY MEANT TO START AGES AGO OMG. I am just really horrendously lazy, tbh. (Also it’s hot out and I use a lot of my daily energy whining. *flails*)

      I am so goddamn psyched for next season, you have no idea. But yeah, idk how I feel about New Dude just yet.

  • “Before Red Serpent can finish him off, Spartacus leaps up from the ground and buries his sword to the hilt in Red Serpent’s chest, gutting him as the crowd goes batshit insane.”

    That scene is one of the best moments in TV EVER.

    • Liz

      That was when I KNEW this series would be the greatest spectacle of ridiculous madness ever in the history of awesomeness. RIGHT THERE.