The Red Serpent
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|"The Red Serpent"|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Rick Jacobson|
|Written by||Steven S. DeKnight|
|Running time||55 minutes|
The Red Serpent is the pilot episode of a historical drama Spartacus: Blood and Sand. It is the first episode of the Spartacus series overall. It originally aired on Starz in the United States on January 22, 2010. The episode was written by Steven S. DeKnight and directed by Rick Jacobson. Filming took place in Auckland, New Zealand. The episode received generally positive reviews from critics. It was rated TV-MA for Graphic Violence, Strong Sexual Content, and Coarse Language.
The series opens in a Thracian village where the villagers, Spartacus among them, are discussing the appearance of a Roman soldier, Claudius Glaber, who has come to ask for their help in battle against Mithridates. Despite Rome and Thrace's shaky relations in the past, the villagers agree to march with the Romans in return for help fighting the local barbarians that plague their village, a treaty sparked by Spartacus.
Spartacus returns home to his wife, Sura. They speak of a happy, peaceful future together, without the attacks from the barbarians. The next morning, Sura reveals that the gods spoke to her in her dreams, showing her Spartacus kneeling before a red serpent. She asks him not to leave, saying that if he does, he will be led to great and unfortunate things. Spartacus decides to leave despite her warnings and ties a purple ribbon around her leg, so that she keeps his memory close in the time he is away. The Thracian men march to battle against the advancing barbarians. The Romans arrive late, chasing off the stragglers. Later in the evening, there is dissatisfaction in the Thracian camp, and talk of leaving due to the Romans' lack of commitment to their cause. Spartacus reminds them that they gave their word to help, and sparks a fight with Drenis, a fellow soldier. The two are caught by the Romans and sent to scout for enemies as punishment. Glaber returns to his tent to find his wife, Ilithyia, waiting for him. She sneaked into the camp, without her father's permission, to bring her husband a gift of wine and companionship in bed. She mentions that her father, the Senator Albinius, will be displeased if Glaber returns unfruitful in battle.
The next morning, the Thracians discover that the Romans intend to march East towards Mithridates whilst their villages in the West are still under threat from the barbarians and Glaber refuses to aid them, breaking his word. Desperate to win his own battles, he orders them into formation, but Spartacus refuses. Glaber attempts to force them to his will but the Thracians resist, and Glaber is thrown from his horse and knocked unconscious whilst his following of soldiers are slaughtered. The Thracians rush towards their home villages.
Back near Spartacus' village, Sura is seen picking fruit when a group of barbarians close in on her. She manages to fight one off her with a rock to the head and defend herself with a sword before Spartacus comes to the rescue, and together they fight off the rest of them. After a moment's reunion, the two see their village in the distance, the buildings burning and screams resounding from it. They decide to flee into the wilderness. Spartacus and Sura set up camp for the night and discuss what to do next. Spartacus regrets ever leaving and Sura is visibly shaken by the fate of their village, but they decide to flee South together, away from everything.
The next morning, Spartacus awakes to find Claudius Glaber standing over them. He reaches for his sword, but soldiers quickly grab Sura and whisk her away, screaming. The soldiers beat Spartacus on Glaber's order, who blames Spartacus for his lack of good fortune; half his army being dead, and him being recalled to Rome shamefully. Glaber reveals that Sura is destined for slavery for Spartacus' actions before knocking him out and sending him via ship to Capua with the other captured Thracians, including Drenis and Byzo.
Glaber, once again in Capua with Ilithyia, discusses the forthcoming games and a way to reclaim standing with her father, the senator. In a presentation of the gladiators to perform (in which Batiatus and Solonius both present their best), Glaber brings forth the Thracians to be slaughtered in the arena, in the hope that the entertainment will make up for him returning with empty hands.
Spartacus is next seen in the arena, watching Drenis fighting the Red Serpent Gladiator, unsuccessfully (which ends in his death). He is dragged outside by soldiers, and told he is to fight four of Solonius' gladiators. The crowd are against the uneven odds, but the fight commences nevertheless. The gladiators initially have the advantage over Spartacus and he suffers. As he lies on the sands, he sees a red serpent on the shield of the Red Serpent Gladiator and recognises Sura's dream. This spurs him to attack and he kills the gladiator, finishing off the others one by one. The crowd favor him now and chant for him to live. Glaber cannot allow Spartacus to live out of his own pride and wishes him dead, but he also craves the acceptance of Albinius, who must honor the crowd's wishes. Batiatus offers a solution and buys Spartacus for his ludus, not expecting him to survive the training.
The episode was viewed by approximately 0.66 million people upon its initial broadcast.