Season 3, Episode 21&22
31 October 1998
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 8 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Steve Sears; Edited by Jim Prior; Directed by
David Warry-Smith. Part 2: Written by Paul Robert Coyle Edited by Robert Field
Directed by Rick Jacobson
PASSING PARADE: Ted Raimi (Joxer), Hudson Leick (Callisto), Kevin Smith (Ares), Jodie Rimmer (Seraphin) Stephen Ure (Werfner),
STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle and Xena try and prevent Callisto from assisting in the rebirth of Gabrielles evil daughter, Hope. When this is not possible, Gabrielle sacrifices herself to kill Hope and save Xena. Meanwhile, a stricken Xena gives a bored-with-life Callisto what shes been wanting: death.
DISCLAIMER Part 1: No Pulsing Cocoons were harmed during the production of this
motion picture. What was witnessed was purely a re-enactment.
DISCLAIMER Part 2: Gabrielle finally went off the deep end during the production of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Okay boys and girls, tell me the frock tarts werent getting their costuming ideas from the Ku Klux Klan for this one... the only difference being that black is the in-colour for cults hailing the spawn of Dahak these days.
Spot the looks going on between Xena and Gabrielle when Xena refers to people surprising you. Xena does more than defy gravity in her jump through the roof of the hut with the zombie lookalikes while holding Serafin. Check it out again: the gals got turbocharged boots on or something. Suss out Callistos look when Hope is reborn and she looks like Gabrielle. Is she getting a kick out of their shock or what?
When Hope kills she is nothing if not consistent: remember how Solons adoptive centaur dad died? Yep, dont let that girl within cooee of your kitchen knives, folks.
And of course there are the two scenes you dont need me to tell you to rewind for: Gabrielle telling Hope shes sorry she didnt die first time; and Gabrielle teaching Hope how to bungy jump without the rope.
QUOTABLE: "Your Goddess killed my child," Xena setting Serafin straight on the facts of life, death and goddesses birthed by childhood pals.
"Just when you think youve got them figured out they show a whole different side to their character," Xena to Gabrielle. Uh huh, and if they were discussing Serafin, then Callistos the god of love.
"What is this? Some kind of martyrdom phase youre going through?" Callisto to a deliberately out-of-form Xena...ahh, were going to miss the only person in existence who has ever regularly insulted Xena and gotten away with it.
"She has a harsh father, yes..." Serafin, one of those glass is half full people on the subject of Hope.
"You are sooo not like your daughter," Ares to Hope after inspecting her tonsils for, er, any similarities.
"Yes Gabrielle, seems your daughters in heat." Callisto to Gabrielle. Doh. And before theyd had that little chat, too....
"Oh a mother and child reunion - Im all misty-eyed," Callisto showing off her perky one-liners while she still can.
"Well you protected your daughter. Why you released that monster who killed my son on all the world I do not understand." Ouch, ouch, ouch. When Xena wants to inflict pain, she doesnt need her round killing thing. Talk about shades of Maternal Instinct.
"I couldnt stand the thought of losing you," Gabrielle to Xena. Sigh... now thats more like it.
"Strange: the one I love most in all the world and the one I hate look exactly the same..." Aw shucks. Ta Xena. Er, I think...
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, glory hallelujah," Callisto discovers religion.
"Who said anything about suffering? Its more a boredom thing, an emptiness," Callisto now giving suicide a bad name.
"When I gave you that poison, Im so sorry it didnt finish you." In the category of Did Gabrielle Just Say That?! Now thats being honest!
"...You will be part of me forever." The grand finale to possibly Xenas longest speech ever to her bard. What has Gabrielle been slipping into Xenas nutbread? Whatever it was, it sure was nice.
"No more living for you," Xena ramming home a final message to Callisto.
Well this is not the episode double to be watching when you feel like a nice light evening. Depressing is not the word for it. More like plunging into a neverending abyss of doom ... oh, right. Did that too, huh?
The first part was little more than the set up, a long and involved tease as we slowly work out who is being worshipped then following Xena trying to circumvent Callisto to get to Hope. As such, it is an exercise in frustration as we are only being dripfed snatches of information, combined with a growing sense of annoyance that Xena still cant get there in time. Sort of like those running dreams where you never get to where you want to go no matter how long or hard you try.
Ares appearance seemed to spell an ominous Part Two, with his line to a soldier: "Summon every warlord, every soldier, all who ever professed allegiance to me. I am Ares God of War. I will not end up a footnote in the annals of history."
Now thats one mighty lot of soldiers he just put in his Christmas order for. And youre left wondering whether they called in every extra in New Zealand to pull it off. But they tricked us (or ripped us off, depending on your perspective!) in that the point of that fine little speech was not the first sentence but the last sentence - and paved the way for him switching teams to Dahak. Which was a handy thing too, because a) that soldier who failed the God of War so miserably (did you see any massing armies?) would not have a fun time in Tartarus and b) it left some money in the Xena coffers to make another season. Given the latter point, all pwaise Hestia that Aress ego was greater than his allegiance to his fellow gods.
The other largish component was watching Xena and Gabrielle grappling with those old wounds for the first time since Bitter Suite/Forget Me Not. In When In Rome the pair had to re-learn to trust each other again; and now Sacrifice offers them the ultimate test. Can Gabrielle listen to all her old childhood friends arguments about Hope and not be swayed from her task - to get Serafin to lead Xena to her child so the Warrior Princess can kill her?
We always sensed there was a part of Gabrielle throughout all of this that wants desperately to believe that her daughter is salvageable; and what mother doesnt want to see the better side of their child? So Xena is right to be very nervous. As she says later: You almost convinced me.
And me. But I was glad to see that Gabrielle has learnt the hard lessons of Maternal Instincts and Gabrielles Hope that her going off half-cocked because she thinks she knows best has a tendency to get people killed. Tempted as she probably was to consider Serafins words, this time she put her faith in Xena. And it paid off. This doesnt mean Xena is flawless, but she has proven consistently accurate on the subject of Hope.
This was where I breathed out my first sigh of relief - and there was a lot of breath-holding going on during this ep. It was great to see them not going the way of the mistrust of the rift again. I dont think our tickers could take two rifts. Having said that, I probably spoke too soon: that cliff-hanger ending to part one was singularly horrible - not that Hope was reborn; not that Gabrielle had to stop Xena from killing her, but for the look, that look on Xenas face, after the bard stops her. Xenas look to Gabrielle that says: You have betrayed me. Again.
I never wanted to see that look ever again after the rift. And though Xenas cold anger was remarkably shortlived as Gabrielle rushed in with an explanation at the start of part 2, it sure made the weak heart sick to see it even briefly.
There were a lot of interesting moments in part one but ultimately I was so frustrated by it I could have happily dispensed with a large chunk of it. I didnt have to see the latest three attempts to bury Callisto under rocks. Or the strange zombie attack which reminds you of the horror-flick origins of the Xena shows makers. Could Sacrifice have been done in one part? I cant say, but I almost wish theyd tried.
One last note on the first part: if all they needed of Serafin was a few drops of her blood smeared on Hopes cocoon, why sacrifice a loyal follower needlessly when a pinprick to the finger would do? Isnt that in the "Would you kill a mosquito with an axe?" department? (Apologies to Lao Ma.)
Sacrifice 2 was where the going got better, if only because everything lifted in the pace, and the frustrated searching was replaced with a destination (the temple) and a mission: get there, kill the kid - and this time she aint going anywhere.
There were some curious diversions along the way which kept you wondering where on earth this particular episode was headed: a pregnant Hope with Ares (and dont tell me Renee wasnt looking like she was having fun!) had follow-up episode written all over it (the spawn of the spawn of Dahak?); Joxer having his head chewed off by Xena (and I think I heard some unkind and very vocal hooting and thigh slapping from Xenites when it happened) was a clever twist. Hope impersonating Gabrielle was the only really wasted moment, too fast and pretty pointless - and so much more could have been done with it. Ahh the potential.
But what was the big idea? To show that two people love Gabrielle? We knew that already. Sooo what tipped Xena off? A small guess: Gabrielle is suddenly holding her staff like a handbag and ignoring extras flinging themselves around in the middle of a fight. Silly, silly spawn of Dahak. Even Joxer should have spott... oh. Er, never mind.
Joxers involvement made me wonder whether the makers took one look at the rushes and panicked at how dark it all was and decided to bring in the court jester to add some lighter moments. If that was the thinking, it didnt work because the writers then just wrote him in seriously. Well as dark as Joxers ever going to be...
The scene stealer of the episode, well, excluding The Scene of the episode, was Gabrielle sensing Hope calling to her. Her daughter asks her for a second chance. If there was ever any doubt about how far Gabrielle has matured its this scene. Telling someone to their face, with earnestness and almost sympathy that you wished youd killed them properly the first time would have been the hardest things she has ever done. Add in the fact it was her daughter and that is one bard of steel you have there. Great acting by Renee OConnor, for she could have gone with a look of coldness which would have tipped us off. But Gabrielle has never been cold in her life and it makes sense she delivers the brutal, horrible honesty stuff with the same kindness, almost, that she would deliver any other news. I really liked how Renee did the whole scene. And I liked watching her react, as Hope, as though she had been kicked in the guts. Up until then you are waiting for the hidden agenda to reveal itself. To discover there was none makes it doubly powerful.
And then there was that scene. Theres no use really debating Gabrielles decision. It was, in one sense, pretty obvious: we all knew that Xena would die for Gabrielle and Gabrielle would die for Xena, if push came to shove. It did, so she did. This is just proving a point that has been obvious for the longest time. In a way, it is a case of the shows makers pulling our strings a bit because they didnt need to or have to do this. They could have ended the show with Callistos death and it would have had a poignancy all of its own.
So was Sacrifice well done? Its hard to to a death of a favorite character badly so, yes. But it could have been a lot better, too. This was nowhere near the league of The Debt in direction or writing or even scenery, but they got away with all of that by just putting pen to page and writing "Gabrielle dies". Its that simple. So in a sense, the whole show was a pretty cheap trick to come up with an easy, better-than-average show instantly. That doesnt make any of it less powerful, by the way - its just the cynic in me notes that it was not necessary. This is why I gave the episode a lower than expected score - I dont like cheap outs by writers. (But, they can make it up to us for yanking our strings by making Gabrielles doubtless rebirth a worthy entrance.)
But I digress. Back to The Scene: At the start of the temple fight, it was good to see Gabrielle didnt go down for the count in the fight. She fought and fought until finally she was in a position to do what she had to do next... You could almost see her deciding: it was as though she didnt know herself until the last possible minute how it was going to all work; that she was going to go down with Hope. Beautifully fitting she should kill her daughter with a hug.
And when she did die, that look of goodbye for Xena was just so moving. The horror of Xenas strangled scream and the look on her face was awesome.
And it made Callistos death seem a perfect contrast - one who has caused only grief and suffering, gets a vicious stab from Xena and then slides down her body, almost as if hoping Xena would hug her, too. She reaches out to Xena, clings to the Warrior Princess and, getting no response, simply dies at her feet. The perfect end, the ultimate irony, to be dead at the hand and at the feet of the person who created her - and the only person whom she ever gave a damn about. At conventions, Hudson Leick often told fans who asked whether Callisto would ever get a love interest: "Shes already in love."
And so she was in her own strange way.
I suspect Callisto wouldnt have had it any other way than to have Xena be the one to kill her.
Judging by what Hudson has said in newspapers, this is indeed the last we will see of Callisto. No reincarnations, no resurrections. And that is sad, but understandable. There are only so many times you can go back to the well with a character like Callisto, loved though she was.
But then again, one should never say never in the Xenaverse. Hey, just ask Gabrielle.
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