Season 5, Episode 2
September 11, 2000
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 6.5 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Chris Manheim. Directed by Doug Lefler.
PASSING PARADE: Kevin Smith (Ares); Ted Raimi (Joxer); Antonio Te Maioho (Kal); Tim Omundson (Eli); Jennifer Sky (Amarice); Mark Rounthwaite (Kalib).
STORY SO FAR: Xena has been reincarnated without any badness in her or memory of it. Two rival gods of war, attempt to use the Warrior Princess to get hold of a special chakram, which kills all who are not pure who touch it. Meanwhile, Gabrielle discovers her true path.
DISCLAIMER: Xena's dark and violent past was restored during the production of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Gabrielle's entrance, at the market, in her new, improved eye-popping outfit. They grow up so fast...
Gabrielle demonstrating an (un?)natural talent for sharp pointy things, as she deftly swishes her new daggers with nary a minute's practice.
Dig the new chakram. But I notice Xena has also got Gabrielles trick of not reading the weapons user instructions but knowing how it works anyway... She didnt even LOOK at them when she put the chakrams together that first time, but she still grabbed for the centre bar, knowing instinctively that when you merge two chakrams, thats what appears!
Kaleb's house appearing as a definite candidate for rising damp as it sits atop a huge waterfall. Location, location, location...
Joxer narrowly missing Xena's naked form in silhouette and then in full view, as she climbs into a bath. To quote the bard: 'Timing is everything'.
Amarice's sneaky high-wire routine (to the tune of the Mission: Impossible theme) being foiled by her shadow on the ground. Shoulda checked the weather report before you tried that one, huh?
"...You better ask Joxer, he's the only one with any money." Xena, recently returned from the afterlife, confirms for us that you really can't take it with you.
"Joxer! Help Xena!" Gabrielle delivering the kiss of death to her soul mate.
"Stop it! You're not a child, you're a warrior! When are you going to remember that and start acting normal?!" Amarice experiencing a full-blown panic attack when she realises the old brown mare, in the guise of a passive Xena, ain't what she used to be.
"The way of love is not for me." Gabrielle formally resigns from Elis Barmy Army.
"Of course, you could just kiss the girl..." Xena experiencing a flashback, with a wistful smile.
"Xena? Are you praying?" Gabrielle smells a rat.
"...But when I asked for a sign to show that I was doing the right thing -- you showed up." I think this is where I came in -- Xena thanks Gabrielle, as we are treated to a not-so-subtle lesson about the "circle of life".
Gabrielle: "We're back together."
Xena: "Living with me must have been a nightmare for you."
Gabrielle: "You had your moments."
Xena: "Thanks Gabrielle."
Gabrielle: "For what?"
Xena: "For pointing the way back to my rotten old self."
Gabrielle: "It's a pleasure."
Gabrielle: "You know what they say -- timing is everything."
Xena: "Yeah, well -- not everything, there's love."
Death can be such a pain. One minute youre in feathers and halos, next minute youre part of Beelzebubs spittle army, complete with hooves and horns and questionable hygiene habits.... the next youre alive, trying to work out what the round killing thing is people keep shoving in your face.
But the price you pay for playing hard and dying beautiful in the Xenaverse is that nothing entirely makes sense, not even death. But hey, what do we care, as long as Gabs and Xena are alive and, well, at least one of them is kicking.
This episode is all about that old axiom: Be careful what you wish for ... for you just might get it. Its something Gabrielle is rather startled to learn for herself as she says to Eli: "Its ironic -- right now Xena is everything that I always wanted her to be. But without her dark side shes lost, shes off-balance."
This episode also revisits a lot of the Indian arc questions raised -- and finally answers them all:
Is Gabrielle on the right path, the path of love? No.
What is her right path? To fight by Xenas side. Or, as Gabrielle puts it: "My path is with Xena, helping her however I can. Ill do whatever I have to do to protect her."
And the episode seems to nudge each character an obvious step further down the road towards their future reincarnated selves -- where Xena will one day be reborn as a mother of peace and Gabrielle a fierce warrior. While, at the time that episode (Between The Lines) aired, such roles seemed ludicrous for the characters ... now it seems more than plausible, given the changes each character has undergone. (I should add however that the whole idea of preparing, even unknowingly, in one life for a reincarnated life to come, is not in any of the karmic teachings Ive ever heard of.)
Gabrielle has suddenly discovered she has both the will and the destiny to fight now -- no more cleaning up the leftover thugs, or stepping in mid-way through fights when Xena seems in trouble. Now she leaps in boots and all at the first bad guys leer and twitch.
On the flipside, Xena now finds the idea of violence abhorrent (thanks to some divine intervention). So they both appear on course to their next lifes characters.
But back to our (literally) death-defying duo...
I found it shocking to see Xena go down like a sack of potatoes in a fight, her nose bloodied, jaw smarting. Sometimes the unexpected helplessness of a hero can be more chilling than seeing them face an entire horde of Persian soldiers.
And then there was Gabrielles transformation. No more the pacifist. But its more than that, too. Whether Elis god decided to give Gabrielle her nifty pow-bam-wham dagger fighting skills as a little death-farewell present, or she always had them and had never had the will to tap into them properly before, is a matter of debate. But it did seem surprising to see her kicking butt with a ferocity unmatched in her usual streetbrawls -- and all while wielding entirely unfamiliar weapons with the ease of a Hong Kong martial arts guru. Not that I am complaining ... she looked fantastic. And believable. Xenas equal without doubt. (Thank god, the icing-sugar blowing thingy went the way of Archangel Gabriel.)
Her new outfit is also as cool as Xenas is, well, flouncy. Xena, sweetie, darl, its nice if youre in The Miss Known-World Beauty Contest ... but remember your profession, hon. I couldnt help but wonder if Xenad been raiding her triplet, Dianas, wardrobe....
Even Gabrielle felt the need to say: "Whats with that look?"
One hopes her fashion tastes return with her marbles.
But I digress. The concept behind this episode is not exactly new. Heck, it was the entire point to the season one episode Dreamworker, that essentially argued Xena needs her bad side to be the woman she is -- to become whole, complete ... and effective.
Its a point Gabrielle makes beautifully, thanks to some very nice writing:
Xena: Restoring that darkness, my violence, can that really be good?
Gabrielle: I think its vital. I know that sounds strange coming from me. I think you have to know the darkest part of yourself to be whole.
Xena: But this way I harm no one.
Gabrielle: But Xena, what about the people who harm others? Xena you have this balance of darkness and lightness -- without both of those, the very best of you is defenceless.
And its true -- without Xenas bad-ass streak, she is lacking.... and Im not just talking about the fashion stakes.
So what exactly has she lost? Everyone sees it differently. I love this bit -- all the other characters try to verbalise exactly how Xena is now different, and it gives as much insight into the speakers as well as what theyre saying about the now addled Warrior Princess:
Gabrielle to Xena: "Its like youve lost your...
Amarice: Fire, edge
Chuckle. Interestingly, Amarice seems most frustrated by Xenas change. Where Gabrielle is patient and understanding and Joxer is fatalistic, and Eli is driven to find the reason/cure -- thanks to a highly unbelievable guilt trip (how could anyone feel like a failure after RAISING THE DEAD -- TWICE?! ), Amarice is downright grumpy, telling Xena off several times... "youre not a child"...
The reason is simple. Xena is Amarices hero -- and probably has her on a bit of a pedestal. And one of the hardest things is to see is your hero is not behaving hero-like at all, and thus not being "worthy" of your adoration. Amarice wants her Xena back on that pedestal... NOW. She doesnt like the new Xena one little bit and sees nothing amusing or cool about her. Because thats not the hero she has in her mind when she thinks of Xena. To her -- the new Xena woman is a wimp and nothing would rate lower on Amarices scale of appeal.
Onto the quibbles. It seemed there were too many little many dramas being played out in this, and too many characters in our faces. Lets look at the whole catastrophe:
YOU have Joxer admitting his love for Gabrielle.
YOU have the Indiana Jones temple challenge theme, involving Brother Kaleb, Xena, miscellaneous chakrams and some unexplained yin and yang adventurey concept deal.
TWO warring gods of war (well that figures), one of whom (Ares) also pops up all the time to influence good Xena -- but, er, how, exactly? With the quality of his shoulder massages? I mean its not like he made Xena any offers -- he seemed to be there more for his voyeuristic fill...
YOU have everyone suddenly talking about and fighting with new and different weapons.
YOU have Amarice having her Xena pedestal issues; as well as Eli having his "where did I go wrong?" issues, plus "poor Kaleb, I knew him well" stuff.
AND just to really mess up everything, Xenas a few raw prawns short of a backyard barbie and cant even recall who the Roman who had her crucified was. (Ill give you a hint, hes a tasty salad as long as you hold the anchovies.)
THROW in minions of the gods of war attacking them all at regular intervals and frankly this plot was always destined to look like a dogs dinner. That it turned out as well as it did was almost by accident than design.
However, buried amid this canine chow, were some absolute gem moments - but with so much else going on you had to be focused to catch it.
Take in the look on Xenas face when she killed god of war Kal to save Gabrielle.
At this moment she is a purely good soul who has murdered another being. And it shows. It reminded me of the reaction Gabrielle went through in The Deliverer when the bard made her first kill. Even if it was to save another, she was deeply distressed. Lucy Lawless didnt let that scene go by without injecting some real pain and shock into her face. I love the message though -- nothing, not even a 100% do-no-evil heart will prevent Xena from killing for Gabrielle when she needed it. In other words, she can overcome anything to save the bard.
Another gem was at the very start of the episode. Kudos all round for Xena and Gabrielle coming to and looking suitably shocked to the bone. "Were back. Together" the bard says. "Always," replies Xena with a certainty.
Up there, but no gem, was poor Joxer trying to get his romantic words out mid fight to Gabs. Little did he realise that when Eli told him to have no expectations, hed really have to follow that part slavishly. I mean how could it get worse for the dude: Finally spitting it out and Gabrielle not only doesnt reply but BOLTS off to go save Xena.
Sheesh -- timing Joxer. But that was pretty nicely acted by Ted Raimi.
On this note, a subtext moment that wasnt quite milked properly came just before this, where Xena is in the tub offering advice to the Jox on how to win over Gabrielle.
After he leaves she mutters: Of course you could just kiss the girl.
I gathered it was sort of supposed to be ambiguous to imply that Xena knows this works on Gabrielle...or, for those who dont see the subtext, it could equally be taken as a generic piece of advice.
But for once I thought Lucy didnt quite get the line out right, and it sort of died in the ass as to however it was supposed to be said. It felt like something was missing. Probably the problem with Xena having that scrambled-eggs-on-toast brain...
In sum, the special effects and the snatched speeches were actually quite good -- like Xenas prayer; Gabrielle talking about the need for balancing Xenas good and bad. Joxers love declaration perhaps could have been left to another episode, but the dude has obviously been bottling it up and saw his chance.
The downside -- too much confusion, and way too many characters and subplots.
But lastly, next time they pickle Xenas brain they should remember, being good doesnt make you childlike or silly. It just makes you good. End of story.
Finally, Im sure Gabrielles learned to be very careful about what she wishes for now....
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