clip-show alert. Yes, strap on your sword and slip your nutbread
into the upright position – we’re in for a bumpy ride.
Xena as a
general rule does some of the best clip shows on TV, recycling its
old material with oodles of charm and repackaging it in a way that
doesn’t make you feel ripped off. This is the glaring exception.
Athens City The
Academy of the Performing Bards comes across a bit like some of
those early 1930s musicals. In other words, say one key word and
suddenly someone bursts into an entire song about it. Here,
Gabrielle’s bard friend Orion mentions a name he wishes he had, and
bam, cue tape, and the clip show plays about someone with the same
name. You get the idea.
OK let me set the
scene. At this point, Gabrielle, in a long, long skirt, unarmed,
untrained and, with her hormones seriously raging, is busily
glomming on to any chipmunk-cheeked cute male under 30 who can
string a sentence together which doesn’t include the words “killing
Xena is in her
aw-shucks phase of being unable to believe she’s made a friend who
actually likes her, and is half expecting her to leave her at any
moment (which, as we will see, is not an implausible conclusion.)
Xena is also
uttering lines like “Thanks for being my family, you’re like a
sister to me…”
Yes, quite. Well
Xena and Gabs have virtually just met and are, no pun intended,
still feeling each other out. And Gabrielle really does look fairly
kid-sister-like in this episode.
Speaking of the
Gabster, I love the look on her face when Orion’s dad belittles her
and dismissively calls her “cute”. If ever there’s a way to get a
smaller woman’s dander up, call her cute exactly like that. I
suspect Renee shared Gabrielle’s view which is why her appalled
expression is so priceless.
OK quibble time, and
I have just one main one (aside from New Zealand’s finest assortment
of wooden actors ever assembled)…. That Gabrielle should feel it’s
perfectly normal for her to say to Xena (after her Sins of The
Past grand speech begging Xena to take her with her)
that, hey, it’s been swell, but she’s off to do barding for four or
five years. This is a more than a bit fickle.
Suddenly, this has
been her grand dream all along? Then why didn’t she just skip off to
Athens ages ago? Don’t tell me Poteidea has no traders ever
going to Athens with whom she could have hitched a ride. (I am
choosing not to pick the very uncharitable other option – that she
only gave that nice speech so Xena would sweep her out of Poteidea
and get her closer to her dream.)
Gabrielle is just being, well, fickle. Teenagers are like that, one
minute they like eel tossing for business and pleasure, next minute
it’s bacchae moon dancing – and Gabs does seem to be playing about a
17-to-18-year-old’s maturity in this episode.
So Xena, is trying
to pretend her heart’s not being ripped up, jumped on, shredded and
torn apart by the ancient Greek equivalent of dingoes by losing her
one true friend of the last decade. Thus she gives us her trademark
“dying on the inside, indifferent on the outside” look that always
made Lucy such an interesting actress to watch.
I long suspected
Xena always offered Gabrielle the “I can take you or leave you”
attitude at the start because she feared just this very thing – that
when Gabs got sick of her, Xena’d be left alone again, hurt.
Gabrielle, as always for early Gabs, is blithely unaware of the
chaotic emotions she’s caused in her
Meanwhile for those
who never got to see the Hercules trilogy which introduced
Xena, there are some flashbacks to them to whet the appetite. The
unintentionally hilarious part about this is Euripedes’ voiceover
explaining the truly murderous nature of Xena and how she was a
cold-blooded killer. Yet the worst you see is her sliding
into a hot tub with Iolaus, and Iolaus narrowing his eyes and taking
a slug at Hercules. Oooh yeah, I am so scared….save me from that
funny is the very next flashback showing Xena in her earliest outfit
(Herc trilogy era) doing a swordfight which could well have been her
first ever – she’s so slow in these unfamiliar action moves that an
entire nursing home of octagenarians could have shuffled up on their
Zimmerframes and poked both fighters in the eye. If nothing else, it
shows just how astonishing Lucy’s improvement in the art of
swordplay has been since then, 13 Xena episodes on.
On the “dear god,
no” flashback front was the Iolaus/Gabrielle romance. This scene
proved two things: 1) There clearly were no child protection
services in ancient Greece, and 2) Gabrielle really did have raging
hormones to overlook her under-30, boy-band-cute criteria. To see
this scene as some sort of highlight reel does my feeble head in.
And (almost) finally
– what struck me most by the end was not the silliness of Gabrielle
winning her apparent lifelong dream and then walking away from it
(fickle, what did I tell ya?) but that this must surely be the first
clip show in the history of television to use clips from other
people’s shows to fill in time. To be precise, the fillers from the
I wonder what Kirk
Douglas made of his most unexpected debut on Xena? The clip
went on for so unbelievably long, that, having never seen the movie,
I started to get right into it. So which one was Spartacus again?
Last but not least,
the reunion – Gabrielle almost falls onto the path (the long skirt
being the culprit) where Xena is traveling and Ms Big Tough
Nonchalant Warrior is kind of like “Oh, hey, you again”, those waves
of indifference rolling off all that lovely black leather (hopefully
they won’t stain)…
Well you’d think
she was indifferent – but we know better, right?
In sum, this episode
is lame, lame and lamer still, just when you thought it couldn’t get
any worse. But possibly, at a pinch, it is worth it for a few
powerful Xena looks at the start where her inner devastation is
being finely wrought in close-up at the thought of Gabrielle leaving
But it’s only worth
a watch if Spartacus isn’t on … (Hey, I really must find out
how that ends.)
CREDITS * DISCLAIMER * LOG LINE
SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by R.J.
Stewart and Steven L. Sears; Edited by Doug Ibold; Directed by Jace Alexander.
PASSING PARADE: Dean O'Gorman (Orion/Homer), Grahame Moore (Polonius),
Patrick Brunton (Stallonus), Joseph Manning (Euripedes), Andrew Thurtell
(Twickenham), Lori Dungey (Kellos), Alan De Malmanche (Docenius), David
Weatherley (Gastacius), Bernard Moody (Drunk).
DISCLAIMER: The producers would like to acknowledge and pay tribute to
Stanley Kubrick, Kirk Douglas and all those who were involved with the making of
the film classic 'SPARTACUS.' Additional thanks to Steve Reeves.
STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle goes to the academy to study storytelling and
ends up comparing notes and tall tales with fellow bards about Xena’s exploits,
while also helping one bard be true to himself.
REWIND! * QUOTES! *
The tavern scene as Xena and Gabrielle make their farewells. While the usually
strong silent type Xena expresses herself in allegories of “orphans” and
“searching” and “family”, Gabrielle simply gazes across the table rapt in her
friend’s unaccustomed sentimentality. Also check out the way Xena sits astride a
bench! No doubting who skipped out on Miss Persipholis’s school etiquette
classes. Then there was the flouncy drama-queen style exit of Orion/Homer’s
father when Gabrielle is allowed to stay in the competition. All he forgot was a
pouty little hiss and flinging a stole over his shoulder, he was so over the
“Even if I had an army around me, I’d still notice you were missing.” Xena, the
big lug, opens up, giving the idea that maybe Gabrielle’s Warrior Princess haze
is not just a one-way street. Of course, if only the bard had actually noticed….
“My dad wants me to be able to adjust my story if I see the slightest hint of
boredom, distraction.” Homer’s father was grooming his son for a career in
network television, obviously.
Euripides: “The cadence of your words played havoc with the falling visage of my
Official: “You’ll be staying in the servants’ quarters in the Hall of Zeus”
Gabrielle (with a long suffering look): “All artists suffer for their art.”