Xena Warrior Princess Episode Reviews
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Written by R.J. Stewart
Mark Raffety (Hyperion)
Gabrielle accidentally frees three Titans who worship her, then turn on her. Gabrielle tries to defeat them single-handedly in order to prove herself to Xena.
Check out the scene where Xena is about to capture the thug in the tavern and has dared him to leave. It’s amazing how a seated Xena crossing her legs in what would, on any other woman, be seen as a dainty pose, makes her look even more dangerous.
Gabrielle actually trumping Xena for the first time ever – producing the titans and saving the warrior princess in a stoush. I don’t know whether always-the-hero Xena looked too happy about it, either.
The way Xena silences a villager with a glare when the woman dares suggest she leave for causing trouble. That’s a look that would loosen even the strongest warlord’s bladder.
Xena’s dour expression on discovering Gabrielle has traded her in for a new girly-boy bedchum. It’s a good thing he doesn’t know Gabs’s track record on beaus or he wouldn’t be holding her quite so close. It’s also a good thing he doesn’t know Xena’s the jealous sort…
Xena running into the cave, sword at her side, thumping her thigh with every step. At which point she starts holding on to it as she runs (oh yeah, real classy hero look) and by the time she exits the cave she’s waving it rather pointlessly in order to avoid the step-thump routine. No wonder swords became a must-have back accessory shortly thereafter.
"Don’t be sorry, just improve." Xena, ever the motivational speaker, gives tough love a whirl.
"Gabrielle don’t you ever touch my horse again." Xena getting precious because Gabs scratched the car.
Xena: I could never hate you, your heart’s always in the right place
Titan 1: He loves me as a friend should.
(Words most eerily profound for the Xenaverse.)
On a scale of Married With Fishsticks to Forgiven, The Titans is a fine piece of cinematic crafting. Of course if you want to raise your bar a bit higher then it starts to fall apart faster than a bridesmaid left too close to the wine cask on a hen’s night.
Funny thing is – it’s been five years since I last watched it and I remember this episode being so much better. I remembered Gabrielle hilariously taking the titans to task for announcing her virginal status to all of ancient Greece by way of a conversation starter.
I remember the filthy look Xena shot Gabrielle when the Warrior Princess thought her little bard might have done more than discuss iambic meter with the blonde’s fawning beau of the week.
I remember the look of almost giddy relief she then gives the bard upon discovering her sidekick is still as pure as a Hallmark card and hasn’t gone native with the native.
Ahh yes, these were the moments to keep a poor subtexter’s heart pounding merrily in the chest. Alas, who knew these memories were also the sum total of the highlight reel… Oh, okay, and the effects people did a pretty good job scaling the titans up and the humans down. But beyond that? Oh dear.
So what went wrong?
The episode crept along at a pace so slow that it would kill a patient if it was a pacemaker. When Gabrielle is searching and searching and searching for scrolls in the cave in the big finale, I found myself sending a grateful blessing to the late great Akio Morita – Sony’s founder who invented the VCR, and with it, the delightful concept of the fast-forward button. All hail Morita-san.
The overly dramatic score, designed to give a trumpeting, thrumming weight to the titans, instead brought to mind some of those B-grade black-and-white Tarzan movies. Except the chimpanzee got better lines.
The characterisation was just way, way out there. I know Gabrielle can be a bit of a twit in season one, but they make her an utterly vain and inane creature with delusions of world domination coupled with serious esteem issues in Titans. The most cringe-worthy line of the episode is Gabrielle being overbearingly annoying to her newly freed titans with the condescending command: "Don’t tarry – you don’t want to make the goddess cross do you?"
I swear poor humble Renee must have flinched when she first read that. Have a god complex much, Gabrielle? I felt embarrassed for Renee upon hearing it, so no wonder the titans decided to go smear the landscape with humans. More on Gabrielle’s motivation later, but for now it’s fair to say this had to be her stupider twin filling in for the week.
Which brings us to the storyline – this was spelt out in Sesame Street-large letters. When any moment wasn’t completely laid bare, perhaps accidentally containing a twist, turn or ambiguity, they rushed in and added a line of "So-You-See-Jimmy" explanation, so even Lassie could follow it.
How bad was this clunky exposition?
I give you – Exhibit A:
So you’re Xena, all camped out in a temple waiting for your big confrontation with the titans. You glance around the room. Uh oh, your trusty blonde/occasionally redhaired sidekick isn’t there for the headcount. You think to yourself "Where could that cute chum of mine, who I have strictly platonic feelings for despite my intense and brooding looks to the contrary, possibly be?"
You run through the options in your mind and a short list quickly appears.
A. She’s answering the call of nature and will be back soon, albeit with one scroll fewer.
B. She’s having a bath down by the river and will be back soon with one less interesting "scent of the forest".
C. She’s canoodling some virginal beau of the week to make me jealous, little realising he’ll be dead soon because all her beaus end up dead – if they know what’s good for them.….
Well you might run through these options and even come up with a few more as well if you were a regular person. But because you’re Xena you’ll just cut straight to the outlandish option:
D. She’s run off to single-handedly fight the titans.
And, further, it has to be because "She must want to prove herself to me."
Yes, Xena, it’s always about you, sweetie.
Of course Xena actually happens to be right – but only because that’s what the seriously unsubtle writing team (don’t let these people handle sledgehammers) wrote into the story. All they lacked was the neon sign flashing: "HERE IS THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS EPISODE, PEOPLE".
So not only is the whole point of the episode now sticking out like dingo’s ears, the whole point of the episode is also about as smart as Gabrielle’s fashion sense.
Yes Gabs has decided to take on the titans herself despite the fact everyone had already agreed on a plan of assault which would have had a great chance of working. Now I know what you’re thinking: WHY would one girl go alone in the titan’s den when they could turn her into lumpy road kill?? Congenital stupidity? Girdle too tight? Too many funny berries in her diet?
I was plumping for all of the above but we actually learn it’s because she got Argo’s reins tangled at an earlier pivotal moment. Ri-ight. So she made a little error earlier and now she wants to prove herself to Xena. And of course messy leather reins and titan thumping are absolutely in the same ballpark – if you’re Gabrielle.
That little leap of logic aside, we also know she feels Xena doesn’t respect her. We know this because those subtle, subtle writers tell us. Gabrielle says, and I quote: "She doesn’t respect me." And later: "You think I’m just a kid".
Enter the Finding Nemo plot of proving yourself. (About here I began wishing Ellen would whoosh by and say something in whale to break the monotony.)
How does one get this approval? Not the Nemo way, of earning it, that’s for sure. Gabrielle engages in implied sexual acts – to prove an unsubtle point to Xena that she’s all grown up and can do what she wants – and high-risk death-wish behaviour, namely titan fighting. In the end all Gabrielle succeeded in receiving was not respect from Xena but reassurance. A sad substitute indeed.
By the closing credits of the episode you’re left hoping the real Gabrielle will hurry back from vacation, because the wooden-headed megalomaniac in her place is more than a few grapes short of a Thebes fruit stall. If the only redeeming features of this episode are two pointed looks for subtexters, one virgin line and a special effect credit, then the writers should really consider upping their caffeine intake. Even the Herc mob would have rejected this lemon-scented parchment.
Bottom line. Remember The Titans? Um, do I have to?