THE LAST OF THE CENTAURS
Season 6, Episode 17
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 5 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Joel Metzger. Directed by Garth Maxwell.
Edited by Tim Batt.
PASSING PARADE: Danielle Cormack (Ephiny); Marton Csokas (Borias/Belach); Hamish Hector-Taylor (Xenan); Katrina Devine (Nicha); Margaret-Mary Hollins (Madra); Kim Michalis (Natassa).
STORY SO FAR: Xena tries to stop Belach, the vengeance-filled son of Borias, from killing the last of the Centaurs -- Ephinys son, Xenan, who has eloped with Belachs daughter.
DISCLAIMER: The Centaur population was severely harmed during the making of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Xena telling the gender and species of Nicha's unborn child, simply by using her hand. 'Course these days, we're reduced to using that clunky old thing called an ultrasound.
Bad Xena's attempt of appearing more alluring to Borias by throwing away her walking stick. You had to feel sorry for her though, thinking he wouldn't notice the grossly deformed double-limp she had happening as she slinked her way up to him. Speaking of Borias, anyone else think his wife has THE creepiest eyes? The were almost completely white under some lighting...
That eye-watering landing by Belach as he landed on Xena's get away horse in the 'abduction scene'. Many a male viewer, was wondering I'm sure, how he managed to stay upright after that sickening 3-point landing.
"Can you say anything that doesn't insult my intelligence?" A thousand lines come to mind, all of them containing the initials 'RT'. Can you guess boys and girls? *g*
"The blood of Borias is in your son." Xena to her namesake Xenan. Hmm....a talking horse with a Russian accent...I smell an animated spin-off in the making.
"Word of advice for you kid - never step between two people and their passion." Now where's a Joxer when you need one? Is he ever lucky he never interrupted bad Xena when she was having a 'feel free to interpret' moment with one of her 'grrl' friends.
I think I can safely sum up my response to this episode in two words: Who cares?!
Or, if I was being even more concise, "WHYYY?"
With only a bare handful of episodes left to go, why waste a show on this storyline?
Was it to bring back the popular Ephiny and Borias while they still could? If so, memo to The Powers That Be: these characters were always more thrilling in their natural element, not, as in Ephinys case, traipsing in and out of market change rooms playing a voice in Gabrielles head ala Sibyll.
I got the most out of Ephiny in those early Xena episodes when, as a proud warrior, she wore those stunning feather masks, hung upside down in trees, taught Gabrielle the very serious business of staff usage and mis-usage and generally impressed us all with her "I am Amazon, dont...mess...with...me" attitude. Now she is reduced to snarky retorts and bug-eyed looks of wonder at her spawn and his issue. Yeesh.
If not a send-off for these characters, perhaps the ep was to tie off the loose end of Xenan, perhaps? A loose end, incidentally, that Id guarantee not too many fans were losing sleep over. All Ill really say about Xenan was the casting/wig people earned their money and he seemed a good physical match to be playing Ephinys son.
The thing that hit me most about Last of the Centaurs, apart from my overwhelming indifference and an itching desire to go put my washing on, was how it played like a Hercules episode. You know the ones: pretty basic storyline, usually involving thwarted love and parents who just dont understand until the hardbodied son of a god strolls up and has a bit of biffo on behalf of the innocent Romeo and Juliet and then explains it to the parents real good so that they change their minds, realise theyve been asses and beg forgiveness....of their children and the hero. And if were really lucky they leave out the "And the moral is love is stronger than anything and we dont want this hatred to divide us ever again..."
Did I mention biffo? Yep, they love biffo on Hercules and I noticed this episode had fight scenes by the ambulance load. Fights, fights, fights. If you like your heroes in thump, whomp, pow-eeee mode, then this here be the episode to sate your brawny streak. For everyone else busily plugging earholes to ward off that rising thrum of surprisingly over-the-top, B-grade Saturday matinee music, keep your remote control handy.
I have heard some fans refer to this ep as classic, old style Xena. If this was the classic stuff, then I sure as heck wouldnt boast about it. And if that were remotely true for me I wouldnt be around watching the show today. Xena, in general and also compared with Hercules, tends to be darker, edgier, more adult and definitely two dimensional ...begging my earlier question: WHY?
Adding to the stunned mullet look on my face is the fact they throw in the inexplicable and cavalier genocide of a whole species -- hot on the heels of the earlier culling of all bar a dozen Amazons. I do wonder exactly why they seem to have this burning urge to kill off whole civilisations for no real reason. It didnt enormously further the plot except to give us that close-up horror expression from Xenan, and disgust from the rest of the cast. (You could have had some of the centaurs in the pit instead of all of them to still show the horror of Belachs handywork.)
Were those feel-the-pain shots justification for killing off all centaurs? Was it to try and visit the full horror of Belachs actions on him? Was this some oddly obscure metaphoric reference to war crimes and ethnic cleansing?
Seems a weird thing to me if there was no point to it. Which reminds me: once is enough on the close up of horsey carcasses, thanks Xenabods. Thrice smacks of sensationalism, forced shock value and all those other tacky devices they are wont to dip into. Give it a rest, okay? Even a years supply of my nightly news thankfully doesnt serve up this many dismembered corpse close-ups in my diet.
Speaking of Belach, I have to say he is even harder to understand than his father when issuing commands to people around him. But thanks to my non-extensive research and several minutes study on the subject I have come up with the following translations to assist fans in the future:
Arrrughh: Please, attack now.
Daaaaah: Advance forward, men.
Gorahhhh: I really dislike your intestines, Xena.
On with the specifics:
How does Ephiny know Borias at all, let alone that he was Xenas lover and his son is the spitting image of him?
I will put this in the dead-people-know-all category and leave it there.
It seems like they werent entirely sure whether to make this all about Ephiny, Xenan & co; or Boriass history and his sons angst. So they split it cleanly into 50:50 of viewing. Thats never a good plan -- one element of plot should always be the dominant one to give us a focus.
Xenas angst at how she hurt Boriass son, and the passion she shared with Borias, made a plot which might have been a very worthy central focus. Had they really gone for it and done a whole lot more with it, they may have spared me the washing dilemma I faced each time we also delved into those moments with little Miss Muffett and her "me-so-sweet-and-innocent" routine (whod have thought that girl did it with a horse? eeeeww. How did they, er... Best not go there).
As an aside: Why are the "innocent" women in these shows so underwritten, dull and lacking in all interesting/defining characteristics? Why did they have to give Belachs daughter a personality bypass? Just wondering...
For interest value, the show should have been with Borias and Belach. Why? You get bad Xena, old Borias, his conflicted son and torn Xena.
Instead they gave us equal time with vapid girl and her two-expressions-only (in love or horrified) beau. Sigh.
I imagine the reason was that they did this was they wanted to give us as much time with Ephiny as possible.
But I digress. I could live with a lot of this stuff, but one thing that stopped me dead in my tracks was Kill Em All Gabrielle. A slight exaggeration to be sure, but I was shocked to the bone to see her advocating murder over negotiation as the best plan; and giving up very quickly on Belach as a redeemable person.
Part of the wonder that has been Gabrielle is she sees the good in everyone, and while Xena sometimes thinks the bard is a few cogs short of a chariot in this regard with some evil people they meet, she loves that about her too.
Now they have flipped roles. Gabrielle is warning her to kill Belach. Xena is trying to talk him down, by invoking the power of love and how hatred solves nothing. Sound familiar?
And they even end the episode with an unrepentant Gabrielle justifying her viewpoint while Xena teases her about it. That was sooo far out of character I was almost screaming.
I understand what they wanted to have happen: Xena being pressured to kill the man who looks so much like her lover, and a man who, as a boy, she wronged by stealing his father. Okay, Xena in dilemma mode - not a bad idea.
But Gabrielle as her protagonist in this?? NO!
There were only two people who should have been candidates to bay for Belachs blood: Ephiny and Xenan.
Xenan couldnt really do it without his wife having a hissy fit at him so that left Ephiny.
Ephiny could certainly have had her words relayed to Xena without the bard looking like she now has multiple personalities for her ever-changing views. This was a BIG continuity and characterisation flaw and unforgiveable at this point. I dont buy Gabrielle is now such a realist she would advocate this. She is too kind a soul not to trust the possibility of Belachs redemption. She would certainly be likely to acknowledge his death as "necessary" if it came to that in the end but she has never been so trigger happy... and this insistent urging for Xena to kill him sucked.
Well thats pretty much the whole episode. In essence, the downside: Dull writing, badly intrusive music during fights, pointless one-dimensional plot, leaps in characterisation, especially Gabrielle. Most overdone scene: Xena tenderly touching Belachs arm while Ephiny has her moment with Xenan at shows end. At this point Belach may have decided to put down his weapons against his son-in-law, but nothing says he has forgiven, forgotten, moved on, and now likes Xena in the space of one "feel the love" speech!
Episode rewatchability level: close to nil.
Pluses... um, still thinking. Oh yeah: theyre back in Greece. Thats cool.
Nice Xena fight moment - landing on all the pikes in a wheel-spoke manoeuvre. The whole episode was briefly livened up by old Borias scenes (which they then repeated THREE times in case we missed it ie "never step between two people and their passion"). The hi-there Ephiny moment was good - at first...and under utilised thereafter.
But, really, I so wish this sort of plot had been left for Hercules where it belonged. From a Xena perspective, this was nothing but a casserole full of average...
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