Season 5, Episode 1
July 22, 2000
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 8 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Edited by Jim Prior; story by Robert Tapert and R.J. Stewart; teleplay by R. J. Stewart; directed by John Fawcett.
PASSING PARADE: Hudson Leick (Callisto); Joxer (Ted Raimi); Jennifer Sky (Amarice); David Franklin (Brutus); Tim Omundson (Eli); Charles Mesure (Archangel Michael); David de Lautour (Lief); Angela Gribben (Laura); Tamati Rice (Raphael); Jim McLarty (Pankos); Lee Jane Foreman (Arleia)
STORY SO FAR: Xena and Gabrielle get a taste of heaven and hell. Joxer and Amarice meanwhile debate what to do with their friends bodies.
DISCLAIMER: Hell Hath No Fury like a Woman Scorned.
REWIND FOR:Joxer cant quite make up his mind which hand to hold up to his mouth in horror when he first claps eyes on a crucified Xena and Gabrielle. So he uses both -- depending on which scene youre looking at...
Very cool celestial scene when Xena and Gabs first arrive in heaven. Dig that kaleidoscope effect using the angels. Wonder if they train for that -- you know, like synchronised swimmers...
Meanwhile the special effects guys and gals were kicking ass with all those hooves and wings. Another great look as Xena comes out of the fire of purification - on fire. (Ouch.) But you gotta love that extreme, *extreme* close up of Xena falling after Gabrielle. Surprised we couldnt do a cell count on her face, come to think of it...
Check out Xenas Statue of Liberty impersonation as she first farewells Gabrielle to the heavens. Anyone gotta torch?
First impressions reveal a certain Archangel looks eerily like US actor Michael Douglas from some angles, especially his first scene. I almost expected them to refer to him as Archangel Michaeldouglas. Has a certain ring...
Whats with Xena wrenching her dress down to give us all a view of her shoulder when she first gets deposited in the lap of the angels? I mean, no objections, but ... why? Didnt she think she was giving off enough cleavage? What, is off-the-shoulder virginal white in this season in the afterlife?
Check out the eerie and brilliant music as Eli climbs the ladder to cut Xena down from the cross. Nicely done. Cool choir.
Have another look at Xena when shes giving her demons a pep talk. Watch her inadvertently spray the troops in an array of spittle as she hollers: "Paradise will be ours". Umbrella anyone?
Check out a jealous demon Xena when Gabrielle calls out "Michael!"
"My-kill Xena mocks and backhands him lest he get any proprietorial ideas about her bard ... Sooo, does this explain the disclaimer? *g*
"How can a soul like Gabrielles end up in Hell?" Xena to Michael. Interesting Gabrielle should ask him virtually the same question later in relation to Callisto -
"Are you telling me that Xena is in Hell and SHES in Paradise?"
"Gabrielle and have already been through hell together. I didnt come all this way to lose her now. Either you set me up with a pair of wings or I take another dive. Gabrielle and my soul are destined to be together. I cant let her walk through Hell alone." Xena proving she takes the whole togetherness thing pretty seriously.
"Morning honey. Arent you the lucky girl -- you get to spend eternity with me." Callisto, the morning after, to Gabrielle. She should probably sack her manicurist.
"Eat up my little dumpling. You must be famished and dying makes you so very hungry." Callisto now playing Gabrielles nutritionist. And the experts said fresh fruit wouldnt rot your teeth....
"Xena, Im picking up where you left off. I know Ill never be as good a warrior as you and I know Ill never be as wise, but I promise with all my heart and soul to honor the Warrior Princess." Amarice gets kinda noble like.
"You got them killed, you infected Gabrielle with your peace and love talk -- you made her helpless. Gabrielle never would have gotten captured if she hadnt lost her warrior spirit. You slowed her down just long enough to kill the, You might as well have driven in the nails yourself." No, really Amarice, tell Eli what you really think...
"When Xena burned your family, did you see them on fire? Did you smell their flesh sizzling? You know what I think? You wanted them to die so youd have a reason to be a BITCH." Gabrielle reminiscing about the good old days with Callisto. She might want to get that husky voice looked at though...
"I want to spend eternity with you. Wont you join me?" Demon Xena makes
an offer to Gabrielle thats hard to refuse when she snorts it so beautifully...
"Gabrielle, the love that we have, its stronger than heaven or hell, it transcends good or evil, its an end in itself. Our souls are destined to be together. Gabrielle you cant let me walk through Hell alone." Okay, these guys are just friends right? Um, sisterly? Er... yeah, well anywho, Xena wants Gabs real bad. In that friendly way of hers...
"My friends are dead because of my teachings. Love wasnt the way for Gabrielle. I was too proud to see that. What good is this gift if I cant even protect the ones I love? Why did you even give this to me?" Eli takes a moment to reflect that he might possibly, in a remote kinda way, have got Xena and Gabrielle staked up on a cross until they were done-diddly-done-for. No-oo, ya think, Eli??
Michael: Are you INSANE?
Xena: Depends who you talk to.
Gabrielle: Xena will not leave me down here with you.
Callisto: You have such faith. How cute.
Michael: The only way to stop her (Xena) is to cut her up and let her spend the rest of eternity in little pieces.
Gabrielle: If thats what it takes.
When you get right down to brass tacks, this is actually quite a basic script. Good vs evil, heaven and hell, demons and gods, yada yada yada. Except for one thing: the Xena crew, down to the last man and woman in the company, have pulled off something quite amazing with what might have been a cruel joke if itd gone bad.
The potential for disaster was truly high -- given much of the script relies on special effects which, if these had turned to crud, would have made the whole thing look absolutely silly. As it is you have your stars running around with horns and hooves and all thats missing is a pitchfork and evil cackle or two. Oh wait, Callisto supplied the cackle quotient - but then, thats our Calli for you, anyway.
Fortunately none of the actors wound up looking silly which was probably an enormous relief to all. Throw in some pretty strong writing and you have a surprisingly good sequel to Ides of March -- which was looking pretty hard to top due to the whole death of both major stars thingy and Gabrielle turning into the Butcher of Poteideia.
What made it work was, as with Ides, they picked a simple theme and stuck to it throughout -- or, rather, hammered it would probably be more the case. Okay, hands up anyone who missed the point about Xena and Gabrielle destined to spend eternity together?? Didnt think so... After three mentions of this now unarguable plotpoint, I lost count. Good to know this though, but after Ides, you arent left with much doubt these two arent about to be parted without a fight to the death.
There is one thing that interested me on this theme - Xena was resolved to be with Gabrielle no matter what. Her first instinct was to dive off a rather high cliff after Gabrielle (her first instinct in Paradise Found, too) when the bards dragged off to Hell. Thats not to say Gabrielle doesnt have Xena on her mind on a regular basis, too: Her first thought on waking up in Hell and to find a womans arm over her was to say "Xena?" (subtexters eat your hearts out). And her first instinct when cleansed after escaping Hell, and before shes even got the water out her eyes, is to say: "Wheres Xena?"
But when Archangel Michael says "the only way to stop her (Xena) is to cut her up and let her spend the rest of eternity in little pieces" Gabrielles unflinching reply is: "If thats what it takes."
This made me do a doubletake for a few reasons. One, I couldnt picture Xena saying the same thing about Gabrielle without a truly sick look on her face, if at all. Two, if Xena wouldnt have been able to do it, it would suggest that, of the two of them, it is now Gabrielle most capable of recognising and doing what must be done for the greater good. Which leads to three, Xena has indeed taught Gabrielle very very well. And in one sense shed be very proud of the bard indeed.
Further to that point, Demon Xena at one moment is laying on a fairly heavy-duty guilt trip on Gabrielle. She says: "Gabrielle you cant let me walk through Hell alone."
Once again, I cant see Xena being impervious to that line if the hoof was on the other foot -- afterall, she was prepared to give Gabrielle her light from the get-go -- until assured by Michael it wouldnt be necessary as theyd rescue her in time. And bear in mind the fact that a purified person feels compassion for all these suffering souls, so someone like Xena would be especially wanting to give away their light to anyone they know -- as indeed happened.
But Gabrielle seemed again impervious to the guilt trip. She has compassion, we know this -- her character is filled with it. Yet she showed no sign of an inner struggle over this which seemed a little -- well, unfair, given that Xena seemed almost certain to have done the heroic thing if situations were reversed.
There could be two reasons for this imperviousness. Firstly, shes never had a cross to bear like Xena has and is not riddled with guilt and atonement issues which make her not as susceptible to guilt trips the way Xena is. In other words she has better defences to guilt than Xena -- despite what the Warrior Princess told Callisto in Ides of March about knowing her path now and not being troubled by guilt. (That was patent twaddle. Xena is and will remain an occasionally moody, guilt-stricken righter of wrongs because thats just who she is. The degree of guilt may minimise but wont leave her.)
The other reason Gabrielle might not have reacted to Xenas pleas is, as stated above -- she knows whats right and although she feels deeply for Xenas plight, shes committed to doing what is best. And the best is not adding her number to the demon crowd. This means she, unlike Xena in this case, seems able to put reason above her own heart -- a very heroic thing to do in many senses.
As Callisto said: "My -- arent you the brave one."
And she is -- in her own way. Thats not taking anything away from Xena -- whose braveness and compassion for Callisto lead to a most surprising transformation -- for both the former goddess, and for Gabrielle.
Theyre just different forms of strength, I suppose.
This brings us to the other point where the symmetry also feels a little off. Just a smidge off to notice -- but not enough to matter. Gabrielles path to purification is very obvious and, in my mind, an excellent choice -- ie. to make her forgive Callisto.
But what was Xenas path to purification about? Fire?? Symbollic it may be but there were no mental Olympics involved for the Warrior Princess, apart from her probably thinking: "Please dont burn, please dont burn..." And she really had a 50-50 choice there. So -- she picked the hardest one because thats what Xena does. But had she picked the less face-melty option what would that have meant anyway? Nothing really. Just she made the wrong pick. No, Xena should have been made to face her own demons the way Gabrielle was. Her trial should have been equally mentally taxing so you admire her for going through it - not just, oh yeah, theres Xena walking through fire - but shell be okay because this is heaven, and hey, shes Xena.
If I was picking a trial for Xena, Id have had her meet Borias, Lao Ma, Solan, or maybe (less likely) Caesar. Someone who has meant a lot to her for a variety of reasons and has stretched her emotionally to the limit. Someone she has wronged or been wronged by, intentionally or unintentionally -- but who has haunted her all the while. Now that would have been symmetry. Still theres only so much time they had, so, methinks the fire was a timesaver as much as anything else.
But onto Gabrielles trial of purification. I really liked this scene. It was a little too short because forgiveness generally isnt determined in 25 seconds or less, but then this is Gabrielle we are talking about here... and anyone who saw Locked Up, Tied Down will know that short, improbable conversions to good are the bards specialty.
Callisto pure and sweet -- now theres a sight thats hard to grasp. And doesnt Gabrielle know it. But the sight of Callisto wiping away Gabrielles tears and Gabrielle wiping away hers was surprisingly touching. I couldnt help but marvel that its probably the first time Callisto has shown the slightest bit of notice of the bard and really sees her -- not just as an extension of Xena, and, as such, someone to be toyed with. But she really sees Gabrielle, knows what she has done to her -- and acknowledges both. I liked that.
Meanwhile over to the B-plot. My hat goes off to Ted Raimi for an absolutely fine acting job as Joxer in two particular scenes. The first is where he is taking Gabrielle off the cross. You can not only see but feel his pain at holding the body of the woman he loved.
And plaudits for a scene towards the end where Joxer cups Gabrielles face - just to acknowledge shes really real and alive. He expresses all the things hes feeling without saying a word. Love or hate Joxer, Raimi can act, no doubt about it.
As for Eli, well, hes all a bit too squeaky clean and Messiah-like for my taste. When he questions his faith, when he shows a chink in that smug armour of his, I was delighted -- because you could almost relate to him at last as being human. But too soon -- well pretty much instantly actually -- the chink was healed, because his prayers got answered ASAP and hes back to being Captain Perfecto once more. Guess its the curse of being a chosen one. Still I cant really disapprove of anyone who brings Xena and Gabrielle back to life. What can I say, Eli, all is forgiven.
Now bugger off, eh? *g*
I cant possibly leave this review without returning to its theme. I give you the voice of the characters themselves, and the simple, closing words of this interesting episode:
Gabrielle: Were going to be together for eternity.
Hallelujah and pass the nutbread.
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