THE DIRTY HALF-DOZEN
Reviewed by: Sheryl-Lee Kerr
Season 3; episode 3
13 June 1998
RATING: 6.5 chakrams.
Written by Steven Sears;
Directed by Rick Jacobson.
Kevin Smith (Ares);
Jonathon Roberts (Agathon);
Charles Mesure (Darnelle);
Katrina Hobbs (Glaphyra);
Jon Brazier (Walsim),
Stephen Ure (Monlik).
(No Montage was created for this episode)
STORY SO FAR: Xena assembles a team of ruffian killer chums from her warlord days to take on Ares new protege, Agathon, a man who holds the secret to a destructive super metal.
DISCLAIMER: No convicts were reformed during the making of this motion picture. Cant we all just get along?
REWIND FOR: Was that Been There Done Thats resurrected rooster exercising its vocals?; Gabrielle forcibly educating Glaphyra on the finer points of dead husband etiquette; I think that was Lucy Lawlesss last real fire blowing stunt (before she got the heebee geebies and vowed never to do it again); and Xena finally acknowledging Gabrielles worth - not once, but twice.
QUOTABLE: (Slim pickings, alas...)
Whoa, nice ceps. Do you work out or are all you gods cut? - a hip Agathon toadying to the boss.
Thats gotta be uncomfortable. - Darnelle wincing as Monlik becomes ancient Greeces first experimental kebab.
Gabrielle is a good teacher. Who knows, if I met her back when I met you, it may have been me who changed - Xena the philosophical and introspective about glinty-eyed neck-crunching Gabrielle... Hold it; whose been doing brain/body switches again?!
Youre Gabrielle: Bard, Amazon Princess, best friend. No one made you who you are, it was already there. Question is, who would I be without you? Xena being so nice I will exercise (inordinate) restraint and not crack a single joke.
This episode was a mediocre effort in the writing department, lifted a great deal by two cracking good scenes that furthered the character development of Xena and Gabrielle, showing the depth of their friendship. By poor writing I mean I dont think Ive seen lines so bad since season one Hercules. Heres but a sample: Darnelle - Dont go falling in love with me now. Glaphyra - Id sooner fall for a toad. Gasp. That hurt. Beatrice and Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing) they aint. Actually poor, two-dimensional Glaphyra gets an almost monopoly on bad lines, like: Men are so easy; and the lamentably laughable simper later: We have to protect our men, dont we? I say almost a monopoly, because Gabrielle got to utter the immortal Im not a little girl and worse, the Now I *Know* Im Watching a Childrens Show line: Lets get out of here... Oh dear. Good thing theres a believable plot. Er, right? Like the bit about how 6000 armed, trained soldiers died because not one worked out what our six did in five seconds - that if you cant penetrate your enemys armor, then at least find the gaps or simply knock them over and pummel the Tartarus out of them. But I guess you just cant get good help these days. I always say, theyve got to stop buying soldiers in bulk. Which does raise the question of Xenas own fine selection process. Shes taking on a god. So naturally she handpicks ruffians, thieves and assassins rather than asking Hercules for help. Busy schedule in the butt-kicking business, I suppose. On this, I had a bit of a chuckle at discovering Xena has been in the mentoring business a lot longer than she lets on to Gabrielle. Remember Sins of The Past and her very stern I travel alone speech? Ri-ight. Sure you do, Xena. Seems the Warrior Princess was actually a bit of a sidekick magnet in her younger days. Perhaps she meant to say I travel alone - now.
Then there was that whole King Grigor army thing, the point of which being, um, hang on, give me a minute... Incidentally, did anyone happen to *see* any of this massing diversionary army, by any chance? Or did Xena call it off after Ares' warning? Lets just say, for argument's sake, it was there. What if it had worked, though, and got Agathons supertroopers outside to fight it? How exactly was Xena going to explain to her old buddy, the king, (from Cradle of Hope) that she got his small army slaughtered in a diversion. I doubt hed be too impressed. Might even rename the kid.
All this aside, I was actually entertained throughout this predictable romp because all the characters were fun to watch clashing, bad dialogue and all. As Gabrielle prophetically spake: I dont think Ive ever been part of a true disaster before... Bang on the dinars, Amazon Queen. Or should I say Amazon Princess, since she did get a demotion in this ep. Something happen in Amazon land we werent told about?
On the bad character front, whose idiotic male fantasy was it to create some beautiful man-hating woman who just needs a good kiss from a real man to change her wicked ways? Give us a break. Her character was insulting to both sexes. And the outcome was highly unlikely after what looked like a lifetime of giving blokes a very hard time. Same goes for Darnelle. He turns over a new leaf because of... er, why was that again? I saw no deep Marcus introspection here; no dark crossroads. What, one day hes bad; next hes good? Shrug. What a guy. Go figure.
I noted Gabrielle finally got to come up trumps on everyone in a fight. That little staff whomped butt. Good for her. Pity about the fate of Xenas sword; although why is it her chakram is for some reason apparently capable of cutting through this super metal (witness the High Noon meeting with Agathons blokey-chakram)?
In other little picky things, sorry, Im on a roll, Xena seemed to spend way too much time in trees waiting to leap on people; and Darnelle should have given up on thuggery a long time ago for the Olympics (well hes in the right country). Look at where he was in relation to where Xena was when she's climbing the wall, and where the cage door is. Judge how heavy the rock is that he hurls up there (about twice the size and weight of a shotput). Frankly, even with his bulging biceps cut like the gods themselves, that rock should have dully thudded approximately one to two metres up the base of that wall. But I guess killing and rampaging gives you more muscle mass? Or is it the fact they havent discovered gravity yet? On that note Gabrielle was also getting some pretty awesome height on her molotov cocoanuts.
Onto the good stuff. The Dirty Half Dozen was not as bad as I am making it out. No really! There were those two redeeming scenes I mentioned earlier. Gabrielle, in a cell (with bars so wide she could have almost just slid right through them), getting needled by Glaphyra, finally snaps. I always wondered what it would take. Mental note: Dont ever badmouth a bards loves. Gabrielles furious wild-eyed look was quite the sight. Yep, Gabrielle was actually scary. Great stuff. And the look on Xenas face as she stepped between the two women - she almost looked a bit uncertain herself, as though shes thinking Heck, is *this* Gabrielle? Xenas little speech then was very sweet and well deserved. The last time she spoke so well of Gabrielle was in Xenas Scrolls but it was a bit pointless in that it was a defensive response to someone who hadnt even met Gabrielle - Gabss descendant, Janice. So by this point, as Xenas beatifying Gabrielle to Glaphyra, Im thinking, is she ever going to tell Gabrielle herself or just everyone else around her? Finally, in the last scene, she does exactly that and its lovely. Pity about their backs to the camera for the final moment. It was nice to see how close they are and how much mutual respect they share. I also liked Gabrielles serious agreement in response to Glaphyras trite line: Look after Xena. (And check out Xenas bemused look and folded arms at that!)
This does all leave a rather nice debate to ponder. Was Gabrielle indeed moulded by Xena, as Glaphyra was, to become who she is now? Or was she always destined to be what she is? I think Xena was wrong actually. Gabrielle has to be a product of both Xena *and* who she is. You cant spend so much time with someone and not have some of it rub off. Witness how the bard dealt with Glaphyra in the cell, that was a Xena move through and through. True, Gabrielle was always destined to see the world. But regardless of whether it was with Xena or someone else, whoever she spent her time with would have had an impact on who she is now. Meanwhile, are we to believe that Gabrielle would have been able to change Xena if they had met when Xena was bad? But *that* Xena only ever respected strength (certainly not ideals or goodness), which is why she finally capitulated to Hercules, who had an abundance of the former along with the latter. Its another debate I guess well never know the answer to.
In summary, this potentially disastrous episode earned a mighty reprieve thanks to Renee OConnor in particular, and Lucy Lawless. It gave the fans a bag full of cliched writing and yet, still, a surprising high degree of satisfaction. I cant explain it, but I'm hoping the writers wont apologise, theyll just improve!
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