Chicago Tribune

?? 2000
(if someone can date this please let me know)


By Laura Accinelli

As usual for the offbeat "sisterhood is powerful" show that overlays Greek mythology with a modern sensibility and computer-graphic imaging, the babes in bustiers are back busting heads. "Xena: Warrior Princess," syndicated TV's highest-rated first-run drama, recently aired its 100th episode.

Weapons are drawn, Xena hurls her emblematic chakram, bodies flip and corkscrew cartoonishly through the air. Xena and best girlfriend Gabrielle have stumbled upon a squabble, this time in the North African desert. Yet, after the swordplay, Xena chastises her sister-in-arms: "You've become too violent," she warns. Gabrielle protests, reminding her that in days of old she had to haul Xena off anyone who so much as squinted at her.

Something's amiss even in the ever-kooky Xena-verse conceived by Renaissance Pictures and brought to you by Studios USA. The sands of time seem to be shifting. The snarling, leather-clad, warbling warrior Xena was first introduced in 1995 as an unconscionable killer on "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys."

Even after her conversion into a justice fighter for a "Xena" spinoff, the heroine still struggled with her dark side. For four TV seasons she belonged to the ancient world, despite scriptwriters' formulaic predilection for irreverently blending historical eras.

Lately, though, she has been acting kinder, gentler, very A.D."I guess," Xena explains to Gabrielle, "I'm starting to think like a mother."

All this fifth season the fearsome, fearless woman warrior has battled the misanthropes of mythology along with the myths of motherhood -- and morning sickness. As Xena's belly has swelled, so too has the stomach of the series' star, Lucy Lawless.

Also growing ever more grandiose on "Xena" are moral dilemmas and archetypal portrayals. "We are going into larger, almost theological issues as backdrops for our characters," said co-executive producer Eric Gruendemann. "Successful shows have to grow and evolve and mature, and you need to do something different. The fabric of our show is anything goes, and the best dramas in history are within political or religious arenas."