This episode is just one adorable,
juicy fan favourite – and for good reason. From (blood) innocent Xena and dark
Gabrielle (with more layers than a County Fair onion), to subtext-orama
lingering looks, could they possibly have packed any more in?
The Fates give Xena a wonderful, precious gift here. We’ve probably all wondered
how life might have turned out if we’d gone left instead of right at one
crossroad or another. And Xena was actually allowed to see first-hand the truth
about all those self-loathing assumptions she’s been making and clinging too for
years - chiefly, that the world would have been a much better place without the
Warrior Princess in it.
She even lists all her guilty little issues weighing her down:
- She has shamed her mother.
- Gabrielle left her family.
- Her brother died when she led him
Well now, isn’t No. 2 interesting? Who
knew she even felt guilty about it? Perhaps she meant to say that she was
exposing Gabrielle to a lifestyle not conducive to her long-term health and
wellbeing – even though it was Gabrielle’s choice to leave, and her tagging
along was not at Xena’s invitation.
Of course, it’s also true the WP could have sent her on her way, and did a few
times, but this stray puppy knew exactly where she wanted to be. And now they
look so happy and right when teamed up together. Yet despite all this, after all
this time, we discover Xena still has been secretly fretting about allowing
Gabrielle to stay with her, away from the “safety” of her family. Interesting.
PS, Xena, I’d argue about how safe Gabrielle’s mental health would be had she
stayed and married that dull-witted farming toad Perdicus 1.0 she was supposed
to. But that’s a whole other uber story.
So now the wise Fates decide they’re not into displays of self pity even from
their saviour and decide to help Xena. And we find out they’re doing this as
part of some deeper lesson, and not as mere grateful observers, or they wouldn’t
keep popping in and out to toy with her throughout. With a little jab here and
there, they certainly seem to want her to return to her old life.
Now we meet Uber Xena. I love how Lucy was able to show all her childhood
memories as she sifted through her jewellery box. A wonderful example of
“show-don’t tell” direction from Anson Williams (Potsy from Happy Days
fame). Sometimes it’s tempting to over-explain everything, and the scene was so
much richer for having Xena just holding items and giving small knowing,
The character of Uber Xena was an interesting take – she is dressed and acts a
lot like Chariots of War Xena (the single-dad almost-romance story of
episode 2), even though she has all the memories of a lifetime as Warrior
Princess Xena. Why the switch – is she just pretending to be more innocent so as
to blend, or is she really like that now - a little sweeter and softer, having
never bloodied her hands in battle?
I’d argue the former, and say Xena can indeed act when she wants to “go along to
get along”, as Maphias would say.
Speaking of that lamentable, cowardly collaborator of a fiancé she’s inherited
(and even she can’t hide her astonishment at that news – gee, wonder why), can
anyone seriously buy she was ever going to marry this ethically-bypassed,
jelly-spined used-chariot-salesman of a lizard?
If, as Lyceus keeps stating, she and her brother have long plotted for, or at
least fantasised about, the overthrow of slavery, then it makes sense she’d have
chosen a partner who at least, gee, I dunno, shares the basic core of her values
Yes, yes, Xena has put
off marrying him twice, but that just proves she has doubts – not the gaping
elephant-in-the-room uh-oh conviction she should have by now.
And for that matter, why is Lyceus close friends with a bloke who thinks going
along to get along is the standard operating procedure for life?
By the way, does Maphias even have a job? He just keeps turning up and hounding
Lyceus for news on Xena. Or is that just an excuse to see Lyceus? *grin*.
Look, dude, get a hobby, get a life, and just pray that one day your brains will
be as full and fabulous as your perfect pretty-boy hair.
And don’t start me on his accent.
Right. Now then…Enter Gabrielle.
First – I bow at Renee’s feet. Awesome, awesome, awesome acting job there,
girlfriend. That’s one angry, bitter, suspicious, cynical, dead-eyed, unloved
slave girl she’s created out of thin air. She hadn’t even opened her mouth and
we could see the rage commingled with impotence seeping from her every pore.
Did they shoot her with minimal make-up, too? Somehow she portrayed a sort of
beautiful ugly – a mask of poignant pain to hide her natural sparkle.
Gabrielle’s face was a study of contrasts between a desire to fight back vs
self-preservation – survival instincts winning every time.
And she actually managed to convey the loss of esteem and humanity that comes
from being stripped of a piece of herself every time she’s bullied or beaten
into submission. No wonder she would later question whether to thank or hate
Xena for offering her fresh hope. Hope is poison to a slave girl. Physical
violence – that she could deal with.
As for the villains of the piece, bah – who cares that Krykus was played by that
same overacting ham Dagnine from the previous episode? Like who could even
bother listening to the warlords droning on when Gabrielle’s on the floor
getting a dog to lick the bread? Indeed, in every scene Renee was in, I have
just one word for her – riveting. Or two words: scene stealer.
Favourite moments of the episode – well, the best little rug-pull in Amphipolis
was up there. Oh, did I do that, my, my… Lucy is terrifically funny at times.
But she backed it up brilliantly when her have-no-job-except-stalking-Xena
fiancé magically appears, rushes in and tries to convince the thug that they
were buying a house slave. The look of furious compliance was genius. Xena so
wants desperately to revert back to form and slug the bulbous sod. And yet, in a
wonderful rare moment, we actually see Xena showing restraint.
And what makes this all the harder for her is she knows this is a feeling she’s
going to have to get used to. It’s not some lark on a boat with Autolycus,
playing a role for a few hours. She realises in that moment that this will be
her life. Despite her already whirring through the possibilities in her mind to
spring the redhead, she also knows she’s in for the long haul of a Clark Kent
existence instead of being the loud, proud and forever unfettered superhero.
Speaking of superheroes – who couldn’t but help loving Xena literally flying up
the chimney? She looked devastatingly gorgeous – but also free. Yes, the
superhero pain of hiding your talents is always matched by the freedom when you
can exercise them again. She showed her joy at that feeling beautifully.
I have to give a nod to the music – it was all terrific, with the exception of
the melodramatic organ tunes when they are in the prison. Please, it’s been
(over)done in so many B-grade schlock flicks before.
Subtexters obviously were in heaven with all the lingering looks going on
between Xena and Gabrielle, all episode long. Xena is desperately trying to
convey all that she can without actually sounding insane by telling Gabrielle
what happened. So she gives these absolute zinger deep looks.
And Gabrielle keeps staring at her like she’s trying so hard to understand these
looks, which are nothing like anything she’s ever received in her life. It’s
like she knows there’s something there, something very important
for her to grasp, if she can just fathom what that loopy dark-haired woman is
saying. And so she stares back. You can see the warring between her internal
doubts and mistrust countered by the open-faced honesty of Xena. Isn’t that a
turn around. Usually Xena’s the one hiding her feelings and Gabrielle wears her
heart on her sleeve. More points for the actresses and director at that
The classic moment is when Xena admits she’s not thinking of some other friend,
but that Gabrielle is the friend. And Gabrielle just sort of nods – as
though she’d suspected it, even if she does think the other woman is a little
nuts. Who wouldn’t? We even get to see a now trademark single tear, streaking
down Xena’s cheek as she says it. Are we sure fanfic writers didn’t pen
this episode? Aww.
All this though is mere icing on the cake – the cake being the moment we all
watch this episode for, the moment Xena realises she must change back. And what
is it that does it for her?
Is it the way Lyceus virtually beat her around the head with his mantra that
he’d rather die fighting for what he believes in than live with doing nothing?
Does she finally realise Lyceus died proudly the first time, in the way he’d
How about Cyrene – does her loss rate even a passing mention for Xena?
What about an understanding that Xena’s vision of her perfect other life was
instead a perfectly manufactured fantasy and all the things she thought would
have been better, were just different shades of the same disappointments?
Nope, none of the above.
Alright, what about the big one for her – that the world would really have been
better off without a killer Warrior Princess? Yet in her alt-world she discovers
the Amazons have been enslaved (well that got a frown at least) and sees for
herself the proliferation of the slave trade right across the lands.
And yet she was still willing to live with all that.
The one thing that did it for her was simply realising, at the moment Gabrielle
plunged a knife into her captor, that she had lost her forever and there was no
getting her back. The damage had been done.
Some might think Xena’s issue was just that Gabrielle had killed. No - I think
she could have handled Gabrielle killing and lived with it if she felt she could
still turn her into the woman she knew. Her issue was not the killing but that
Gabrielle did it with so much obvious job satisfaction. There was an emptiness
to those glazed eyes and a nastiness to that lip curl as she plunged the weapon
in with a huge deal of enjoyment.
In that split second Xena knew with a sick dread, her Gabrielle was dead.
And Xena, no way, no how, could live without her.
So she says goodbye to Lyceus, and welcomes back her old path – with Gabrielle
in it. And seeing our old bright happy Gabrielle again was like swallowing
sunshine. The relief for Xena and the relief for the viewers, made for the
ultimate feel-good episode.
And what a sweet little arm-around-shoulder hug she gives Gabrielle. “I’m more
myself than ever,” she tells the astonished bard.
Hear hear. Welcome back, Warrior
Princess. And bravo.
CREDITS * DISCLAIMER * LOG LINE
SCROLLS & SCRIBES:
Teleplay by Chris Manheim. Directed by Anson Williams. Edited by Jim
Aaron Devitt (Lyceus), Robert Harte (Maphias), Stephen Tozer (Mezentius),
Mark Ferguson (Krykus), Rebecca Kpacka (Clotho), Micaela Daniel (Lachesis),
Elizabeth Pendergrast (Atropos), Chris Graham (Slave boss).
Xena's memory was not damaged or...what was I saying?
STORY SO FAR:
The Fates allow Xena to see what life would be like if she had never
picked up a sword in anger. (Gabrielle is less than impressed.)
Outfit schmoutfit. So they kick off again with stock footage of Xena/Gab
clones walking about a NZ travel brochure – as if the fans will notice a little
thing like Gabrielle’s outfit being her early Season 1 mudsticker there and
Season 2 practical skirt everywhere else – right?
REWIND! * QUOTES! *
Look Ma, the world’s first Capoiera. The Brazilian dancers/martial art style
makes it’s first appearance in ancient Greece with whirling, twirling
windmilling kicks and sweeping/arcing moves. Out of place? Sure, but then so are
mirrors, kites and American accents. They get a free pass.
Maphias rubbing his arm as he told Lyceus he’d know if he’d had a fight with
Xena. It seems in any life, she was destined to kick men’s butts – although
we’re not sure domestic violence is really something to admire, however
Check out the exotic way they keep their prisoners – bird cages suspended from
ceilings and locked. Isn’t that a bit of overkill – especially every time you
have to feed them?
“You’re not going to try and postpone the wedding again are you?”
Maphias to Xena, ever the reluctant bride, no matter her fate.
“If it wasn’t for you I would never have known how it felt to be free again.
I don’t know whether to thank you or to hate you.” Melancholic Gabrielle
slam dunks Xena with the reality that her picture-perfect life sacrificed as
many good souls as her Warrior Princess path.
Gabrielle: “I always wanted a brother.”
Xena: “Ha! That must have made your sister happy.”
Gabrielle: “I reminded you of your friend.”
Xena: “No, you are my friend.”