OK– there are two reasons to watch this episode (or three
if you enjoy a stunning New Zealand travelogue):
1) Xena does haughty reclining empress poses while
regarding unsavoury warlords like no one else. Who’s got the power? Do we even
need to ask?
2) Lucy acts her leather boots off when given some real
emotional grist – and leaving her son behind in the final scene was
Two reasons to burn this episode and do a little happy
dance as the flames take hold:
1) The appearance of Judgmental Gabrielle – who on earth is
this shrill, holier-than-thou hissy missy who thinks saying “How can you walk
out on your child…” is in any way useful? Have we even met? I want Sweet
2) Pretty much everyone’s acting was diabolical (with a
Can you actually believe they kicked off season two with
this odd little showcase of Hercules-style script, acting villainy from
the school of panto (I kept wanting to shout “He’s behiiiind you” every time
Dagnine appeared), bad wigs, a silly flawed plot, Power Rangers style FX,
and the first appearance of an evil Gabrielle clone.
Yet out of these smelly Centaur droppings came a compelling
pair of must-watch moments that makes you wonder how they got so lucky as to
have such a surprising unpolished diamond in the lead role.
But let’s start at the beginning. I think Xena’s mojo is a
little dulled this ep – she sensed an attacking horde when said louts were
standing RIGHT BEHIND HER. And by
“sensed” she probably meant smelt. From where they were, Gabrielle would have
seen them and had enough time to reshoe Argo, get a manicure and write a new
epic before the WP’s Spidey’s senses began tingling.
I loved the hilarious spear-splitting stunt – perhaps
because it was the only hilarious thing in the entire episode, Solan’s acting
And how bad was that lad’s acting? I kid you not, when
bad-wig-boy squeaks to Xena “You’ve just met your greatest enemy” with all the
gravitas of Mickey Mouse I laughed out loud. Truly. I mean up to this point the
big bads have included Draco, Cortese, Callisto, occasionally the God of War
Now then, Xenabods - way to telegraph your plot, soap
style. Whenever they go in for the big ole blue eyes close-up, with a huge
zoom in, you know the revelation’s gonna be big.
“Yes, he’s my son” Xena intoned solemnly. With all that
The Bold and the Beautiful lead-in you’d think we’d at least get one
right-down-the-camera look, and an aside stage whisper of “Or is he…?”
Next sigh – enough already: How many relatives are we gonna
haul out of Xena’s closet here? It’s like there’s a big glass cabinet at Xenabod
HQ with a sign on it “Spare Xena Rellies – Break Glass in Emergency”.
I can see the writers’ meeting now: “We’ve done near-death
Xena, near-death Gabrielle, Xena’s mama issues, daddy issues and sibling issues,
Gabs making doe-eyes at boys, and doe-eyed boys all suddenly dying (Xena not as
yet considered a suspect), so what next? Think people, think…”
*Insert sound of breaking emergency glass*
So we discover Xena has a son. And Solan has been raised by
the Centaurs. Yay for him. I guess he never had to ask for a pony for his
(Speaking of the Centaurs – anyone notice how Gabrielle,
and later Xena, just hop on their backs without so much as a by your leave and
demand to be taken places? What are they – taxis? I know I would most certainly
object if someone up and sat on my head and ordered me to a warfront. You’d
think there’d be some sort of etiquette about all this.)
OK so now virtually everyone knows who Solan is – including
Xena’s best friend. You know the one – sweet girl, accepts people as they are,
generous of spirit and kind to a fault. She also understands that people make
mistakes and she is usually leading the charge to forgive people.
That girl was obviously off bowling. In this episode we
meet the very icky Judgmental Gabrielle™ – who stridently demands to know, with
all the shrillness of an outraged rightwing TV evangelist, “How can you walk out
on your own child”.
Hence the equally strident response from Xena which was
short and pointed: “Get out of my way” accompanied by a Gab shove.
Nice. There is no way in Hades Xena would have ever
travelled with Judgmental Gabrielle if she’d been like this all this time
because, let’s face it, Xena has done some awful, awful things that put child
abandonment in the shade and a “friend” like Judge Gabs would make for a very
long day indeed.
And, PS, I wouldn’t call it child abandonment so much as a
form of love – Xena went out of her way to leave Solan in a place where he would
be safe from the sights she and her army would subject him to, and surrounded by
people who would care for and love him.
The whole tiff was so ridiculous and a blatant writer’s
ploy to introduce a bit of tension. But I found myself asking Why? Why do they
want these two to butt heads over an issue which is not even close to the top 20
of Xena’s When Good Girls Turn Bad escapades? And what use is there even arguing
about it now – Xena couldn’t rewind history if she wanted to. All the bard is
doing is driving Xena away with her preaching until Xena finally has enough,
snaps and says “This is NONE of your business.” Ouch. Still feel like you’re
family to Xena now, Gabs?
If Renee had greatly softened the line about why Xena did
this into a genuine heartfelt query, as if seeking understanding, she would have
still been our Gabrielle. And Xena, being hugely upset regardless, could
have still brushed her away as she did – but we wouldn’t get the sense of
watching a completely different pair of characters instead of the friends we
know. What was played out was such a bad choice.
Then there was Gabrielle’s apology, if you can call it
that. On this one, the blame gets sheeted home 100% to an awful script. The bard
says words to the effect that she still doesn’t agree with what Xena did but she
should have been more supportive as the WP was going through a bad time. Notice
she didn’t say “Sorry – I was an appalling prat and not acting at all like a
true friend…” Just – sorry, my timing was bad while being an appalling prat but
I think I am still right.
So Gabs is saying she still firmly believes she’d rather
Xena had hauled Solan around the battlefields of Greece with her, turning him
into a target or another killer like the rest of her army?
I really do reckon Gabrielle’s brains are painted on this
Enough of the character angst, there’s plot dissection to
be done. I’ll jump first to the Texas-sized flaw in the story.
If you listen carefully you’ll hear that the Centaurs got a
choice to be noble or wicked and they chose noble. As a result all their
wickedness got taken off them and it was put in the Ixion stone. And by this
reasoning no Centaur has a drop of wicked in him/her (hey, has anyone seen a
girl Centaur?!). This also means that of all the people in the Ancient World,
the Centaurs are the only ones incapable of any evil.
Really? That’s very saintly of them. Must be nice. I guess
that explains why Xena left her son with these goodly creatures – and it makes
Gabrielle’s high and mighty disdain for her choice look even worse.
OK, so the perfectly unwicked Centaurs also have armies and
fight in battles, defensively one presumes, because good folk don’t pick fights.
This means, by default, that anyone fighting the Centaurs must be evil, because
we have established the Centaurs are incapable of evil.
Does anyone remember who the biggest enemies were of the
Centaurs for a while? Yes, the Amazons! Which means the Amazons are evil!! Which
makes Gabrielle, as Queen of a villainous tribe, the head evil one. Dang! She
seemed so nice, too. *grin*
Although it would explain her channelling her inner-be-yutch
OK quibbles time – the unintentionally stupidest moment of
the episode is Gabrielle impressing Solan by hitting an ancient soccer ball with
her staff. “How did you do that?” he gushes. Frankly anyone who couldn’t hit a
target that huge would be have to be blind and built like Monty Burns.
Saddest moment of the ep was Gabrielle, having heroically
tried in vain to fight off the baddies who snatched Solan – astonishing DIY
stunt work from Ren all ep, by the way – finally finds Xena and tells her. It’s
a big moment for a newly minted sidekick. Will Xena fling her on the back of
Argo so the pair can gallop off together to take them on? Maybe Xena will tell
her where she’s going and ask her to catch up, as time’s of the essence?
Um, no, she tells her to run back to the village. Oh well.
It was good while it lasted, eh, Gabs.
On the flip side, one of the best moments of the episode
was Xena reclining in Dagnine’s tent, with all the aristocratic charisma and
presence of one used to command. It stole all the power from him, and at the
same time made the opposing actor and his character look like a total hack in
contrast. It was awesome to look at with hints of what was to come. And when
Xena smacks the sleazeball …ho yeah – whatta woman.
That was great but by far the best scene was the last one –
Xena interacting with her son, and suspecting she won’t see him again. She shows
her love for him (in her mind) by leaving him once more, none the wiser of his
true parentage so he will grow up just as he has been doing – safe and secure in
his family unit.
What sells the scene is how wonderfully Lucy acts – her
emotionally bereft look as she staggers away from her boy is a revelation. The
pain looked so raw and real. What a masterful job. It’s just such a shame the
rest of the episode didn’t attain the same high standard. It’s largely a let
They say success has many parents and failure is an orphan.
Therefore I think it lends a certain profoundness to call this episode Orphan