The Wrath of The Furies

By: Lord Nelson

The Furies is an extremely important episode in the overall process of
Xena's life and the life of the series.  It is important because it gives
us vital information about Xena's background, and thereby leaves us
tantalizing clues about the origin of her abilities that will be endlessly
debated until the end of the show.  

On to the script.  I think that this is some of R.J. Stewart's finest
work.  Of the other reviews of this episode that I've read, I'm probably a
minority of one but I think that the choices made by R.J. in his screenplay
are spot on and devastatingly effective.  I also thought that the entire
episode, save for the race between Xena and Gabrielle at the mid point of
the teaser, utterly terrifying, perhaps one of the most insidiously
terrifying in the entire series.  It makes the viewer really see vividly
what it means to be mentally ill.

Many in the Xenaverse have complained that for the serious subject matter
of the episode, its content is inappropriately silly.  I strongly disagree.
 We've seen Xena driven nearly to insanity by several times in the
past---mostly by rage.   The Reckoning, and Destiny immediately come to
mind.  However, it makes sense that the Furies would attack Xena's mind
through an area that she'd only recently become comfortable enough to
express, her sense of humor, therefore the silly homage to the Three
Stooges in the teaser.  The entire sequence was calculated to embarrass the
viewer and to that end it worked brilliantly. To see Xena's razor like mind
reduced to pure non sequitor was deeply horrifying and terribly, terribly
sad.  It also raised my anger and hatred of Ares to a new level of loathing
for invoking The Furies, goddesses that have a useful purpose, to help
perpetrate his unspeakable crime.

A little digression here is necessary.  My mother is a "Senior Companion"
at a state run home for the mentally ill.  She has been working there for
almost five years.  I had her watch the teaser and several other scenes
that others have claimed to be silly, and she has told me without
equivocation that the severely mentally ill act EXACTLY as Xena acts in the
episode.  This includes the sometimes extended periods of lucidity.  This
includes rapid face slapping, silly walking, talking to onces limbs that
are seemingly out of control, and certainly the nearly constant resort to
nudity.  My mother is always making one of her clients put his clothes on.
The professionals that protect these unfortunate people from themselves
experience one emotion above all, severe embarrassment, even if they have
been doing the job for many years.   It is perhaps unfortunate that it was
leaked that RJ Stewart put in the script that she wanted Xena to act like
the Three Stooges because the fans have focused on that particular aspect
of the entire episode and misread the effect as unintended.

The story is concise, sharply structured and drives like a locomotive.  I
have commented upon how Xena has been to a degree emotionally dependent on
Gabrielle since the start of the series, but at heart, Xena is one of the
most emotionally powerful  people who have ever lived.  To see her utterly
helpless in this almost unimaginable way is just heartbreaking.  In the
famous nude rant at the little village to see her reduced to whimpering is
just devastating.  Both Lucy and Renee are fabulous in the scene.  

Then the revelation of the fact that Cyrene, Xena's mother was the
murderer of Atreus, Xena's father.  I have always claimed that one of the
formative forces of Xena's character had to be severe child abuse.  This
claim now has incontrovertable evidence.  Xena was to be sacrificed to Ares
and Cyrene murdered Atreus with an ax to save Xena's life.  There are two
incidences of child abuse here.  First is obviously Atreus', long absenses
and his murder attempt.  Second is Cyrene keeping the secret from the rest
of her family.  According to John Bradshaw, a very famous authority on
child abuse, the keeping of a secret of this kind is one of the most severe
kinds of child abuse that a mother can commit.  Intent has nothing to do
with it.  Cyrene's keeping of her terrible secret totally explains her
distance from Xena, and her concomitant neglect, and it completely explains
Xena's problems with loss and trust.  Add in the trauma of war into Xena's
character, and the Xena of the Hercules Arc Eps and Destiny is a totally
open book.  The great lines, "Life is a joke!  It's a barroom joke at that!
You know what  the punchline is?  The punch line is that no matter what we
do we still end up as food for the worms! "  Are as clear an indication of
the great cesspit of self hatred that lay within Xena still.

The scene between Xena, Gabrielle and Cyrene when Cyrene explains the
terrible incident is just wonderful.  Darien Takle who plays Cyrene, whom
we haven't seen very often, is wonderful expressing intense anger, sadness,
grief, and love with tiny changes of her face.  

The key scene in the entire screenplay is the one at the cliffside.  Where
Ares claims that the only way to live is to form life with one's will is
the most direct attack that he has made on her through her need to control.
 Yet Xena knows something's up when Ares talked about jealous rage.  Xena
uses that slip to blackmail Ares in front of the Furies by CLAIMING that
Ares is her father, something that Ares denies completely.  When Gabrielle
arrives to tell Xena that killing Cyrene will do nothing. Her suspicions
are confirmed. By holding her own in a fight she demands the Furies release
her which they do.

However, the ending of the fight is subtly ambiguous.  Ares wasn't beaten,
yet if Xena wasn't a demigoddess why did he restrain himself from defeating
her?  Ares has NO reason to lie because if he really was the father the
Furies could torment him too.  So that still raises the question of her
ability.  The ep ads fuel to the fire of the demigoddess debate.  I still
suspect that like Theseus, Xena has a Godly patron, as yet unknown.  This
is art.

If I have a quibble, it is that Xena should have been mad about Cyrene
holding back the vital information about Atreus' death,  but once that was
vented, forgiveness would surely follow.  

This was an exquisitely performed episode, terrifying, intelligent, and
exciting.  It is also a fabulous comment on forgiveness and self esteem.
While not up to RJ's work of genius, "A Day In The Life"  it is excellent..


Return to Lord Nelson's Reviews