A FRIEND IN NEED
Season 6, Episodes 21 & 22
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 7 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Story by Rob Tapert and R.J. Stewart. Teleplay by R J Stewart. Directed by Rob Tapert. Edited by Robert Field and Tim Batt.
PASSING PARADE: Michelle Ang (Akemi); Marton Csokas (Borias); Mac Jeffery Ong (Kenji); Adrian Brown (Yodoshi); Kazuhiro Muroyama (Harukata/Killer of Ghosts); Yvonne Tan (Ayako); Shiori Terada (Miyuki); Venant Wong (Morimoto); Gary Young (Saburo); Travor Sai-Louie (Kao); Ric Chan (Master Swordsman); Gregor Mclennan (Captain).
STORY SO FAR: Xena and Gabrielle go to Japan. Xena sacrifices herself to save the souls of 40,000 villagers who died when she was there years before but are now trapped by a demon ghost. Gabrielle tries in vain to bring her back from the dead.
DISCLAIMERS: Part I -Xena and Gabrielle's Flying Circus and Amateur Fire Brigade will be arriving in your town soon. Part II - Xena was permanently harmed in the making of this motion picture, but kept her spirits up.
REWIND FOR: The exchange in the hut between Xena and Akemi after Xena has just 'acquired' the Katana sword. The look of intrigue on Xena's face as she considers the possibilities inherent in Akemi's 'heart beating harder than normal' and 'two breaths of wind uniting to become one', was definitely worthy of a rewind or two.
Xena standing by and watching Gabrielle struggle on her own with the water tower valve. It was moments like these that spawned the saying "Er - many hands make light work, Xena."
Xena and Gabrielle clasping hands in triumph at saving the town of Higuchi from a firestorm. This was the last scene actually filmed on set...and didnt they look tired! Some may say this should have been the final scene screened - ie. roll end credits here, please. *g*
The fifty-eight seconds it took for Akemi's father to die from a 'thirty-second neck pinch'. Surely RenPic could afford a stopwatch?
The 'great' battle scene. As non-rewatchable as it was given its outcome, the visual and sound effects used to create the illusion of thousands of incoming arrows was at least worthy of a nod.
Gabrielle entering the town to retrieve Xena's body. The costuming, lighting and ROC's acting abilities served to create a wonderfully atmospheric scene. It was also nice to see Gabrielle sensibly dressed for the occasion - for once.
Renee again, this time in the mountain-top fight scene with the same Samurai. Renee's years of 'working out' paid off as she displayed great co-ordination and then fitness as she ran up those rocks like a gazelle. Where have they been hiding this girl? *g*
The Kiss When You're Not Having a Kiss scene. Seems someone forget to yell Cut! once Gabrielle had delivered, by mouth, the waters of the Fountain of Strength to Xena. Or maybe they did, and Renee was a little hard of hearing. Either way, that lip action definitely continued a lot longer than was absolutely necessary. Some may call it maintext, others merely Gabrielle being thorough. You take your pick. *g*
"Gabrielle, what are we gonna do? Wander around Greece our whole lives looking for trouble? Why dont we go away? Far away? Whaddya say?" Why quit on a winning formula Xena? Besides, it's not as if she hadn't already "travelled the farthest corners of the Earth." Why the itchy feet so suddenly? A touch of the old plot contrivance flaring up again, hey Xena?
"You wont kill me. Xena wont let you. Because in her heart, she knows that she will soon love me." Ah...the arrogance of youth, and not at all misplaced in Akemi's case. As sweet as she may have appeared, Akemi played Xena like a fiddle from the moment she set her eyes upon her.
"The truth is, Gabrielle, she broke my heart." Xena, recounts yet another story of an ex-girlfriend. Gabrielle must have, long-ago, latched onto the idea that if Xena had a 'little black book', it would require the services of a sturdy mule to cart it around.
"You knew her for a few weeks and you taught her the pinch?!" Gabrielle's hurt/surprise at finding out Xena taught Akemi(a friend of a few weeks), a few tricks she had never taught her ''soul mate'' of six years.
"Where's my money?!" A line screamed by Lucy in such a way that it smacked of that infamous scene from the movie Jerry Maguire. I think it's best we never know how tempted TPTB probably were to have Xena scream instead "Show me the money!"
"Word got out that I was honouring the ashes of a girl who had killed her father. The townsfolk felt that I would be defiling their graveyard. They banded together to stop me." And lo' the townsfolk set off with many a naked flame on a windswept night through their made-of-wood-and-rice-paper-town. You thinking what I'm thinking?
"Gabrielle, if I only had thirty seconds to live, this is how Id want to live them, looking into your eyes." And if only she had, it would have saved us all the witnessing of Xena's gratuitous and grisly death.
"Always remember I love you." Sound advice from Xena for Gabrielle, who after all, was soon to have nothing but memories of the one she 'could not live without'.
"Youre dead. How could you let yourself be killed?" Indeed Gabrielle, indeed. It's a mystery...
"Youre my whole life, Xena. I wont lose you." Any soul who didn't feel pain for a severely short-changed Gabrielle is a hard heart indeed.
"Wait. I would like to give you something, to protect you on your journey." I was really hoping Akemi would give Gabrielle something useful - like a bazooka. But no - instead she gave her a painful tattooing session that wasted the precious hours Gabrielle had left to save Xena's soul. Grrr...
"Xena, the sun is setting. I have to bring you back to life." And when there's a 'y' in the day Gabrielle also has to face another near-death experience first - it's the rules. *g*
"I must stay dead." Xena, ever the optimist, clarifies things for a bereft Gabrielle so that they are now as clear as mud.
"I love you, Xena. How am I supposed to go on without you?" With a chakram sitting uneasily on your belt and an unfillable void by your side with every step you take, Gabrielle.
Xena: "Ah, she wouldnt lie to me. She worships her teacher."
Borias: "Xena, you couldnt teach a dog to bark."
Akemi: "My grandfather says that you are a wise and appropriate teacher. And he feels your sword is not good enough."
Xena: "Theres a string of widows from here to Greece that say different."
Xena: "Those souls will be lost forever."
Gabrielle: "I dont care. You're all that matters to me."
( Part one of two)
Shes dead, Jim.
Sort of an arbitrary, if not perverse, way to end ones show after six years. The show thats paid more than a few cast and crew members mortgages thanks to a dedicated fan following. But that was the Rob Tapert Vision, I hear. A vision its not for fans to question, because its, well, a vision. A creative thing -- you know how it is. Something artists, writers and other creative types "get". Fans just dont understand.
I saw a vision myself the other night. Fellow Xena fan Magenta suggested I might want to see this foreign film called A Chinese Ghost Story (1987, in Cantonese with English subtitles, part one of a trilogy, screenplay by Yuen Kai Chi). It was a very bold vision, a sweeping epic. Lots of creepy mist, flying arrows, armies of darkness, cool oriental music. Allow me to give you the salient points, aka...
Havent I seen that Vision Somewhere Before?
AN Asian warrior is being seduced by a young beautiful Asian girl in a room with billowing curtains. She is wearing an anklet made up with little metal bells.
SHE taps her foot and the bells ring and we see the rapid, sped-up frame onset of a predator -- from a predators perspective -- rushing towards this room. Suddenly hes alone... He screams... Its the big uh-oh for him.
ENTER a second young Asian man, aged about 18 or 19, shaved head, looks a lot like a monk, come to think of it. Hes a bumbler who is easily frightened, and hes introduced wearing an odd wooden contraption on his back and which goes behind his head and over it, like a small personal roof. A most distinctive outfit.
HE follows instrumental music along a long, long wooden bridge over water to a typical Japanese structure at the end, well lit with lanterns. It looks a lot like a tea house...
A WOMAN is playing a long, flat, wooden stringed instrument which seems to be a koto. We see a close up of her hands and more billowing silky pieces of material.
OH no. Seems shes a ghost woman, the same seductress as above. She has this magic frosty breath which can be used against mortals. But we learn shes doing this against her will - the demon ghost is making her seduce these young men for their souls.
WE discover she and all other of these ghosts can be touched and held by mortals.
SHE stops and gently tells the young bumbler man as he flees through the water by the wooden bridge "You look like a kind man" before letting him go.
WE meet a ghost killer, a stocky solid samurai chap in his mid to late 40s with a moustache and beard. Hes an anti social fellow and he just wants to kill an evil demon ghost.
SAID demon ghost shows up and whips the poor ghost girl until she shows obedience.
SHE is then re-dressed in a striking, bright red kimono type robe.
THERES a second woman ghost spying on the first ghost girl - her sister - but she is later killed.
THE first ghost girl tells the kind, young man "You must bury my ashes in my home town within two days - thats my only chance for rebirth"
He says "Dont worry, Ill retrieve your urn tomorrow. Ill get it to your home town before dusk within two days.
SWEET young ghost girl writes love poetry in kunji for the man shes sweet on.
THE ghost killer samurai has a fight with the evil demon ghost and in the course of it we see the big bad has a huge long scary tongue that can wrap around things.
THERES this magic super sword the ghost killer uses which is all powerful and can be used against demons.
THE demon ghost is finally slain and when the super sword pierces his body, lots of dead souls all fly out at once, escaping his body.
BUT, curses, they realise they are too late and the sun has risen on a new day. They take the ghost girls ashes and scatter them anyway and wish her soul peace.
(As an aside - theres also an underwater kiss scene with the young man hiding in a hot tub, and the young Asian woman bent over, into the tub, giving him air to breath while others in the room are looking for him. The woman comes out of the water giving her hair a big old back flick. I trust Lao Ma was taking notes....)
Anyway, that was a vision.
Which makes me wonder if Rob Tapert had a vision so much as eyesight and a Blockbuster video card....
Perhaps theres a logical explanation for this - and one that doesnt insult the intelligence with words like "homage" or "tribute". Like maybe they accidentally left Yuen Kai Chis name off the credits?? Well either way, I would love to hear it.
Okily, on to my review
This is a long analysis with lots of different themes, so put the kettle on and settle back.
When is this, anyway?
For those confused about the time frame, the episode flashbacks relate to after Xenas time with Lao Ma because shes walking without a limp; but before Alti because Borias is still with her and Solan isnt.
Being before the time of Alti immediately raises two interesting things for me. One, it can be no coincidence that after Akemi "broke Xenas heart" the first thing Alti offered the Warrior Princess, aside from power, was that little bedwarmer apprentice. About the same age and size and gender... Hmm. That Alti sure knows many things...
The other thing that strikes me about this is that if Xena was as broken-hearted as she seemed in the streets of Higuchi, drunk, with mascara all over the place and eyebrows reaching for Jupiter, it meant she would have gone through a life-changing experience. When she meets up with Alti, however, shes the same carefree murderous scamp she always was. That pain should have been showing...somewhere... but of course, Tapert et al had no idea when AITST aired the Warrior Princess ever had a stopover in Japan to have her heart broken. Just a thought.
In the steps of Two Warriors:
Because these are the last episodes, Ill go through it all, step by agonising step, for the Xenites who like to focus on the detail. For everyone else, you are SO reading the wrong review. *g* Anyway, here goes:
FIN starts out exactly the same as The Debt, complete with the stumbling Asian dude in the bushes for plot exposition and, en route to the troublespot, Gabrielle being told a chunk of Xenas past she hitherto wasnt privy to - like how shed had this other "special friend", who also wanted to follow her and be taught everything she knows.
Bit of a plot quibble quite early on came with the monk telling the ghost woman hes no warrior, just before she sends him off to find Xena; yet he seems to be very proficiently wielding a weapon as he explains to Gabrielle on the boat "The way of the sword is the most ancient of the warrior..." Show off. *g*
Dig the girls in their summer cruising outfits. Nice bikini there, Xena...of course costuming practicality took a bit of a nosedive after this point. Ill come back to that later.
One of the great scenes was meeting Akemi for the first time. Xena lifting her chin with her boot?! Inspired. Naturally Akemi would know who Xena was - they established she was from Chin and I doubt anyone there would have missed the reign of terror Xena and Borias had been busying themselves with prior to meeting Lao Ma.
The girl showing her spunk to Xena by calling her kidnapper a coward was good way to get the Warrior Princesss attention. I just adored the amused expression on Xenas face at that, followed by the intrigued one that follows when Akemi declares Xena will soon love her.
The all-time classic expression is the daggers the Warrior Princess shoots Borias when he dares say Xena loves no one. Its as though the Warrior Princess doesnt want him to give the girl a bad impression of her! Brilliant. Hey, I smirked...
The line Akemi offers is so chillingly similar to one Gabrielle would later mumble in a fever in One Against An Army. Heres Akemis line "Ill be your student, Xena; take me with you, teach me everything you know."
Heres Gabrielle: "Youve gotta take me with you, teach me everything you know."
No wonder Xena warmed to Gabrielle when she met her... and was initially resistant to her tagging along as well - who wants another Akemi to haunt you when youve just gotten the last one out of your system?!
Most amusing was the scene with Xena deciding to teach Akemi the finer points of Warlord Self Defence Advanced Class, in one easy step.
She is furious at the lack of respect Borias is showing her, especially in front of the girl, and Akemi is using that to her advantage, being very respectful and complimentary at every opportunity. One thing about Xena, especially bad Xena she just loves adoration. She even admits proudly that Akemi "worships her teacher".
Borias shes starting to get sick of and we see here its the middle of the end (the beginning of the end being their earlier stormy row in Chin over her treatment of Lao Ma).
Akemi reveals herself quite quickly as a manipulator. Not in a mean way, but she certainly has her own agenda and has been using Xena to meet it. We know its not all an act because Xena can detect how fast the young girls heart is beating when they are near. And because its not an act we cant hate her... even if she does use the Warrior Princess in the worst possible way, manipulating her into showing her how to kill in cold blood; and then manipulating the Warrior Princess into killing someone she loves -- Akemi herself.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Xena finally works out shes being played. Shes at Akemis grandfathers grave. She raises her sword in a fury. Why does she stop?
Simple - Akemi dares her to go ahead... showing her neck as if to say, "well, go on, what are you waiting for? If you want to, I wont stop you!"
Thats enough to make any one pause for thought and go Wha...?!
Its at this point Xena is completely baffled by the young woman who shows no fear yet dances with death daily by deliberately messing with a warlords head like this.
Why does Xena put down her sword next? Well, Akemi has gotten to her already. The old 100% warlord Xena wouldnt have hesitated for a moment - but this Xena is far too intrigued and fascinated by the contradiction of soft and hard, young and old, strong and weak and innocent yet manipulative to do anything but go along with Akemis game, playing it out to its awful conclusion.
Xena here doesnt seem as bright as she normal is though (love does that *g*) the ploy to get the sword, by saying Akemis grandpa told her to give it to her, was so blatantly a falsehood, Xena should have just laughed in her face and said "Why do you really want me to have it?"
Enter the lair of the katana sword. It bugged me they had dragged out the actor from The Debt dungeons to go toe to toe with Xena over the sword. Because he was so distinctive-looking and memorable and regardless of the fact its been three seasons, I found myself instantly going HIM?!!
Theres nothing too wrong with the actor of course, and god knows hes got a better accent than Xenas killer, but he just stuck out like donkeys ears is all.
I was a bit twitchy about Xena yanking off her robe and fighting in a bikini top - not only is it impractical for sword play, unless you like getting your skin shredded, its also damned cold in Japan. It was about as smart as designing a room with one wall lined with incredibly sharp metal pikes sticking out, waiting to shiskebab any passing blacksmith. Yeow.
And for one so disciplined that she can hear a sparrow burp from 100 paces or whatever, shes sure carrying on like a bit of a yobbo from the World Wrestling Federation here... the bring-it-on "oooo, gimme gimme" thug approach, which, while it made me laugh, was jarringly at odds with a woman with a finely honed mind and senses. Still thats our contradictory Xena for you.
Next scene, Akemi and her poetry. I am very fond of this scene simply because it was so unexpected for these two opposites. Now tell me if this aint a come on "In a flurry of snow, two breaths of wintery gusts can become one and then disappear into each other."
Uh uh... methinks the student really digs the teacher here.
Teacher meanwhile is thinking Snow? Why does she keep mentioning the snow? Snow, snow, snow...
(Quite funny seeing Xenas reaction to getting given a poem earlier and trying to read it the wrong way. A nice little touch there.)
Anyway, then she hears it Akemis heart "beating harder than normal".
That moment is one of my all time favourites. Not for the line but the look on Xenas face as she says it. Its a slow realisation, and a questioning, yet confirming, "uh, is this what I think it is, Akemi?". And Akemis shy head dip assents, yes, you heard right.
Ahem. Did it suddenly get warm in here? (I am wondering if this is the scene which prompted Lucy Lawless to declare her husband had "outed" her character?)
Now I think if you watch closely you can see exactly which moment it was when Xena loses her heart to Akemi: The young woman tells Xena that the Warrior Princess has shown her love for her already by being a warrior and yet saving her. Xena begins to melt a little and to let go of the rigid control on some of her emotions. Then Akemi presses on, and with her most winning smile, and crawly "can I ask a favour" approach says it would be a great thing if she could learn the pinch from Xena.
At the exact moment Xena agrees to it, watch her face. Right there. Yes... shes gone. That shattering you hear aint the snow crash-landing on cedars, my friends....
Somewhere about here I had a somewhat appalled yet fascinated look on my face as the penny also dropped for me and I wished in vain they might at least allude to Akemis age so we might find out if she just looked younger than she was, or whether Xena really did have a disturbing thing for jailbait-aged companions. *g* I dont believe for even a second Xena did anything inappropriate with Akemi (as long as you dont count killing her *g*), but it seems clear at this point they both love each other... in that heart-beating-faster kind of way that friends dont tend to invoke in one another.
Well now we know why Xena left Borias with the boat. *g*
Incidentally, Xena should not have been so surprised and disappointed later on that Akemi should use the neck pinch she teaches her. Why did she think the young woman wanted in the first place? For a party trick?
Moving right along. Xena hears SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS? Are they insane? Do they like sight of fans curling their lips derisively at the writers awful lines? Did they think that awful cliche was funny? What were they THINKING??????
Now heres the point in the story where the perspective is changed. Up until this point its been pretty much Xenas story through her eyes, telling it to Gabrielle. From around this time in the show, we start to see it from Gabrielles perspective. Her as a warrior, her fighting for Xena, her losing Xena. Almost all the emotions we experience from hereon in, except for the flashback to dishevelled Xena meeting the mob and Xenas first death, will therefore be what Gabrielle experiences. And that will ultimately shape how fans view Xenas exit from this world, and our feelings about that.
So here goes....buckle up.
The water tower fight scene. Er, sort of impressive but far too long, too over-done, too unnecessary, could have been accomplished in half the time and budget. I love (not) the idea that Gabrielle The Warrior now sees a feat done, any feat, and can replicate it perfectly - be it acrobatics, whip work, swordplay, super hearing and even chakram hurling. Whats with that?! This should be a process of months... not minutes.
Since when does she suddenly know instinctively how to do all these things? And its not like Xenas been teaching her over time - we know the chakram is a Xena-only thing, and the swordplay is something weve not really seen much of from Gabrielle before. She rarely carries a sword, shes got her cocktail forks instead, and I find it hard to believe she can go from "holds her own with sword" to Samurai Conqueror.
But I digress. Acrobat girl and her trusty sidekick Xena. You guys notice the balance of power shift, too? Yeah, it was pretty obvious. Xena has NEVER said before "What would you do" to Gabrielle in the entire run of the show. First time I ever heard that line I got a sick sense of foreboding because I thought it might not spell good things ahead. Turns out the queasy gizzards werent lying. It also smacks of plot contrivance, one of many... because as if Xena knows at this point shell shortly be leaving Gabs behind to be the lone warrior. Id buy this sudden "What would you do routine" if Xena had been at it for a at least a dozen episodes. Here, ughhh. Whatever.
Back to flashback time. Theres Akemi again, saying hi to her dad with her new Xena-taught party trick. Bad man, her dad. Very bad. Killed her brothers, sisters and grandparents. A guy like that, that evil, in a town of only 40,000 would have a hideous reputation. People would not be fond of him at all.... Theyd want him dead, one imagines. And youd think theyd be beatifying the person who did the deadifying.... At least youd think that, wouldnt you? Hmmm. Hold that thought...
It's Akemis family reunion moment. Xena perhaps might have suspected something was up when Akemi skips out in the colour of death - white. Either way, she sure knew something was up when Akemi had slotted a blade in her gut and asked for an honourable execution with the katani sword.
Now the penny drops for Xena - the girl wasnt just being friendly in giving her grandpappys old sword. Doh. And if Akemi has planned this from the getgo it sure explains why she shows no fear the whole time shes with Xena. She is completely unafraid of death, knowing that her plan will see her dead anyway. Why should she be afraid of some small-time kidnapper or her warlord rescuers? It explains a lot.
But right at that moment, Xena is not thinking about that at all. Only that theres her dear sweet Akemi, knife in her stomach, begging to be honourably beheaded. The look on Xenas face is awesome. All her expectations about Akemi are shattered. She realises shes been had, again, but she also knows this is no naive child shes been stomping about with, eagerly wanting a teacher; its someone with a mature and cunning mind, no matter how noble her intentions.
It rocks Xena awfully. But worse is the knowledge Akemi will soon be dead. And Akemi is begging her to be the one to do it. It may be the ancient Japanese way but its not Xenas, not even as a warlord. This is a very difficult position Akemi has put her in - being asked to coldbloodedly kill the woman she loves. But then Akemi is no stranger to putting her in awful positions. Do the words "Akemi didnt wanna tell me this in case I wouldnt come back to help-- but for those souls to be released into a state of grace -- they must be avenged. I must stay dead" ring any bells? Gee, thanks Akemi ... next time, don't help.
Xena does the horrid deed. This is something really terrible to do - because shes damned if she does (Akemi is dead at her hand) and damned if she doesnt (Akemi dies of her stomach wounds, dishonourably, and Xena flouts her dying wish). Just because Xena does what Akemi asks, however, doesnt make it right. For Xena at least. All this takes place in a split second. Later would have come Xenas despair and depression at what she had done, and her self loathing.
Curiously one of the things some depressed people do when they really detest themselves is to hack off all their hair. Xena does just that, which tells us about her state of mind and just how deeply she must have cared for Akemi. She also turns to the bottle and clearly lets a screaming madman do her makeup. (Or maybe Lucy told the makeup lady where she could stick it one day and ... well... you reap what you sow. *g*)
Where she got her geisha girl-reject clothing with the so-not-made-for-ice shoes is probably best not pondered (although that must have been some party *g*). One can presume shes been on a bender the whole time shes making her way to Akemis family grave.
I think the 'look' of Xena at this point is waaaay over the top. The scene - though our hearts go out to this wretched creature - has a feel that is so out there, so far removed from our expectations of the woman Xena is, and is so odd, so HUH???, I began to wonder which movie the Xenabods were also "paying homage" to here. *g*
Perhaps this was Xenas first love so it hit her real hard, but I still dont buy a mean, tough warlord coming apart quite this much over a woman shes been with for such a short time... it didnt quite add up to me. The drinking, probably realistic, the outfit? Just weird.
Anyway, so word has got out that Xenas there to honour the ashes of a woman who killed her father... the villagers think that would dishonour their graveyard. Okay, back up. How did word get out? Only Xena could have told them what her intentions were. Still, the booze does make folk a little loose lipped.
Its a small town - 40,000 folks... theyd already know who died and who killed him long before Xena lurched into the city square with a lean like a drunken sailor and probably smelling worse. Theyd be glad not mad, for heavens sake. And to form a lynch mob to stop the poor woman caught in the middle is just, well, nasty.
Id have bought the deranged mob mentality a whole lot more if this insular village had heard some rampaging warlord foreign devil was in town and up to no good. Nothing terrifies people more than differences, and boy oh boy, that Xena was looking pretty durned different that night.
Anyway, for some reason the townsfolk dont like the fact Akemi killed a wicked man (so wicked even the Underworld shuddered and said no thanks) and are running around with torches. Torches. In a wooden village. On a windy night.
Does anyone else think this could easily be the stupidest village in Japan?
So, while waving around torches, tormenting some poor, drunken, stricken, grieving woman with pitchforks, she reacts in self defence and some guys catch fire. She explains: "I tried to ignore them but they came after me."
These burning men then ran INTO their own damned wooden huts and set them on fire. Xena did NOT pick up a torch and hurl it into anyones abode. It was not a deliberate act of malice. She merely reacted in her own defence and Morons Inc took over from there.
Frankly, these villagers deserved what they got. If you go out intent on tormenting some damaged wounded creature, dont go crying about it if you accidentally get your hand bitten for your trouble. Its like a lynch mob complaining that the branch they used when trying to string some unfortunate fellow up broke and hurt someone below. Awww...poor mob.
Care Factor Nil.
So due to circumstances which were NOT the fault of Xena, everyone died and Xena copped the blame. But it definitely was, as Gabrielle said, "an accident". And if anyone is owed vengeance (such a nasty little notion that anyway) its Xena. Shes the victim here. She was the tormented one.
The fact that in the present day Xena is willing to do anything for these villagers is goodness at its finest, for she owes them nothing but a big fat globule of spittle.
Gets me mad anyone could hang all this "You owe us" crap on her. Worse, it gets me mad she just accepts it unquestioningly. This was so not like any other incidents where she deliberately created mayhem, death and disaster, such as in Callistos village. At the worst it was very unfortunate and regrettable. She owes them nothing.
If this to be the plot line and motivation for the whole show, it was definitely insufficient to justify the loss of Xena and to remove her forever from Gabrielle.
Fastforward and were in the present day again. The bard gets listening lessons and miraculously masters them in two seconds flat, then Xena gets a rundown from the Ghost Killer about what will kill the demon ghost: "Only another ghost can trap a spirit as mighty as Yodoshi."
Have a look at the expression on her face when he says that. Xena decides right there, right then, shes going to die to take on Yodoshi.
She whispers a prayer to Akemi: "I know what I must do but I am afraid this day whats done may not be undone."
Xena knows all along from this moment that she may never live among the mortals again. Oh, Xena...*shakes head sadly* What are you doing?
Right now is where she should be talking to Gabrielle, not treating her as the sidekick from season one who has no say in the important decisions she makes. Disturbingly, this episode Gabrielle has all the responsibility and none of the rights. What Xena decides affects Gabrielle so much, yet she has no say in any of it. It is an awful thing - and its hugely disrespectful to the other woman, even as they disguise it as Xena not wanting Gabrielle to stop her.
All I can say to that is HELLOOOO - Gabrielle didnt try to stop her in the end, now did she? After Xena explained her reasons, the bard stood by the Warrior Princesss decision. Although to be fair, Xena had left her with no time to argue and no choice in the matter. The point is, after all this time together, this soulmate status they supposedly share, the love they have, its the very least Xena owes here. But no - now this is all Xenas decision. Charming.
Okay, so todays the day Xena tries to give Gabrielle the lesson of the neck pinch - the one big lesson shes been withholding for many years, Haunting of Amphipolis aside. We presume shes been reticent to share because she saw the consequences with Akemi of what happens when you pass dangerous knowledge around too cavalierly.
Gabrielle, now understanding what happened with Akemi, feels she doesnt have to know this technique if Xena isnt comfortable teaching it. But Xena insists. Why? Its her farewell gift and her way of showing her that she does trust the bard completely, despite what Akemi did. Its a last present before dying... one that probably means everything for Xena to give her.
The scene of her looking into Gabrielles eyes and saying if she has to die shed like it to be like this is so clearly Xenas farewell to the bard, without actually saying the words she knows would arouse Gabrielles suspicion.
Even so, Gabrielle completely senses something is up and is giving her a series of "what the..." looks to try and understand Xenas odd behaviour. I really feel for her there. In reality, Gabrielle would punish herself about this moment for years to come - blaming herself for not immediately working out what Xena was up to. All the signs were there.
And then theres the last moment ever that mortal Xena sees Gabrielle.... watch her as she sends Gabrielle and the army off in the wrong direction and then gazes at her form as it disappears slowly into the mist and yellow smoke. Oh god, how those eyes are so full of emotion, so sad, so very sad. While I feel for Xena here, its Gabrielle my heart truly goes out to -- not even being told what her dearest friend will do... and not given the chance to talk to her about it or properly say goodbye while shes still alive, in case something goes wrong and she cant say it later. Inexcusable behaviour from Xena.
So tell me: WHAT is Xena wearing now? She looks like shes squeezed into Athenas gold outfit or something. Oh puh-lease. Why wear less when going into battle? Its nothing more than an eye candy outfit, and any warrior worth their salt goes with the tried and true uniform that they trust - not a new outfit to fit their mood or the fashion in Paris. Good grief.
Gabrielles change of outfit was to be expected - the Amazon-influenced two piece, doesnt cut it Japans colder climate.
Loved the pounding of the drums to build tension, the eerie swirling smoke, and the pounding of army boots. That was brilliant.
Hated the bomb blast - it seemed really, really tasteless to make what seemed so obviously a Hiroshima type mushroom cloud over Japan. Tacky, tacky, tacky. If they had to do the mega blast, and I never understood why they needed it, as it was all unexplained this army manoeuvring stuff - at least leave out the aerial imagery that had A-bomb written all over it.
The special effects mob did well with the whole after-shock stuff, but it all seemed so weirdly disjointed and confusing. It was hard to tell where Xena was, where the enemy was and where Gabrielle and her army was - so the explosion was like - uh, what happened, where, guys? Who'dja blow up again?
I thought the look on Gabrielles face when she suddenly realises what Xena had been planning was awful and as her legs began pumping and she headed back for Xena... and the corresponding expression on Xenas face as she somehow seems to hear Gabrielles cry, was awfully hard to watch.
But her death... oh my god...where do I start?
CONTINUED IN PART 2
(Death, Vengeance, Redemption and all that jazz):
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