Season 5, Episode 13
September 27, 2000
Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr
RATING: 5.5 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Chris Manheim. Directed by Mark Beesley.
PASSING PARADE: Kevin Smith (Ares); Ted Raimi (Joxer); Natalie Duggan (Artemis' Priestess Tira); Peter Sa'ena-Brown (Apollo's Priest Tazor); Matthew Dwyer (Poseidon's Priest Orcas); Patrick Iwobi (Magi 1); Grant Boucher (Magi 2); Barbara Cartwright (Magi 3).
STORY SO FAR: The gods come after Xena and Eve. Joxer is poisoned and Gabrielle must help him reach a tree with the antidote.
DISCLAIMER: Ares' virility was harmed during the production of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: The will of gods chase scene in the opener. "The gods are throwing everything they've got at us!" One wily tornado courtesy of the clever special effects guys and nineteen, yes I counted them, lightning bolts. But what they made up for in drama they lacked in accuracy, the only casualty was one very fried tree. No wonder these guys are on the way out.
The backhander Xena gives Ares when he sneaks up on her and Eve. She then swings around and drives her knuckles into his face. Nice move, but I want to know is - how is it he feels punches, but swords just slide through him leaving not a scratch?!
Gabrielle's scroll flying high as a kite to alert Xena to her whereabouts. Only trouble is, from where Xena was standing, the scroll should have been the size of a pinprick. A nice little entree to the following fight scene full of implausibilities;
1. The three temple armies queueing up to take on Xena and Gabrielle. Very polite of them to take a number and wait their turn. But wouldn't it have made more sense to just swarm them?!
2. One of Artemis' babes, jabbing her spear in the direction of Xena, with the pointy end facing the wrong way.
3. Implausible becomes impossible, when Xena takes time out to; find a piece of rope(which appeared miraculously), throw it over a branch, tie the end to Eve, and winch her up, all the while not one guard attacked her.
4. Keep an eye on the background every time Xena or Gabs are involved in a one on one dual. Rather than join in the attack and make this a much shorter day for everyone, the other guards just ran back and forth at no one in particular.
The freeze frame catching Gabrielle about to slit a guard's throat with a serrated edge sword. Nice choice of blade there Gabs, but is that really the bard's style?
"Never fails, right in the middle of dinner. Dont worry, Ill keep it warm for you." Xena, breastfeeding Eve, discovers thugs have no clue about dining etiquette.
"Joxer, you led three killers to Eve." If you think that's bad Gabrielle -- wait, there's more -- "We were attacked by a fierce warrior woman -- with a baby." Yes, that's right, he's just alerted Artemis' army to Xena's presence in the valley.
"Why is everybody telling me to think?! I think, I just don't show it." See above.
"There's a mandrake tree at the north end of the valley." Uh huh. "Its resin is the only known cure." Right Xena. "I can make a poultice, which should slow the poison up..." Bewdy. "Long enough for you to make it there if you ride hard." Woohoo! Only trouble is Joxer and Gabrielle didn't ride hard, they ambled to the mandrake tree, even stopping to argue along the way.
"I kinda miss your long hair, you know, you used to wear it up, like a princess, or braided like a warrior." Huh? Hope that was Joxer's delirium setting in, otherwise who ever he was remembering was not Gabrielle. Sounds more like Meg actually.
"How come there was never an 'us' Gabrielle?" Had to feel sorry for Joxer on this one. For who among us has not felt the pain of unrequited love?
"I knew this had your stink all over it." Xena elevates Ares' standing from rat to the heady heights of skunk.
Gabrielle: "You're sot hot."
Joxer: "Mmm...you're not so bad yourself."
Joxer: "You're so beautiful Gabrielle, did I ever tell you that?"
Gabrielle: "You're very ill Joxer."
Joxer: "Why didn't you love me Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle: "I do love you, it's just not the way that you wanted, I guess."
This whole episode had the feel of backplot and buildup, as though were waiting for something to happen -- namely the Twilight of the Gods -- and it aint here yet. Drums fingers impatiently.
Theyre merely marking the passage of time and, as such, you could condense all of it into a five minute montage showing Xena and Gabs running, dodging and fighting off attacks by gods and their minions. The Ares "make me a daddy" offer could have easily been incorporated as a small subplot of a future episode; and the Joxer/Gabrielle feelings issue could have, in fact should have, been sorted out in Animal Attraction -- or earlier.
Given the whole episode is thus, well largely dispensible, its hard to get too inspired about it. In fact its one of those episodes that two weeks from now, if someone asks you what Eternal Bonds was about, youd probably scratch your head in puzzlement. I know I have.
The only other new stuff it offers is a glimpse of Xenas life with bub now -- namely her breastfeeding Eve (gods, if I never see a dirty diaper fight sequence again, itll be too soon), a lullaby (I loved this, even if Lucy later claimed she sounded awful), doing a junior Eagle Scout routine with Eve "and thats how you lay a false trail" (tres cute) and questioning whether this is any life for a baby.
The latter point was sooo glossed over, even if it was a common theme throughout the episode -- using the blood on the baby to make the point. They try to ask how morally right it is to expose Eve to such violence. I got the impression raising this issue was less for Xenas benefit than the audience. Xena has clearly already made up her mind on this. She comments more than once at the end of the episode, and without too much subtlety, that making a stance is something that must be done.
I dont know if I buy that argument -- I mean hey, even in ancient Greece theyd have had babysitters and its not like Eve is so identifiable to the gods that she has GOD KILLER tattooed on her forehead... So it actually is possible to take a stance AND not expose their child to violence, by leaving her in someones safe custody while doing the daily blood-and-guts routine. Despite what Xena and Gabrielle seem to conclude, the two things (taking a stance and protecting ones child) arent mutually exclusive.
Itd be more believable if Xena made reference of how she was too scared to let Eve out of her sight with all those gods on the loose; or that she was desperate to be with this child all the time after what happened to Solan. But to imply Eve has to be there because her Mum is busy making the world safer isnt actually quite the point.
The new life with Eve angle actually took up less than four minutes of the episode. It could have been looked at a lot more, given this is the first time since Eves birth we see what Xenas like as a mum, and how the baby has changed things for her. She says in the previous episode that nothing will be the same. Well, based on this episode, shes not exactly right -- if it werent for the gods going after them like a pack of rottweilers scoping a tennis ball, things seemed pretty much exactly the same.
Im wondering if that wasnt a wasted opportunity to do something more and original (no, I dont mean incorporating diaper tossing as a chakram replacement) given they actually have some new material to work with now.
Well on to the loose-end-tying up. Joxer -- how does he always know where to find Xena, anyway? And he just happened to be in the cave they sheltered in? In all of ancient Greece? No wonder Xena was suspicious of his friends -- for only someone with divine intervention could be that freakishly lucky.
Finally, and about damn time, too, Gabrielle has that chat with Joxer, heavens knows how long after hes confessed his love to her. It was really shabby form her waiting that long. I mean Xena and Gabrielle both attempted to sort out lovesick Hower from A Day in the Life before sun down.
So Joxer finally hears what he always has known deep down -- that shell never love him the way he loves her. And we hear what many probably never suspected, that, to quote Gabrielle: "I wish I did". Huh? Maybe Gabrielle was in be-nice rejection mode. I cant see her ever wishing for that.
This plot arc resolved several Joxer issues -- why does he always blindly run in to save Gabrielle? Because watching her fight without lifting a finger is harder. They did that parallel scene rather cleverly and the moment Gabrielle works out what Joxer is doing for her is no different to how she is with Xena was pretty good. You can almost hear her go: "Oh!"
But I hardly think that warrants her declaring shes a bitch. (I note Joxer didnt disagree!)
I give Joxer points here -- he actually laid that verbal trap for Gabrielle and outwitted her! Every Joxer has his day, hmm.
Prior to this scene, their arguing was also well written and acted and I liked the realism of these two people in close quarters becoming increasingly frustrated with the other, to the point theyre starting to get snappy. Naturally it was all resolved by the final credits... yeah right.... but prior to this I really bought it as believable.
Just wondering if this mightnt be the perfect episode in which to give Joxer some character development and let him mature a bit as the others have. After all, hes had a brush with death and finally laid out all his cards with the woman he loves. His life does not get any more clear cut and in focus as it has this day.
Id have been impressed if he announced at the end of the episode he was going off by himself for a bit to have a think about his life -- making us wonder how and where he would re-present himself and what he might have changed about it (presumably these changes would be even more entertaining).
But thatd never happen -- gods forbid the comic relief should have any sort of character development....
And speaking of character development, Ares has changed tactics. This was hinted at in God Fearing Child and here he spells out that he wants Xena for her gene pool and incubator properties. Yet he also indicates it is personal as well. Im starting to think he should pick a story and stick to it, for hell never convince Xena hes not two-faced with so many mixed messages.
Xena seemed to be a little, er, overwhelmed by the subliminal "hi how are yas" Ares kept sending her -- indicating he does more than talk the talk when it comes to the bedroom. Although I argue if you have to sell the product, whats wrong with it, hmm?!
On this note, can a god make you feel something you dont want to feel? He can send Xena these images, sure, but can he send her the accompanying arousal? Prior to this Id have said, no way. After all if gods could manipulate human emotions, Ares would have long ago convinced Xena she loved him. This being the case, her response to Ares seems to be all hers -- a new development I find not only out of character but totally unexpected. It seems to be implying that all this time that shes had this convincing hate relationship with Ares (a god who symbolises for her the evil path she once tread), shes apparently been masking that on the inside its really been lust/hate. I find this out-of-the-blue character rewriting slightly disturbing. But Ill have to wait to see if they do anything more with this arc. I really hope not, because consistency is bad enough as it is without Xena suddenly turning into Mavican.
Moving right along ... lusty thoughts aside, Xena calls Ares her worst nightmare. But he doesnt seem too troubled by this. Maybe he should take a leaf out of Joxers book on how to handle rejection gracefully. Although I imagine Ares, unlike Joxer, is completely unused to rejection and is taking the "she just needs time" philosophy. Typical.
Incidentally, for those wondering why on earth Xena, Joxer and Gabrielle had to split up even though they were headed for the same destination, Ares is the reason. Sure by splitting up, all Gabrielle does is worry more about Xena and it puts the Warrior Princess in more jeopardy without her partner for back-up. And sure Xena was the only one who knew the way. And yes its a little silly to presume Joxer and Xena couldnt have gone together if it was an issue of speed and the fact they only had two horses (although Argo could have carried both Xena and Joxer if they wanted to all go).
But they did it this way so Xena would be alone. Seduction scenes with Ares and Xena would not have been the same with a scowling bard shooting the god icy glares and a semi conscious Joxer watching and waving at him insensibly from two feet away.
And it also forced Gabrielle to confront Joxer alone -- something shed been avoiding.
So from this writing perspective it made sense. From any other it was crazy, in that it wasnt really explained and Xena was placed in danger.
Speaking of this, frankly, given Apollo, Artemis and Poseidon cant kill one iddy bitty baby then they probably deserve to go down historys gurgler...Hey, I know shes Xena -- but theyre gods. With their temples best armies!
But what was impressive was all those troops converging. I do actually recall wondering how anyone could get out of this one. Hell, it looked like more soldiers in there than in One Against An Army. But then I neednt have worried: I had forgotten the golden rule of the Xenaverse -- its not how many fighters you face but who you kill. That is, once Xena had killed the three leaders of the temples, the followers did not respond with the expected outraged, lusty cries for revenge as they then surged forward to exact it. Rather they immediately ran away, tails between legs and presumably were thinking, if not saying, the shows badguy catchcry of: "Lets get outta here, shes too much for us". Shoulda known.
All in all, this was an episode of gentle, loose-end tying and bone-crunching gods on the warpath. Im glad Joxers been talked to; a little intrigued by Aress offer (but more disturbed by Xenas lusty response) and impressed Xena is still unshaken by facing down three gods armies while juggling a baby (literally).
Would I watch this episode over and over, though? Unlikely. Theres simply not enough meat on the bone for that. It was a nice interlude, but wholly predictable and with scope for much more.
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