Season 1:20 Ties That Bind

Ties That Bind

Reviewed by SLK

Rating: 2 chakrams


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:

1)      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.

2)      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.) 

3)      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. 

4)      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. 

5)      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 this episode.

But then I realized, nah, it’d be a waste of a perfectly good freezer. Although Gabs might want to look into hair buns …



SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster; Edited by Jim Prior; Directed by Charles Siebert.

PASSING PARADE: Tom Atkins (Atrius), Kevin Smith (Ares), Stephen Lovatt (Kirilus), Sonia Gray (Rhea), Lutz Halbhubner (Tarkis), Jonathon Whittaker (Andrus), Nancy Broadbent (Areliesa), Heidi Anderson (Slave Girl), Robin Kora (Village Elder).

DISCLAIMER: No Fathers, Spiritual or Biological, were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

STORY SO FAR: Xena revisits her dark past when she meets up with a man who claims to be her father.



The Warrior Princess contentedly singing while watching over the bathing beauties she has just rescued from Kirilus. Now that’s job satisfaction. Only thing missing was her polishing her sword at the same time.

Xena’s “many skills” on display when she catches her chakram, mid-air - with her belt clip. Then later she appears under an assassin’s nose to snatch the blowpipe from his hands, only to snap it over her shapely thigh. All before the man has time to swallow his own poison dart. Some may say ‘good editing’, others - ‘violence with panache’.

Xena tying Argo to a rare ancient Greek species of tree that comes with its own loop just the right size for a horse’s rein. Watch carefully in the woods scene just before she has her heart to heart with ‘Daddy’ about her misspent youth.

Early in the swordfight scene between Xena and Kirilus. While Xena might have been holding her own, her sword was sure getting all bent out of shape.


"“Sometimes the best man for the job – is a woman.” Ares…always thinking with his ‘sword’.

“Don’t be ashamed of your past, Xena. It’s made you the great woman you are today.” When your parent compliments you on your torching and pillaging ways…it’s time to smell a rat.

“Kill ‘em all!” It’s a classic, especially when delivered with that trademark Xena snarl.

“You even left your pesky little friend for me.” Ares’ Gabrielle ‘issues’ surface for the first time.

“For me, our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could.” Xena either giving a great compliment to her sidekick or insulting her family.


Gabrielle: “Xena’s my best friend!”

Thug: “Yeah, yeah and Caesar’s my uncle.”