Xena Warrior Princess Episode Reviews
Reviewed by SLK
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Peter Allan Fields. Directed by Charles Siebert
PASSING PARADE: Kevin Smith (Ares) Bill Johnson (Benitar) Christopher Mayer (Peranis) Danny Lineham
(Grathios) Christian Hodge (Teracles) Phaedra Hurst (Teresia) Meryl Main (Areolis' Widow) Sam Holland (Teen Son) Ross Harper (Polinios)
STORY SO FAR
Not wishing to sound indelicate here, but this has been a hotly debated subject in the Xenaverse over the years, so, I’ll just say it…. For a true picture of Gabrielle’s, ahem, natural assets, not the various inflated offerings throughout the seasons as the bard began to dabble in ancient Greek wonderbras, turn to the scene of Gabs, wearing white, not long after the opening titles, when she’s dabbling her feet in the water. If she was Joxer, it would be safe to say she didn’t get her shoe size. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – she looks lovely as ever. Just, um, noticeably smaller.
Xena breaks from her chains in a wow sequence of aerial wizardry. Nice stunt work there and a glorious sweeping leg kick. But it seemed pretty bizarre her then mopping up the faces of the men she bashed. Yeesh, that’s just weird.
The last scene, Gabrielle’s attempt at payback for Xena hitting her. Sweet, funny, and totally nuts. Who punches a solid metal breast plate? Gabrielle of Poteideia, that’s who. THIS is the woman who incisively cross-examined witnesses in court?
"The world at peace under a great leader." Ares’ stated aims of what he wants from Xena. Has he even looked at his job title lately?
"I understand you might be feeling a little negative at the moment," an upbeat Gabrielle, to her chained up despairing chum. Next stop, a motivational scrolls tour.
"You coming back for me really meant a lot" Xena, freely expressing her emotions to the bard. Uh huh. It’ll never last...
Gabrielle: 1. Xena: 0. So goes this episode’s score card on character development. Gabrielle, ever the Pollyanna at the start of the episode, loses another shade of rose tint from her glasses as she questions her blind faith in justice and the law. And Xena, for an otherwise formidable gal, just gives up way too easily – at least at first.
This is one of those "oh yeah" episodes. That is, when a friend asks you to recall it, you can’t remember at first and then, after a bit of prodding, you suddenly go "Oh yeah… the one where we meet Ares", or, "Oh yeah, the one where Gabrielle defends Xena in court." And after that you’ve already moved on to thinking about how Ares has a much cooler haircut now or how Gabrielle looks impressive in the bodice-boosting BGSB...
Does it deserve to be lost forever in the swirls of time? Probably, a bit. It does offer up a tantalising first taste of Ares and shows a taste of the potential sparring between he and Xena which is to come. On a huge plus, the evocative and interesting music in this episode is some of the show’s finest, and little snippets here and there are expanded in later episodes with great success.
And Gabrielle is in fine form, funny, with unerring logic in court, and fiercely loyal – ignoring yet again Xena’s ridiculous directives to leave the Warrior Princess behind and "get away from this place". Why on earth would Gabrielle leave Xena behind to die alone when the bard is in no imminent danger and might yet still talk the villagers around? It’s this sort of overriding and unnecessary martyrdom from Xena which sucked all the fun out of the episode. It just makes you seething mad.
Yep, it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for anyone when you’re thinking "Look, quit your damn whining, accept some help or DO something already!"
Eventually Xena does take action to save herself, but at the cost of a small piece of our respect for her because of her over-long "I deserve this" stance. And if we can’t really respect our hero, then this ep is not ever going to be a fan favourite.
What is it with Xena always being so willing to readily throw away her life just because a bunch of villagers round her up and unfairly accuse her of crimes they believe she committed? Again and again we see the warrior princess feeling that her life and all the good she might do is worth less than the revenge that people seek against her. It is brought back in shades of Locked Up, Tied Down, where *we* suffered unspeakable punishment, (no, really, please let’s never again speak of the attack of the killer crabs). And also in the show’s finale, Friend In Need, where she actually went through with her bizarre let-me-stay-dead suicide to placate an angry mob of already long-dead ghosts.
Still, I can’t really complain of Xena being a slow learner in The Reckoning, for, to be fair, this episode marks only the first time she has done what will soon be an all-too-familiar martyr routine.
Yes, yes, I know we should be impressed at her not running away from what she has done (or in this case, hasn’t done). And yes, it’s almost endearing she wants to pay the ultimate price in her efforts to abide in local justice, even wrong local justice, because she’s hauling about 10 sherpas’ worth of emotional baggage about her past and wants to do right now.
But come on, are the people of ancient Greece going to be better served by allowing "justice" to prevail? That Xena can’t see the blindingly obvious answer and muster some internal fight for her rights is a little bit worrying. Okay maybe she doesn’t want to sound like an egotist. But not even Gabrielle thought to make the point even to Xena that the good she does now should be taken into consideration. When Xena does eventually triumph, her fight was not to clear her name, and certainly not to continue doing good, but because, as she puts it simply to Ares, "I didn’t want to die".
Still, we should be grateful that at least she does come up with her own plan and does not just down tools and wait for fate and/or Gabrielle to perform miracle rescues. (Lock Me Up, Tie Me Down, I’m lookin’ at you.)
Which brings us to Ares, speaking of miracle rescues… I must say, from the first time he opened that mouth and out purred the most sensuous honeyed words, promising all flavours and varieties of naughtiness, from slaughter and mayhem to horizontal romps, I found it impossible not to like the guy. I mean he truly is a male Xena in every sense – charisma, charm, warrior ability, looks, even singing voice. All he’s lacking is the cute but troublesome sidekick, and with, Xena firmly in his sights, it seems he doesn’t intend to be lacking one for long.
One thing that bugged me about this first scene between them though – it seems that after a decade of Xena being the baddest of bad asses in the Known World and Ares saying he had mentored her and was her greatest fan, only now does he actually appear before her. Come on, Stick-On-Beard Boy would have been personally whispering dark thoughts in her ear and trying to wheedle his way into her bedroll for years, I’ve no doubt. But I’ve also no doubt their relationship is travelling at the speed of plot here, and it is what it is because no one wants to hear a long, drawn-out back story about when they really did meet.
Their scenes together were interesting, although I question whether Xena would just stand there and let any person or god undress her at their whim. Even if she’s just playing him, she would be more likely to do so on her terms, not his. And if these are her terms, she’s either better suited to being a stripper or needs a better lawyer.
In any event, that was a clever little stunt she pulled – whereby on a guilty verdict Xena will do what Ares wants but he must first resurrect the dead men she asks for. Of course in resurrecting the dead men she requests (her alleged "victims"), it thus negates the guilty verdict and frees her from having to abide by her end of the bargain. It’s the sort of word play and slow dance these two will come to be synonymous with and it’s great to see where it began.
But it was also a little too belaboured at points – we did not need to hear over and over Ares telling Xena she just needed to call his name for him to step in; nor did we need quite as many half-lidded, meaningful eyeball-to-eyeball close-ups to and fro between them when Xena is apparently trying to decide whether to say Ares’ name. And worst of all, we certainly did not need the B-movie style voice-over at the end of Ares intoning "Until next time Xena, until next time". All that was missing from that heavy handed ending was a "bwa-hahaha" cackle from the God of War and the shaky cut-out of a Flash Gordon rocket.
Still these were only minor quibbles.
What was great during the episode were the little interplays going on between Gabrielle and Xena. Renee is really starting to get her comic one-liners down and one of the best was, with Xena in chains and feeling all "kill me now" tragic, Gabrielle says "I understand that you might be feeling a little negative at the moment…" in a flippant, these things happen, tone. She’s a real hoot. I also love the incredible pathos of the moment where Xena asks Gabs to leave her alone, then apologises for how it came out. And Gabrielle, with just a hint offered of the hurt she felt, becomes one big smile, delighted she is still wanted. Awww.
Gabrielle, for the second time now, also shows she can hold her own verbally against a roomful of angry peasants (see Sins of the Past for the first) and, by and large, win. Why all her brilliant evidence was so cavalierly dismissed when the half dead witness merely pointed at Xena but didn’t actually accuse her of anything specific is a bit rich, though. I also found it a little hard not to notice the judge (John Palmer) was clearly the same man who played the blind ex-mystic but three episodes before in Dreamworker. He has a very distinctive voice. But he did a great job here.
It’s also, sadly, the first of a number of times Xena thumps Gabrielle. Nice that the blonde says she knew Xena didn’t mean to do it, but, not wanting to make too finer a point on what was an accident, how many times in the future will Xena not mean to hit her? If I was Gabrielle, I’d be starting to get a clue as to why shacking up with a warrior with a dark and evil past is hazardous to one’s health. I also find it odd Xena would tell the judge "You saw what I did to my friend" when he was nowhere near either him. Which reminds me, he didn’t exactly go around arresting her attackers when she was chained up, did he now? Some justice he believes in.
All and all, it was an okay episode. Not great, not sucky, somewhere in between. If you love Ares, this might be worth the 41 minutes missing from your life, if not, it’s no great loss not to watch it. But it does promise some interesting times ahead, especially from one plucky blonde sidekick who is showing very clearly in The Reckoning, she has a mind of her own. And she plans to use it. Go girl!