Season 6, Episode 1
(not aired in Australia yet)
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 6.5 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Melissa Good; Directed by Mark Beesley; Edited by Tim Batt.
PASSING PARADE: Kevin Smith (Ares); Adrienne Wilkinson (Eve); Tsianina Joelson (Varia); Sela Apera (Queen Marga) and Asa Lindh (Alecto).
STORY SO FAR: Ares, driven to the brink of madness by the Furies, attacks the Amazons in an attempt to get his godhood back. The Amazons turn on their former adversary, Eve.
DISCLAIMER: Xena & Gabrielle's psyches were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Xenas warcry still stops em dead, even 25 years after it was last heard. Witness the "uh oh" look on Ares soldiers faces when the Warrior Princess enters the fray with an ai-yi-yi in the opening battle sequence. Was she really that famous theyd recognise all these years later and figure she was still alive to do some rib rearranging?
Darling feral Xena, long hath we missed your wrath. Check out the scene where Xena warns the Amazons not to hurt her imprisoned daughter or "youll have ME to deal with. And trust me - you aint ready for that." My, my, if those baby blues could kill, Xena would have just wiped out the Amazons.
Movie ripofforama #1: Best drowned rat resurrection. The "fight dammit fight; youve never run from anything in your life" spiel from an emotional Gabs to a water-logged Xena is uncannily like a scene in The Abyss. It was probably an accidental duplication, but I kept expecting Lucys shirt to be ripped open as someone with chest-poundy, zappy prods (made out of coconuts) started shouting "OKAY, CLEAR..."
Movie ripofforama #2: ... on the odds of getting lucky with someone gorgeous. The "a billion to one"; "So youre saying there is a chance...?" between Xena and Ares was a little too close to Dumb & Dumbers similar comeback.
Still, youve gotta admit... Xenas was the sweetest rejection you ever did hear.
"I dont do mortal very well. Im more of a ... whats that word?... GOD". Ares goes through his terrible twos with Furies Xena.
"Whatever happened to that peace-loving blonde chick you used to be?" Ares to Furies Gabrielle, asking the deeper questions plaguing philosophers. Heres a clue, dude: She travels with a former warlord. And she keeps waking up dead. Thats gotta make one a realist. *g*
"Believe me, you wouldnt like me when Im angry." Eve to the Amazon, Varia, how, she turns from Dr Banner into the Incredible Hulk.
"Gaelic spear. The man who did it, his entire regiment, his village and two neighbouring villages, destroyed before the sun went down." Eve to probably the stupidest Amazon in history -- Helllooooo? Wouldnt this give one a bit of a clue as to Eves secret identity? If she couldnt place Eve in any context before, this surely would do it?!
Whassamatter, cant get your rocks off." Xena to Ares. She was talking about the rock slide, right? Right?
Ares: Xena, you came.
Xena: Lucky for you: that fly almost had ya.
Ares: Whatever happened to your new path?
Furies Livia (shrugging): I got over it.
Queen Marga: You burnt our forests, you murdered our sisters. No more. We wont take another backwards step. Youll have to kill every last one of us.
Ares: Whatll I do for the rest of the afternoon?
Ares: I guess Im finally getting to ya?
Xena: You always got to me. But you were bad for me, Ares. Still are.
Each time I see Coming Home, my response is always the same - a gut feeling which goes something like: Hmmm. Not bad; not sensational, but mercifully, not bad.
In essence, Coming Home is a nice, solid offering, which doesnt sent the heart afire and make you wonder if youre hearing festive bongo drums; but then it certainly doesnt make you look about for the week-old cabbage to explain the stench; nor does it make you want to shove jellybeans up writers noses (ala Married With Fishsticks and Lifeblood). Im sure fanfic writer turned Xena scribe Melissa Good will be relieved to hear that -- damned if jellybeans arent the hardest things to get out of writers noses. (Or so I hear.) *g*
Coming Homes down sides were four, in no particular order:
Too much biffo, not enough story development, in the over-long opening fight. Or maybe Im just getting old and pernickety as I find myself rolling eyes and saying: "Bam, whap, pow, yada, yada, yada, yeah, yeah could we just get to Xena and Gabrielle any time soon?"
Either way, I really noticed how loooong that Amazon v Ares army fight took -- and it made me wonder if they were filling in time in a short episode. That aint good.
Two: a chakram hurl ending that defies even the mightily elastic laws of gravity and physics of the Xenaverse -- so implausible, that the fans themselves would surely groan and hurl small furry animals at their TV sets. More on this in a moment. (Er, the ending that is, not the animal hurling, which, incidentally I do not endorse, even if you own a one-legged bug-eyed hamster with poor hygiene habits.)
Three: Eve. We are offered some moments of hope when she briefly comes out of her shell in the amazon training camp, only to see her suddenly interesting, strong characterisation degenerate back into pure-bred simpering. Give that girl a lollipop and a mummys skirt to cower behind and shed be set for life. I cant believe this is Xenas daughter... even the most guilty of souls dont do personality flips like this.
Four: The episode is obviously a one-pronged storyline (Eves capture barely rates as a side-trip to the doughnut store, let alone a B-plot). This raises two possible problems -- is the plot therefore strong enough to carry a single story for 43 minutes? And is it good enough to make the sixth-season opener an Ares-driven episode, with our leading actors more or less reacting to him?
On the former point, I believe, yes, the plot was strong enough -- just. And be it by design or default, the ever-talented Kevin Smith steals this whole episode from under everyones noses. The god of war unravelling -- well, its a somewhat predictable outcome to his sudden mortality, but its still not something you see every day. Worthy of a fat ole A-plot.
Its also probably the most dialogue the actor has ever had as Ares, whos normally good for a leer, a laugh and a nice throwaway oneliner. It could be The Furies in him, or the writers belief that Ares deserves many more lines (and he does), but hes a veritable yabber-machine all ep. And I am still laughing over his hurt four-year-olds delivery of this preposterous line to Xena: "Youre mean. If I could open you up Id show all the mean inside you."
This has to be THE most unAres line I have ever heard the leather guru utter, and yet it was absolutely gripping to actually feel HIS pain for once. To hear what he thinks, rather than guess it. So, again, by design or accident, the suddenly vocal Ares really adds to our understanding of him and becomes more three-dimensional. And that made it interesting.
On the second point, should this have been the opener? No. I think this was a scheduling mistake. Sure this storyline had to be very early on -- but first? For the first episode of Xenas final season, one might have expected something a smidge more kickass than Ares having a bad head day. Even the lamentable season 5 started with the dramatic fall of Heaven and Hell and the resurrection of angelic Xena and Gabrielle!
One could argue its not dissimilar to that season three opener, The Furies. Except that The Furies had Xena as THE pivotal character of the ep, undergoing a dramatic change; compared here to a recurring secondary character facing his demons.
Xena spent much of this episode fighting or defusing arguments. (How very Gabrielle!) Up until her one-on-one fight with Ares, she was not even slightly the focus of this episode, and that, for a season opener, was a mortal sin. (Pardon the pun.)
Part of the problem for the Xenabods was that for the first season in a long time, they werent left with a cliffhanger to open on, but, rather, resolution after the dust had settled on Mt Olympus. That being the case, they must have felt they only had one place to go -- to follow either Ares or Aphrodite and see how theyre handling mortality. It is one of the obvious questions.
But surely equally important would be for the duo to see how their families/friends have fared the passage of time -- or if at all. Perhaps they thought they could get more fireworks from the Ares angle? Who knows, but it wasnt my pick for a season starter.
Enough about scheduling, on with the show. I was surprised that Ares was afflicted by The Furies, and so soon after Gabrielles run in with the hiss-squeak chicks. Yeesh, its been done already, guys. Why return to this well so soon?
Far better if some other agent was making use of him, or, better still, getting its revenge on him now his defences are down because hes human. That would have been most intriguing. One imagines making enemies would be a work hazard for any god of war. Imagine now that he is weak and vulnerable, certain people/beings might be rubbing their hands with glee. Ah, what they might have done with that...
But lets start at the beginning. I spent most of the episode playing my latest Xena game called Which Amazons Were Those?
Personally I didnt get the licence plate on their speeding chariot, but I do note that 25 years has wrought some changes with the all-women tribe, and the wearing of lippie seems to be among them.
I hear tell a Xenabod refers to this tribe as Gabrielles Amazons -- in other words, the descendents of Ephiny and Melosas clan. This would explain why Gabrielle would recognise the lands -- although not why Xena hadnt. Maybe its an Amazon queen thing.
Now, the bard has theoretically plunged them into a constitutional crisis by being a dead queen who is actually not dead, and thus this would mean all those crowned after her were not, strictly speaking, legitimate...
Same goes for Eve who, know shes grown, theoretically should have a stake as queen of another Amazon tribe, thanks to Gabrielles insistence on it during christening when they were bumming around Altis neck of the woods.
Clearly neither woman seems too interested in claiming their heritage at this point, which is fortunate, because Id love to see how the ancient scrolls get them out of this constitutional nightmare...
Next up, Eve is back to her worst and shes really getting up the nose now, because prior to learning that being bad was, well, bad, she did at least know how to hold a conversation without looking like a cowering rabbit. In her defence, she is so far behind the enemy border now, that anyone in her shoes would be very nervously looking over their shoulder waiting to be sprung. But spare, Eve darl, spare us the whimpering "Im soooo ashammmmeeddd"s. Xena never carried on like that -- I am surprised she hasnt asked her daughter to quit the histrionics before she gets a migraine.
As I said once before, I believe Eve is this way because the Xenabods want us to like her and feel sorry for her. I argue: We get that she feels guilty already, can we just move along now?
Perhaps I am cutting Eve even less slack this time because I loved it when she came out of her shell briefly with the Amazon fighter, only to see her promptly put back in her box again. The plus side of this scene, well prior to Eve getting multiple tracheotomies, was actually seeing an Amazon training camp -- something not really witnessed since Hooves and Harlots. That really added to the sense of urgency, that these women had to be battle ready -- or die.
I did enjoy the Ares wouldnt hurt a fly scene -- some funny writing there and superb delivery from Kevin Smith... (eg "Im more a ... whats that word... GOD!!!"). Teehee. The bigger they are, eh, Ares...
That poor guy -- thinking all his dreams had come true, with Eve, Gabrielle and Xena all whispering words of war seductively in his ear. You really feel sorry for him when he feels "meanie" Xena has betrayed him after the sacrifice he made for her last episode.
On a small side note: how can you have the Fall of Olympus and the mortals arent even aware the jig is up? Youd think the followers of Eli would be busily getting the word out... ? But no. So maybe Eli forgot to mention it to them in his last correspondence.
How could something so monumental happen and no one work it out down below?
If Xena and Gabrielle never told anyone, and Eli hasnt spread the word, then theoretically the reign of the Greek gods could continue in peoples minds indefinitely.
Of course someone must be blabbing for the Amazons to refer to Xenas ability to kill gods. So let me get this straight: they know Xena is a godkiller, but somehow missed the entire fall of Olympus and with it the knowledge to call Aress bluff?
And if the Amazons know Xena is a godkiller, surely at least some in Ares army would too and perhaps start to wonder about other odd things going on with the god of war.... Yet they seem unquestioning, not to mention blissfully ignorant of current affairs. (They really should get out more.)
But I digress. Ares, under The Furies influence, is being royally set up by Xena. She has planned it all. A little too well, for someone who doesnt know what the future will bring.
She somehow knows that when Ares is exposed by her as a guy with his cheese slipping off the cracker, his army wont still go ahead and attack the amazons. Its a 50:50 shot, Id say. Sure, they were only following him, because he seemed like the very immortal god of war. But these Amazons have been killing their comrades for days and weeks, and now theyre eyeball to eyeball with a considerably reduced enemy, and theyre just gonna walk away muttering, "gee, no hard feelings lady, seeya"?
However, Xena knew her New Zealand extras well (*g*), and knew this would be how it would end -- with Ares on horseback (since when?!!) and his army downing tools. Hmm... She knew many things when you think about it. She knew she could lure Ares to the icy pools. Get him to toss her in and drown her. Knew hed be incapable of giving her CPR and resurrecting her (perhaps not surprising given it was she who perfected the technique and presumably gods dont attend first aid courses) and she knew that the Furies would only come out after all this had happened.
Hence that absurd chakram shot which diced them after their appearance.
But I ask you: what if Ares had dived in and saved his love?
Or not tossed her in at all?
What if Gabrielle had come a moment too soon and been clobbered (again) by the chakram?
What if the Furies liked the views and frontage in their current host and figured theyd stay for a bit, soak up the scenery? Or pop out five minutes later? An hour later? A minute earlier?
What if Gabrielle couldnt revive Xena?
What if Ares had tossed Xena in, decided she wasnt coming back and decided he would head off and get himself some ambrosia now? By the time the chakram returned, The Furies and Ares would be in the middle of amazon forest somewhere.
Lastly -- what exactly did Xena ricochet her chakram off beyond the mountain to keep it airborne for so long? This was no Been There Done That shot where we could all see what was happening. It wasnt even a smoke and mirrors trick because we couldnt even see the smoke, let alone the mirrors.
It hate to say it but it was just plain dumb.
I didnt buy it, they pushed the limits too far. And even if we all knew that the chakram had a remote setting on it like the car in Knight Rider or something -- were still supposed to buy that Xena just knows these future things because she is, well, Xena? Ahem.
Too many implausibilities spoil the broth and in the end this broth stank to high heaven. Amazing how something so small can take away a lot of good, hard work throughout the rest of the episode. I remain disappointed by it.
In sum, Coming Home was a solid episode, most famous for fully showing off the remarkable Aress many faceted sides -- and, interestingly, his feelings and thoughts.
We also got two things most surprising: an apology from Xena about her chakram lob at Gabrielle in Motherhood -- too savaged on the cutting room floor (I hear) for me to really be enthused by it; but it was sweet nonetheless.
And we got Xena once and for all settling the Ares/Xena romance debate. This reminds me of a similar little speech she once gave to Hercules. Amazing how once that earlier one was uttered, Xena/Herc were never romantically linked ever again by the writers. I wonder if this will happen here, too?
Thrown into the mix was Gabrielle, resurrecting Xena from death in a scene most reminiscent to how Xena saved her in Is There A Doctor In the House. Unfortunately I was too busy scooping my jaw off the floor that it so eerily duplicated The Abyss to really get into the presumably emotional power of the moment.
In all, nice job -- the humor was a welcome relief and Kevin Smith kicked ass big time.
But next time, as far as the ending goes, try for getting some believability somewhere in the ballpark and itll be a far more stunning job. We may be loyal fans, but were not post-lobotomy surgery, either.
Just a thought.
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