Righty-ho – a couple of things first: 1)
Xena can hum so sweetly while watching bathing women in one eyeboggling scene,
and she can toss away a dagger indifferently mid-fight like no one else. And 2)
Renee acts fabulously when confronting Seriously Insane Bloodlusty Lady Who
Flips On A Dime, with the most believable horror-stricken expression that I have
ever seen on her.
There now - that is the sum total of all
that is good about this episode. If you want to back away to the exits now, no
one will think any less of you.
I mean it, go on, it’s OK. Admit it -
you never really wanted to watch this one again anyway. It’s kind of like that
crazy uncle hidden away in the attic, screaming about the end being nigh - not
really something that you wheel out in polite circles. Although you’d probably
wheel out the deranged uncle before this episode, come to think of it.
How do I hate thee, let me count the
ways – aka five ways to screw with an otherwise cool show:
Hire blokes with the worst accents you can find, and remember to put them
all in key roles. From the army leader who thinks sword should be pronounced
“sard” to Atrius, “I swallow gravel for breakfast”, the father wannabe who
sounds like he’s on the emphysema voicebox surgery waitlist.
Insert awful soap box dialogue, from “Don’t do it, Xena” to “Stay out of
this Gabrielle”. Yep it read like the cleaners were filling in on script
touch-ups while the writers packed their sandals and sunscreen and headed for
Bali. Although I must say the wooden “I’m your father” ta-da moment is a LOT
funnier if you imagine Darth Vader-style breathing with it. (Also note,
picturing Gabrielle with Princess Leia hairbuns helps too.)
Have Gabrielle imply she’s leaving Xena AGAIN. Why? Because Atrius
implied he wasn’t getting enough father-daughter time with Xena. These exits,
stage right, are getting so commonplace for the bard now, that instead of arm
stroking and lofty goodbye speeches followed by sad little wiggle-waggle waves
from stricken Xena, we get an afterthought “Bye Xena” mumbled under Gabrielle’s
breath. Yes, that’s right people, she ditches the WP and doesn’t even bother to
tell her she’s doing it this time. Well what’s life without surprises, eh, Xena?
Good thing that army invaded when it did, or the bard would have been gone,
gone, gone when Xena finally sought her out again.
Ares, Ares Quite Contrary. Thank the gods this character did not stay the
way he started out. For one, there’d be a lot fewer Xena/Ares shippers if this
manipulative two-dimensional leather-boy stayed as cruel and annoying to our
favourite character as he is here. And we’d be deprived of a lot of fun down the
track as he goes from nasty to mere adorable hard-bodied son of a god with a
bad-boy streak. Here we can see he really is the God of War – with all
the manipulations and meanness it entails. He thinks nothing of impersonating
Xena’s father, using and controlling one of his loyal army leaders to get to
Xena and putting the Warrior Princess through the emotional wringer.
The worst part about it is not so much what Ares does but what he says. He
declares in one of the biggest misjudgments of the ages that Xena’s weak link is
her father issues. Er, right. This is one of those early show blunders that
illustrate they haven’t fully fleshed out the characters yet – and mercifully
they never return to this topic. Clearly Ares (and perhaps Xena, too) hasn’t yet
worked out the big lug’s real weakness is her “pesky little friend” as he so
eloquently describes Gabs. Some omnipotent god he is if he can’t fathom the
woman Xena travels with means more to her than the child and wife abandoner she
hasn’t seen since she was a tot.
Have you ever wondered what Xena with PMS is like? One can only imagine
she’s this crazy lady who runs around screaming “Take the village” and, my
personal favourite, “Kill ’em all”. The trifecta would have been complete if
only she’d Lawrence of Arabia-ed it with a girly-girl shriek of “No prisoners…”
Now why am I blaming PMS? Because nothing at all in the plot comes close to
explaining her ridiculous flip-out back to the dark side (insert more Darth
Vader breathing). I mean, hello, so the guy you think is your father has been
strung up. Please note, he is not dead. Please note, you’ve only known
him again for, like, three seconds. Also note, it goes against everything you
purport to stand for now. And finally note, your bard will be massively pissed
at you if you do this and you can expect to be stuck with cold fish and empty
bedrolls forever more.
To go from zen Xen to hissy missy in one heartbeat is just ludicrous. Now
I understand the utterly shocked look on Gabrielle’s face. She’s thinking, ‘Who
is this lunatic I thought was my friend and who shared my jokes and fishy
fry-ups with at lunch?’
Oh yeah, cos after all it’s done and run, and you’ve walloped your traveling
chum back to her senses and Ares has come clean, you so want to go
straight back to a woman threatening to raze the village five minutes ago – with
you in it.
Equally head-scratching is the smiley, happy villagers (the same ones being
hauled about and terrified by Xena’s army bare moments ago) gathering around
Xena and doing all but backslapping her. Like, “Oh hey, thanks for not impaling
us, raping and torturing us. You’re all right, lady… woo, woo, woo. Give us an
X…, give us an E…”
Okay so maybe I am being too harsh.
Maybe there was some golden plot point or subtext moment that makes up for all
of it. Well, yes, there was a rather startling subtext moment, but not between
Xena and Gabrielle.
I am still laughing at bad-haired,
accent-challenged Kirilus having his face cupped and stroked by Ares who was
getting his jollies from having tricked this army leader. Does it save the
episode? Er, a thousand no’s to that. But it does add to the general weirdness
of it all, that odd soufflé of bad acting meets worse script, with a dash of
Darth Vader asthma, slave girls and a rampaging PMS warrior princess.
Right about the end credits I wondered
if that freezing agent that put Han Solo on ice comes in a job lot, and whether
that mightn’t have been a far more effective use of the “talent” on offer in
But then I realized, nah, it’d be a
waste of a perfectly good freezer. Although Gabs might want to look into hair