Well, tis two for two for dramas and a very fine way to end the second series of episodes, I must say! Another *outstanding* episode!!
I'm actually hard-pressed to say which one I like more.
POV gets points because of the awesome final fight and the tight, wonderful direction.
THAB gets points for NO ARES!!!! and some outstanding INTENSE Xena/Gabrielle bonding moments.
If anyone had ever had a hankering to see Lucy play a Gabrielle-like character and Renee play a Xena-like character, yet both still be *totally* *IN* character, this is the episode for you!
I'll do something I don't normally do and post a synopsis from memory since CN chose to use one already put up.
Helicon is, obviously, a continuation of POV, and we're shown that in the opening scene when Gabrielle and Varia stand nose to nose and trade injury insults.
"How's your head?"
"How's your fist?"
"Cause I thought you might have sprained it on my head."
Cute exchange between our two Queens.
Then, of course, is the obligatory "We know you saved the Amazon nation and all, Xena, MANY times,and we appreciate that you trained our new Queen to BECOME a Queen but see, we're having this ceremony, and well, thanks but don't let the door hit your lucious fanny on the way out."
Xena, of course, is used to the ol' tried and true rejection (would never have happened if Ephiny or Melosa still ruled the tribe, but oh well) (do I sound a liiiiiittle bitter? <G> ) and there's a sweet interchange of smiles between X and G as Xena explains her secret preference for "sleeping rough in the woods" over Amazon ceremonies anyway. (Side note: Me too)
So she sends her bestest gal off with the admonition "Don't do anything I wouldn't."
Then we're treated to some buff amazons dancing and bloodletting and toasting to their new Queen, Varia.
Evidently, the guys who have painted their faces blue aren't as up on their Amazon "keep out, peasant" customs as ol' Xena is, because they're ready to crash the party.
Wow. For someone who is kept away from the ceremony as being too beneath True Amazons and all (me? bitter?? Nah!!) Xena knows that ceremony line for line and gesture for gesture.
But then...her "Gab-dar" is shown to FINALLY be back on line after a year and a half absence (the pregnancy/god-killing powers must have knocked it off kilter or something), and she knows her little snookums is in trouble.
And it ain't because of the Amazon ale either!
And, of course, she's right.
The boys in blue come crashing the party and blood starts to flow. The Amazons put up a pretty good fight, and Xena, of course, comes in a yodelin'.
She throws her chakram only to have it deflected off the head honcho's battle mace, then gets a wonderful kick to the breastplate for her troubles.
But wait! Gabrielle's gone down!
So, Xena gets back UP and races for the battlin' bard of Potatoehead and they start fighting BACK TO BACK (a first, I think), taking on and subduing all comers.
Varia, the new first season Gabrielle stand in, gets her obligatory clonk on the head and free shuttle service from the Amazon camp to the castle and all points north.
The rest of the soldiers retreat, and Cyane gets the duh points of the episode for announcing that <gasp> They've taken Varia!
Just in case we missed the whole three minutes preceding it, I guess.
Xena looks at the battle mace, discovers its from Helicon (a fortress on the coast), and we fade out to the credits.
When next we see our dynamic duo, the Amazons have decided to storm the castle, as it were, and get their kidnapped Queen back.
Good, as plans go, but they need a leader. Someone who knows Greece well.
Oh Gee, says Blade, now WHERE EVER will they FIND such a woman?
Why LOOK, says Blade, you just happen to have amoung you the woman who KNOWS Greece SO WELL that she CONQUERED HALF OF IT!!!!
Oh, that's right.
Say it with me folks!
She's not an Amazon!
The greatest warrior in all the lands, and further, the greatest GREEK warrior in all the lands isn't allowed to lead the army because she's not an Amazon.
Lucky for them, they just *happen* to have also in attendance the BARD of the greatest greek warrior in all the lands. "That means you, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle's not real sure about this sudden elevation in status, but heck, she's a good sport and game for a bit of bloodshed and mayhem, so she figures she'll give it a shot.
We have another cute scene where GAbrielle explains that the fortress is high on a hill with a mountain pass leading to it. Gabrielle states that that pass is the easiest point of entry. Xena responds that it's also the most heavily guarded. "Right," says Gabrielle. "So we'll go in by sea."
"Good call," says Xena, impressed.
"Good teacher," Gabrielle responds.
"Awwww." Blade replies.
So, they decide that's what they're gonna do.
Xena will go to the fortress itself and take on the leader while the Amazons attack from the beach and take out the rest of the soldiers.
YAXI number one (IMHO). If Xena is successful (and why shouldn't she be? She always was before!) the Amazons won't need to take out the rest of the army, because likely they won't bother fighting since their leader is dead.
However, that would make this a VERY short episode, so I'll overlook that small technicality and move right along.
So, next we see Xena getting in a wonderful kick to Bellepheron (Bell for short, cause it's too long to write out), and then they start to chat.
Here's where we get the character motivation.
See, Bell just happens to be Artemis' son. YAXI number two: Wasn't Artemis the VIRGIN Goddess? But anyway . . . .
And Bell is pissed off for two reasons. 1. The Amazons stopped worshiping his mother and he wants them dead and 2. One of the REASONS the Amazons have stopped worshiping his mother is because XENA KILLED HIM!
Ok, cut time to Rob's Folly (aka, the most puked upon and luckless ship on the planet). Hundreds of scared Amazons puking, screaming and begging money off of one another (because if they owe debts, they don't die..and guess what? It works!! Bet that's the next new Amazon custom!)
For ONCE, Gabrielle looks less seasick than the rest of them.
This is the setup for the Saving Private Ryan of this episode, and if you've ever seen the very beginning of that ep, with the scared soldiers waiting to storm the beach, you'll understand the intensity here.
Anyway, Gabrielle rallies her troops and tells them to exit the boat silently when they get to shore, because the element of surprise is their greatest weapon.
Ok, back to Xena and Bell. They chat a little more, then fight, and Xena manages to get a butt whooping. She also manages to get held at knifepoint.
He teases and taunts her, then notices that little boat full of Amazons bobbing on the water out there.
Um, Gabrielle? Remember about that "greatest weapon" you were talking about?
Time to start thinking of another one, hon. And quick, too.
Bell orders his men to fire the catapults just as Xena, realizing what's gonna happen any minute now (DAMN HER, I TOLD HER NOT TO TAKE THAT BLASTED BOAT!!!) breaks free and jumps out of the window to plummet into the sea a hundred or so feet below.
"What's that noise?" one of the red-shirted Amazons asks just as the flaming whatzit from the catapult is about to smash their lil ol ship to smithereens.
"GET DOWN!" Gabrielle screams.
Um, Gabby? Hon, like I know you're new to this commandering stuff and all, but when a flaming whatzits is about to slam smack dab in the middle of your WOODEN SHIP, DOWN is not the best place to be.
OVERBOARD is the best place to be.
Fire? Water? You get the picture.
Maybe next time.
Anyway, the whatzits hits the rear of the cursed ship and sets its tail on fire. THEN the women jump overboard into the nice wet sea.
We see a body floating very close to the surface. "That looks like Xena!" sez I. "Look at those armbands!"
Of course, *my* Xena-dar is in perfect working order, because it *is* Xena, fresh from her perfect 10.0 score (even from the Russian judge, Borias) off the high dive.
And as she surfaces, what's the first thing she whispers?
Say it with me, boys and girls.
Back with the brat pack, Gabrielle's having a little trouble directing the troops.
"Swim for the beach!" she orders.
"But they have catapults!"
Um...lesson number 1,000 for those dimwitted Amazons out there. Ladies? When you're in the OCEAN, the ONLY place to go IS the beach!
You get the picture.
Gabrielle finally gets them all headed in the right direction, and they storm the beaches at Normandy...oops..wrong script...I mean....Helicon, and yup, you guessed it. Catapults. Lots of em. And arrows. Lots of THOSE too.
This was a *very* intense scene and a perfectly directed homage to Saving Private Ryan.
Amazons are exploding everywhere as they try to get to cover. Gabrielle is an outstanding commander here, telling her troops to keep calm and keep running.
You also get the obligatory "Sgt. Rock tries to save his best bud Private Snork, but Private Snork freezes, and Sgt. Rock buys it." but it was VERY well done.
GABRIELLE LOSES HER SOUL Moment One:
The Amazons are pinned down. Catapults and arrows are raining down on them by the hundreds, killing more and more women with each passing second.
Up ahead, there are some dunes which will protect the remaining women, but a diversion has to be created.
Yup. Someone has to volunteer to be catapult bait.
Gabrielle asks for a volunteer.
Enter red-skirt Amazon number two. She'll die for sisters and country.
And so she does.
As bits of her body are raining down, Gabrielle orders her troops to advance to the dunes, which they do. The diversion works.
As they look back, they see someone stumbling in from the sea. It's XENA. She runs toward the women, dodging arrows and catapults, and lands belly down next to her main squeeze, whose pleased as punch to see her.
Another Amazon, however, isn't. She demands to know why Xena was playing tiddlywinks while Amazons were dying. She gets that "about to go right over the edge look" and says "We're all going to die here!"
"Yes," Xena agrees finally when she's had about all she can take from the annoying little snot nosed brat (you don't invite me to your little parties, nooo, but when it comes to life or death situations, it's Xena, Xena, Xena! Help us, please!) "We ARE all going to die if you don't SHUT YOUR MOUTH and calm the heck down. Now get outta here."
The little amazon does as ordered, and GAbrielle asks that Xena take the mantle of command, please?
But Xena can't. Because the Amazons won't listen to her, remember? She's not a member of their exclusive li'l club. "It's you, Gabrielle," she whispers. "It's you."
More stuff happens, and Xena comes up with a temporary stop gap measure to get them into a more covered position. After a catapult is fired, but before the next one can be loaded, she runs to the top of the dune and releases her chakram. As the next catapult is launched, the chakram cuts off the arm and the flaming whatzits lands on the men, creating enemy flambe, extra crispy.
The Amazons continue to advance thanks to Xena's abilities.
Once they're somewhat safe, who should suddenly appear but a blindfolded, shackled Varia stumbling along.
"Why aren't they firing at her?" one Amazon asks.
Good question, Xena seems to say, but she doesn't voice it out loud. Can't say anything bad about the Queenie, now can you? Wouldn't want to be asked to take your sword and return home. (but I'm not bitter).
Once safe with her sisters, Varia reveals that Bell let her go so that she could die with the rest of the Amazons, what with her being their Queen and all, donchaknow.
Now Xena, Xena ain't buying the load of bull dung Varia's trying to sell, but Queenie seems to have everyone else pretty well snookered, so Xena lets it go. For now.
Xena, Varia and Gabrielle get into a little tactical argument. Varia wants to retreat at nightfall (Xena's ick meter just keeps giving off those bad vibes at this). Gabrielle reminds her that that won't work, because Bell will just track them down again like he did last time.
Xena, on the other hand, wants to build a raft and have them attack another entrance by water.
Gabrielle's not too keen on the idea, especially when both Xena AND Varia state that they need to take the wounded with them.
GABRIELLE LOSES HER SOUL Moment Number 2:
"They'll only slow us down!" Gabrielle insists.
The look in Xena's eyes as Gabrielle says this says it all folks. She's stunned, and saddened, and guilty all at once over the decisions the one she loves above all others is having to make.
But Gabrielle does make the decision, and decides to take the wounded with them. Yes, there's still some of that GAbrielle we love inside there, somewhere.
Next we see Gabrielle and Varia all chummy like discussing Varia's release from the castle. She says that she came down from the mountain on a trail. Then she baits the hook.
"And if *I* could come down . . ."
Throws it in the water . . .
"Then someone could go up," Gabrielle replies in true large-mouth bass waiting to be sauteed fashion.
"We need a volunteer," Varia says, shaking that lure oh, so enticingly.
"I'll go," Gabrielle replies.
HOOK. LINE. AND SINKER.
Next we see Xena doing . . .somthing. Building a raft, I think. When that wonderful "Gab-dar" goes off again. (It's good to have you back, Gab-dar!)
She straightens. "Gabrielle?"
We next see Varia with a cocked bow pointing her arrow at something. What is that something? Why it's a running Gabrielle, that's what it is!
She's just about to let fly when "THWACK!" Xena shows off her point-blank arrow catching skills.
"Oh <BLEEP!>" thinks Varia.
"GABRIELLLLLLLE!" screams Xena.
Gabrielle stops, turns, and sees Xena holding Varia's arrow. She retreats back down the dune.
WOW what an amazing display of muscles and athleticism by one Renee O'Connor! We watch her run back slo-mo as catapults explode in front, behind and seemingly right on top of her.
But the battlin bard of Potatoe head makes it though, with an addition to her moniker.
The battling, pissed as HELL bard of Potatoe head.
If looks could kill, Varia would have been a goo spot seeping through the sand at that second.
"You tried to kill me!!!"
"I'll handle this," says Xena.
What? Isn't that Gabrielle's line? Yes, slowly but surely over the course of this episode, Xena turns into Gabrielle, and Gabrielle turns into Xena.
Xena steps between Gabrielle and Varia and explains to the Amazons that Varia was told that the Amazons would be set free if she killed Gabrielle.
And this truly wonderful snarl: "That's it, isn't it. Your tribe for my suffering."
Anyway, Gabrielle's not willing to cool down just yet. Almost getting murdered does that to a person, I'd guess.
GABRIELLE LOSES HER SOUL Moment 4.
Varia promises to be a good little Amazon after Gabrielle threatens to leave her behind on the beach. Yup, a pissed off Gabrielle threatens to leave someone behind to be slaughtered by the enemy.
"You can't do that, Gabrielle," Xena cautions.
Of course, Gabrielle knows that. She does. (And I'm being serious here). Eventually, she relents, but strips Varia of her queenhood in the process.
Next we see Gabrielle walking up a dune to a spot where Xena is sitting.
"You're thinking of giving yourself up to Bellepheron, aren't you."
"It would make things easier."
"But only for a moment. Then he'd be after us again."
"That's the thing about vengeance," Xena says with a voice full of knowledge. "You can never be satisfied."
Then they talk about Varia. Xena compliments Gabrielle on doing the right thing about Varia (and note here, it is a very sincere compliment, not a patting the dog on the head type). Gabrielle realizes that Varia was only doing it for the safety of her tribe. Xena agrees, stating that sometimes, that makes people do things they never thought they'd do. She says like things Gabrielle's going to have to do. Like rally the troops again, to be hurt and possibly die.
"If that's what I have to do, I'll do it."
Xena takes a long look at this woman she loves.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Just doesn't seem like the Gabrielle I know."
"It's not me, Xena. But it *is* the Queen of the Amazons. And that's who I am, whether I like it or not."
Wow. A *very* powerful exchange between the two, and SUCH a change from Endgame. Beautiful scene.
Then we see the Amazons out on the water. They're swimming when someone sees a shark. Then someone FEELS a shark. Xena tells them to keep still, that sharks are attracted to the movement, but the Amazons panic.
GABRIELLE LOSES HER SOUL: Moment 5 Gabrielle is near a raft where one of the Queens is laid out, dead. After a long moment, Gabrielle eases the woman from the raft.
"Go in peace, sister."
Amazon Queen earns a new title.
Gabrielle turns away, stunned at what she just did.
"Was that honorable?" she asks Xena, her eyes absolutely shattered. "I don't think that was honorable."
Xena cups Gabrielle's cheek tenderly. "Would you have given yourself in her place?"
Gabrielle doesn't hesitate a second. She would have.
"You sent her in peace, Gabrielle."
They look at one another for a long beat before Xena finally removes her hand and motions the others forward.
A VERY intense scene!!! VERY intense! Very powerful, very moving, and VERY well done! Brava!!!
The next scene has them all arrived safely on land. Gabrielle gives a "rally the troops" speech that is a little over the top and a little maudlin, but gets its point across that their sisters will not die in vain, and that they must continue on in this fight so that the Amazon nation can continue on strong and whole. Renee played this scene beautifully, with wonderful emotion, tears, and a very nice intensity which brought it up a notch from the slightly wooden dialogue she was given to work with.
Xena, crouched by a tree, listens and is just as effected by Gabrielle's words as Gabrielle herself is.
The next scene we see, Gabrielle has drawn her sword and is looking at it. Wondering, I think, just what is it that she's become in the name of war.
In true "Gabrielle" fashion, Xena steps up behind her and begins to try to comfort her.
"Don't!" Gabrielle says, whirling. "Don't try to make me feel better about this."
Xena smiles a little, her eyes teary.
"Half my tribe is dead on that beach. Now I have to be as cold and as ruthless as I can be. I'lldo whatever I have to to keep these women alive."
And absolute RESPECT shines from Xena's eyes as she accepts Gabrielle's vow. Doesn't try to talk her out of it, doesn't offer to lead the troops in her stead. Just says "Then let's end this."
A WONDERFUL moment here as well! Xena treating Gabrielle as a true equal. Again, beautifully played. The myriad of emotions playing over both of their faces was a joy to behold.
Then comes the end.
Xena goes up to the castle again to draw Bell out. Bell comes out, of course, and they begin to spar again. Only this time, you can see Xena's not giving it her full effort.
First injury to Xena. Where? C'mon guess.
Upper left shoulder.
Upper RIGHT shoulder.
She favors her wrist, gets up groaning, and totters over to her horse like she's ninety or something.
As I was watching this, I was saying "Oh, PLEASE don't throw me into that briar patch! PLEASE don't throw me into that briar patch!"
Yup. Xena does her best impression of a wounded chicken leading the fox away from her nest.
Bell, as all true villians in X:WP must, lets his ego overrule his head, and follows swiftly behind.
He comes upon a Xena facing him from atop Argo. They verbally spar a little more, then Xena whistles, and it's BOWLING FOR DINARS! Amazon style.
Amazons swing outta the trees and knock the soldiers off their horses like tenpins, and the battle is on.
While the Amazons fight the soldiers, Xena fights Bell. The end fight wasn't nearly as good as POV"s end fight, but oh well. Can't have everything.
At the end, Xena has Bell down on the ground. Instead of skewering him and being done with it, she gives him the chance to walk away and "end this cycle of hatred and violence."
Sound familiar? Yup, Xena as Gabrielle once again.
Of course, he doesn't listen. "You forget, Xena. I'm half god!"
"YOU forget. You're also half mortal."
"It didn't have to end this way."
"Yes. It did."
Xena looks up, saddened over yet another kill on her long list, to see Gabrielle still within the firm grasp of battle fever. The man she's currently against is trying to flee, and she runs after him.
The look in Xena's eyes as she watches this is . . .well, you'll just have to see it to understand. It's shattered, is the best way I can put it.
GAbrielle finally trips up the guy, and is about to skewer him to the ground he's laying on when...
That one voice, above all others, can take her out of her trance (sound familiar again??)
She stops, and realizes just what she was about to do.
The look on *her* face is, again, nothing short of horrified and absolutely shattered.
As Xena stared out at Gabrielle, Gabrielle stumbles back toward Xena. They're both half crying. Xena is feeling all kinds of grief and guilt for helping Gabrielle along this path, and GAbrielle is feeling the same, because she's realized how much it's killing Xena.
They finally stand toe to toe.
"You've won," Xena whispered.
"No. I don't think I have. With each battle, I lose more of myself."
"War's tough on the soul, Gabrielle."
And these two women look at each other with such expressions of sorrow, and unending love that it literally took my breath away to see it. Both sets of eyes are filled with tears and you can feel the bond of pain between them as if it's visable on screen.
The moment is broken as Cyane steps forward hesitantly. "Gabrielle."
Gabrielle hesitates, not wanting the moment to end.
"Your people need you," Xena says.
And, after a pause, Gabrielle turns to join the rest of her sisters, women who her bravery and courage have helped to save against impossible odds.
Gabrielle and Varia lock wrists as in the beginning. "To a strong Amazon nation," Gabrielle says.
"To a strong Amazon nation," Xena whispers.
"To a strong amazon nation," the rest intone.
The camera pulls back on the carnage this day has wroght as we
Fade to Black.
All in all, an extremely intense, moving episode which will earn it another five chakram score from this here reviewer.
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