I know they want us to consider this
episode as a metaphor for the animal within us all, the humanity we lose when we
go to war and the depths to which we are capable of plunging in the moral abyss.
Er, right, whatever. I can get that on the nightly news. Frankly I see The
Price more as a morality tale of what happens when you have a lack of good
hair conditioner. If that doesn’t make us a little psycho, I don’t know what
does. Instead of water, the bard should have tried offering combs and a nice
cream solution that gets right into the roots.
But seriously, which I suppose I should
be with all the corpses and “Kill ’em all” warcries filling the air, I have to
ask: Exactly what drugs are the Xenabods on here?
I don’t know which is sillier –
Gabrielle running on to a battlefield with a water bottle for protection and
deciding she’s immune from danger because of, um … what was that again Gabby?
Her underpants of invincibility? Her deep frown of virtue? Because that’d be
such a sane way to go out – death by utter stupidity.
Or there’s Xena, meanwhile, seemingly
meeting up with this bunch of lazy-assed demoralised soldiers during the wrong
time of the month, going all psycho on their behalf, when she’s known them all
of two minutes. I suppose it’s the old saying – the enemy of my stranger is my
enemy. And anyone who gets in the way is on The List. Anyone. Including that
Invincibility Underpants Girl.
Let’s face it – the showdown between our
two heroes is essentially the whole point of the episode. Up till now Gabrielle
hasn’t seen Xena gather an army while convening with the Dark Side. Xena,
meanwhile, hasn’t controlled an army while having a virtuous sidekick around her
to point out all her moral failings every step of the way.
The end result was always going to end
in tears. Gabrielle can’t believe how feral Xena gets, and how she’s enjoying
herself doing naughty, naughty things. Xena can’t believe how naive her partner
is after all they’ve been through, and how disapproving she is of Xena having a
bloody (literally) good night out with the lads.
So what could possibly bring our
star-crossed gals back together again? Why, it’s water. Yes, water. For some
reason – despite the fact the crazy natives are virtually surrounded by it, swim
up and down it, and bob for warriors in it, there seems to be a shortage of it
whenever they go into battle.
Enter the bard – with her water skin,
good intentions, virtuous frown and precious little else, to show her
power-tripping comrade there is a code of honour among savage beasties. We know
this purely because they don’t instantly kill the only water carrier within 5km.
Everyone note Xena’s incredulous fury and exasperation at this unbelievable
foolishness. Yep, that was my expression, too.
Nonetheless, based on Gabrielle not
being julienned within three seconds, Xena concludes not only don’t these wicked
savages kill people bearing water, but they have an intricate power hierarchy of
whom they do kill. She divines further that they will also kill a leader if he
fails to kill an enemy leader and will not poke knives in the back of any winner
of such a bout. Again, I ask, what drugs are the writers on? This was like the
anti-exposition scene – no explanations needed, and just fight some more if it
makes no sense.
Well enough of the bad, let’s talk about
the good. Subtexters are particularly fond of one scene in all this – where Xena
catches herself as she says to the bard: “You understand hatred but you have
never given in to it. You don’t know how much I love … ‘that’.” We all knew who
“that” was. Including Gabrielle who offers stunned silence for once. I’d have
liked a close up of the bard’s reaction there, but can’t win ’em all.
My subtexter’s heart went awww, thud all
If there’s one thing that you can take
away from both this scene and this episode it’s that Lucy can completely sell
any emotion. Whether it’s her “I smell a turd” glare of appalled disgust,
regrettably used on her bard more than once this episode, or her heart-breaking
“What have I done, forgive me” looks hinting at fear and love, you can totally
I like that she admits she’s gone too
far, with her eyes at least … but to give the credit to the water being the key
to success made me laugh aloud. Yes, of course, the water did it. All hail the
The truly stupid thing about this entire
episode, if you can firstly buy Xena just marching in and elbowing command right
off the “elite of the Athenian army”, is that for the most part the warrior
princess was exactly right. It was “them or us”. It was war, not glamour.
It was all tactics and darkness not innocence and naivety that would keep them
safe. Gabrielle didn’t have to like it, but Xena was right. Creepy psycho right,
sure, but right.
The bottom line is Gabrielle therefore
got lucky. The next barbarian could just as easily have slit her throat. Yet
Xena takes from this that the next wars will be fought by diplomats like
Gabrielle. Uh huh. Sure they will, sweetie.
Those bad-hair boys will more likely run
away, do rock, paper, scissors for a new leader and be back looking for more
conditioner before you can say “Is that a bone in your nose or did you snort a
But then if you’re going to trowel on a
message, guess you’d better make it a pacifist one, right Xenabods? Cos the
“wars are a dirty business” line just doesn’t sound so good to finish on.
Meanwhile, I know I could also go on
about the quibbles of Gabrielle bandaging men’s arms over their clothing (yeah,
that’ll really help the wound) and Pavlovian dog Xena going bad-ass nasty on the
bard every single time she smells blood, but let’s face it that’s not what the
episode is about.
If we take anything from it, it should
be this – two people with completely opposite positions on life, love, hordes
and the universe can still be together. They can get past the anger and
mistakes, some enormous, some small, and reach the love that repeatedly brings
them together in the end. Now that’s a message worth taking away forever. And
that in itself is worth paying The Price.
This is my final Xena review of all time. All of the episodes have now
been reviewed. Thanks for the friendships, the fun, the emails and everything in
between over the many years. – Sheryl-Lee Kerr.