“Fathers” delves deeply into some of the show’s essential parental relationships, but it saves a major twist for the very end.
This Barbarians season 2, episode 3 recap for the episode titled “Fathers” contains spoilers.
After his entirely unsubtle escape from the Roman camp in Barbarians season 2, episode 2, Ari is being pursued by a cadre of soldiers, which gives “Fathers” a nice excuse for an action-oriented opening. And it’s enjoyable to pick up on some of the details. I forgot to mention this in the previous episode, but the barbarians’ fight choreography always revolves around them attacking the neck to get around the protective chainmail, which is a minor element, but a fun one. Ari takes that to another level, combining the swordplay training he experienced growing up in Rome with the more guerrilla-style tactics of the barbarians. Even on his own, he’s able to isolate and pick off his attackers one by one, sending the final guy back with a warning that these lands belong to the tribes, and that Rome will be sent packing with its tail between its legs if it continues to press the issue.
It’s a good showing for Ari, but Gaius isn’t exactly impressed. Teenagers are just awful, aren’t they?
Barbarians season 2, episode 3 recap
Ari’s prison break didn’t seem to do anyone any favors. Dido is still badly wounded, and while Thusnelda and Folkwin stop off to cauterize her gash and give her a break, the former ponders why her husband never mentioned having a Roman son (and perhaps a Roman wife?). Even Flavus is arrested by Germanicus for supposed collusion in the escape — better that, than to admit three barbarians, two of them women, managed to sneak their way into a Roman camp, kill several Roman soldiers, and free a Roman prisoner.
Ari, meanwhile, takes Gaius back home to the village. The kid’s a nightmare, complaining about the “crude yelping” of the native language, saying everyone smells and accusing Ari of being a traitor. But the real traitor, as Ari explains, is Marbod, and if something isn’t done about him pretty quickly, his alliance with the Romans will make things much more difficult for all of them.
This episode is titled “Fathers”, and for good reason. The most obvious tie-in is Ari and Gaius; the former feels a responsibility to the latter despite the fact that the latter resents not just him but absolutely everything he stands for. There’s a note of comedy about Gaius being forced to sleep with the pigs, accompanied by Odvulf, the most quintessentially barbarian of all the barbarians, but there’s also a tragedy in the gulf of emotion and experience that the father and son are having to navigate. But we also see Tiberius and Germanicus trying to navigate a parental relationship that has been redefined by hierarchy. Tiberius is literally in charge of Germanicus, and Germanicus’s efforts to impress, because they both have so much power, come at the expense of others. His lopping off the heads of those responsible for Ari’s escape reads as a somewhat pathetic gesture to his father, an effort to convince him he’s worthy and strong.
Flavus almost loses his head in that scene, but he’s saved by appealing to Tiberius and reminding him of his closeness with Marbod. He says the barbarian prince will ally with Ari if Flavus is killed, and he might be right; even when Marbod’s wife mentions Flavus’s name, his face betrays his feelings for the man. And, given how Odarike is, she doesn’t let that go unremarked upon.
She isn’t the only wife who’s displeased with her husband in “Fathers”. Thusnelda is furious with Ari for not revealing the existence of his Roman wife and son. To be fair to her, I wouldn’t be thrilled about having a kid like Gaius knocking around either. It really seems like he’s making progress in this episode for a while — Odvulf teaches him how to hunt with a sling, Ari opens up to him and apologizes for choosing the Cherusci over Rome, and he seems to be understanding. But when Ari and Odvulf set out to deal with Marbod, whom all the other Reiks have sided with believing that Ari’s capture was a sign from the gods, he wants to accompany them because barbarians killing each other is good for Rome.
The Cherusci riding out to take on Marbod prompts Thusnelda to address perhaps the most important father-son relationship in the show — that of Folkwin and Thumelicus, the son, ostensibly, of Reik Ari, and thus the next Reik. Folkwin can’t admit who the child really is to him. But, if anything happens to Thusnelda, which is seeming increasingly likely, she makes him swear he’ll protect the kid.
I’ve talked a lot about feelings and relationships in this episode since it’s really much more about those things, and the interiority of these characters, than it is about the actual development of the plot. But there is a significant moment at the end when Ari rides out to confront Marbod. The two fight in single combat, and Ari ends up getting the best of him by throwing hot coals in his eyes. But instead of taking his life, Gaius’s words ring around Ari’s head, and he’s reminded that the fact barbarians keep killing each other really is good for Rome. But since Marbod will never kneel before Ari, Ari has a better idea — he kneels before Marbod, and declares him king of all Germanic tribes.