Monday, January 31, 2011

Spartacus: Blood and Sand S1E13

Season finale: "Kill Them All" - SPOILER in that the episode title pretty much spells it out for you.  Hope you weren't attached to too many characters!  Also, this recap is kind of disjointed because the show kept bouncing around with flashbacks.  I'll do my best.

Batiatus and Lucretia are having a huge party to celebrate their new patron, the Legatus Glaber [note: I thought it was "Glaba" because of all the English/Aussie/Kiwi accents but according to Wikipedia, it's more Glaber/Glaberus].  All the best people of Capua are there, milling about in the villa, watching the entertainment: a fight to the death between Spartacus and Crixus.

Two Days Ago:  The doctore [wish he had a name but I'm too lazy to look up imdb] appeals to Batiatus to intercede when Glaber's soldiers brutally beat on the gladiators.  Batiatus brushes that concern aside, saying that he is hoping to move beyond the day-to-day management of the ludus soon: he is planning to free the doctore and have him run the ludus instead.  The doctore is stunned and honored; then, bravely, he asks Batiatus about what happened when Barca was "freed."  Batiatus admits that he did have Barca killed but - and here's the lie - it was because Barca went against his dominus's orders and killed that family.  Lucretia wanders in, still wounded from Crixus's rejection, and suggests to her husband that they have a Crixus and Spartacus death-match as the party's centerpiece.  With her heart broken, she wants to ensure Crixus's death.  When Batiatus tells Spartacus about the fight, the Thracian appears pleased.  He even asks for a treat: the slave girl Mira.  When she comes to his cell, he asks her to make sure the gate between the ludus and the villa is open during the fight.  She reluctantly agrees, but her price is sex with Spartacus, right here, right now.

The Big Fight at the Party:  At first, Mira is unable to steal away from Lucretia's side to open the gate.  As they grapple on the sands of the ludus, Spartacus asks Crixus to stand with him and his rebels.  Crixus refuses.

One Day Ago:  The doctore tells Crixus that when he is freed and in charge of the ludus, he'll bring Navia [Lavia?] back - all Crixus must do is get rid of Spartacus so he doesn't mess things up.  Lucretia is enjoying bossing Ilythia around, making her invite all her wealthy friends to the party, and even writing a little speech for her to give on her absent husband's behalf.  Ilythia is getting extremely cranky about this.  Down in the ludus, Spartacus approaches Crixus to join the rebellion, knowing that the other Gallic gladiators aren't likely to help if Crixus won't.  Crixus refuses but they do make promises to each other: if Crixus dies, Spartacus will find and free Navia; if Spartacus is the one to fall, Crixus will one day murder the hell out of Batiatus.  Asher, however, on Batiatus's orders, has obtained a potion that will weaken Crixus so that Spartacus is guaranteed a victory.

Big Fight:  Spartacus and Crixus are, of course, evenly matched with no sign of Crixus weakening yet.  Mira, however, has stabbed a guard in the neck, killing him.  She takes the guard's keys and opens the gateway between the ludus and the villa.

Morning of the Big Fight:  Batiatus is giddy with anticipation.  Lucreita pays Crixus a visit, telling him that it is his child she is carrying; when that does not sway him, when he continues to profess his love for Navia, she furiously lets him drinks from the cup Asher dosed.  Spartacus tries to make nice with Aurelia, Varro's widow, telling her that the magistrate's son Nimerius forced him to kill her husband. 

Big Fight:  Crixus begins to weaken and Spartacus tosses him around some, but tells him that he doesn't want to win this way.  Crixus pauses, then agrees to join Spartacus's rebellion.  Spartacus runs up and launches himself off Crixus's shield, vaulting up to the balcony.  He strikes at Batiatus but the wily dominus shoves an innocent bystander in front of himself and the guy takes a sword through the head.  The doctore's whip catches the Thracian's arm - until Crixus severs the whip with his own sword.  The guests panic, running screaming into the villa.  Crixus looks at the other gladiators and roars: "KILL THEM ALL!"  And then chaos and awesome violence ensue.  I can't even describe it - it's insane.

After the guards are killed, the gladiators enter the villa through the open gate and start slicing and dicing the unarmed patricians.  This is compounded by the fact that Ilythia takes the Roman soldiers and leaves, ordering the soldiers to seal the villa's doors from the outside, trapping everyone inside.  Nice.  Crixus finds Lucretia and asks her where she sent Navia.  She pleads for the life of their child and he replies that he'd rather see it dead than suckle from her breast - then he pushes his sword into her belly [not a euphemism]. Aurelia leads Nimerius off, ostensibly to safety, then asks him why he ordered her husband dead.  "Varro deserved to die," says the callow boy, and tiny little Aurelia pounces on him, stabbing him to death with a dagger and screaming.

In the main courtyard, the gladiators have Batiatus surrounded.  A badly wounded Lucretai tries to come to her husband but Spartacus bars the way.  There is some talk about how much does a husband want to hold his wife again ... and then Spartacus slices Batiatus's throat, nearly beheading him.  The immediate battle done, Spartacus looks 'round at the assembled gladiators and house slaves and makes a little speech: "...I would not see the passing of a brother for the purpose of sport.  I did this thing because it is just.  Blood demands blood ... It is done.  Your lives are your own.  Go your own path or join with us - and see Rome tremble!"  And the rebel survivors walk out of the ludus courtyard and into their futures.

Seriously: holy shit, nearly everyone is dead now.  This is who is left: Spartacus, Crixus, the doctore, Asher (who slunk off during the melee), Mira, Aurelia, Ilythia, a bunch of unnamed gladiators and - possibly - Lucretia.  This is a silly show, with weak dialogue and less than stellar acting, a focus on gratuitous sex and violence ... and damned if it didn't suck me right in.  Unfortunately, darling Andy Whitfield has had a recurrence of his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and they've had to recast the role of Spartacus.  We'll see how the new guy does.  In the meantime, there's a prequel out now, set about five years before the beginning of S:BaS S1, showing the rise of Batiatus and Lucretia.  Since John Hannah and Lucy Lawless are quite entertaining scenery-chewers, I'll be picking that up when it hits DVD (as I am too cheap to pay for Starz).  Until then, let's all think positive thoughts for Andy Whitfield because, DAMN, man looks good in a leather loincloth. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spartacus: Blood and Sand S1E11 and 12

Episode 11, "Old Wounds" - Poor Spartacus struggles in the wake of Varro's death, unable to focus on his training, seeing spectres of his dead friend (and also Spartacus's dead wife) telling him to "mind the wound."  At first Spartacus thinks these visions mean the slight wound Varro gave him in their exhibition. 

Batiatus is taking his future into his own greedy hands: he kidnaps the magistrate, then promises Spartacus that the magistrate and his "whelp" will pay for the pain they have caused in insisting on Varro's death.  When Spartacus is chosen to fight in the primus in the games against Pompei, he asks that his winnings be given to Varro's widow; Batiatus thinks this is lovely and vows to match the purse.  Then he trots down to the sewers where the magistrate is stashed, planning to gloat.  The magistrate spits at him, saying that Batiatus is a low creature, only tolerated because the Champion of Capua is in his ludus - when Spartacus falls in the ring, Batiatus will also fall from favor.

Spartacus's wound becomes infected and he is confined to the infirmary; Crixus will fight in his place in the primus.  It goes badly at first, but as the rock guitars swell in the soundtrack, Crixus wins his match, ultimately putting the heel of his sandal through his opponent's skull.  Yuck.  Up in the box seats, a messenger tells the assembled patricians that the magistrate has been kidnapped.  Batiatus springs up and offers his men for the search and rescue.  Out in the town, Asher finds Batiatus's nemesis, rival ludus owner Solonius, and tells him that Batiatus kidnapped the magistrate.  He is clearly setting Solonius up: as Solonius rushes to the sewers, he finds the magistrate, throat cut, just as the search party arrives.  Solonius is arrested and dragged away while Batiatus grins.

In the infirmary, Spartacus awakens to find one of Batiatus's henchmen lying on the table beside him.  It's the man who brought the dying Zora to the ludus, claiming to have been beset by ruffians, and sporting a gut wound.  But there is no wound, no scar on this man's belly now.  Spartacus jumps on him, chokes the truth out of him - that Batiatus ordered Zora's death - and then chokes the life out of him.  All of a sudden, he's got clarity and focus again.  And when Batiatus commends him later, as he spars in the practice yard, Spartacus snarls, "I am myself again."

Episode 12, "Revelations" - It's stadium time again.  The dotore becomes suspicious when Spartacus mentions that although he's made many mistakes since becoming champion, he intends to make up for them soon.  When Spartacus is sent into the ring - and Oh. My. God. is Andy Whitfield gorgeous - his match is to be Solonius's execution.  Solonius tells the gladiator that Batiatus is the villain, not him; Spartacus promises him that Batiatus will be joining him shortly.  Solonius is still laughing at that when Spartacus knocks his head right off his body.  That evening, when the slave girl Mira is sent to Spartacus as a reward/diversion, he tells her that he knows that Batiatus had his wife killed.  She pleads with him not to attempt revenge since under Roman law, if a slave kills his master, all the other household slaves will be put to death.  Spartacus doesn't seem to care all that much.

As requested by Lucretia, Ilythia has asked her husband, the Legatus Glaba, to be patron of Batiatus's ludus.  Glaba is not inclined to do so, and makes veiled accusations towards Batiatus because of the recent spate of murders and disappearances in Capua.  Later, Ilythia tells Glaba to play along a little, toy with Batiatus and Lucretia.  Then she jumps his bones.

When Glaba and Ilythia go to the ludus, Glaba insists that the gladiators be brought up to the villa.  He wants a demonstration:  Spartacus, armed only with a practice sword, against one of Glaba's armed soldiers.  When Spartacus defeats the man, two more step up.  When he puts them down, the remaining five come after him.  It takes a while, but he clobbers them all.  Glaba is not happy at this, the worst [former] soldier in his platoon having become the greatest gladiator of Capua.  He says that he'll be Batiatus's patron if Spartacus will kneel before him.  Amazingly (and obviously with his own agenda in mind), the Thracian does so.  Still, Glaba balks and is about to leave when Batiatus plays his ace: he shows Glaba the severed hand of Lykinia, she whom Ilythia murdered in her post-coital rage.  That does it - patronage granted.  But Ilythia gets backhanded across the face and her husband tells her that she will not be returning to Rome with him.

Meanwhile, a bunch of other things happen.  Like, Lucretia finds out about Crixus's illicit love affair with her slave girl (Lavia?) and becomes enraged, beating the girl, cutting off all her hair and sending her away.  Crixus gets whipped for his indiscretions.  Lavia tells the dotore that Batiatus had Barca killed when he tried to purchase his freedom - and the dotore is quite upset about that.  And Spartacus begins to speak of rebellion among the other gladiators.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Things that make you go "meh"

Not that you would know it from the infrequency of posts here*, but I've been reading and watching a fair amount of stuff.  Just not anything that I've gotten jazzed up about enough to want to post.  So here's the tally for you:

Good Omens: the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - Ferchrissakes, this should have been a no-brainer.  Neil Gaiman!  Terry Pratchett!  A novel about a demon and an angel who set out to avert the apocalypse because afte millennia, they kind of like the earth.  Plus someone has misplaced the Antichrist.  And the Hellhound assigned to him has decided that chasing rabbits is more fun than shredding souls.  And the Four Horsemen are totally badass.  But Good Omens left me, not cold, but lukewarm.  Sure, funny.  But it reads as though Gaiman came up with the story and the characters and then Pratchett wrote the words.  I love both these authors but I guess not in this peanut butter cup kind of a way.  Maybe I need to read it again.

Get Him to the Greek - Mr. Mouse and I both watched this.  Parts were funny; Russell Brand is a skinny, skinny man while Jonah Hill is not; and you could easily have cut 30 minutes out of it.  I did think that Brand nailed the used-up rock star bit quite well though and loved his songs.  Rose Byrne, as his fashion model/singer girlfriend is funny too.  Puff Daddy or P. Diddy or WTF you call him needs to not give up his day job, however.

Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin - Book 4 in the Song of Fire and Ice series was a let-down.  After killing off most everybody interesting, this book ignored most of my remaining favorite characters and instead gave many, many chapters to brand new folks or secondary/tertiary characters.  Where was Tyrion?  What about Jon Snow?  Who really cares about Sansa?  Martin gives a sort of apology at the end, saying that he'd had everybody in there at first but then realized that the book was way too long and he could either give all the characters half a story or half the characters a full story, so he went with the second option.  Well, that's fine, but it's been like five years already.  Give us the other characters now.

Lights Out - FX's newest boxing series ... I can't really say much here since I've only watched the first episode which was mediocre.  Critics say that it continues to improve as the series goes on so I'm not giving up yet.  But honestly, it just feels like I'm treading water, waiting for Justified to come back on.

* I can't believe that I can't find a current/new television show to recap.  I can't believe that no one out there can come up with something that holds my interest long enough.  Sigh.  I miss Deadwood and Lost and Veronica Mars and - gawd - even poor, pathetic Heroes.  And I'm kicking myself for not sticking with Fringe.  On the plus side, I'm moving it up in my queue and perhaps when I restart, I'll pick up those recaps where I left off.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Spartacus: Blood and Sand S1E9 and 10

Episode 9, "Whore" - This episode might have been better named "Whores" because pretty much everyone in it is one, in some form or another.  Lykinia, one of Ilythia's highborn bitch-friends, has approached Lucretia: she's got an itch she wants Spartacus to scratch for her, but is concerned that her husband and all soceity might find out, which would ruin her.  Lucretia, ever looking to advance herself in society says not to worry, she can arrange things without anyone knowing ... and then Ilythia waltzes in, quickly deducing what Lykinia is up to.  Ilythia promises to keep the secret but Lucretia still worries.  When Batiatus informs Spartacus of his upcoming performance, Spartacus surprisingly agrees to it - he must be getting the hang of this Champion of Capua thing.

Crixus is finally released back to the practice yard by the medicus; Asha gets his leg brace off and wants to resume practice as well, but Batiatus tells him that his fighting days are over and he's more valuable to the ludus behind the scenes.  His honor hurt by this, Asha finds Solonius in the marketplace and informs him - for a price - that Batiatus will be making an attempt on his life soon.  Solonius is happy to pay for this information.  Lucretia (Lucy Lawless topless in the bath!) takes advantage of Batiatus's errands in town to call Crixus back to her bed; post-coitally, she snuggles into his beefy arms and tells him she loves him.

Shortly thereafter, Ilythia stops by again and confesses to wanting a little one-on-one gladiator time herself.  Lucretia is happy to set things up, for a price, until she learns that Ilythia wants Crixus between her own slender thighs.  This sets off QUITE a fit of pique and Lucretia can scarcely get herself under control before her husband starts wondering why she's so worked up about a gladiator.  She is PISSED, however, and vows to regain her honor.

The night of Spartacus's engagement, Lucretia hands him a mask and bids him to speak no words to this highborn Roman lady he's about to boink.  Her slaves wash him and cover him with gold until he looks like a statue.  He comes to the bedchamber where the woman lies before him, naked except for her own mask.  They go at it - and how! - passion building and building until Lucretia tears open the bedcurtains, the real Lykinia beside her.  "Oh," she mocks, "I guess we got here before Spartacus was done with Ilythia."  Spartacus pulls off his mask, then tears the mask off the woman beneath him.  It is Ilythia - and the horror is bald on both their faces, that they should be enjoying the bodies of their enemy so much.  Spartacus lunges at Ilythia, choking her, until guards pull him away.  Then Lykinia starts laughing and laughing.  Ilythia screams at her to stop but she won't, so Ilythia tackles her and beats her brains out on the marble floor.  Seriously: teeth scatter.

In the aftermath, Batiatus actually apologizes to Spartacus for having allowed him to be coupled with Ilythia; in return, the gladiator apologizes for having tried to choke her.  Heh.  Ilythia is a wreck at having killed a peer but Lucretia soothes her, promises to protect her and get rid of the body, all the while gloating at the position of power she's now in.

Episode 10, "Party Favors" - When the magistrate's son, Nimerius, is about to turn fifteen, he wants to have a gladiatorial contest at the party.  Batiatus and Lucretia offer to have the whole shindig at the ludus, thinking that they might be able to use the event to their societal advantage, plus Batiatus is beginning to have political aspirations.  They sweeten the pot with offering up an exhibition between Spartacus and Crixus and the magistrate's family is delighted.  Crixus is tiring of being referred to as the "former champion of Capua" and decides that the exhibition may have to be the end of Spartacus.

Lucretia insists that Ilythia, who is in hiding at the ludus, afraid to go out into society for fear that her crime will be apparent, invite all her high society friends to the birthday party.  She also suggests that Ilythia get her act together: Lykinia's body will never be found, and no one knew she was ever here.  Ilythia spends some time gazing out over the gladiators' practice yard and notices that Spartacus and Varo have become pretty good friends.  That old evil twinkle appears in her eye again.

The magistrate's family arrives early for the party and Batiatus tries several times to talk to the magistrate about support for his political endeavors, to no avail.  Nimerius gets dirty practicing with Spartacus on the gladiators' sands.  When he is sent to the bath to clean up, Ilythia finds him there.  She wants something and knows the best way to get it from a fifteen year old boy is to undress and climb into the bath with him.

Once the party is underway, Batiatus announces the exhibition between Spartacus and Crixus - but Nimerius, with a quick look at Ilythia, requests that Spartacus and Varo fight instead (which makes Crixus pout).  They do, each drawing a little blood from the other, until Spartacus gets the better of his buddy and Varo surrenders.  In the spirit of the game, Batiatus asks Nimerius what his decision is.  With another quick look at Ilythia, Nimerius deliberately points his thumb down: the sign for execution.  Batiatus stutters that this is just for fun, but the magistrate is inclined to indulge the birthday boy and says he'll compensate the ludus for Varo.

Things get tense quickly when Spartacus, horrified at what he's being told to do, hesitates to kill Varo.  The guards advance, swords drawn.  Varo looks up at his friend and says that if Spartacus doesn't kill him, they will both end up dead.  Spartacus is crying, unable to move, so Varo reaches up, grabs Spartacus's sword, and drives it into his own neck, forcing Spartacus to give him a mercy stroke.  As Varo fall to the floor, blonde curls in the pool of his spreading blood, the image is near mirror to that of Lykinia after Ilythia killed her.  Shocked, Spartacus looks up and catches Ilythia's eye - she smiles evilly, satisfied.

Later, as the party winds down, Batiatus finally catches the magistrate and asks about running for political office.  The magistrate manages to not laugh out loud, but tells him that politics is better left to those bred for it - Batiatus is just not high class enough.  When Lucretia runs up to ask how it went, her husband growls through clenched teeth that he will be repaid in blood.

Also bloody?  Spartacus, in his cell, as he rages and beats his fists against the walls, anguished over having murdered his only friend.  Seems being the Champion of Capua is not all that great after all.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Well, huh

That's it for Max Headroom, I guess. sent me one more disk, but all that had was extras (long-winded British people talking and talking and talking), so the series ends with "Baby Grobags."  In truth, I was getting a little tired of the show, especially once they pushed ol' Max to the periphery but now that I know I can't have any more, I want more.

Mr. Mouse has control of the remote tonight, watching some exceedingly boring biography of Robert E. Lee or a documentary on dry erase boards or something (I can't be bothered to pay any attention to non-fiction).  But two new Blockbuster DVDs were delivered today: another Spartacus (!!!!!) and Get Him to the Greek, so stay tuned.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Max Headroom episode recaps 12-14

Episode 12: "Neurostim" - Edison is investigating a certain population segment (low-income) who is in the process of bankrupting themselves buying Zik Zak food products.  It turns out that Zik Zak has developed a new entertainment/advertising/marketing gadget: the Neurostim bracelet that sends images and impulses directly to the consumer's brain without them having to watch television.  The Zik Zak engineers have developed a souped-up Neurostim for Edison - totally overwhelming his personality - to keep him from breaking the story.  Theora and Murray have to enlist Max's help to re-imprint Edison's memories on his own brain, which Max is not inclined to do since Edison yelled at him for stealing his airtime.

Episode 13: "Lessons" - Apparently the Max Headroom Show was yanked from Network 23's line-up for a while, but rioting by the hoi polloi brought it back.  (It is possible that back in the 1980s when this show aired, it was pre-empted for a while and this is their meta-commentary on its return.)  It's the Annual Sky Clearance, an event when the Zik Zak Corporation shoots down all its obsolete satellites, causing debris to rain down upon Earth.  There are carnivals and sales to celebrate, and everyone walks around under metal umbrellas to protect themselves.  While Edison and Theora are enjoying the Fringe carnival, a bunch of Metrocops, led by the Network 23 Censor Department, bust a secret school that has been teaching Fringe-dwellers to read via pirated educational shows that are only available through pay-cable.  Edison and Theora get involved when one of the secret teachers gets separated from her child - plus they're very curious as to why the Censors are involved at all. [Note: I dozed off in this one - kinda slow.]

Episode 14: "Baby Grobags" - The new fad in childbirth is "baby-bagging," an ex-utero/in vitro program by which parents can donate eggs and sperm, screen for genetic abnormalities and pick their baby's sex, then have the child grown in a lab and delivered full-term without the need for actual pregnancy.  (Man oh man - sometimes this silly show just has a window into the future!)  Theora's friend Helen goes to pick up her new baby from the Ovi Vat company but the baby is missing so Theora and Murray go undercover as prospective parents.  It seems that rival Network 66 is brokering deals with greedy parents and buying the Ovi Vat children who turn out to have extraordinarily high IQs for their new ratings-blockbuster, "Prodigies," and Helen's baby got mixed up with one of these children.  Also, Ovi Vat is illegally growing other babies for profit.  In other news, Network 66 tries to woo Bryce away, promising him oodles of money, tech and live parrots (Bryce likes parrots).

Strangely, for a show entitled Max Headroom, Max himself is turning up less and less as these episodes go on - he was totally tangential in E14, just offering some commentary outside of the plot before the show would go to commercial break.  I liked it better when they worked him into an episode's plot more but I guess there's only so much you can do with a CGI head in a box.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Max Headroom episode recaps 8-11

Episode 8: "Deities" - The View Age Church is soliciting money from its teleparishioners to fund "resurrection research," claiming that they can brain-scan you now and then, when you're dead, download your personality into a new body.  Edison starts his investigation reluctantly, as the head of the church is an old college girlfriend.  After they hook up for old times' sake, Max gets kidnapped to induce Edison to drop his expose.

Episode 9: "Grossman's Return" - Let me get this out there right now: I hated this episode.  Ostensibly about public vs. private lives, plus the evils of manufactured news, it was boring and confusing as Ned Grossman, former head of Network 23 and now working for Network 66, double-, triple- and quadruple-crossed his new network and the political candidate it supported in his quest to assume control of a television network again.  Filled with overacting and overreacting (particularly when Edison finds out that Theora doesn't always spend the night alone), this was just an awful episode.  Pointless trivia: the One-Armed Man from The Fugitive (the movie) is a board member on Network 66.

Episode 10: "Dream Thieves" - The show returns to form with this ep, thankfully.  While on assignment, Edison runs into a former friend and coworker, Paddy Ashton.  Paddy's life has taken a turn for the worse since he lost a prime N23 gig to Edison, but he's onto a big story now.  But before he can break it, Paddy turns up dead, victim of an upstart subscriber-only cable network who collects dreams from people for their broadcast: "DreamVu."  The process kills some people, however, and Edison sets out to expose them for what they did to Paddy, unable to keep his emotions in check.

Episode 11: "Whackets" - An apartment building collapses but when Edison goes out to shoot the story, all the survivors are more interested in watching a really lame game show, "Whackets."  It's weird.  The show, broadcast by Blanks Reg and Domenique on Big Time Television as market research for its developers (a shady duo, one of whom is played by Bill Maher!), has a secret code embedded in it that addicts its viewers.  Seeing the opportunity for guaranteed ratings for whatever show embeds the code, Grossberg tries to buy the program for N66, but Edison and N23 break the story before that can happen.