Review by: Sheryl-Lee Kerr
Season 3; episode 1
30th May 1998
RATING: 7 chakrams.
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by R.J. Stewart; Directed by Gilbert Shilton.
PASSING PARADE: Kevin Smith (Ares); Darien Takle (Cyrene).
THE STORY SO FAR: Xena is told she must kill her mother to get a curse lifted from her that has left her mad and persecuted. Ares talked the Three Furies into inflicting the curse, as a punishment for Xena not avenging her fathers death. Xenas father died at her mothers hand when he threatened to kill Xena as a child. Xena convinces the Three Furies her father is actually still alive and is Ares - who could have disguised himself as her mothers husband one night.
DISCLAIMER: Xenas sanity was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. The Furies however will be opening their own lap dancing variety show off-off-off Broadway soon.
REWIND FOR: Xena pleading for Gabrielles dumplings with red stuff in them - oh pleeease; a neck pinch with a difference; a naked Xena being sensitively rescued by Gabrielle; and the best fight sequence atop poles, outside of Hong Kong film studios.
QUOTABLE (ahhh, how to choose - and *this* is the short list): I love the smell of warm sweat in the morning - Xena sucking in a lungful of armpit ala A Fish Called Wanda; in also the strangest nod to Apocalypse Now ever witnessed. Ive cut off the flow of blood to your brain and other pertinent body parts, so tell me: how old were you when you lost your virginity? Xena expanding her knowledge of the universe. Mother, I am a lunatic with lethal combat skills... Xena giving us the half-empty glass version of events. Im crazy; youre dead, lets go. Xena gets to the point. Gabrielle couldnt save a cat in a sack without me; shes a useless little pissant really. Xena proves that a bad hair day can ruin your mood all day long. Sometimes that is the *only* way to shut her up. Xena approving of Ares bardic restraint methods. I still dont get what you see in her... Ares to Xena, clearly unaware of the benefits of a bard who cooks dumplings with red bits in the middle.
This is one of the strangest mixes of drama and comedy I have ever seen. The thought that madness is a Three Stooges slapstick affair with baby babble, windmilling arms and even nose picking (in a temple, no less!), is about as sensible as buying tickets to watch a mentally ill person talking to himself and walking into a pole repeatedly. It is a very uncomfortable experience to find any amusement in someone elses obvious discomfort, especially when they are not able to defend themselves. Xena, certainly, while physically able to stop harm coming to her, is in no fit condition to be doing anything much else at that time, and should certainly not be the butt of sight gags. What does that teach kids? If you see someone different or disturbed, by all means stare, point, laugh. Its funny afterall - hey, we saw it on Xena.
That aside, there were some more amusing moments - Xena handing the bloke back his sword; Xena discovering how to further her geography skills with her neck pinches; Xena finding a new use for her chakram. And we finally get to see two more of her many skills: juggling and backward horse vaulting - the latter should be an Olympic event if ever I heard of one. Who Mavis is, well probably never know. I hear talk that Lucy Lawless says she just made the name up. Somehow I dont think its ever that simple...will the real Mavis step forward and be counted?
Gabrielle gets shabby, shabby treatment in this ep - getting viciously smacked twice by Xena; tied up once (for her own good though; and not very well judging by how quickly she caught up with Xena); then she was sent off on a convenient Get Rid of Gabrielle For a Few Scenes expedition to the neighbouring asylum at Andreas.
But Gabss most moving scene was the tender, understanding way she deals with a disturbed, stark-naked Xena and manages to convince her not to torch a village.
Xena, for her part, seemed to slide in and out of madness at whim and Lucy sometimes seemed to forget which degree of mad she was playing. Watch the scene towards the end with Cyrene tied down and Xena arguing her case. She is quite rational in a slightly off-centre, dark way before the fight. After the fight she reverts to all her Meg faces and more babyish talk, almost as though she filmed this part right after her early Three Stooges routines. It is quite a shift.
Her madness certainly veers on the tasteless as well. Ripe? Xena describes her mothers pregnancy as her being ripe? Just because youre mentally disturbed, doesnt mean you change the words you use when you speak. Similarly, in the inn, Xenas weasels comment was fairly ugly. And were pissants around in ancient Greece? Damnation those critters get around.
On the subject of Cyrene, this is one unusual woman. Never smiles, always looks like a candidate for martyrdom. Twice she never questioned or tried to argue with Xenas plans to kill her, virtually offering herself to her. She looks, walks and talks like she does not want to go on living. Thats one heck of a lot of guilt. She had, after all, killed her husband to save her daughter, only to find her daughter goes on to head The Known-Worlds Most Wanted List as a ruthless, bloodthirsty warlord. Now Cyrene may have actually slept with the God of War? Oh yeah, Cyrene hates herself. And she still fears Xena. She feared her in Sins of the Past, even when she was trying to kick her out; and she is like a skittish cat when alone with her daughter in the inn (watch her closely). Its not surprising given what Xenas plans are - but the fear she has for her daughter and what she is capable is always written over her face. I have seen huge, grown men quake in the presence of tiny, feeble women, if those women are their mothers. Xena would never quake in Cyrenes presence. Pity, really, itd be quite the sight.
This awful history between them explains the lack of bond and the odd relationship the two women have: Cyrene still cant quite let herself trust Xena and Xena doesnt push it because she doesnt think she deserves that trust back. Theres no doubt Xena is lovingly protective of her mother and vice versa but they regard each other like strangers most of the time and even speak almost formally. Itd be nice to see an episode where the two regain their love/bonding again. One of the nicest moments between them came in the last scene where Xena gets to hug her Mum and, if you blink youll miss it, Cyrene actually smiles. It suits her.
There was one plot flaw with the whole thing that made no sense to me. Xena presumably worked out Ares could be her father when she called him forth by pretending to be suicidal. She got him to explain himself, using the word jealous about her father. She then confirmed it in her mind (just look at her face and you can see it) by asking her mother about the night of her conception while at the inn. The shock was palpable. So her plan, which she began back on the cliff top, to bring forth the Furies and prove Ares was her father was a good one - and it would save her mother. So I ask you, what would have happened if Gabrielle hadnt come in and screamed for her to stop (not once but twice) as Xenas dagger began its swift descent to Cyrenes chest? Or did Xena somehow divine Gabrielle would show up at the appropriate moment because she is so predictable! Lucky for Cyrene that Gabrielle is around with her impeccable timing.
All in all, despite its patchiness, the darkness of this episode made up for the tackiness of making fun of the mad. The lighter moments were nice but it seemed someone wanted to show off Lucys acting/comic skills again, more than be true to what a mad person would go through. When all is said and done though, The Furies is a worthy addition to the Xenaverse, if nothing more for the fact it poses a lovely ambiguous question for us to debate for awhile - is Ares really Daddy? It sure would explain Xenas triple axles with pikes from the standing position. But it would give a rather incestuous flavour to all those earlier sensuous come-ons to Xena from the God of War. Not that that ever stopped the ancient Greek gods before... well just have to wait and see.
*Montage by Mary Draganis
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