Season 5, Episode 16
September 28, 2000
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 2.5 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Teleplay by RJ Stewart, George Strayton and Tom O'Neill. Directed by Paul Grinder and Michael Hurst.
PASSING PARADE: Danielle Cormack (Samsara); Kate Elliot (Yakut); Karl Urban (Kor); Claudia Black (Leader of Almost Amazons); Shelley Edwards (Cyane); Selma Blair (Utma); Monica McSwain (Amazon).
STORY SO FAR: Rob Tapert re-edits another show and calls it a Xena episode...er, I mean, Xena and Gabrielle try to restore an Amazon tribes to its true path.
DISCLAIMER: Warning: The Surgeon General confirms practising weird and grotesque Amazon rituals may be hazardous to your health.
REWIND FOR: The first flashback scene of the Samites and the Almost Amazons clashing. Was that someone's head, I saw a Samite gnawing on?! Where's a nice chianti and some faver beans when you need them? Fffffff........
Cyane informing Xena and Gabrielle that Amarice is MIA. Keep your eye on Eve, a definite warrior in the making as she plays with Gabrielle's dagger. Not able to walk yet, but at least she knows not to handle sharp pointy things by their blades -- take note Gabrielle.
The Samites done up like rejects from a Kiss concert with their painted faces. Can this episode get any more tacky?! No wonder Rob Tapert deep-sixed this pilot. The year wasn't a total waste after all.
The final scene when Gabrielle gives Eve her right of caste. The close-up revealed a baby looking more like Steve than Eve. I can understand Lucy wanting her newborn bub nearby and all. Not to mention saving on hiring someone else's rugrat. Right Rob? But even to a rank amateur, that kid is soooo obviously a boy. *g*
"How could we have strayed so far?" Indeed. Cyane's words echoed throughout the Xenaverse, as she gave the show's creative types their epitaph for season five of Xena.
The first time I saw Lifeblood I was baffled beyond compare. This is not a good response to have to any show...but its a spectacularly bad one when a regular viewer cant make head or tail of it. What was with that weird Valley Girl just bopping into the picture like a reject from Sliders? What was with Danielle Cormack (Ephiny) back as a more feral Amazon of another name? Why was Karl Urban (Caesar/Cupid) in the scene, too, as a barely civilised caveman, son to the chief of a tribe of cannibals?
Why did all this seem to have so little to do with Xena and Gabrielle, and, well the whole show?
I found out much later it was because this was never written initially as a Xena ep at all but rather the pilot of a Rob Tapert show dubbed Amazon High. He chickened out on the pilot despite network approval and they never went ahead with the series.
So whats a lad to do with all that marvy but totally unrelated footage? What indeed, when you have another show that sort of hangs around Amazon country anyway...
Why, yes, of course, do a massive rewrite, make it look like youre retelling Amazon history, dress it up as a Xena episode and none of those silly Xena fans will be any the wiser, right? Theyll probably even applaud you on all the effort obviously expended on all those long, long fight scenes with two lots of people theyve never seen before and dont give two hoots about, right?
This particular fan takes great exception over our show being used as the dumping ground for any other shows out-takes and spiked storylines, regardless of how similar the shows settings might be. Even not knowing its back history, we were not fooled and many fans noticed something was up big time.
This also sets an appalling precedent. What will we get next week? The leftover footage too stupid for Young Hercules? They can just explain all those muscled, blond alpha teen lads bonding and high fiving each other as an "Amazon prom" episode, with, and heres the really neat twist, NO AMAZONS. Clever, huh? Another Emmy laugh moment for sure.
And then, if you have Gabrielle do the voiceover like shes written it all up in a scroll and get her to say the word "Xena" three or four times, man those fans will be lapping it up and convinced it was always meant to be this way. (By the way Gabs, glad to see youre over the writers block, girlfriend),
I say again, I am gobsmacked that they would do such a thing on Xena. This show should be no-ones cess pit, dammit. And the fact the shows own makers regard it as such says a lot. Treat the show with contempt like this and youre basically relieving yourself on the fans.
And forcing this on us in a "like it or not, who cares" mentality, is about as smart as dumping Married With Fishsticks on us simply because someone else thought it was clever -- regardless of how unrelated to the concept of Xena it is and what the fans think, and want.
But on with the show -- such as it was. Ill stick largely to reviewing the Xena content of Lifeblood, here, because I never signed up as the Amazon High episode reviewer...
First up, that opening scene. It was deceptive because it looked like, gasp, Xena and Gabrielle were having a conversation that was lasting more than 30 seconds and didnt involve Xena screaming battle orders to Gabrielle or fetch-and-carry directives.
But I celebrated too soon. The dialogue was simply absurd. Gabrielle is offering Eve right of caste. And Xenas reply is as though shes just met Gabrielle, rather than had her as a companion for five years: "I used to think I had to go through life alone so I deserted my home and family for violence..."
Um, okay, and what has this got to do with the price of grapes in Thebes?
Gabrielle, you know, does know the Xena history of 10 seasons ago by now...
Whatever happened to a simple thank you and getting right to the heart of how her daughter will always have a place to fit in?
I kept half expecting Gabrielle to respond in kind and say to the Warrior Princess: "You know, Xena, I wasnt always a bard or an Amazon Queen. There was a time when I knew nothing of fighting, when I grew up in a small village called Poteidia. Maybe youve heard of it?..."
Of course Id better shut up here or the Xena writers may be taking notes for their next scintillating one-on-one X&G dialogue moment. *g*
Actually Xenas line was just a case of plot establishment -- didnt matter how dumb it sounded or who she was talking to. Xena was giving us the blood and guts history again as an introduction for what is to come. Here she thinks shes initiating Eve into a happy community to spare her from the bloody, lonely life she had; and the irony is shes having her placed in a society which encourages carnage, revenge and horsey hurting. Noooo!
Moving right along. Gabrielle as queen. I dont really understand why she is.
Gabrielle is the queen of the Greek Amazons -- you know, Ephinys crowd. She is out of her jurisdiction here. I get that shes been temporarily ordained by this tribe in order to pass her right of caste on to Eve. Perhaps only an active queen can declare her replacement. But this makes no sense. Melosa was queen when Gabrielle was given right of caste by Melosas dying heir Tereyus. And, really, if there were any rituals involved, Gabrielle should be carrying them out at her own village with her Amazons.
This would also make a whole lot more sense given they were back in Greece last episode. But no, they had to turn right around and head back to the Steppes in Eurasia for Yakuts Amazons to perform this rite? O-kaayyy.
This would make sense if the only reason for Gabrielle becoming queen of Yakuts tribe was if her intention was that Eve become queen of these Amazons.
In which case, can she just march in there and declare that? Oh hi, Im Gabrielle and I want my friends daughter to be queen of your village when she grows up! Well the Amazons might have something to say about that -- especially given the girls mother is not a person they even recognise as an Amazon! Did she even ask?
But if this was the goal -- for Eve to be queen of these Amazons -- it would at least make more sense as to why they would then have to first make Gabrielle their queen. If this is what was going on, Gabs really staged a coup de tat, here, and bowled in and appointed herself queen by stealth -- under the guise of getting Eve the gig later.
I really hope Im just missing some more complete explanation but this seems just plain crazy!
Interesting to see Xena is still not an Amazon. In Gabrielles tribe I rather thought the Warrior Princess had made honorary status there, given they tried to give her a full feathers salute, fiery send-off when she died in Destiny/The Quest. And given Xena has some pull with that tribes young queen (*grin*), I sort of just assumed Gabrielle had anointed her an amazon somewhere along the way. Guess not, huh.
I was sorry to see Yakut is dead and Amarice is missing, believed dead, but I couldnt believe how much our heroes underplayed the news on both. I dont know about the rest of you, but if I travelled with someone for even a day or two, Id be so incredibly shocked if I later heard theyd died, that itd really cause me to sit and think about it for a bit; to talk about them with others and ponder the whole kit and caboodle that is life.
Amarice travelled with Xena and Gabrielle for so much more than a few days; she broke bread with them; fought beside them; saved their lives had her life saved by them; and was with them, waiting, when they returned from the dead. Gabrielle even made a big scene about giving her her special Amazon Queen beads.
And their reaction on hearing Amarice is presumed dead was like, "mmm, sad, but lets just talk about Eves blessing."
Shockingly poor! And Yakut, Xena was very close to and fond of, again, its like, "tough break, kid".
Maybe with so many of the best characters dying on Xena and then staying undead, its getting a bit hard for these two to be so moved by death -- that one-time great one-way ticket -- anymore.
True to form, Yakut is clearly not entirely dead, her little ghostly antlers still glistening in the real-world. I am getting a little annoyed by how many visions Xena sees these days. Time to check the nutbread for traces of henbane, methinks. As a plot point its soooo starting to wear thin.
Anyway, now we see Xena has to help Yakut complete her mission -- to correct the tribes bloody history and traditions which were perverted when one woman took her personal anger too far. Hence all the blood imagery we get when Gabrielle is bopping about in the ceremony, gazing ever lunarwards, earning her stripes (literally), under the direction of Michael (Ioalus) Hurst.
So Xena goes after the horse-head stick which I have dubbed the Super Zappy Mystic Stick (expialadosis) because when you hold it up, it just knows it has to shine white and give exactly the right ancient film footage bites to the assembled gathering. (Its psychic like that.)
Cue the Amazon High stuff. Back to Gabrielle. More AH. Over to Xena.
Are we having fun yet?
Theres one final burst of Amazon High melodrama at the end which I cant ignore (much as Id like to) as it is establishing the reason for this women-only tribe being formalised as such -- and presumably starting the Amazon way of life everywhere. They conclude that this particular village will henceforth honor its dead menfolk by essentially barring men. Huh? And theyll honor them even more by changing the proud name of the villagers to that of Amazons. Excuse me?!
I dont know too many men who would get warm and fuzzies knowing women are honoring them but not letting men in their presence! Nor do I know many men who would actually want the long-standing name of their community changed; especially to a word that essentially means "one breast". (Tradition has it the early Amazon warriors cut off one breast to make it easier for them to draw the bow back fully when hunting. Early witnesses reportedly used the word that means that -- Amazon -- to describe them to others. Hence the name for all-women tribes became Amazons.)
If this men-honoring nonsense is not the most half-assed reason to become a women-only tribe then Married With Fishsticks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort. Surely they could have come up with a better reason than that? And it doesnt explain the other Amazon villages that sprung up. Surely theyre not also honoring this villages dead men??
God help us if they get any more illogical.
Ah what the hell, in for a dinar, in for a tax debt... The writers were just begging to be strung up by their plot lines for their dialogue inconsistencies.
"You mounted a swift one! Nobody has ever dared to do that." Swift one? Hello? Okay so clearly they havent named their animals yet....
Or have they? "Let's keep going, we can slaughter them like sheep now".
Maybe they just dont like to name their dinner -- and they seem to eat horsies and perhaps only metaphorically slaughter sheep?
And yet: "...the tree that carries the hard red fruit." How is it that the Almost Amazons language is not yet advanced enough for them to be specific about fruit, but they know a four-legged furry animal that goes well with mint sauce is a sheep?! Shakes head. I give up.
But back to the most delightful part of this episode -- the bit where its almost over. Woohoo! Were with our Yakut tribe again and everyone looks all apologetic and knows that fighting is wrong thanks to the super zappy mystic stick (and not as Gabrielle laughably claims, a childs innocence and Xenas wisdom). Bad amazons. Naughty amazons. But theyll be good now theyve seen the ghosts of Christmas past.
Yeah, yeah, whatever.
I must say this was a dud through and through and a big disappointment. Everyone was just going through the motions and it showed. If Lucy Lawless looked any more bored wed hear her snoring -- drowned out only by Renees yawning. Not that I blame them -- this one gets laid directly at the feet of the poor sucker writer trying to marry it with an existing story that doesnt fit. Or more to the point, the idiot asking for the unholy wedlock in the first place.
Im just glad no white horseys were harmed during the making of this atrocity.
Im also delighted Xena and Gabrielle were witnessed alone and talking -- even if they are back to season one introductory speeches. "Hi, Gabrielle, Im Xena. You may remember me from such rampages as Rage Against Caesar, How Red is Your Bloodbath and Where Did All the Villagers Go...."
Ill be gladder if they never bother returning us to this Amazon tribe again for they are an unspectacular group, with dubious Rocky & Bullwinkle fashion sense; and few of whom we can even name now that Amarice and Yakut are gone. If the Xenaverse can just stop their lazy urges to kill off popular cast members Ill be gladdest of all.
But Ill be positively estatic if this episode self combusts and never sees the light of day again.
Oh yeah, and Eve, welcome to the Amazons, princess.
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