DAUGHTER OF POMIRA
Review by: Lord Nelson
The Daughter of Pomira is a small, sweet story about the meaning of family. Interestingly enough one of it's sub meanings is about war as a means of communications. It is also a tribute to John Ford's great film "The Searchers" because it explores racism as a blockage to communications, and how some people can never get past their own prejudices while others can.
Others have layed out the simple plot better than I can, but Xena and Gabrielle are by a great river, the river next to which the Horde lives. We met the Horde in The Price. Xena can't help herself but to relate to Gabrielle once again the story of her army's defeat at the hands of the Horde. With heartfelt emotion, Xena thanks Gabrielle for showing her that the Horde was human. Xena hears a noise and sees a group of young members of the Horde drawing water from the river. Gabrielle notices one of them is a blonde girl of about 14. Xena looks hard at the girl and realizes she looks familiar. Suddenly three Horde style hand axes fly past X&G and hit one of the Horde members. A man runs by them, and Xena and Gabrielle intervene to stop him. It turns out that the man's name is Milo and he makes his living by collecting a bounty on Horde scalps. Disgusted Xena threatens him with the same fate. When they start to leave the fight and the Horde escapes, Gabrielle finds a sling of Roman design. Xena remembers it. She'd given it to the daughter of a soldier she once commanded. The girl had to be her.
This discovery leads to tremendous emotional turmoil in the fortified Greek settlement nearby. The Greeks have been trying to carve out an existence under constant threat of Horde attack. Xena's friend Rahl and his wife are still in deep mourning over the loss of their daughter Vanessa. Gabrielle, without consulting Xena offers to go get Venessa back. Outside, Xena questions whether it's worth getting the girl back, because taking her would probably mean war. Gabrielle insists, and Xena goes along with it.
The plot goes along swiftly. There is a terrifying sequence where Xena admits to hating small enclosed spaces, and the Horde lives underground. Xena and the girl crawl through a labyrinthine tunnel complex (very much like the Viet Cong used in Viet Nam during the war...creepy) Xena quickly discovers that Vanessa isn't a slave, but the adopted daughter of the chief of the tribe. Both Xena and Gabrielle know soon that Venessa, is now named Pilee and that the Horde are simple people, just trying to live peacefully by the river. They're named Pomira. The wage war defensively. The Greeks have been stealing their lands and access to the river that they see as holy.
Milo, played with crazed intensity by Craig Ancel, is Xena's biggest problem. He is a one note bigot who happens to be a superb fighter. He's also one of Xena's messes. He learned from her that "The only Horde is a dead Horde" That even means poor Vanessa. He hangs over the episode like a pall. He comes very close to scotching Xena's plan to prevent war.
This episode is interesting because its dramatic focus isn't on Xena and Gabrielle. They are the catalysts for the action. The true drama lay between Venessa and both sets of parents, Rahl, Adiah, and Cervik. When Xena and Gabrielle bring Vanessa/Pilee (Beth Allen) back to the fortified town, the girl is both confused and bitter. She genuinely loves her foster father, Cervik, but her biological father is convinced that Vanessa is lost to him. It seems that there is an impenetrable wall between them. Only Adiah sees past the barrier. She even credits the Horde for caring for her daughter so well. The scenes between these three are very effective showing very much their confusion and their attempts to come to terms with their feelings and their situation. Beth Allen is especially good at showing her confusion.
For one of the rare times in the series, Gabrielle is self reproachful. "I should have learned by now to quit meddling in familes." She feels that she's responsible for causing unnecessary conflict between the Greeks and Pomira and between Vanessa and her two familes. At the time she's on the wall with Xena and sees that Xena's taken command. "No Gabrielle, you've given us a great opportunity!" Xena exclaimed. "To fight a war?" Gabrielle replied bitterly, thinking that Xena was slipping back into her unreasoning hatred. "No Gabrielle, to make peace! What you see here is only for me to get the confidence of the soldiers. Xena's intent is to use Pilee as a go between, an ambassador between the two cultures. This is extremely interesting because Gabrielle had become fixated on the small story. She had to give Vanessa the choice of which family to live in. She berated herself for not seeing the possible pitfalls. Xena was at first focussed on the small story too, but then her strategic sense kicked in and she saw a much grander possibility than Gabrielle could have possibly imagined. This scene is very well written and well acted by Lucy and Renee.
When Pilee tries to escape, she's intercepted by the bigot Milo. It's clear he's planning to kill the girl or worse when Xena stops him and sends him back to his post. In the most important scene of the screenplay, Xena tries to convince Pilee that she is the key to stopping conflict between the Pomira and the Greeks. Lucy here is teriffic. Xena knows that she's talking to a child. She can't be the forceful Xena and order Pilee's compliance. Xena calls on the well of her compassion, rather than bury Pilee under responsibility, she tells her that she now has two families.
The final scene is one of the finest one to one fights in all of Xena. Milo, who on his own had set up an ambush to kill the Pomira leader, was on the point of doing so, when Xena leaps off the city wall and interposes herself between Milo and Cirvik the leader. To EVERYBODY'S amazement, Xena risks her life to save the Horde leader. The two combattants are VERY closely matched. Milo is a weapons expert and hellishly quick. At one point both Xena and Milo try the very same flying kick and they knock each other into the puckerbrush. Xena carps "I hate this!" when she gets up. The end of the fight is rather cliched but this little flaw doesn't overthrow the effect of the combat.
The story concludes with possibly the best closing lines in the history of Xena. Gabrielle: "I did all that? Xena: "Yep." G: "And you call yourself the hero?" X: "You wanna switch? You kick butt and I'll take notes!"
All in all, Daughter of Pomira is a solid episode. It is not in the very highest rank of Xena episodes because it is an event driven story, but the time spent dealing with Xena and Gabrielle's attitudes on what's happening are very good as are the scenes with Vanessa and her family. The episode successfully drives home the point that war may be communication, but it is absolutely the worst kind of communication. It also shows that love is always worth the risk, even if the risk is gigantic. Nice work.
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