Season 3, Episode 5
27 June 1998
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 7.5 chakrams.
SCRIBES & SCROLLS:
Written by R.J. Stewart;
Edited by Jim Prior;
Directed by Charles Siebert and Andrew Merrifield.
Peter Feeney (Caswallawn);
Mark Clare (Eochid);
Robert Harte (Goewin);
Catherine Boniface (Meridian) and
David Mitchell (Tavern owner).
STORY SO FAR:
Gabrielle has been impregnated by Dahak to bring the Child of The Darkness into the world. As such, she is worshipped during her accelerated pregnancy by wailing banshees and feared and pursued by villagers and several knights of an ancient order. She is protected by Xena and other, dissenting knights. After the birth, Xena concludes the baby girl is indeed evil and, much to Gabrielles outrage, suggests the child be destroyed.
Despite witnessing the bizarre and somewhat disturbing birth of Gabrielles Hope, no farm animals were harmed or traumatised during the production of this motion picture.
Xena and a captain unaware that both have agreed to different payment terms in her transportation deal. A Macbeth-influenced Gabrielle nightmare, complete with the dagger before her. Gabrielles cravings for bloody pork liver, cherries, goats cream with cheese on top; Gabrielle playing Xenas protector for once, standing in front to stave off the banshees, much to the Warrior Princesss obvious chagrin; Xena perfecting the first reclining chair with a particular knight of the round table;
Well this is your lucky day -- my friends not feeling well, a both relieved and disappointed outclassed Xena backing off from the banshees.
I was just getting their timing... Xena madly saving face - more for herself than Gabrielles benefit.
Im gonna slap you bitches silly... Xena, mighty hero, champion for women everywhere, obviously (and surprisingly amusingly) getting her lines mixed up with those of the usual misogynist thug-of-the-week.
Ive got *your* number, sweetie Xena exchanging telephone numbers with nice banshee sorts.
SLKS REVIEW Enter the second episode in the rift arc and this is a difficult one to watch because, unlike The Deliverer, there is little to dilute or distract us from the focus on everyone's stark pain. The episode begins where, in my mind, The Deliverer should have ended, with Gabrielles guilt at having deliberately killed another person, and Xenas support for her in trying to coming to terms with it. The dream sequence is quite eerie in that it shows how we perceive things. When we do wrong it always seems worse than it is: so, in Gabrielles nightmare, Meridian is dressed in white and is happier and purer and nicer than she was in reality and, when Gabrielle stabs her, it is with more premeditated viciousness than the bard ever could have mustered, drawing out far more blood than she actually did. It was a pretty insightful glimpse at how guilty she was feeling.
Perhaps, then, this is why it took her so long to accept what everyone else does quite quickly - that she is pregnant. Her emotional pain is so pronounced she is convinced the other signs are from the internal and not related to the physical. Although, frankly, being dressed in a burlap maternity gown should have been the first clue!
On that note -- how often do we allow strange wailing women, particularly those intent on hurting our friends, to lead us off to the next grassy knoll and dress us in an ug-lee dress without protest? At least youd want to know why. And for Gabrielle, renowned for one-liners like, ah, you know, grey really isnt my colour... she just, er, well, sat there, and let them dress her up like a tasteless Ancient Greek barbie doll. And when Xena takes one disgusted look at the new garb and suggests a quick wardrobe change might be in order, Gabrielle suddenly remembers how to protest and refuses - although seemingly *still* not knowing why shes wearing Chic LaSack. (For those who havent worked it out, she was wearing the awful get-up to cover her bare belly because faked bare pregnant bellies look *really* bad and obvious.)
There were a few mercifully lighter moments or wed all have been suicidal -- Gabrielles feast in the inn before her quite spectacular pole-vaulting exit (who needs a warrior princess?!); Xenas on-going tussles with the banshees giving her a nice challenge for once (interesting many of her greatest tormenters are female adversaries) and Xena briefly road-testing Excaliber.
But there were also some really dark, despairing moments (and I know our farmyard friends were feeling it too) that just makes the episode hard to watch more than once. Gabrielles heartbroken line: One thing I never doubted was my role as peacemaker is enough to make you ache for her. The awful look on Xenas face when Gabrielle says thank you after being handed her baby. Xena at this point, despite Gabrielles obvious happiness, already strongly suspects this is going to end in one dead bub and much pain for Gabrielle and almost looks ill when she curls her lip and forces out, in a cracked voice: For *what*? Their two faces couldnt be more studies of contrast as Gabrielle chatters on about the hope she now feels, while Xena is obviously disturbed beyond words, a dark cloud raging overhead. How Gabrielle didnt notice is a mystery (although she did have other things on her mind than worrying if her best friend would be feeling homicidal towards her newborn baby.)
But the most chilling line of the lot comes from Gabrielle, not for what she says but for what it portends for them both and their friendship: You get this clear, Xena, no matter what she is, she is my daughter. Dont come between us. Xena, though, by then realises that its already too late. Its written all over her face; shes already working out what to do. She already knows the sacrifice ahead - her close bond with Gabrielle (after all the bard has just told her the cost of getting between them). Xena looks for all the world like she is almost regretting already what she knows will happen. Xena shoulders an awful burden to do what she thinks is right.
But Xena is also waiting - waiting for proof the baby is the daughter of darkness she thinks it is. And when she doesnt get the cut and dried variety, shell settle for circumstantial. This proof has been left ambiguous for a reason, so we still dont know whos right and we can clearly see both positions. Xenas mind, the mind that knows evil and sees the bad all around her, expected to see evil in Hope and thats exactly what she saw. For the same reason Gabrielles mind saw only good - or at least a clean slate - and rejected Xenas idea as ridiculous: (Shes just a baby). This is a compelling set up. Both women are willing to fight to the death for their belief and will reluctantly fight each other if they have to.
But of them both, only Gabrielle doesnt seem to realise how hard this is for Xena, while Xena knows how hard it is for Gabrielle. This is also where Xenas pain comes from - she is risking her friendship for a noble reason in her mind. But all the while must she keep her regrets and suffering to herself because she can not share them with Gabrielle, yet shes still trying to help Gabrielle through her pain. Gabrielle does not return the favour (well she *has* just been through the wringer so it's to be expected) and never offered any supportive acknowledgment like: I may utterly disagree with you Xena but I know its an awful position for you to be in. I know how hard this is for you, too...
This to me explains Xenas incredible surge of anger at Gabrielle when she believes, in the end, that the bard has hidden the baby and lied to her. As she roughly shoves Gabrielle out of the way, its almost her way of saying What, Ive been through all this, risked us and still its for *nothing*? The evil thing is still alive? I would endure all of this and you would just lie to me about it? Part of Xena understood, the hurt and in-pain part was, however, ruddy furious.
I liked this episode because it was all such a compelling argument. Both were right and wrong to hold the beliefs they did. This ep has the potential to spark the same moral joustings among fans that The Price did.
It wasnt all black and white. There were times that Xena and Gabrielle could have slipped into the others moccasins. Xena knew how it felt to have a child and lose it. Shed been there. But she knew more how evil could not be allowed to flourish. Gabrielle knew they had to fight against evil. She knew it was possible Hope was what Xena was saying she was. After all, her final prayer and message for Hope was: Please be good. But ultimately she just couldnt understand how Xena, who had had a child too, could have the It must die; end of discussion view about her Hope. A bit more communication and less of the fist in hand decrees from each other might have made things easier - but probably not by much. Whats easy about killing a child.
You can come away from this episode feeling quite bruised. Worse than after The Deliverer, where there was just undirected pain. Here it was pretty much directed at each other. It honestly felt like these two friends had turned a corner. Some trust was gone; some love was gone; some friendship was gone. And it felt kind of permanent. Thats what really gave the creeps. You think, how can they recover from this? Thats a daring/risky thing to offer viewers in a normally feel-good TV show, supposedly about two mates who care about each other no matter what. Now that weve seen the what its going to be quite the test to watch this friendship sewn back together again. If it would help any, Id offer unlimited sewing lessons.
Unfortunately Australian viewers, as opposed to American Xena fans, lost a few
minutes of this show to the editing room floor thanks to Channel 10. Getting the snip was
a chunk of Gabrielles dream which shows her stabbing Meridian in a very bloody and
nasty way. Also to get the chop is a lot more brow mopping from our mid wife Xena and a
nifty thigh-thwap pain reliever for Gabrielle during her birth that, frankly Xena could
market and retire on. (No anaesthetics back then, even for those having babies of possibly
Beelzebub origins.) But back to the show, and I talk about this episode as it was made and
intended to be shown, not as Australians saw it. This way at least us Aussies can
understand what was supposed to be going on in Gabrielles mind, even if we all
didnt see it, ourselves.
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