Before we begin, just one small point of business. Gabrielle – never
ever EVER play the panpipes again. OK? Dear god – are my ears still
bleeding? And what’s with our tone-deaf musical minx bouncing up and
down like an attention-deficit-disordered meerkat? Are you trying to get
Yeah, yeah I know, everybody’s a critic. At least Argo has taste.
Which brings me to The Prodigal. I am sure the powers that be
must have been chewing their nails to the quick over this episode,
wondering if Renee could pull it off, being front and centre, minus The
Hero ™ for the first time. Although they did give her a hero, true, but
he’s not one you’d want for anything beyond sharing the bar tab.
does Renee pull it off? Most definitely. Wanton panpipe abuses aside,
Renee does a masterful job of comedy and drama in this episode.
Before I launch into superlatives for redheaded warrior wannabes, I have
to get the initial forced plot point out of the way.
Gabrielle leaves Xena. Again. Sigh.
There are so many things wrong with the opening to this episode which
sees Gabrielle freeze and rethink her entire sidekick career path.
First, she puts up a pretty good fight until she doesn’t and it’s the
latter split second that makes her think she’s putting Xena’s life in
jeopardy and that’s unacceptable to her. She says she is a liability to
this is different from the first three months they travelled together
how? Bearing in mind that on the first day when Gabs scarpered out of
Poteidea determined to be Xena’s companion, she gave no thought to her
uselessness – in fact quite the opposite, reeling off all the reasons
how she could be useful to her. Now, after she has learnt masses of
information on how to be seriously handy to have around, she declares
herself without any use at all and the very liability she could well
have been months ago.
other stupidity about her statement – has she actually looked at the
warrior princess lately? I mean, hell, that woman can go toe to toe with
Ares and whip an army before breakfast with one battered frying pan.
(Incidentally please note Gabrielle’s enthusiastic use of a frying pan
as a bashing weapon in this episode.)
one could argue the point of having a self-esteem crisis is that it’s
not logical, it’s all based on one’s fears. That’s why they’re called
fears, not realities. So that would explain the “oh good grief” eye roll
Xena offers behind Gabrielle when the bard first announces her intention
not to stay with her. Yep, even Xena knew those excuses were beyond
Which brings us to poor Xena. We’re now up to two desertions by the bard
(the first being the Academy of Performing Bards), and counting.
doesn’t get any easier – the look on her face is heartbreaking the
moment she realizes Gabrielle can’t be swayed on this. And it gets worse
when Gabrielle announces she needs to be with “family” to sort this out.
This gives Xena the heads up as to exactly where she doesn’t stand in
the bard’s life.
Gabs follows that revelation up by one more kick in the guts when Xena,
almost pitifully asks, in a small, fearful voice: “You’ll be coming back
though, right…” and is told firmly “That depends…”
Ouch. Now just apply acid to the wound, bandage with salted cotton and
Meanwhile Xena might want to work on her motivational speeches. “Act
don’t react” is like saying be “attentive not alert”. She probably meant
“Think then act, don’t just react”. But seriously when you’re facing a
truckload of pointy spikes heading towards your head all anyone is going
to do is react.
Which reminds me of the silliest part of this entire near-lethal log
encounter – Xena races to Gabrielle’s side when the bard trips in front
of the hurtling cart, and wrenches her to her feet. Then she tells
Gabrielle to “lie down”. When she doesn’t, Xena pulls her down again,
virtually exactly where she had been lying after tripping over! Genius.
cute little moment: Gabrielle is clearly worried about Xena’s vitamin C
intake and eating well (sometimes warriors do forget to look after
themselves), taking the time to transfer an orange from her bag into
Xena’s saddlebags before heading off. Awww.
now we’re on our way to Poteidea - again. One thing I really loved about
them bringing back the cart driver from Sins of the Past when
Gabrielle first headed off after Xena was how she’s calling the human
furball’s bluffs this time. When we last saw them both, Gabrielle was
talking utter rubbish about people she’d never met just to get on to the
cart and he spends the ride correcting her. Now, this Gabrielle
has seen and done so much more that she’s correcting him. It was
great to see the start of her shift in character from a follower to a
woman to be reckoned with.
shift is never more pronounced than when she gets to her village. We
discover Xena has taught her a hell of a lot more than we’d ever
guessed, from tracking to trapping – although clearly the Warrior
Princess never got around to stealth. Gabrielle’s knife-at-throat count
for this episode is a ridiculous two. How we’re supposed to take her
seriously as a warrior in training when she’s still so incredibly easy
to capture is a bit of a mystery. Still it makes Xena useful… or it did.
Okay, burning questions: where are Gabrielle’s parents? Contiki tour?
her former fiancé? Does no one think it odd she didn’t bother to ask
after any of them?
hey, it’s Lila – I have always loved the relationship between her and
Gabrielle because it just seems so real. The bickering, and the
automatic grounding of Gabrielle is right on. The redhead may be best
friends with the Warrior Princess but to Lila, she’s just her sister.
And she’s not shy in expressing her annoyance either.
Although Lila must have got the shallow end of the gene pool if this
exchange is anything to go by:
Gabrielle: “I thought you were happy I was getting out to see the
Lila: “I was happy until I realised getting out meant leaving me.”
finally, I loved the cute way Gabrielle yanks Lila about like a sack of
potatoes (after looking for “coverage trees”). Remind you of anyone?
Yes, Gabrielle learnt how to treat a sidekick from the best.
Those two are so sweet together – it was also great to see the way Lila
came around to Gabrielle’s true calling after spending time together
again. I think she needed to be reminded about how her sis was such a
square peg in a round hole in Poteidea and it was almost a form of
cruelty to trap her back there through family ties or guilt. Once they
both came to the same conclusion on their own, without ever once talking
about it in depth (despite that being why Gabrielle went home) their
differences were resolved.
was a lovely resolution for them to realise together the bard had made
the right decision all those months ago, and she will leave a stronger
person for it.
Although I am curious that Lila picked up on Gabrielle’s need to be with
Xena as much, if not more than, her need to see the world. Sisters do
know things, often before their siblings figure stuff out about
themselves. So this was a very telling line indeed: “Doesn’t
take an oracle to realize you belong out there in the world – with
Thanks for clearing that up, Lila. *grin* Now if only Gabrielle would
take good advice when she hears it.
Enter Meleager. Nice bit of chemistry (in a paternalistic/fellow warrior
sort of way) between him and Gabrielle. They acted so well in scenes
together. I enjoyed the dawning realisation on Gabrielle’s face when she
works out the drunkard has lost his nerve to fight, and she can relate
all too well.
loved, loved, loved Gabs stepping up, getting in Meleager’s face to get
him out of bed and back in the saddle so to speak. While she was always
sort of interesting as the village tag-along, here she is now riveting
as a woman in her own right, standing up for herself with all this
newfound confidence and leadership. Awesome.
so we go full circle. Gabrielle leaves Poteidea yet again with another
uplifting speech, this time from Lila, about how she’s destined for
greater things. She has her mojo back and is heading off to find Xena.
You know, I always wondered about this – how in all of Ancient Greece
would you know where to start looking for her? It’s not like they made
plans – meet you in Thebes in a season…. Seriously. Has the big lug got
a homing beacon on her or what?
I don’t know about you, but if I were approaching an area I had been
ambushed in before, and so badly my nerves were shattered by it, I would
make damned sure it didn’t happen again. I would be approaching with
extreme caution, not whistling like a defective kettle. (I guess
Gabrielle did get a little hint of Lila’s gene pool after all.) Sigh.
Have to give a continuity nod to the BUG (bad ugly guy) bearing a
bandage this time – he was hit by Gabrielle’s rock in the opening scene.
the highlight of the episode is just the great iconic hero shot of Xena
standing on top of the rocks, holding her chakram up, ready to strike.
Now that’s a poster girl!
Well what’s left to say – for a Xena-lite episode they did a great job.
It was entertaining, had rewatchability and was a wonderful showcase for
Renee’s skills. On the downside was Gabrielle’s penchant for leaving
Xena every time the whim so takes her. She’s lucky the WP is so
understanding, because it’d be heartbreaking to have to keep readjusting
to having someone in your life and then gone for good and back again,
every few months.
wish I could give Gabs a shake and say “Enough! No more”. But the kids
of today, what can you do….
for my last word, a second bit of business. Gabrielle, sweetie, no
whistling ever, EVER again, either. OK? You’re souring the milk in the
cows across three districts. There have been complaints. Thank you.