Season 2.01 Orphan of War

Orphan of War


Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr

Rating: 6 chakrams



OK– there are two reasons to watch this episode (or three if you enjoy a stunning New Zealand travelogue):

1) Xena does haughty reclining empress poses while regarding unsavoury warlords like no one else. Who’s got the power? Do we even need to ask?

2) Lucy acts her leather boots off when given some real emotional grist – and leaving her son behind in the final scene was lump-in-throat stuff.

Two reasons to burn this episode and do a little happy dance as the flames take hold:

1) The appearance of Judgmental Gabrielle – who on earth is this shrill, holier-than-thou hissy missy who thinks saying “How can you walk out on your child…” is in any way useful? Have we even met? I want Sweet Gabrielle back.

2) Pretty much everyone’s acting was diabolical (with a notable exception).

Can you actually believe they kicked off season two with this odd little showcase of Hercules-style script, acting villainy from the school of panto (I kept wanting to shout “He’s behiiiind you” every time Dagnine appeared), bad wigs, a silly flawed plot, Power Rangers style FX, and the first appearance of an evil Gabrielle clone.

Yet out of these smelly Centaur droppings came a compelling pair of must-watch moments that makes you wonder how they got so lucky as to have such a surprising unpolished diamond in the lead role.

But let’s start at the beginning. I think Xena’s mojo is a little dulled this ep – she sensed an attacking horde when said louts were standing RIGHT BEHIND HER. And by “sensed” she probably meant smelt. From where they were, Gabrielle would have seen them and had enough time to reshoe Argo, get a manicure and write a new epic before the WP’s Spidey’s senses began tingling.

I loved the hilarious spear-splitting stunt – perhaps because it was the only hilarious thing in the entire episode, Solan’s acting withstanding.

And how bad was that lad’s acting? I kid you not, when bad-wig-boy squeaks to Xena “You’ve just met your greatest enemy” with all the gravitas of Mickey Mouse I laughed out loud. Truly. I mean up to this point the big bads have included Draco, Cortese, Callisto, occasionally the God of War and… Solan?

Now then, Xenabods - way to telegraph your plot, soap style. Whenever they go in for the big ole blue eyes close-up, with a huge zoom in, you know the revelation’s gonna be big.

 “Yes, he’s my son” Xena intoned solemnly. With all that The Bold and the Beautiful lead-in you’d think we’d at least get one right-down-the-camera look, and an aside stage whisper of “Or is he…?”

Next sigh – enough already: How many relatives are we gonna haul out of Xena’s closet here? It’s like there’s a big glass cabinet at Xenabod HQ with a sign on it “Spare Xena Rellies – Break Glass in Emergency”.

I can see the writers’ meeting now: “We’ve done near-death Xena, near-death Gabrielle, Xena’s mama issues, daddy issues and sibling issues, Gabs making doe-eyes at boys, and doe-eyed boys all suddenly dying (Xena not as yet considered a suspect), so what next? Think people, think…”

*Insert sound of breaking emergency glass*

So we discover Xena has a son. And Solan has been raised by the Centaurs. Yay for him. I guess he never had to ask for a pony for his birthday.

(Speaking of the Centaurs – anyone notice how Gabrielle, and later Xena, just hop on their backs without so much as a by your leave and demand to be taken places? What are they – taxis? I know I would most certainly object if someone up and sat on my head and ordered me to a warfront. You’d think there’d be some sort of etiquette about all this.)

OK so now virtually everyone knows who Solan is – including Xena’s best friend. You know the one – sweet girl, accepts people as they are, generous of spirit and kind to a fault. She also understands that people make mistakes and she is usually leading the charge to forgive people.

That girl was obviously off bowling. In this episode we meet the very icky Judgmental Gabrielle™  – who stridently demands to know, with all the shrillness of an outraged rightwing TV evangelist, “How can you walk out on your own child”.

What the?

Hence the equally strident response from Xena which was short and pointed: “Get out of my way” accompanied by a Gab shove.

Nice. There is no way in Hades Xena would have ever travelled with Judgmental Gabrielle if she’d been like this all this time because, let’s face it, Xena has done some awful, awful things that put child abandonment in the shade and a “friend” like Judge Gabs would make for a very long day indeed.

And, PS, I wouldn’t call it child abandonment so much as a form of love – Xena went out of her way to leave Solan in a place where he would be safe from the sights she and her army would subject him to, and surrounded by people who would care for and love him.

The whole tiff was so ridiculous and a blatant writer’s ploy to introduce a bit of tension. But I found myself asking Why? Why do they want these two to butt heads over an issue which is not even close to the top 20 of Xena’s When Good Girls Turn Bad escapades? And what use is there even arguing about it now – Xena couldn’t rewind history if she wanted to. All the bard is doing is driving Xena away with her preaching until Xena finally has enough, snaps and says “This is NONE of your business.” Ouch. Still feel like you’re family to Xena now, Gabs?

If Renee had greatly softened the line about why Xena did this into a genuine heartfelt query, as if seeking understanding, she would have still been our Gabrielle. And Xena, being hugely upset regardless, could have still brushed her away as she did – but we wouldn’t get the sense of watching a completely different pair of characters instead of the friends we know.  What was played out was such a bad choice.

Then there was Gabrielle’s apology, if you can call it that. On this one, the blame gets sheeted home 100% to an awful script. The bard says words to the effect that she still doesn’t agree with what Xena did but she should have been more supportive as the WP was going through a bad time. Notice she didn’t say “Sorry – I was an appalling prat and not acting at all like a true friend…” Just – sorry, my timing was bad while being an appalling prat but I think I am still right.

So Gabs is saying she still firmly believes she’d rather Xena had hauled Solan around the battlefields of Greece with her, turning him into a target or another killer like the rest of her army?

I really do reckon Gabrielle’s brains are painted on this episode.

Enough of the character angst, there’s plot dissection to be done. I’ll jump first to the Texas-sized flaw in the story.

If you listen carefully you’ll hear that the Centaurs got a choice to be noble or wicked and they chose noble. As a result all their wickedness got taken off them and it was put in the Ixion stone. And by this reasoning no Centaur has a drop of wicked in him/her (hey, has anyone seen a girl Centaur?!).  This also means that of all the people in the Ancient World, the Centaurs are the only ones incapable of any evil.

Really? That’s very saintly of them. Must be nice. I guess that explains why Xena left her son with these goodly creatures – and it makes Gabrielle’s high and mighty disdain for her choice look even worse.

OK, so the perfectly unwicked Centaurs also have armies and fight in battles, defensively one presumes, because good folk don’t pick fights. This means, by default, that anyone fighting the Centaurs must be evil, because we have established the Centaurs are incapable of evil.

Does anyone remember who the biggest enemies were of the Centaurs for a while? Yes, the Amazons! Which means the Amazons are evil!! Which makes Gabrielle, as Queen of a villainous tribe, the head evil one. Dang! She seemed so nice, too. *grin*

Although it would explain her channelling her inner-be-yutch this episode.

OK quibbles time – the unintentionally stupidest moment of the episode is Gabrielle impressing Solan by hitting an ancient soccer ball with her staff. “How did you do that?” he gushes. Frankly anyone who couldn’t hit a target that huge would be have to be blind and built like Monty Burns.

Saddest moment of the ep was Gabrielle, having heroically tried in vain to fight off the baddies who snatched Solan – astonishing DIY stunt work from Ren all ep, by the way  – finally finds Xena and tells her. It’s a big moment for a newly minted sidekick. Will Xena fling her on the back of Argo so the pair can gallop off together to take them on? Maybe Xena will tell her where she’s going and ask her to catch up, as time’s of the essence?

Um, no, she tells her to run back to the village. Oh well. It was good while it lasted, eh, Gabs.

On the flip side, one of the best moments of the episode was Xena reclining in Dagnine’s tent, with all the aristocratic charisma and presence of one used to command. It stole all the power from him, and at the same time made the opposing actor and his character look like a total hack in contrast. It was awesome to look at with hints of what was to come. And when Xena smacks the sleazeball …ho yeah – whatta woman.

That was great but by far the best scene was the last one – Xena interacting with her son, and suspecting she won’t see him again. She shows her love for him (in her mind) by leaving him once more, none the wiser of his true parentage so he will grow up just as he has been doing – safe and secure in his family unit.   

What sells the scene is how wonderfully Lucy acts – her emotionally bereft look as she staggers away from her boy is a revelation. The pain looked so raw and real. What  a masterful job. It’s just such a shame the rest of the episode didn’t attain the same high standard. It’s largely a let down.

They say success has many parents and failure is an orphan. Therefore I think it lends a certain profoundness to call this episode Orphan of War…


SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by Steven L. Sears. Directed by Charles Siebert . Edited by Jim Prior..

PASSING PARADE: Paul Gittins (Kaleipus), Mark Ferguson (Dagnine), David Taylor (Solan), Alexander Campbell (Miklan), Stephen Papps (See'er), Peter Tait (Daylon).

DISCLAIMER:  No sleazy warlords who deem it necessary to drink magic elixirs that turn them into scaly centaurs were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

STORY SO FAR:  Xena remembers another relative she left behind when helping the Centaurs do battle.



Xena’s comical walk away from Kaleipus in the flashback scene. Way to wreck a dramatic moment Luce’. Oh well – I’m sure she learnt her lesson and would never do it again, like – say in the best two-parter of the series – The Debt.

Lucy’s stunt double on the catwalk fight scene in Dagnine’s camp. Check out the whopping bruise on her thigh. *ouch *


Gabrielle, get your staff ready.” It only took a season of trailing after Xena across half the known world, and a lot of raw fish for breakfast – but yes, folks – the Gabster has finally earned her Sidekick Badge.

With this (magic potion) I’ll sweep the world like a rampaging wind. I’ll kill Xena. I’ll kill Hercules. I’ll take Athens…I’ve got so much to do – I’ll have to make a list.” Dagnine, the miserable failure of a warlord proving he’s crap at arch nemesis monologues too.


: “What in Zeus’ name was that?!”

Gabrielle: “If you don’t know – it must be Xena (smiles smugly).”

See’er: “If this doesn’t work…”

Dagnine: “If this doesn’t work?! One of you gets my tent – the other, my horse.”