ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
Season 3, Episode 13 August,1998
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 8.5 chakrams.
Written by Gene ONeill and Noreen Tobin;
Edited by Jim Prior;
Directed by Paul Lynch.
Dorian (Douglas Kamo) and
Nick Kemplen (Phiddipides).
STORY SO FAR:
Xena must stand alone against the Persian army, while Gabrielle lies dying from a poisoned arrow. They say their goodbyes.
Gabrielles ankle was harmed during production of this motion picture.
Gotta love Gabrielles little Xena stick doll (and where she keeps it) - but watch Xena use it to - pick her teeth!; observe the sick look on Xenas face just after she sends Argo away; check out the vase scene where Xena tries to summon up the powers she had in Chin - and compare it with what she was doing in one scene in A Day In The Life (before Gabs ambushes her) and youll see a lovely attention to continuity - Xena has been practising this technique for longer than just since The Debt aired; speaking of Chin, Gabrielle incorrectly apologises for what happened in China not Chin; keep your eyes peeled on Xenas scabbard during the fight scene and the amazing reappearing/disappearing sword trick; watch for Xenas first fake fire breathing scene (Lucy doesnt do it herself anymore for safety reasons) and, finally, that tender farewell scene has simply gotta be rewound for...and rewound...and rewound...
Slow learner, huh? I had that problem with basket weaving... Gabrielle to Xena. What is it the say about pride again? Ouch. We could see that coming a mile off.
The Persians will swarm through this land like man-eating locusts, Xena expressing a knowledge about a rare form of locusts that Im sure were all grateful died out in ancient Greek times.
I wanted you to see that waterfall and your son, Zach... Groan. Gabrielles most cloyingly, sickly sweet line to date - and thats saying something.
Didnt know I qualified as an army Gabrielle to Xena, amusingly showing she can deadpan with the best of them.
Its occurred to me that this is just a clever diversion to make me forget about my boots, Gabrielle revealing her long-held attachment to Wonder Woman footwear.
Youve gotta take me with you, teach me everything you know. You cant leave me here in Poteidaia, I want to go with you. Ive studied the stars, spoken with philosophers, I have the gift of prophesy, I can be valuable to you: I want so much to be just like you. Wow, remember *that* Gabrielle? Me too. Nice moment, huh?
Xena, crying, replies: And I wanna be like you. Gulp. Im done paying for my past mistakes, my responsibility now is you, Xena to Gabrielle... whoa, now thats a biggie...
Xenas bods obviously decided we needed to be shown that Xena and Gabrielle are back to being close friends again after the rift. Well they did that -- and how. This is going almost to the other extreme. One Against An Army is a case of too much too soon after such an emotional rollercoaster. But if you can put out your mind that, one week, our duo are screaming at each other and hurling each other off cliffs and, the next, theyre talking about growing old and grey together and professing their teary-eyed heartfelt love and trying to synchronise their deaths so they wont be apart.... well, if you can do that, then you probably enjoyed a great episode. If not, ah well, try and block out the rift when you watch it again. Well there was much to like about One Against An Army and only a few niggles. Historians among yall will know that Phiddipides run to Marathon was a true story, as was also the fact the Persians invaded Greece a few times. Phiddipides did indeed die of exhaustion after completing his run in 490BC, but not before telling Athens of news of efforts to repel the invasion. Hence marathons to this day are the exact distance of Phiddipidess run (36.2km), in his honour. Thus, its amusing to see that it was Xena who actually suggested he make that gruelling run to Athens and warned him of the risks. Way to go, Xena. Whod have ever suspected? Now some niggly bits. I think this episode would have been much improved with better casting of the pretend Spartan, Dorian. The actor's obvious fake American accent was all over the place and his character made no sense. Why bother with all that Youll never forgive me if Gabrielle dies routine to Xena if he honestly doesnt care less. He didnt just say it once to be convincing; he was actually very persistent to make that particular point. So you think, okay, maybe hes a spy but hes got a guilty conscience at least? And yet, later, he has not even the slightest qualms about trying to kill her (rather nasty since she did try to save his life). So since it was an act earlier, *why* bother quite so much? It seemed to be theatrics above and beyond the call of duty. Heres where Id have delighted in hitting the editing suites delete button.
Speaking of theatrics, there was also Saint Gabrielle. The Xenaverse was somewhat divided in the United States after this episode aired. Some fans said Gabrielle had crossed the line into martyrdom and it spoiled their viewing enjoyment of the ep. They cited the I want you to save yourself, I dont want to be a burden to you line she gives to Xena and also the dismissive oh please dont bother with that line she says to Xena as the Warrior Princess tries to apply a poultice. To them it was as if Gabrielle has simply given up and is already thumbing her chariot ride to the Elysian Fields. Others disagreed and bought her performance as Gabrielle being brave right to the end and being the one thinking clearly. These fans point out she didnt want Xena distracted on something that clearly wasnt helping anyway. Well, I lean towards the latter, but make up your own minds. Two final niggles before the good stuff: One, Gabrielle, who has gone her whole life resisting, at all costs, hurting her fellow man, let only killing him, now not only agrees to dump boiling oil on an army (with Xena among it), but doesnt voice a single objection? Feverish, perhaps? Yeah must be. And lastly, an entire army would just, gee, I dunno, go home because Xena tells them all theres thousands more like me? Um, ri-ight. Sure, Xena might actually be right if Meg, the princess and priestess are anything to go by, but they dont know about them so what rot is this? *These* are Persias elite soldiers? Theyre going to go back to their commander and explain they ran away because see, this one tough woman we fought said there were more like her.... I would have preferred the at least slightly more believable idea of her beating the whole army blindfolded with her sword in her teeth and Argo wielding the chakram, than that absurd ending.
Onto the good stuff. I thought Renee OConnor shone in this episode, and offered one of her better acting efforts. It also was lovely to actually see her genuinely smiling again, at the start, albeit shortlived. She was reminiscent of the second season cheery bard we remember so well. But her performance was riveting, in my mind, in several of her dying scenes. I loved the moment when she asks Xena to take her with her because she cant stay in Poteidaia. That takes you back. I also was intrigued by her line here that she has the "gift of prophesy" and then proceeds to prove it with her dream and comment to Xena about the man with the double edged sword (arent all swords double edged, by the way?) So the burning question is, has Gabs been holding out on Xena all this time with this particular psychic skill? Perhaps that was her trump card if Xena said no to her following back in Poteidaia? How interesting. I wonder if they will raise it again? On that note, it was good to see the Xena folks close a little loophole that left some fans convinced Xena has had telekinetic powers ever since The Debt aired. As the WP explained: I wish I could still call it up but that took a purity of essence ... well its gone now. I guess she lost a bit of purity of essence (and then some) with that whole Bitter Suite business, eh? Not surpised. Now onto the utter gem moments of the episode, which doubtlessly also had subtexters heads spinning. We learn that Gabrielle expected this day might come and that she is not afraid to die. In fact, it is Xena who seems less able to cope with the knowledge; and it is Xena who is crying, not Gabrielle, in a nice twist.
Xena is more articulate in this episode about her feelings than she has been for all three seasons combined. We find out Gabrielle is Xenas source and when I reach inside myself and do the things Im not capable of, its because of you - dont you know that by know? If she is referring to the physically impossible things that she can do, this is a bit of a long bow - Xena was doing her triple flips long before she met the bard. But it was a lovely thing to say. Gabrielle, rightly, looked both touched and speechless. We find out that Xena sees their life together as being just that - for life: You can tell me about it later, years from now, when were old and grey, she states with assuredness. And then we see Xena places Gabrielle above all else in her priorities - even those things in life that have a higher meaning - something even Gabrielle cant quite understand or believe. Now *thats* love. But wait, theres more... the biggest of them all, in fact. Xena says: Im done paying for my past mistakes - my responsibility now is you. This is a huge admission. As we all know, Xenas entire purpose of being these past three years has been running around Greece atoning, righting her wrongs and essentially putting her own needs behind this mission. Frankly, she thought she didnt deserve to think of herself first after so many had suffered at her hands and has always been almost indifferent to her own needs since turning to good. Now she has reached a point where the price - of putting her needs in the backseat - is too high even for one as guilt ridden is Xena. What price could possibly be so high to someone like Xena? Losing Gabrielle, thats what. She would rather all of Greece be overrun by Persians; shed cope with the guilt if she never did the do-good atonement thing ever again, if it just means the bard can live. I trust Gabrielle was paying attention when she said that! Finally, by the time they swap I love yous theres really little point, they have been saying I love you by look or by deed throughout the entire last half of the episode. It was a nice moment though, with the hands interlocked. Always looking out for me huh? says Xena as a statement more than a question, voice cracking. Always whispers Gabrielle, eyes fixed on Xena's. They could have ended Xena the show, right there, forever and you could never have found a better way to say goodbye to these two people we care for. And thats what theyre saying. Make no mistake about it, Gabrielle might be dying but Xena is determined she also will not live beyond this fight if her bard is going to be dead afterwards. So she sends Argo on her way and says the whole until the other side, well be together speech. This is farewell. Only when Xena sees an opportunity mid-fight, with the antidote, does she waver from her going down with her boots on mission plan. And then, with renewed vigour, she polishes off the army and goes back to cure Gabrielle. (Incidentally, I may not know much about medicine but logic tells me one brush of an antidote across someones lips wont bring them back from deaths door within a second.) As an aside, was it just me who hated the whole pongo stick bouncing routine amid what was a very serious and dramatic fight, the longest and worst ever seen on Xena? (Good to Xena actually looked like she'd been through a fight at the end.) Was that supposed to lighten it up for us? Well, spare us next time.
But all in all, One Against An Army was an episode that will live for a long time in TV-land as testament to the closeness of friendship. By the end of it, it was impossible for me to even believe that an episode ago they wanted each others blood. I guess it is true that only a thin line separates strong hate from strong love. Meanwhile, I guess few people will have much doubt, after One Against An Army, about how much these two love each other.
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