when you take a Hercules reject script, add a sprinkle of
Indiana Jones, characters with the mental acumen of those in Dumb
and Dumber and more polystyrene rocks than you can bounce a stunt
double off? A Fistful of Dinars – which is bizarrely named for
there are neither dinars to be had (try a cave full of jewels), let
alone a mere fistful of them.
It’s scary to
come across an episode that is actually worse than a clip show like the
preceding episode, Academy of Performing Bards, but midway
through A Fistful of Dinars I would have gladly
traded Gabrielle’s gooey-eyed swooning for bardic boy-band clones over
the almost incessant “ARGGGGHHHss” of the BUGs (Bad Ugly Guys) on the
loose. In fact this is probably the ultimate show reel for BUGs, as so
much dedication was given to making the usual ornery thugs we care so
little for, the stars of the show.
every great show the gods must sprinkle a few duds – so should we mind
that this is just another? Well yeah! See this is the episode
that sums up the expressions you see on the faces of non-Xena
fans when you finally suck it up and tell them you like Xena.
They picture in their minds this exact same clichéd plot (whoever heard
of a rope bridge breaking with someone on it – gasp!), by-the-numbers
acting (just feel the sizzling chemistry between Xena and her ex) and
bouncy rock effects – all while wondering if they can back away towards
the door from you without you noticing. Yes, I know, the scarring runs
things considered, it may be faster to outline what’s to like, rather
than what’s not to like in this episode.
liked the ominous and obvious plot point threat of a volcano erupting –
if only for the heady promise held out of it swallowing these unwashed
creeps and the episode whole. Alas, no such luck – thank you fickle
Mother Nature/Cheap Effects Department. (Which reminds me – that
lava-on-a-budget special effect was too funny – love the flaming
ambrosia at the end (no, I swear that is not a euphemism).
Adore the new
outfit, Gabrielle, sweetie – shows off those shapely new upper arms and
doesn’t gather the mud on the hem. Hate the
too-long-under-the-curling-iron fake fringe but it was probably all the
rage in Thebes or something.
I also welcome
the first truly full-blooded Xena scream – the Miss Piggy-esque
Aiiiyaaaaaaaa. No wonder Petracles did a runner, you’d be deaf hanging
around that woman for two weeks. (I do hope Gabs’s health insurance is
up to date.)
Best scene, by
far, was a harried and confused Gabrielle running back to camp after
Xena’s ex has had a grope and a kiss. She screeches to a halt next to
Xena who is all macho, strong-silent-type sharpening her sword by the
fire. Gabrielle avoids her eye and looks lost and a little uncertain as
to what to do next, and having a full appreciation of her warrior chum’s
temper, decides not to share what just happened. So, still without
having locked eyes with Xena once, she simply drops to the ground where
she sits and stares at the fire.
little devil with lousy timing that he is, bursts through the thickets
not moments later looking like a guilty cat reeking of cream, sees Xena,
then bolts. Xena tracks her eyes from Gabrielle up to him and processes
this suspiciously hasty arrival and exit, her eyes narrowing.
scene is over in a few minutes. Not one word is spoken yet it felt like
an entire conversation has taken place. I give massive points to both
Renee and Lucy for selling it so completely. It was brilliant.
This was also
the scene which led to the next one, which, drum roll please, marks the
first ever bonafide, can’t be anything else, subtext moment. Yes there
it was … Xena right up in Petracles’s face, close enough to inhale last
night’s garlic-bread breath, threatening him with sword-related dire
consequences if he touches Gabrielle.
To whit he says
simply: “I’d say you’re jealous. Are you?”
Heh - I now
have a new appreciation for blunt warlords. And no, I don’t think he
meant jealous of him. I may even forgive Petracles his really bad long
hair that he cleverly dangles next to naked torch flame and his fairly
massive charisma bypass. Hmm. Well I did say maybe.
At this point,
taking the Subtext 101 point of view, the direction seems to be that
Xena is massively possessive towards the young bard and Gabrielle in
turn is completely clueless and still doing the hormonally charged
boy-crazy toboggan run. We are also deliberately left somewhat in the
dark as to Xena’s feelings here, given she never did answer Petracles’s
There is one
other scene that gives pause for thought. Early on, the warrior princess
tells Gabs off for conversing with the enemy. Gabrielle then playfully
tells Xena off for not trusting her. And then she adds: “I am an adult,
remember.” And with a pause that goes on for at least two beats, a
perplexed Xena finally replies “right”.
For the life of
me I can’t decide the point of Xena’s strangled response – was she
trying to deny Gabrielle was all grown up now, or say that she knew it
and was trying not to think about it? I’d love to know what Lucy was
Speaking of a
more adult bard, for the love of Zeus, would someone give that girl a
weapon?! Twice in this episode she uses her furry little handbag, sorry
travel bag, as a chained shot-put, trying to whack or getting ready to
whack bad guys. At one point as it whirled around it looked like she’d
gotten a rabbit by the tail – and the thought of her battering someone
with a funny bunny is behaviour unbecoming anyone travelling with a
warrior princess in my book.
time – first up, grabbing the ruby jewel from the temple. Their cunning
plan – incidentally sorted out together with everyone whispering in a
scrum, sort of half standing and half crouching (um, why??) – was to
stage a diversion. Now picture it – you’re a religious guy standing
inside your temple. Mad people attack by hurling javelins in your
direction, all hooting and hollering. Do you
a) squeal “mercy” and dive
further inside, or
b) run outside in the line of fire, taking all your
fellow temple staff with you?
Yes folks –
it’s a miracle this man didn’t lose his pretty little red rock years ago
– he’s too stupid to function in polite society.
The rope bridge
scene – after an impressive stunt-double-fuelled swing of the rope
bridge to make a Wile E. Coyote splat on the rock face on the other side
of the chasm, we find Gabrielle clinging for her life. Watch what Xena’s
doing. Oh look, she’s just standing there. Gabrielle cries out for help.
Xena stands there. The assassin crawls up Gabrielle’s body. Xena stands
there. The assassin virtually sticks his boot on Gabrielle’s head to get
up and over her, as the bard’s weakening arms tremble, and then,
finally, finally, the woman of action does her double somersault with a
half pike landing to begin a rescue. Lord only knows what mental macramé
she was doing in the meantime.
In the same
vein, in the Indiana Jones temple under Mt Rushmore, Gabrielle has just
been snatched by the evil assassin. What does Xena do? Debate for a good
half minute with Petracles as to whether he really had wanted to help
And one last
quibble, Petracles dies and based on the fact he hadn’t tossed Xena’s
wedding bracelet and had saved Gabs, the warrior princess portrays a
blind spot a mile wide and declares he had been a good man all along. Er…right.
It seems even in death this warlord’s snowing her. Recall he even
admitted to Gabrielle he only wanted to marry Xena to possess her and
then discarded her when he’d won. Yeah, he’s real top drawer material
Right – so what
was the final analysis? To be frank – Fistful of Dinars was
boring and stupid.
it took so long to go anywhere and I kept wanting to cry out “Are we
there yet?”. And stupid because I can believe Xena planning to marry
Petracles about as much as her taking up Knitting for Business and
The bottom line
is the care factor wasn’t there at all and if not for one subtext scene
and Gabrielle’s impressive new biceps, it wouldn’t even be worth
remembering. On the plus side, at last the bard is declaring herself an
adult (albeit while still possessing her funny bunny whacking bag) and
dressed for the warrior-bashing scene at last. As they say, from little
things, big things grow.
I just wish
they’d crack out the fertilizer…