BETWEEN THE LINES
Season 4, Episode 15
**This episode has been cancelled from the lineup
at channel 10 - no reason given**
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 8.5 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Steven Sears; Edited by Jim Prior; Directed by Rick Jacobson.
PASSING PARADE: Claire Stansfield (Alti); Tharini Mudiliar (Naima); Colin
Mathura-Jeffree (Shakti); Ajay Vasisht (Atlhan).
STORY SO FAR: Altis soul has been reincarnated into a brutal warrior woman in the future. Gabrielle and Xena must go to the future as reincarnated people to bring her back to the present so they can defeat her at her most powerful.
DISCLAIMER: Xena's chakram got Gabrielle by the short hairs during the production
of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR:The change-room scene - gotta love the look on Xenas face when Gabrielle inadvertantly slips with her "When in Rome" remark.
Finger painting Xena-style... Love that mehndi application scene. But remember, dont try this at home - or energy bolts will shoot out of your neck (dont you just hate it when that happens?).
Gabrielle is looking mighty fine using that sword... did Xena give her lessons after all, or is this what you pick up after travelling with a warrior princess for so long?
Alti makes a little booboo and at one point demands the poor man shes strangling in the future tell her where Xena is. Who? Not surprising he didnt know.
Farewell mighty Gab staff. We all saw Alti karate chop it but there it is at the end once more. Still ... seems only fitting it got a new life, too.
QUOTABLE: "Its you - the color, the jewellery, it says casual, it says sexy..." Gabrielle plays shop assistant and I think shes got herself a sale.
"You and Gabrielle, you both walk a path together. Think of yourself as lines in the mehndi, separate but connected." Naima spelling out the obvious - but it was sweet, so Ill be good.
Gabrielle: This karma that you're talking about: can you see mine? Can you see how much Xena is a part of it?
Naima: Very much so, in many lives, in the past and in the future.
A number of Indians, and Hindus in particular, may well hate this episode as it takes many popular beliefs and cultural elements and gives them new, bizarre mystic meanings and odd purposes, ranging variously from time portals to energy weapons.
Watching the Indian arc episodes, to these people, must be an exercise in distraction on the level of being attacked by a million tiny fleas. And thats no fun at all.
To everyone else, especially those who know very little about karma and mehndis and Hinduism, Between The Lines probably comes off as quite the rollicking good tale.
As I fit into the latter category, I have to say I found it all fascinating, with my only major criticism being that once again theres a convenient use of magical powers to solve Xenas problems and tidy up the loose ends. But, as these powers are critical to this particular episode (no time travel without them, after all), Ill shut up on it.
The most brilliant idea of the show came from whatever fevered mind decided to make Xena the mother of peace in the future, and to a lesser extent, the bard a sword-toting warrior hero. Dont you just love the irony dripping off Xenas tongue when Gabrielle asks who the mother of peace is and Xena replies in a ragged breath and a bemused look: "Me."
Poor Xena had to really think about what to do every step while in this body. Her first reaction until then had always been to kick the heads of the most objectionable person of the day, then gloat, then tease her bard. A good days work all round. Now, as an old cripple, she is a little thrown. Its uh, er, lemme think... I know! YOU go kick heads, Gabrielle. Chuckle. Ah well, some solutions never change. But still, just seeing Xena grappling with herself being the mother of peace tickled me pink.
This choice of body tells us some very interesting things. One, Xena made it. Her good work as fighter for the people in this life has been enough for her to progress in the karmic scheme of things. At least thats how theyre explaining karma in this episode. They are a little (well, a lot) off base, but it would take too long to explain so Ill just let it slide and well all pretend you can have your karma taken off you by someone bad or that better person bodies are delivered for your soul when you store up enough good karma. Actually, Xena is not merely good in the future. As Gabrielle describes her, shes a goddess, a real hero. So Xenas soul, for all her worrying, appears quite safe. Though, the worrying is a good thing, to keep her on the straight and narrow.
I am a little surprised to see Gabrielle as a future freedom fighter. I have no idea what it says about her in this life, but presumably it is intended to show her heart is still good. Youd worry if she was the one running around threatening little girls and cackling on about sampling fear.
Which leads me to Alti. Claire really hits her straps this episode. I cant quite put my finger on it but she seems so much more evil here, when shes doing the evil, rather than just talking about it, fantasising about it and plotting its further acquisition. Sure shes over the top, but wow is shes having fun! And shes a boots and all kinda general too - no way is she leaving all these dastardly deeds for her army. I thought she was scarier than ever and that made the episode better.
To paraphrase Ian Fleming, the author of the original James Bond books - if you make you get your villain right, make them truly frightening and larger than life, you can not lose. If you dont believe that, think of Satrina, from Past Imperfect. Did she seem truly frightening and larger than life? But its why Alti, Callisto and Valesca are all fondly recalled by fans. Hey, its why Xena got her own show, too.
OK, on with the episode.
It was really weird at first when Xena is strolling around in her Indian silks, seeing the Warrior Princess do all her glares and smirks and tough-gal kick-butt face pulls while in the most delicate of attire. It took a while to get used to the incongruity, for me at least. Thats just the visual incongruity. That character incongruity I will not adapt to. This is Xena - she doesnt willingly change into girly outfits without good reason or at least at swordpoint (When in Rome). Hell, she didnt even bother changing duds for Gabrielles wedding. I found this bejewelled, bedecked Xena hard to buy. But not as hard to buy as the fact she left her sword, whip and chakram (and her old leathers, breastplate etc) sitting in some change room - and seemed to care not a hoot about where they were. A warrior and her weapons are never far apart or they start climbing walls. Another character oddity I found puzzling. She really has let her guard down in India.
I thought the actress who played Naima did a marvellous job - the perfect mix of serenity, grace and innocence - seeming like she needed rescuing - and boasting indomitable internal power when required. She was a little too easily led though. But, unlike the bootpolished Kiwi dude ordering her death, she actually has a beautiful Indian accent. Most puzzling though was whether (twice) she would have been content to go up in flames if Xena hadnt stepped in. And most appalling was, at the end, when it turned out she was indeed a darsham/enlightened one, who holds the authority to instruct the people to desist from future wife burnings, she did not say a word, just vanished. Well, that was just charming. Tell the next toasted widow that she simply forgot. Or will the villagers just take a hint?
It was very sweet to discover Xena and Gabrielles karma is linked - again a misuse of the term - but I wont complain. Wed pretty much guessed their souls were linked already - if nothing more from the way they stick together despite regular efforts to kill and maim each other. Youve really gotta want someone in your life to hang around after the horse drag, "I hate youuuuuu" stuff, for example...
Based on some of the lines in the episode about Xena and Gabrielle facing Alti again and again in different forms, I have a very bad feeling about this. Bad as in, cheap way out for the writers when the well is really, really dry to just keep rewriting this episode with different incarnations for the actresses. Think a warrior princess version of Quantum Leap. If that happens, Ill have long ago dropped my TV off a ravine in disgust. If they do more than two BTL type episodes, theyll have copped out -- its that simple. Even two is pushing it, but theyll probably try anyway.
The mehndi was a pretty out-there diversion all episode. Both the application of it (and you cant tell me Xena didnt look like she was enjoying it) and its Madonna-like Voguing moves and powers that followed. It held me gripped, impressed by the choreographed actions and the framing of each shot. Loved it. Of course using mehndi as a powerful weapon is stretching the truth beyond recognition, here. The mehndi, a semi-permanent henna tattoo of sorts, is often used in Indian culture to signify a womans wedding or a special festival or event. I have never heard of it used to shatter demons, but so it goes.
And it makes no sense at all when you get lines like: "Gabrielle - Naima's not Alti's enemy! It's the mehndi!"
So Alti is allergic to mehndi and Naimas really her pal? What the...
This is a little silly, and by then it was starting to detract a little for me from what was going on. (Imagine how the serious mehndi-lovers out there were coping with that dross. Valium, anyone?)
That final fight was something to behold. Because it was no ordinary fight - I dont mean because of the mehndi energy chakrams etc, but before that. Xena is absolutely sobbing and howling in pain. And she doesnt care who sees it. That in itself is unusual and signifies Alti has been pulling out all the stops and causing her a great deal of agony. Great acting there by Lucy, incidentally - I dont think I have ever witnessed more realistically acted agony than the strangled howls from her moments after Xenas ankles get crunched in a vision.
What also makes this unusual is that Gabrielle is taking an absolute pummelling. She is being tortured and there is nothing Xena can do about it. I have never seen her pain prolonged for so long before, because usually either Xena swans in or, well, Xena swans in. Thats it. Usually Gabrielle has only ever been used as a distraction until Xena arrives to either be taunted or to counterattack.
Alti though is actually getting a great deal of kicks from the pain shes getting from Gabrielle so shes maintaining the visions and the agony. This was pretty awful.
Hey, see Xena lose it when Alti provides the bard with the piece de resistance - The Vision.
"You BITCH!" Xena screams... and I am surprised that one got through US censors, but maybe Xena is screened outside of kiddie hours there.
One cool moment indeed is the nice piece of haircutting by Xena, showing she has many more skills tucked away -- not the least being knowing precisely where to find her chakram on the ground without looking, despite it theoretically still being in a store 100m away and off to the right, through the change-room flaps.
I am actually very glad Gabrielle has finally seen the vision. It was hard for her to understand what had Xena so spooked all this time. Seeing a thing and hearing it discussed in curt censored tones as only Xena can offer are two very different animals.
I really liked two tender scenes at the end - one, as a bedraggled Xena and Gabrielle find each other after the fighting is over, and hold each other - if ever two people looked like they were linked forever, that was it.
And two, the beautifully understated scene where they are discussing Gabrielles new short haircut and Xena has tousled it.
Gabrielle says: "You know, it was like that in my vision."
And Xena replies sadly but still reassuringly in a soft, tender voice: "I know."
Gave me shivers how well they delivered those lines.
Well, we finally get to see Gabrielles new hair. I believe the chicken came before the egg on this one. That is, and correct me if I am wrong, the show shot the vision scene of Gabrielle on the cross with short hair, and a little bit after that, Renee herself liked the look and got her locks chopped. She wore a wig from then until the chakram chop on the show. Still its very nice and neat. But I have noticed a HUGE backlash from men (by far the majority) who hate it. Three guys in my office alone tell me they will never watch the show again and they only liked it to drool over Gabrielle and her long hair (pretty shallow reason to watch the show to start with, come to think of it...)
Anyway, I say, wait a bit, get used to it for a while and then pass judgement, if you must. Remember, for all those freaking out, its only hair. Not an international disaster. (Although there are some Monday mornings when ones hair does look like an international disaster, but best not to go there...)
The last scene of the piece I laughed my head off at. Xena makes the symbol for female - so thats where it comes from! Whod have thought there are so many Xenas and Gabrielles out there trying to recognise each other all this time? Well, keep on looking. The world is a better place knowing X&G are in it, somewhere.
NOTE: After this episode, X:WP, in their long-running habit of messing around with and rewriting historical myth, fable, legend and folklore, ventured full-on into a *current* religious belief. The result, the episode, The Way, angered a number of Hindus. And thats partly why next weeks show is banned and will not be seen in Australia or anywhere else.
Another reason cited for their anger is that The Way allegedly implies that Krishna and the Hindi faith endorses lesbianism (oddly, The Way does no such thing - subtext is completely absent).
Of course, the main reason it was pulled was that the X:WP makers themselves agreed to the demands of Hindu activists and withdrew it worldwide.
If you wish to protest this action you can go to The XIP Protest Page and find out what you can do to get The Way back in syndication.
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