The Puzzle of "The Dirty Half Dozen"
By: Lord Nelson
I watched this entire episode, so rich in photography and so deliberately paced that I couldn’t help asking myself, "Tyldus, what are you up to?" On the surface this is a solid, entertaining Xena Warrior Princess episode, but it was not Steven Sears. Steven Sears does NOT write solid, entertaining Xena: Warrior Princess episodes. He writes BRILLIANT episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess. Steven Sears writes episodes of great drive, humor, and emotional and dramatic power. For him this episode seems terribly unambitious. Go back and look at his output, starting with "Dreamworker". In every one of his scripts there is a solid, powerful, often unbearably powerful, dramatic payoff that leads to great character growth or revelation. The paths Steve leads us down are NOT predictable. We do not get this here. We are presented with a plot that is essentially intellectually and emotionally dry. No, something is not as it seems. Steven Sears is far too smart and committed a Xena fan, (I’ve now met the man three times. I see the far away, shining look in his eye when he really thinks about Xena. He is in love with the character just like me, even more deeply.) to just mail in a Xena episode. The only way to see this episode in the context of Steven L. Sears output is that it is almost entirely foreshadowing.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE BEING SET UP!!
It is my belief that this episode is a symbolic introduction to "The Deliverer" which is to come next week, and as such an introduction to the "The Rift". This episode is a straw man. Why do people, or writers for that matter, set up straw men? Simply to destroy them. Mark my words, every preconception, every belief, and every emotional attachment that the creators of Xena has led us fans to make about the ENTIRE show wiill be on the floor by the end of "The Deliverer" SMASHED beyond recognition. I have no inside information. I have not been told by anyone the course of events. I make this claim solely from what is in the eps and from places like Whoosh.
This is a huge claim. I intend to put forth my evidence for making it. The average viewer of Xena: Warrior Princess wouldn’t make it. However, we on the net have access to other sources of information other than the episodes, and many of us have a catagorical knowledge of the show. Only those who are true fans like this could gather the evidence to make this claim. This is very deliberate on Tyldus’ part. He is trying to lull us into a false sense of security. He does this in this episode by lowering all we know about Xena: Warrior Princess, the show to the level of cliche. Cliches must be blasted. This hypothesis means then that most scenes in this episode are incredibly important. I’ll cite but a few.
We are presented with four new characters, all of them warped from average pasts into criminals of one stripe or another by their involvement with the Warrior Princess. Every one of them represents either some of Xena’s many skills, her attitudes or both---aspects of her character as it were:
Walsin, a stone killer. The best assassin Xena ever trained.
Darnell, a huge powerful man Xena trained as an expert fighter. A Gladiator, an unbeatable killer.
Manlik A thief
Clavera A capable but man hating woman warrior who became a slaver.
These people are very carefully introduced and we get to know them a bit.
The key scene in the entire screenplay is immediately following the establishment of the first camp. It is so important that I’ll give the dialog.
G: "Can I ask you a question? These people, all of them, were they murderers before you met them? It seems like maybe they..."
X: "sigh, Gabrielle, it was me. I changed them. Before I met them they were...."
G: "They were like me---real people. Maybe even good people. Walsin---I can see him as a farmer at one time."
X: "He was a carpenter."
G: "I wonder what would have happened if I’d met you before.
X: (Xena puts her hand on Gabrielle’s cheek) "Gabrielle I could NEVER see you as being evil. There is a difference between them and you."
G: "What difference? Xena, I have changed so much since I met you. I wonder how much of that is timing?"
X: "Does it really matter?"
G: (Gabrielle nods slightly) "Am I who I am, or am I what you made me?"
Xena frowns in concern "Better get going. If I’m gonna stay up all night I wanna get an early start."
* * * * * * * * * *
"Gabrielle I could NEVER see you as being evil." "Xena...Am I am who I am or am I what you made me?"
THESE TWO LINES OF DIALOG ARE GOING TO COME BACK TO HAUNT US!!!
Not now, not yet. These lines are glossed over---not dealt with. They are left so sit. The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle continues close, loving, playful, almost stress free. TOO stress free. Things are TOO perfect between them.
The next important scene is between Darnell and Clavera. This is an extended commentary on the relationship between men and women with a bitter, cynical edge. Cynicism is idealism defeated. This scene immediately makes me doubt the evil of these two characters. How deeply is their goodness buried. If they are symbols of Xena’s character, then how deply buried is Xena’s own self image of evil? When Xena and Claverah are in the cage near the end, they share a few lines of dialog. Lafera had just taunted Gabrielle over Perdicas. Gabrielle becomes enraged and forearm shivvers Clavera into the walls of the cage. "Or he was murdered!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
X: "By Callisto. A woman...."
C: "She hasn’t seen much of the world has she?"
X: "Gabrielle’s been through more than you’d think. Yes, more than you. Despite everything she doesn’t carry hatred toward others. Good people don’t."
C: "And the bad people?"
X: "The bad people are us, Clavera. Who I was. Who you are. You know, you are so quick to blame everything on men, you have never once looked inside yourself for the answers---something that I had to learn. Gabrielle is a GOOD teacher. Who knows? If I had met her back when I met you, maybe it had been me who changed."
This meditation on the nature of what a good person is significant. It’s significant because I am convinced that Xena’s perception of Gabrielle is going to be overthrown.
Two of the party are killed in the episode. Manlik the Theif and Walsin, the assassin. The symbolism of these two deaths are enormous if you accept my thesis that the four characters represent aspects of Xena’s character. It foreshadows the possibility that Xena’s entire emotional structure is going to be ripped in two. (I think Walsin is killed. He escapes the party at the end but there is no evidence he escaped the explosion at the end.)
The last vital scene is the last scene in the ep. After the action is resolved when the heroines are leaving.
G: "You started off with four and redeemed two. All things considered that’s not bad odds."
X: "Ain’t that somethin’? I’ve got the answer to that question. "Are you who you are, or are you who I made you. (Note the difference in the quote from the original line. Who is substituted for WHAT.)
X: "You’re Gabrielle. Bard---Amazon Princess---Best friend. Nobody made you who you are. It was already there. Question is who would I be without you?"
G: "Hunh I can answer that. You’d still be heroic, Xena. You were on that path when we met."
X: "Are you crazy? Without you to keep me on the straight and narrow..."
G: "You’d still have managed, just not as well....."
This stretch of dialog taken in tandem with the earlier passage of Xena and Gabrielle earlier are very clear statements of emotional dependence. The issues raised by the earlier passage are not directly addressed. They acknowledge their dependence. Emotionally, this cannot stand. They must break to become independent people, with their own lives and hearts. Yes, they have learned from each other, but now it is time to test what they have learned in flames.
Gabrielle has been slowly building resentments against Xena since "For Him the Bell Tolls." (In the teaser where she feels patronized.) They built during "The Price" ("Where’s the Old Xena? The Xena I knew?") Xena has resentments too. The revealing instance is in "The Furies" when she calls Gabrielle a Pissant. I thought at the time that that statment was a part of her plan to set up Ares. However, I feel that the bitterness of the word is genuine but her madness revealed it. These resentments MUST be resolved for the friendship to continue. Will they without a severe price?
Gabrielle is very violent in this episode, her fighting is better than ever---so much better that even the hardened professional Darnell asks her about it. Then she shivvers Clavera. Gabrielle is becoming Xena in a way as Xena is becoming Gabrielle. Again, this cannot stand for the same reason. They must become their own people.
Xena strongly emphasizes her need to get the four others to act like a team, in the end she gets two of them to do so we see. Does this presage changes in how Xena and Gabrielle work together? Will they question each other’s methods? Xena is very protective of this aspect of her character. Gabrielle paid an emotional price for that kind of questioning in "The Price."
Other things left unresolved: The chakram is mentioned by Agathon (the villian) almost with awe, as if it were something very special. The Chakram also destroyed an ax made of the Metal of Hephaestus. Is it MORE than a gift from the gods?
Xena’s sword is destroyed---hattered on the armor of Hephaestus metal. Is there meaning in this?
The decline of the Gods. Rob Tapert said this concept was going to be explored. So, why did Ares agree not to intervene with Xena and Agathon? Perhaps he was powerless to stop what was to happen?
A lot of my other evidence comes from sources not in the eps. Lucy’s and Renee’s VERY evident fear over fan reaction to upcoming eps. Renee pleading "Please don’t hate me!" at the Valley Forge convention. Followed by Lucy saying "The writer’s MADE us do it!" My reading of the ep is very in line with all the reports we’ve received from Whoosh and the like.
There is a lot more. The adventure story was very secondary to leaving us clues to what is upcoming. As such this story is not what it seems. It is a subtle warning about what lay ahead. Xena’s emotional structure is going to be torn to pieces. Will she lose all that Gabrielle’s taught her and vice versa? The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle is going to be DESTROYED. As Clavera cites, Gabrielle is going to see more of the world and MUCH more of Xena’s character than she ever wanted to see. I see no less than a revolution in both characters and in Xena: Warrior Princess.
The episode seemed to be flat to some because Steve Sears is saying that the charcters have grown as far as they can in this phase of the show. The plot seemed predictable to some because Steve is telling us so. It is a wonderful ep rather.
This episode fills me with intense forboding, fear, curiosity and incredible excitement about what is to come. Xenastaff fully intends to put Xena’s and Gabrielle’s hearts on the ground and trample them. Xena:
Warrior Princess and we will not be the same. Steve Sears also wrote the upcoming episode. Bring on "The Deliverer"!!!!!!!!!
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