LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN
Season 4, Episode 7
March 20, 1999
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 6 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Story by Robert Tapert and Josh Becker; Teleplay by Hilary Bader; Edited by Jim Prior; Directed by Rick Jacobson
PASSING PARADE: Katrina Browne (Thalassa/the Commandant); William Kircher (Prison overseer); Tanea Heke (Ersina); Natalie Dennis (Clysemene); Julie Taylor (hanged woman); Gilbert Goldie (town elder); Huntly Eliott (judge); Margaret Blay (woman in court); Patrick Smith (healer); Chris Sherwood (Draxel); Laurie Dee (tavernkeeper)
STORY SO FAR: Xena is arrested and sentenced to life on a prison island for the murder of a young woman in her warlord days. Gabrielle is intent on freeing her.
DISCLAIMER: No Rabid Flesh Eating Crabs were cooked during the production of this
REWIND FOR: That was some massage there, so much so I kept forgetting it was an allegedly deep moment about the metaphoric weight Xena was carrying around on her shoulders. Something to do with the way she kept on moaning...
Gabrielle has the coolest manoeuvre of this episode when she picks up her staff mid somersault to taken on our warrant servers in the opening scene.
Spot The Debt sackcloth... no outfit goes wasted in Xena, so I am guessing Shark Island has a trade route going with houses from the Land of Chin. Speaking of outfits what the heck gives with those daring after-five open-toed prison shoes Xenas sporting? What, they want a foot-rot plague in prison?
Spot the familiar establishing shot. Fans of the closing scene in When In Rome will remember quite vividly the island and the boat they use here to establish Shark Island.
I swear the more Xena stays in that cell the further up the ceiling is for her. Count how long it takes her to land after being tossed in. Now have another look at the ceiling from floor level.
Keep your eyes on Renees face when Thalassa is describing the woman who injured her. You can actually pinpoint the exact second Gabrielle works out its Xena. Nice.
Cool bit of thoughtful acting from Lucy when, after being down the isolation hole, hogtied, she runs as though she has, well, been down the isolation hole, hogtied.
Keep your eye on the prisoners running down the steep steps from the commandants office. Look at the feet on the one in front. Id say she has fallen down those steps at least once by the careful crablike sideways descent she makes which looks so crazily out of place while a prison riot is in full swing.
"She was innocent, she did nothing to me and I killed her as it suited my purposes; hows that for mitigating circumstances." Xena, defendant, prosecutor and all purpose martyr.
"You finally have the punishment you sought but its for a murder you didnt commit. Dont you just love the irony?" Thalassa to Xena, sounding more and more like Callisto minus only the nutty high pitched giggle.
"My soul, my ability to do good was crippled. The evil Xena, she did that to me. Dont let her do it to you." Thalassas now into homespun do-good philosophy. That Gabrielle tonic is sure powerful stuff.
Gabrielle: Some people say the unanalysed life is not worth living.
Xena: Those people havent lived my life.
Ersina: Its always bothered me how can that murdering bitch Xena send me away to be punished - you never had to pay for your crimes.
Xena: Then we have something in common; its always bothered me, too.
Ah yes, the old women-behind-bars flick. Throw in a few deeper issues of guilt and forgiveness and a bard with a rescue mission who turns everyone she touches to good and there you have it.
I have to say it, I am starting to get a bit sick of Xenas occasional martyr streak. At first, back in the Sins of the Past and Reckoning days, it made sense, and was powerful, for her past would have been the only thing on Xenas mind. But now, now she has so much more to live for and fight for. She has a companion who loves her, she has patched the rift with her family and she is making an obvious change in many peoples lives. These are not things to throw away without a look back (or a goodbye hug).
If I recall, it was Callisto who first openly and often started taunting Xena about how she was always getting off scott free while capturing those no better than she had been. Those whom Xena made what they were. But back then Xena was able to shake off Callistos taunts and remain unwavering in her path to try and fix things she had done wrong. Here, it seems she is taking a step backward. She wants to be punished.
She tells Gabrielle: "Were always talking about your spiritual quest. You say that you need something to make your life complete. So do I."
Excuse me? She needs to be locked away for the rest of her life to feel complete? Well that is plain tragic. Come on, Gabrielle, dont let her get away with that logic!
What she really means is she wants to feel forgiven, but she still doesnt feel she deserves it - as she says here ("thats not for me") and said earlier in the aptly named episode Forgiveness.
So what do you do if youve been very bad but dont feel you deserve forgiveness? Thats right, you let the guilt build up and build up until you want to punish yourself again. The way I see it is Xena lets her guilt trip reach pressure point once every season and so anyone with a grudge against her should wait patiently and then march in to arrest her at the appointed self flagellation hour. Whereupon Xena will roll over like a compliant puppy, offer no arguments whatsoever and be genuinely unhelpful as the bard yet again is forced to mount an empassioned but otherwise futile defence.
Hell, at these times she even reminds me of Tara squeaking pitiably: "Im no good."
For heavens sake woman, pull yourself together. You are as good or bad as you want to make yourself. Sheesh. I do hope I dont have to give Xena this same talking to in another seasons time!
Ultimately this guilt, while wholly understandable, is a wasted emotion. I just wish Xena would once and for all admit she does more good out of prison than selfishly feeding her guilt issues in one. The law of averages dictates the next time Xena gets arrested over her past, she will be guilty - not the pawn of a god or wrongly charged. Its that simple. So shes got to deal with what to do next now and not wait for this to happen again or theoretically she really will be stuck locked away forever, doing no one any good. So what could she have done/do?
As Gabrielle says: "You could have argued the greater good." Yeah, she could have - and that would have been an awesome sight to behold: Xena fights back for her right to do good, over the right for revenge seeking people to punish her for her past. Now that would be a juicy little courtroom scene. It would also show that Xena has learnt and grown from her The Reckoning days which she recreates here with the same roll-over-and-take-it guilt trip. Clearly, in Xenas emotional development, little has changed since season one. A pity.
Just once, I would like to see her pardoned on the grounds of her being reformed and see how she would then deal with that. That would be quite a delicious feast of acting, as a rather large part of her would not want it at all.
Interestingly, Xena claims shes not looking for redemption any more. Of course she is. Look at that incredible scene, burying the prisoner. She is isolating herself physically and emotionally from the other prisoners because she is not the same as them. Unlike them, she wants to be there. Watch how cinematically they show this. Xena is alone (not even a guard in sight), it is dark, it is raining. All the warm prisoners gathered together in the honeyed hues of that communal cell stare out together at this lone figure silhouetted against the blue night. Xena would rather be there than anywhere else in the world at that moment. Thats a woman screaming out: "I deserve this. I am sorry. Forgive me."
Interestingly, there is another woman out there, alone, isolated in that midnight blue darkness. Different sides of the fence, different source of pain, same aching hurt.
I sense the person who wrote this was a bit of a Victor Hugo fan... where the good soul is in prison and the troubled bitter soul is the free one putting them there. Except, unlike in Les Miserables, our Officer Javert sees the light in about one minute 45 seconds. But Ill come back to that in a moment.
Speaking of writers, I note Hilary J. Bader got the teleplay credit. This surprises me enormously as she is the talented author of many of our funnier episodes, like Been There Done That.
I would love to know how she ended up doing the dark, chicks in prison number.
And I would hate to think she was behind the awful idea of the attack of the killer crabs. Puh-lease. I have never heard of crabs munching humans to death, let alone amputating limbs. Pirhanas - now theres a scarier (more believable) concept...
On the subject of credibility, the rat scene was something, huh? And that rat toss was easily the silliest moment on Xena to date - and I say that despite having seen the opening scene in Here She Comes Miss Amphipolos...
But what I did like was the look on Xenas face when she shouts to the rats: ENOUGH! My immediate thought was, ho boy, are you lot in for it now.
I really hope the brave Ms Lawless got a revulsion bonus for that little scene.
But I digress. Lets talk about that silver-tongued bard. Gabrielle comes through like a trouper in this episode. She formulates her plans, gets herself to Shark Island, befriends the commandant - a move which saves her life - and saves her crime-fighting partner. Of course this leads to two of the most inexplicable moments in the show. One, Gabrielle, who should know you can do more from the outside than the inside in springing someone from prison, gets herself caught by attacking the guards almost as a spur of the moment decision. Its like she thought: Oh goody, a mop, Ill attack people now. If she had planned it, all she had to do was say she wanted to visit the prisoner in the isolation cell and assess her medical condition and hand deliver the chakram. But no, Gabrielle, in the middle of the compound, just starts swinging.
Speaking of iffy plot problems, I note that at this prison they hang non-prisoners without a trial. Nifty take on the law if you ask me.
The other most inexplicable moment is that it takes Gabrielle only a few minutes to turn someone to lightness. This is a rare gift. An impossible gift. And I didnt buy it for a second. No one who spends their adult life bitter and twisted and hell bent on revenge rolls over because someone tells them they have a spark of goodness still in them. Maybe over time. Maybe. Too much too soon. If Thalassas going to have a conversion that quick, she may as well go the whole hog. Take Xenas hand and forgive the poor, miserable ex warlord. God knows that would have made a chilling scene, for Xenas look alone. For once would some one please just forgive that woman? This is the next obvious plot arc, I say. People will start forgiving Xena and the only one who will refuse to will be herself...
Meanwhile, I note they also felt a need to constantly hit us over the head with comparisons between Thalassa and Gabrielle. Red hair, innocent, young, goodness, an inner light and so on. We got it, guys. We know that at a different time in Xenas life, there but for the grace of the Gods would have gone Gabrielle. Or so theyd have us believe. So it gives Xena yet another thing to feel guilty about. Shed see Gabrielle and be reminded of Thalassa. Is this why she let her tag along in the first place? She was a reminder and she had a lot of things to make up for?
And speaking of young innocent redheads, Xena sure does attract the collection to her. That one in prison was the latest Gabrielle reminder for Xena. And so naturally she had to protect her, too. Notice throughout all this nuttiness, the one constant is Gabrielle is out there fighting for her, and the Warrior Princess is out fighting for the bard.
Which makes the ending even more poignant. Do you remember the end of A Family Affair? Xena tells Gabrielle shes her compass:
"You talk about trying to find your way when to me you are my way."
At the time I said this was a huge burden to put on someone - to ask them to be their guide and conscience and to prevent someone like Xena from turning to the darkness again. Gabrielle didnt accept the task at the time, she just gave a small smile.
Well this episode she has decided. And she accepts. Listen:
Xena: "I wont let that monster that I used to be sleep so close to my heart and destroy all the good I can do now.
Gabrielle: Not as long as I am around.
She has committed herself to the task of keeping Xenas monster at bay. She will play her guide. And she will do it willingly. Now thats a true friend.
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