Saturday, 23 June 2007

The Path Not Taken/ The Reckoning

Two very interesting episodes indeed...

In the first one, "The path not taken", we are introduced to Marcus, a character from Xena's dark past as a warlord, and an old love interest for her. It is one of the few people that Xena is interested in, at this stage in the series... and it cannot be denied that there is chemistry between them. However, it is remarkable how Xena remains focused on her main aim at this time, namely, to rescue the girl that has been kidnapped and to avoid a needless war. At the end, Marcus makes the biggest sacrifice possible, for that very same cause that Xena is fighting for. And this is very important for her. This brings them closer for one second, but also takes him away from her, forever. But of course, she has Gabrielle by her side...

(NB: This is the first episode in which we can listen to Xena's singing... what a lovely voice!)

The second episode, "The reckoning", is crucial one. The character of Ares, god of war, is introduced, and many core issues are explored. We can see that Xena feels very guilty with respect to her past, but at the same time, she is still attracted to her violent ways: Ares exerts a strong influence on her, and she has to fight very hard to avoid that... this creates a very interesting dynamics that we will see further explored in the future. Interestingly, we can see that her attraction to Ares is twofold: she is attracted both to him and to what he represents. The undeniable sexual attraction she feels for him can be seen as a symbol of the attraction she feels for the power and strength that (the god of) war can provide her. (And likewise, the undeniable (sexual? emotional? both?) attraction she feels for Gabrielle can be seen as a symbol of her attraction for the ways of peace, goodness and generosity).

There is a crucial and powerful moment in this episode: Xena has been tormented in prison, both by Ares and the raged villagers. She loses momentarily her mind and comes back to her violent ways, beating the villagers that were torturing her, and the prison guardians, and even Gabrielle, who happens to be on her way. But once she manages to see her and realises who she is and what she has done to her, she calms down and comes back to her senses again. She is afraid that Gabrielle will leave after that, and she indeed thinks that she does not deserve her to be back. But of course, Gabrielle does not leave, because Gabrielle believes in Xena:

X: “How could you come back after what I did to you?”

G: “What you did wasn't you; I know that."

X: “You coming back for me really meant a lot after what I did to you.”

G: “I trust you. I never thought for a moment you meant to hurt me.”

Not easy scenes, I think. It is pretty risky to present Xena as a violent character who could lose her mind and beat her own friend, and still expect us to like her. Should that be forgiven? Well, in the real world, that would be a serious issue, not to be dealt with in such a light-hearted way. But this is fiction, after all: fantasy. I think we should understand these exchanges mainly as a metaphor for the value of unconditional friendship and the virtue of forgiveness. And these, we can indeed find in Gabrielle.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Cradle of Hope

Just one brief comment on this charming episode:

Xena (to King Gregor and Pandora, when asked about her wishes for the baby she and Gabrielle had found on the river): "Just one request: Name him Gabriel".
Telling, isn't it? ;-)

P.S. This episode has many symmetries with the 3rd series crucial episode "Gabrielle's Hope", which will ignite the beginning of the infamous Rift between Xena and Gabrielle... In Cradle of Hope, there is also a baby in a basket left alone on the river, and there is also the importance of Hope as the last thing that remains when everything is lost...

Saturday, 9 June 2007


This episode is one of fandom's favourites. For a while I wondered why. Now, I know why. It is just the third episode of season one. Xena and Gabrielle haven't known each other for very long. They haven't been travelling together for very long. Gabrielle is still very innocent, and fool enough to think that a hero's life is something to admire. And still, Xena and Gabrielle already have a very strong bond! They can find each other in their dreams! Their dream passages overlap: this is an early sign for what later on will be revealed to us: Xena and Gabrielle are strongly connected to each other: they are soulmates.

In this episode, we get to meet dark Xena, and we get to see how Xena struggles with her dark past and her guilt. And how, in spite of all that, she keeps focusing on her main aim: get through her dream passage in order to help Gabrielle. This is the first episode of many in which Xena risks her life to save Gabrielle's.

We also learn how important it is for Xena that Gabrielle keeps her blood innocence: Xena has found, in Gabrielle, something pure and good that is worth fighting for (and, specially, something worth living for). Gabrielle's goodness is what keeps Xena going on. She cannot lose that.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Chariots of War

This second episode is very interesting... specially because it shows many of the things that Xena:WP will not be like at all in the future! Just by watching this episode, someone could think that we are just in front of another action show, with a mix of drama, humour, fights, and light boy-on-girl romance. Well... just wait and see!! The show will change so much...

In spite of the strong straight (and even gender-conventional, I dare say) aspects of this episode, it actually introduces some elements that will be crucial in the rest of the series. One of the main issues is the dilemma between fight and peace: When is fighting morally OK? Are we ever obliged to fight for the greater good? Or is peace always the best solution? Are dialogue and negotiation always/ever possible?

This episode addresses all these questions. And, in effect, we get to see both Xena and Gabrielle flirting with guys... which is very cute, I have to say!
We witness Xena as she gets to know a new guy, and she even considers leaving the road and settling down with this nice man and his three children... and we see Gabrielle hitting it on with a 'bad boy' for the first time... and, boy, is she persuasive!!
I think it is interesting to see how both Xena and Gabrielle are attracted to characters that are very similar to the other one! Xena's Darius is sweet and gentle and peaceful and generous... and Gabrielle's Sphaerus is a warlord, violent and tormented and dark... sounds familiar? Of course! It's the 'opposites attract' rule... which will be explored quite a lot in the future! And we know what opposite characters will get much closer in the near future...

Just a last note: at the end of the episode, Xena is sad that she has to leave Darius and his family and she asks Gabrielle: "Do you ever miss your family?". Gabrielle answers, happy to chat for once: "Yeah... sometimes... but not as much when I am with you". And this... wins Xena over! And we can see that she starts her journey along with Gabrielle, relaxed and happy and sure that she is doing the right thing. Because it feels right for her!

Sins of the Past

I saw Sins of the Past the other day, and I was as delighted as the first time! Wow, what a stunning beginning for a show. The photography, writing, acting, music... everything is so well done! And at the same time, that episode being more than 10 years old, the whole thing has a slight retro flavour that only adds more beauty and charm to it!

I really liked the melancholic tone of the beginning... Xena riding her horse, through beautiful but deserted landscapes, all lonely and regretful... wanting to end it all, but actually being at the beginning of her new life. Sad and uplifting at the same time.

One of my favourite things about this episode is, of course, when Xena and Gabrielle meet for the first time. I think that the story is told in a very classical way: it's love at first sight!! There is attraction and interest when they first lay eyes on each other... you can feel it! I really liked one little detail: when Xena is fighting Hector's men, trying to help that bunch of villagers that she just bumped into, there is a moment in which she looks at Gabrielle, who is trying her best to liberate herself from one of the baddies... and Xena just gets hooked! You can totally see it: she is staring at her, and for a minute she can't move. And then, she gets hit by one of the men, and then she reacts and jumps and fights and does the usual things. But that minute... was so intense!

The episode is full of little details like this. Xena is quite serious and focused and sad for most of the episode, but there are a few moments when Gabrielle actually makes her smile. I particularly adore the conversation at night, by the campfire (the first campfire of so many!): Gabrielle is trying to explain to Xena that she does not belong to her village, that she is different... and that hits home with Xena. She says, understandingly: 'it's hard to prove you are different'. And she smiles! A beautiful, sweet, optimistic smile... which sets the tone for all that is forthcoming...
And of course, the last word spoken in this episode is 'friend', as Gabrielle explains to Xena, under a morning sunshine that promises a new life and a new future, that friends stand by each other in trouble. Xena is not so sure about what to do with all that, so she just says 'all right... friend'. We can see that she is a bit sceptic... but also, secretly, very glad! And we know she is not mistaken at all...

Subtext in Xena

Welcome to my new blog!

I am a huge fan of Xena and the subtext. On my view, the story of Xena the Warrior Princess and her journey for redemption is one of the best stories ever told in television. In this blog, I'd like to share my views on the show and my perception of the subtextual plot, as it develops from 'Sins of the Past' to 'Friend in Need'.

I have recently purchased the first two series of Xena:WP on DVD, and I'm looking forward to revisiting all my favourite episodes... I have seen them all before, but never in the correct order! So now it's the time for that. Along the way, I plan to find out about all my favourite topics in the show: friendship, ethical dilemmas, heroism, sacrifice, history, mythology, music, theatre, cinema, acting, women's history, gender, feminism, lesbian love... and many more. In this blog I will be posting all my thoughts and rants about all these issues! I'm sure it will be fun...

Just to warm up, I will put up some links to a couple of my favourite Xena websites:

Ausxip: Australian Xena Information Page. One of the most complete websites on all things Xena, with episode guide, pictures, fan fiction, and much more.

Whoosh!: probably the most "academic" website about Xena on the web. It hosts a marvelous online journal with fascinating articles and essays on loads of issues more or less related to the series. A gem.