Season 4, Episode 11

May 1, 1999

Reviewed by SLK

RATING: 5.5 chakrams

Click here for montage

SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Linda McGibney; edited by Robert Field; directed by Patrick Norris.

PASSING PARADE: Beth Allen (Vanessa/Pilee); Craig Ancell (Milo); Bruce Hopkins (Rahl); Mandy McMullin (Adiah); Watchman Rivers (Cirvik); Andrew Kovacevich (Garth); Bob Johnson (Lieutenant).

STORY SO FAR: Xena rescues a child adopted by the Horde only to find the girl is caught between two worlds.

DISCLAIMER: No blonde-haired, blue-eyed Horde girls or their extended families were harmed during the production of this motion picture. Lakota toti. Bonai. Soli bonai. (No fight. No war. Family, in Pomiran)

REWIND FOR: There is the funniest pissed-as-hell look on Xena’s face when Pilee/Vanessa informs Xena matter-of-factly that her big tough adoptive daddy is gonna come and make her plenty dead. It comes right after the little darling says "Why run?" and Gabrielle is about to pull Xena off to one side. Tee hee, way to rile a Warrior Princess.

That’s a big lass they have there. At the gate when she’s rattling on it to get out, Gabrielle and Vanessa’s mother walk up to her to lead her away and she seems almost taller than them both.


QUOTABLE: "I know that a child needs her mother and her father, right Xena?" Oh sheesh, Gabrielle, talk about foot and mouth disease. And while you’re at it, find some salt for Xena’s wound...

Best Comebacks:

Xena: I’m saying total wipeout - no prisoners, no terms, complete annihilation.

Milo: Marry me.

Xena: Take some men and go to the south wall before we boil up the oil.

Milo: She’s ba-ack.

Gabrielle: I did all that? Hmm and they call you the hero.

Xena: Wanna switch? Fine, you kick butt and I’ll take notes.


This is not the newest of ideas, and everyone from The Searchers (John Wayne) and Star Trek, to Dances with Wolves have taken a fairly large stab at the kidnapped young ’un who has a new life with adoptive parents and doesn’t know any other existence. By and large these other shows did it better, too - with less obviousness and handholding to show us the blatant moral/inevitable dilemma of the story.

On the plus side though, we do get to see the changes in Xena since The Price as she revisits the wounds of her Horde days - both of the recent and ancient past. Changes of the ancient past are so huge it’s funny. How about a boss who kills a subordinate for cowardly considering a retreat and then a beat later realises he had a good point and screams "RETREAT" herself? A bit too late to say sorry, if indeed such a word was even in the warlord’s vocabulary.

As for the recent past, the changes here are so many that Xena is barely recognisable from the feral, bloodlusty Warrior Princess with her back to the wall and a need to win at all costs in The Price. You can hear the difference in her cynical self-mocking agreement of "I’m back" when Milo sends up the Excorcist with his gleeful "She’s ba-ack" line.

This Xena has distanced herself from the emotion she is feeling and witnessing, and is simply getting down to business. She is looking at the other options and seizing one that wouldn’t have occured to her in her pre-Gabrielle days - namely, peace. Although even that is not quite right, because even in her Gabrielle days in The Price she still ignored the peace option (and for good reason - but even then the thought never would have entered her head). So perhaps the difference is that here she is starting to understand what the hell Gabrielle has been on about all this time, rather than dismissing it as simplistic and naive in the extreme. She is giving things she would have once considered long odds, a go.

This time it paid off. And she is not even remotely surprised her peace plan worked. But this time she had more information to go on, too. She had the Horde warrior code she fathomed from last time, and a knowledge the Horde master loved the little girl. So she felt confident she had a hope to win. Last time, she had only desperation. The question now is, faced with the same desperation she felt in The Price which way will today’s Xena go? She has learnt a lot but, as Milo so aptly observes, history does have a habit of repeating itself.

In this sense, Daughter Of Pomira could have been far more interesting if they had in fact put Xena right back where she was in The Price again, hemmed in, little hope but with her greater understanding of peace. Which way would she have jumped? It’s just a thought.

Here you always get the sense Xena has the upper hand. She is almost bored with her talk of the Horde, as though the incredible fear she had for them in The Price never existed at all. Yet this is what had always put the Horde apart as villains in Xena, as they remain the only enemy Xena has ever run from at the first sign, and also the only one she has looked totally spooked by.

All that fear was missing here. Made for a rather cosy episode by contrast, didn’t it?

Perhaps there’s something to the old writer’s warning: if you ever deconstruct your enemy and lay it bare for all to see, it loses its scariness. Would Jaws have been as frightening if you knew at all times where the shark was and how silly it looked? Now we know where the Horde lives, we know they worship life in a very native American/Aboriginal way - talking about connections with the world, the trees, the water, the earth and all. And they only fight to protect these very things. These insights take the boogey out of the boogeymen - and the fear of unchecked, wild savagery as well. So if Xena’s looking bored, that’s why. They’re just plain not scary any more.

Now the Horde has lost its teeth, I don’t imagine we’ll ever see them again - and if we do, it will be a waste of writer’s ink.

The irony is not lost that in this episode that it is the "civilised" white man doing the scalping of the stereotyped "savage" who worships life.

The second irony is Gabrielle’s insistence to Xena at the start that they take Vanessa because the girl deserves to "be with people she loves; the people who love her". She already was with such people and the bard, for all her well-meaning ways has actually wrenched her from this life into a confusing other life.

Conversely, Gabrielle was quite right to believe the girl deserved to see her original family. Except that pretty much everyone except the bard could also see where that was heading. The only one not predicting culture clash to the max and massive heartache all round was Gabrielle (and Vanessa’s parents). It’s probably the optimistic, happily-ever-after streak in her. But it also smacked of an almost early missionary-like zeal - the old "we must do what is best for the children" without asking the children involved, as they yank them from the unsavory home to the more palatable one. Unsavory by their standards, of course.

Interesting right at the end, as Gabrielle concedes this point about her short-sightedness at the time, she says, "You’d think I’d learn not to meddle with families..."

I really want to know what she was referring to there. I can’t recall her meddling in any families other than with her own daughter and Xena’s son. And meddling is hardly the word I’d use to describe Solan’s unfortunate demise.

Anyway, I digress. Gabrielle’s argument to return Vanessa home was also very right at one level and it had the advantage at the end of everyone knowing what had happened to Vanessa, where she was and it put the parents’ minds at ease for ever more - well, once dear old Dad had calmed down a bit and stilled his twitchy axe hand.

Xena was also very right on her level, too, that not intervening is sometimes the wisest course, and sometimes the one which saves the most heartache. Hers is the, if it aint broke, don’t fix it, path. This can be flawed, too, in that the only ending that could have been achieved by Xena’s approach here, would have been her lying to Vanessa’s parents - presumably saying they were mistaken and it wasn’t Vanessa, thereby shattering their renewed hopes, and leaving them more upset than they were. Option B was saying the girl was happy and Xena was leaving; and dear old dad would have got himself killed trying to do what Xena refused, in fetching her. That was a very guilty Dad by the way - he blames himself for not searching longer for her - he says as much to her - and that’s why he reacts so badly at every turn - he is fighting the Horde hatred and his own internal demons.

Some minor points: I registered an overdose on both the fight scenes (too long, and too shoddily edited) and a solid but intrusively loud music soundtrack this episode.

The final battle, I am still trying to understand why the Warrior Princess looked so upset over stabbing Milo. Tears in the eye, the whole bit. What gives? She fights and kills many people in battle and watches them die, so why him, why now with the empathy? And how did a bounty hunter get good enough to go toe-to-toe with the original Destroyer of Nations for so long?

Okay, what were they thinking handing Vanessa over to her Horde-hating daddy in complete battle makeup? If Xena could wash her own makeup off before the handover, then they could have washed Vanessa’s off too.

Has Xena done a deal with Minya and if so what are she and Gabrielle cooking on these days?

What idiot starts a rockslide/escape tunnel while sitting directly underneath it? No, don’t answer that, I don’t like the answer.

The weakest scene was the half hearted thought by Vanessa (who does a pretty good job otherwise throughout the episode) to kill her adoptive parents to end her torment - she didn’t even look half convincing holding that sword parallel to them. What was she planning? Giving Dad a chest shave? Hell, if this episode had any gumption she’d have actually really tried to stab him, ala Star Trek: TNG’s Suddenly Human. Would have been more unpredictable. Unpredictability was, after all, something of a rarity in this episode.

Just for once, I’d like Xena to be the one to step on the branch to alert the enemy of their presence. Of course if Xena did it, she wouldn’t be a world famous Warrior Princess, she’d be a dead has-been long ago. But I still thought it sucked that after all this time and all she’s learnt, the writers make Gabrielle the dangerous klutz she was in season one. ROC should feel most ripped off!

I did like the little secret we get about Xena in this episode, though. Add claustrophobia to her list of hates. The look on her face and her little grimacing "piece of cake" comment when Xena realises The Horde is underground is backed up by her "I hate small spaces" line, mid getaway with Vanessa. Kind of nice to know that while she doesn’t step on the branches, she still is far from superhuman.

Lastly, you’ve got to chuckle at Gabrielle bucking for a promotion at the end. So why isn’t she the hero? It’s the branches, I tell ya. Other than that she’s breathing down Xena’s neck. Thing is, I suspect Xena already thinks she’s a hero. And that was why the joke was so nice.

In all, this episode wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t great. However I have some friends who simply sobbed their way through the father-meets-father reunion at the end and through plaintive sniffles told me they believe it was vintage Xena. I remain unconvinced but I am certain it’s true that this episode touched the heart strings of more than a few fans. And touching even a few counts for a lot in otherwise vapid TV-land.


Return to Sheryl-Lee's Episode Reviews