Season 6, episode 8
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 7.5 chakrams
SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by Joel Metzger. Directed by Rick Jacobson.
Edited by Tim Batt.
PASSING PARADE: Brittney Powell (Brunhilda); Renato Bartolomei (Beowulf);
Alexander Petersons (Odin); Roger Morrissey (Monster Grinhilda); Victoria Hill (Waltraute); Luanne Gordon (Grinhilda); Glen Levy (Grindl).
DISCLAIMER: Gabrielle's popularity soared in the making of this motion picture.
STORY SO FAR: Xena must risk losing everything she loves in her battle against Grindl and her efforts to keep the Rhein Maidens ring from an ambitious Odin.
REWIND FOR: The exchange of smiles between Xena and Gabrielle following Xena's "If I had known I had a fan..." line. Now that's what we call subtext, Rob. Defies explanation as to why this bi-play between the two central characters ever disappeared at all doesn't it?
The look on Xena's face when she realises Gabrielle has acquired a fan club of her own. Keep an eye on her expression when she sees the way Beowulf and Brunhilda look at Gabrielle as they state their refusals to leave the bard. Could almost see Xena girding her loins for a little competition. *g*
The sublime becoming the ridiculous as Gabrielle leaps on Grindl jnr's back to slice and dice sticky monster with Xena's chakram. Point 1: Why wasn't she impaled by the spines on jnr's back?! Point 2: When is Xena going to teach the bard how to throw the round killing thing? Or is it like the car that only the husband is allowed to drive? *g*
The humour of watching Odin doing a shake and bake (I counted 5 close shaves) to avoid being decapitated by Xena's chakram. The wily disc had him pinned down nicely while Xena took on Grindl snr.
Check out Scowly Valkyrie... I think she was selected solely for her surly leer... Youll know the one I mean when you see her. *g*
QUOTABLE: "Don't ever leave me again." Gabrielle's heartfelt plea when reunited with Xena. I note the Warrior Princess didn't promise anything, though.
"My ravens tell me you have fallen in love with her partner." Odin and his stool pigeon ravens kill that hoary ol' monster Ambiguity, in case we were in any doubt as to Brunhilda's intentions towards Gabrielle. All hail Odin and his sticky beaks! *g*
"Is Xena all you think about?!" Well yes, Brunhilda. And your point would be?
"I defied my god for you Gabrielle." A big call from Brunhilda. One that had even the bard blinking in surprise. Not even Xena has defied a god for her. A few stinkin' warlords maybe ...
"Xena and I are meant to be together. We didn't make it that way - it just is." Oooh, they're so close to calling this nag a horse, it's not funny. *g* Certainly relieved some of that UST (unresolved subtext tension) out there in the Xenaverse.
Brunhilda: "Xena, I have waited my entire life to meet you."
Xena: "If I'd known I had a fan coming I would have combed my hair."
Grinhilda: The Valkyries had honour once -- before they learned to prize the thirst for blood. You taught us that, Xena.
Xena: Lets see if you took notes.
Okay, first, The Good: Xena and Gabrielle together again. Woohoo! And there was also Xena and Gabrielle together again. Oh, I may have mentioned that already? So sue me if I just loved the passion with which Gabrielle believed her "hard-to-kill" partner was still alive and kicking when Beowulf and Brunhilda were looking at her like she was speaking in modern tongues.
I loved seeing and feeling the love between the two when they finally caught up with each other. The adorable "dont ever leave me again" command from Gabs was one order I think Xena would have hard time justifying disobeying after that gorgeous scene.
But my favourite moment was so beautiful, subtle, lovely... Gabrielle helps a wounded Xena to the ground and they have this amazingly full and complete conversation with each other without saying a word; while the other two mere mortals in the scene are forced to flap their gums and make noise to be understood.
Its this sort of interaction that reminds me why I like the show so much and reminds me what was so missing in season 5 -- the looks; and the interaction that they seemed to just share between each other. And now its back... so as I say: Woohoo.
I think Alexander (Odin) Petersons acting improved marginally this episode (just barely) while Renato (Beowulf) Bartolomeis took an odd nosedive. (Which reminds me: Humblest apologies for implying last review that the actor who plays Odin was an uncharismatic, boring, cant-act-to-save-himself Kiwi. He is in fact an uncharismatic, boring, cant-act-to-save-himself Aussie -- a friends brother recalls him fondly in his earlier days as a groundsman at a West Australian university.
So apologies to my Kiwi kinfolk. And to my Aussie kinfolk. *g*)
Of course half of poor Bartolomeis declining standard had to be the ludicrous, insane idea for him to be suddenly appearing and declaring such lines as: "For Gabrielle, Id go through the fires of Hell."
Anyone got a stopwatch...?? How long has he actually known her at this point? Six seconds in a bar? If that? I mean I knew the bard was good, and clearly this episode shes giving off some mighty potent pheremones, but this is ridiculous even for her.
Such a forced (and I do mean forced) insertion of a love interest for no other reason than one presumes plot development down the track, left me stone cold and coming up with virulent new insults for him, every time he looked at her sappily.
The problem was the actor himself didnt believe it either -- and you could see it in the poor schmucks eyes; even hes going "but this is sooo dumb!"
Its giving me memories of Chin all over again... you remember; shes busily fretting over saving Xenas life as the pregnant Warrior Princess is about to go up against an entire Chin army; and the local redshirt talent is making goo-goo eyes at her over the gunpowder. Ooooh. Well, I got chills.
So from the same book of Cliche Meets Ludicrous we get Beowulf, old enough to be her father, giving Gabrielle the once over when its clear she only has eyes for Xena -- and even says so!
Far more believable is Brunhildas fancying Gabrielle as they have now had ample bonding time at this point in their journey to find Xena. But even she, when she falls, doesnt fall in your usual, Joxery way of "um, I think I, you know, um..." Oh no -- this sick little puppy (good call there, Gabs) wants to heroically shed blood in her name. Can anyone spell STALKER?
Like one of those deranged groupies who stake out actors, this woman looked ready to turn on the object of her obsession at the drop of a hat -- although fortunately for Gabrielle, the writers took pity and made her not even mind being called sick!
Actually right here is a clue as to how little Brunhilda actually understands Gabrielle and thus how unsuited they would be. Anyone who has been with Gabrielle for five minutes should know she doesnt get her jollies in the killing/maiming department...
No-siree bob, her pleasures are the simpler things -- hot tubs with Xena, sneaking up on Xena, playing 20 questions with Xena... and... Oh, a little theme has developed here. Hmmm.... thats the other thing Brunhilda spotted, several times over: she noted the unspoken interchange between Xena and Gabrielle when the bard was bandaging the Warrior Princess (watch Brunhilda eye them both and connect the dots); she even commented on it once, asking if Gabrielle thought about anyone else. And still she thought she stood a chance... I am thinking the lights are on but no one is home with Brunhilda.
And yet... I liked her. I did...
I adored how she muttered "stool pigeons" when Odins ravens spilled the beans about her love for Gabrielle. I snickered aloud at how Xena took an instant dislike to her -- tee hee; gee, theres a surprise... and I liked how even though Gabrielle called her sick and pulled the rug out so completely from under her feet by declaring only she and Xena could be together (its a soulmate thing, geddit sweetie), she still did the right thing by Gabrielle in the end. Now that is actually a good person under all that confusion. So, yeah, I liked her as a character... and I think the actress has grown on me.
By the way, hands up all those who fell off their chairs with an inglorious plop when they heard Gabrielle say the soul mates, only-Xena-for-me stuff? Sheesh, and I thought last episode the subtext was becoming maintext. Just for once, however, Id like Xena to say it, and more importantly actually live by it if she feels that way, instead of making out with her "bad boys" every third episode. I am guessing if Gabrielle has got to the point where she can actually name and spell out her unbreakable connection with Xena to folk she meets in passing, maybe its time for Xena to finally decide what/who she wants, too.
Now I know not everyone sees/buys/wants to see the subtext in Xena, and thats utterly their choice. And many could argue -- and probably have -- that in the above scene, all Gabrielle is on about is her deeper-than-deep sisterly/sibling love for Xena. I would agree it could be seen as ambiguous like that, except for one thing: Brunhilda.
She is declaring a non-platonic love for Gabrielle. Heck, even Odin says to her she is "in love" with the bard.
So Gabrielle responds to this declaration by explaining how it is not possible for her to reciprocate because she has Xena. She didnt choose this, she adds, it just is.
Now if Xena and Gabrielle were merely like siblings in their affection, Gabrielle would never use that as a reason to say no to a relationship, even one she didnt want, because the two things are unrelated. I mean no one says: "I cant go out with you because I have a close sister whom I love."
(Well no one except Patty and Selma on The Simpsons... *g*)
Gabrielle would have used some other excuse to beg off Brunhilda if this was the case. So I would argue, exhibit A, the Brunhilda scene, is prime evidence that Gabrielle sees Xena as more than just a soul mate or a sister -- but her partner in all things.
But I digress... I am not sure I entirely buy Odins reason for wanting the ring. Suddenly now he has an attack of ambition and sees the possibility of what the ring could mean for him? Hmmm. Will have to wait for the third installment to see if they flesh that one out a bit.
Lastly on this section, what could be badder than psycho Xena? I did love that bit of FX where they transform her after she puts the ring on and sneers at her foe, the lighting backlit behind her. Someones gonna get badly hurt and soon, methinks...
Grindl and Grindl jnr.... oooh nice big-ugly-bug job and creepy environs there from the costumers and set designers. I thought I was looking at the Aliens mumma there for a bit. This monster is definitely way up there on the creepy enemy charts -- largely because it is so damned hard to beat. I just thought the whole dry ice, shadows and the terror in Xenas eyes when she first is hiding from it at the start of this episode was great -- building excellent dramatic tension.
Creepiest moment goes to that odd look on Xenas face as she realise, but we dont yet know whats bugging her, that this monster aint Grindl. Ooooh.
As for their battle -- I felt the cave scene too long; and became increasingly frustrated at Xena for things like creating a rock wall barrier between herself and her friends to prevent them getting hurt. All of them were trained warriors and all could have helped. Surely four against one has to be better odds than one dead martyr trying to clean up her own mistakes, no matter how guilty her boo-boos make her feel? But thats the nature of guilt -- you dont want to hurt others while fixing your wrongs.
An aside: I sometimes wonder whether Xenall ever truly allow the bard to risk her life for her, even when she wants it. Xena has made some concessions on this, however. She doesnt even bother trying to stop Gabrielle staying on, at the start of the episode (why get a headache over futility?) and just urges the other two to leave. And later, when Gabrielle declares "I never listen" as her reason for breaking through the rock slide to reach Xena, again the Warrior Princess shows all the signs of agreeing and knowing this to be an inevitability.
Which really does make me wonder yet again how gullible she was to expect to leave Gabrielle back in an inn, last episode, and expect her not to follow her to Norway.
I think its time she just acknowledged shes stuck with Gabrielle now and will be through thick and thin, and stopped trying to be the hero who must shoulder all the responsibility so often. Time to just accept that if Gabrielle is ready, willing and able to accept the risk, so then should Xena acknowledge thats just the way things are. Im not saying she shouldnt worry about the bards safety. But by now she should be noticing that, in the long term, itll cause her a whole lot less aggravation to just let her tag along in the first place.
How can I finish this review without asking the question about Xena and the ring... transformed into a clueless tormented Meg-alike.
I was not sure if Id have agreed before this that the thing Xena loved most was her "sense of self" but it was a magnificent idea to take that from her. So simple a cop out to have just removed, say, Gabrielle from the face of the earth and seen what Xena would have been like without her. But this -- to remove what she knows of herself, well now, the possibilities are sublime and endless. I love the idea. I hope the execution lives up to it.
However I notice they seemed a little uncertain about pinning down exactly what it was that Xena did love the most and thus had taken away from her by the rings powers. Brunhilda tells Gabrielle that Xena has lost the bard, as she has lost all memories of her -- indicating that it was Gabrielle she loved most, after all. Strictly speaking she is right. But sos Odin, as she lost far more than just memories of the bard. She doesnt even know her own name!
Perhaps its a perception. Odin saw Xenas loss of self because thats what matters to him - hes all ego and "I am a god"; Brunhilda saw it as a loss of the bard as that what would have mattered to her; she loves Gabrielle.
In conclusion -- a fine episode, brought down once more by patchy acting from some guest stars, but elevated by a slick little package of effects, pace, writing and subtext.
I dont know that Gabrielle would have so meekly allowed a friend to self-immolate for her as happened here, and without much explanation as to how long this would be for or without needing to be more convinced it was the only way. But all things considered, it was a pretty amazing little finale that had you burning up to see the ending. If youll pardon the pun....
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