THEM BONES, THEM BONES
Season 5, Episode 5
THIS EPISODE WILL NOT BE SCREENED IN AUSTRALIA
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 4 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Buddy Williers [Stephen L. Sears].
Directed by John Fawcett.
PASSING PARADE: Claire Stansfield (Alti); Jennifer Sky (Amarice); Kate Elliott (Yakut); Donogh Rees (Chi'ah); Beryl Te Wiata (Midwife); Rachel Hayward (Amazon).
STORY SO FAR: Alti attacks Xenas unborn baby from the spiritual realm forcing the Warrior Princess to go to the spiritual world to duke it out with her old adversary.
DISCLAIMER: Xena and Alti were bad to the bone during the production of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Amarice's look of 'who are you people?!' as she stood, hand on hips, watching the northern Amazons do their jiggy-jig thing around the bonfire.
QUOTABLE: "Xena's little bitch. Welcome to the dog house." Alti giving Gabrielle her 'any friend of Xena's is a friend of mine' speech.
"I always wanted to be inside of you." I think Alti could be trying to tell Xena something.
"I've so missed the intimate little moments." Alti reminisces with Xena about the good ol' days of shared psychotic episodes.
Xena: "I will hound you. I will hound you throughout all time and between worlds. I will be your eternal damnation."
Alti: "Well, at least we'll be together, again."
Well if ever you needed proof that Xena is no longer a kids show, this would be the episode. According to my trusty stopwatch, the US version reviewed here in its uncut form came in at: Total of blood, gore and violence -- 8 minutes, 3 seconds . Plus: 3 minutes 10 seconds worth of trippy effects to put LSD to shame. And three lots of humans drinking blood and... well, you get the point.
If youre not a fan of the horror genre, then it probably felt like wall-to-wall blood, guts and fighting. This certainly isnt why I watch Xena. That being the case, Them Bones, Them Bones, to my mind, failed as an episode, in that it repulsed more than it entertained. Of course, they were probably aiming for gripping action, riveting special effects and scintillating chemistry between Alti and Xena.
One out of three aint too good, frankly.
If it wasnt for dear old leering Alti making obscenely veiled comments to Xena that made you laugh so hard you forgot to wonder how they even got them to air, this episode would have been a total writeoff. If youll pardon the pun.
While just a quarter of the episode might have been dedicated to blood, guts, fights and tripping out, it honestly felt like three quarters of it was. Thus, while the special effects -- as in fighting skeletons were probably cool in their own right -- cooler if the idea wasnt ripped off half a dozen computer games -- in context of what was happening, they just prolonged the horror of it all.
And will someone please explain why volcanoes, spiders, alligators and tidal waves represent entering the next world?
On this note, let us examine the step-by-step process of getting to the spiritual realm:
1: Dress like Bullwinkle from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Sure you might look pretty silly and not to mention the risk of poking someones eye out if you turned your antler head in a hurry. But fashion is vitally important, here, and the Other Realm Fashion Police would certainly stop you at the door if you wore regular clothing.
2. Kill a forest animal.
Charming. And will someone please tell me when horses became forest animals? Theyre not? Um, so then why did Xena kill one in Adventures in the Sin Trade to make her next-world debut?
Frankly, Argo should have been looking a little worriedly at bold huntress Gabrielle when she donned the bow and arrow, if last times jaunt was anything to go by. (And to think I thought she was squeamish at killing even widdle wabbits...)
3. Mix your blood with the dead animals, and, for no reason in particular, Xenas.
"Blood" is not quantity specific. I didnt hear Yakut specifying, slit open your hand (even though you may later need to hold your weapon in it) and let reams of blood run all over the place.... Why not a pinprick? And why the hand? Wouldnt, gee, the calf, the tush, hell, even the stomach, be a much more handy place to draw blood from than the hand -- as far as what youre likely to need most?
4. Very important -- make sure you dribble the blood all over your chin.
Sure, you may have been drinking neatly from cups for years. Well forget everything youve learned and remember to MISS YOUR MOUTH.
5. Enter spiritual realm by lying back and twitching, ideally with someone to pat you reassuringly and comment often that you are indeed looking twitchy so you must be there already. Staring vacantly is good. (Dying dramatically much is better.)
Okay, jokes aside, can someone explain what is even marginally entertaining about having Xenas tortured foetus being ripped out of her stomach and sitting up to look at her?
What is entertaining about poking through the remains of gory corpses to find a skull to use in some spooky shamaness spells?
What was the damned point of any of it -- apart from "doing another Alti episode"? Hey I love Claire Stanfield, too, but this one smelt up the joint like her characters putrid remains. Besides,, we all knew the outcome at the start. Remember Between The Lines when they faced down Alti in the India arc? Naiyima told the warriorly duo that theyd face down Alti many times in their future but would always be able to defeat her now theyd beaten her when she was at her strongest. So if we knew the ending, and the fights were always going to end in Xena 2, Alti 1, then why bother at all?
Okay so how did any of this progress the show in any way? Well, actually, it did a bit. We find two things we didnt know:
First, Xena, it seems, hasnt fully accepted her unborn child. Interestingly Gabrielle seems to have done so more than Xena -- pledging her love for it and her life to defend it. But, by episodes end, and all because a dove flapped past, Xena thinks she has now accepted it. Thats reassuring.
Of course, I never realised Xena bought into the whole signs and portents thing, instead shes usually commenting on preferring to take responsibility for her own life and decisions.
Second, Amarice is a fraud. This, to my mind was the only subplot worth a hill of beans in the whole ep.
I was totally surprised (as I was meant to be) that Gabrielle wasnt fingered as an imposter and Amarice was. After all, its not like the farm girl from Potedia was born of Amazon stock, nor raised and trained by the sisterhood, now was she? But time spent in the field slicing and dicing, and especially being anointed an Amazon by the Queen obviously counts for a lot (take note, Amarice, as you are also now an Amazon under this theory).
I thought Gabrielle handled the whole Amarice revelation beautifully and, by not telling Xena -- Amarices worst fear, Xena being her hero and all -- she seems to have earned a friend for life in the tempestuous young warrior. And, hey, if Amarice ever gives Gabs grief unfairly again, the bard has the mother of all blackmail material on her...
It was also most fitting Amarice should stay on with the Amazons -- she did always say she was looking for a place to fit in.
We also got the opportunity this ep to see how Yakut has turned out as a shamaness.
Its quite believable to see her acting more maturely but also making dumb kid mistakes. It was fitting -- shes only got her training horns on after all.
But that being the case, I did wonder why Xena announced at the start of the episode that only Yakut would know what to do to help her. Yakut is a learner driver in the Other Realms department while Xenas been there, done that. Xena would have, should have, immediately smelt a rat and figured out Alti was at work. She then didnt actually need to go further than the nearest forest to do all her shamaness spells. Still they did need the help of all those northern Amazons to get all trancy and dream of exploding volcanoes and bloodcells etc to do the Alti doublecross....(Say, has anyone figured out which country theyre supposed to inhabit yet? Siberia is it?)
I am a little surprised, incidentally, that Gabrielle had to ask who Yakut was. Xena obviously isnt big on filling the bard in on things that happen when shes not around. (Lao Ma being another name that springs readily to mind.) A little information wouldnt go astray occasionally, Xena. Or shall we just call Gabrielles question the exposition moment of the episode to allow those who missed AITST to be brought up to speed...
Still on the subject of the Sin Trade two-parter, Xena tells Gabrielle in Them Bones, Them Bones that she has seen Alti "rip the hearts out of people she loves and thats not going to happen with you".
Okay now I am immensely interested. Whos heart was ripped out, hmm, Xena?
Whod ya love?
Well, Borias was still alive and kicking back then.
Lao Ma... well off the scene by then.
And Xena killed Cyane herself...and besides she didnt love her.
Which leaves just one person she could have loved...a person whom they never did show how she died... Xenas very friendly apprentice shamaness, Anakin, on loan from Alti. I always suspected those two were closer than just, ahem, friends...
But on with the show. In summary -- this episode is dark, horror-filled, bloody and even boring in places, unless you like overly-long LSD trips without the LSD.
Ive always thought the very best Xenas used drama/action instead of horror; humor to lighten the load, and crackling dialogue instead of cracking bones or skulls.
In my opinion Them Bones Them Bones is not the Xena I know. Its merely a horror short film dressed up to look like it.
I know that several Xena bods come from a horror movie genre background. They may be hanging out for a return to their fun horror days, but all I can say is: For Zeuss sake, dont live through this show to get your horror/gore fix, guys. Its not what the Xena brochure advertised. And I seriously doubt that the fans enjoy it as much as yall do.
I really hope Im wrong and I was the only one having a miserable time with this ep. But I wont hold my breath on that one...
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