Season 1 | Episode 13 | “Kill Them All” | Aired Apr 23, 2010
Well, that was eventful. If there’s one thing to take away from the season finale, it’s that Spartacus goes for broke in its conclusions. Directed with a sharp eye by Jesse Warn and written by Steven S. DeKnight, the finale concludes myriad storylines and, by the end, sends the series, and its characters, in a completely new direction.
This episode starts with an effective flash-forward: Capua’s elite are gathered at the House of Batiatus to celebrate the newly appointed patronage and a fight to the death between Crixus and Spartacus. Just when you think Spartacus is being dominated by Crixus, a cut presents a flashback to “Two Days Ago,” and continues cutting back and forth in time throughout the episode. The time-jumping gives the episode a lot of momentum and provides the flashbacks with a lot more dramatic weight.
One of the major arcs of this episode is Doctore (his real name is Oenomaus) and his questioning of the House of Batiatus. With the treatment of the slaves by the Roman soldiers and the confession that Barca was murdered, this episode smartly makes this authority figure see the reality of the ludus. Another important moment for him comes when Batiatus offers him the title of lanista—he uses this news to lift Crixus’ spirits and promise him that together they’ll go looking for Naevia.
During the flashbacks, we also learn Spartacus is trying to recruit the slaves for an uprising. Some are on his side (Agron and Duro) and some aren’t (Crixus), but the great thing about these flashbacks is that they give us more of strategic Spartacus and bring closure to a lot of his relationships, including his relationship with Crixus. Their conversation about possibly being brothers in another lifetime, as he’s trying to convince Crixus to rebel by mentioning how despicable Batiatus is, brings a sense of finality and a logical endpoint to their relationship. They see each other as formidable gladiators and as brothers, but there’s still a friendly rivalry brewing underneath it all.
Also in the flashbacks, Lucretia and Batiatus recognize they need Spartacus to continue using him for political advantage. So they let Spartacus defeat Crixus; they don’t want him killed, so they’ll just poison him so he’s weak. This leads to a great conversation between Crixus and Lucretia where they essentially end their relationship. Lucretia still hopes that Crixus can go back with her and the baby, but he lets her know that he loves Naevia. It’s a beautifully harsh scene between the two; they’re ultimately blunt and cruel to each other, but Bennett and Lawless are both exceptional.
Plenty more happens in the flashbacks (including Mira and Spartacus coming to an agreement, Aurelia learning that it was Numerius who chose to end Varro’s life, and Illythia being used by Lucretia for the advantage of the House of Batiatus), but the present-moment scenes also contains a lot of emotionally packed action.
After the final flashback, the timeline converges on the exciting Spartacus and Crixus fight (Spartacus is, of course, fighting to convince Crixus to join him). Then the flash-forward really picks up. At one point, when he looks like he’s going to be defeated, Crixus picks up his shield and lets Spartacus know he can jump on it to the balcony. This is not significant because Crixus has finally recognized him as a brother and as someone he’s willing to work with, but it’s just such an awesome callback to the exact same move they performed against Theokoles.
Then the rebels attack and the uprising begins. Spartacus pulls no punches during these 20 minutes, making the attack look almost like a horror film. It’s visceral and brutal and horrific.
Amidst the savage chaos, DeKnight wonderfully incorporates character moments that feel earned. Ashur and Doctore’s fight is loaded with rich moments, including Ashur admitting how miserable it was for him during his time as a gladiator and using his conniving instinct to escape death. The confession that nobody respected him feels completely earned, and even more so with him using a low blow to escape death. It really is classic Ashur—he’s not going to stop thinking of ways to survive.
Aurelia also exacts revenge on Numerius. To be fair, Numerius was acting like a complete jerk the entire time, insulting Varro like he didn’t care. But Aurelia’s explosion at this young boy feels much more emotionally devastating than you might expect something like it to be. There’s real tragedy in that moment, and it hits.
Let’s not forget two more major character moments. Crixus confronting Lucretia and coldly stabbing her by killing her baby is one of the most brutal scenes of the episode. It’s one of the most shocking things the show has done, and it’s executed with incredible work from Bennett and Lawless in the sequence.
Spartacus confronting Batiatus about the death of his wife and challenging him for his mistakes is also phenomenal. Whitfield and Hannah really clash in this scene, and it feels more like a battle of wills than one of strength. Hannah roaring until the last breath and mocking Spartacus is such a fitting end to a really compelling villain. The last shot, and Spartacus’ rousing speech, are perfect visual closures for the season.
This finale concludes season one on a spectacular high note. The season highlighted the great talent of the late Andy Whitfield. His interpretation of Spartacus is compelling, nuanced, and amazingly sympathetic. He makes you really root for him throughout the season, and this finale is another great example of his talent.