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'"It`s the End of the Show As We Know It...." Part 4 - Relationship Stuff..

With the filming on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS due to wrap imminently, this is the third of a series of articles in appreciation of the show, and the particular aspects that make it special.
Not long to go now before everyone down in New Zealand on the XENA set packs their bags, hangs up their swords and heads home now. Yes, the end is nigh! These occasional articles are taking a retrospective view of what it is about XENA that has caught so many people`s imaginations, and contributed to its success. This article is focussing on what I think is a HUGE factor, the relationships between the characters.

Now when you mention relationships, the one that springs to mind, and indeed the most important relationship is undoubtedly that between Xena and Gabrielle. However, it is more than just Xena and Gabrielle that makes the show work. There are a few other very important relationships that have featured on the show.

One of the most convoluted relationships is that between Xena and Ares. The balance of power has pretty much always been with Xena, as Ares pursues and tries to win her allegiance or loyalty or even love. Ares has been reasonably consistent in his desire to have Xena return to the ways of killing and be his chosen. He has switched his interest a few times, most notably with Xena`s daughter Eve. In the fifth season, Ares interest in Xena was shown to be a genuine love. We saw him act in an unselfish way a few times, and indeed the poor guy was pretty badly treated by Xena in episodes like Amphipolis Under Siege. Xena`s attitude to Ares has always been less certain. Sometimes she is totally dismissive of him, other times she seems to have a real soft spot for him. She was pretty shameless in the way she used him to help save her baby in season 5, manipulating Ares to achieve her goals. Season 3`s The Furies raised one of the bigger questions about Xena and Ares: is Ares Xena`s father? While the implication was that Xena just made that up, there were some people who thought that if he were Xena`s dad, it would explain a lot - like her amazing abilities. A real love-hate relationship!

On the other hand, Callisto and Xena`s relationship has been pretty much hate-hate! A fascinating character, Callisto`s story is that her home town was set alight by Xena`s troops many years before. Callisto`s family were killed, and she became intent on revenge. So much so that she turned into a total loon! However, over the years, Callisto, time and again returned to torment Xena. But like Ares, she didn`t seem to have the desire to kill her. Indeed, it is Xena who kills Callisto - several times! One of the most painful episodes ever, Maternal Instincts saw Callisto achieve her goal - the death of Solan meant that she heard Xena experience the pain that she had gone through. However, it didn`t make her feel any better, just empty. The scene between Xena and Callisto in Fallen Angel where Xena takes on Callisto`s pain is an especially significant one between the two of them. Xena realises that no matter what, she can never make up for the pain she has caused Callisto, and her decision to give up a life as an angel to make amends was a very powerful one. Then ironically, it was Callisto who was responsible for Xena`s second chance at motherhood. Callisto managed to somehow bring Xena and Gabrielle back from the dead, and give Xena a baby. What a talented girl hey! A highly complex relationship.

Joxer and Gabrielle are a pair who some people think would make a cute couple! Joxer certainly does, while Gabrielle doesn`t... I wasn`t a huge fan of Joxer`s puppy love for Gabrielle, but I did like the episode which dealt with that relationship and why it would never come to anything. Eternal Bonds gave Joxer the answers and reasons, and I thought was handled well. Joxer was an annoying but honourable character, and the episodes at the end of season 5 when we met old Joxer were interesting. Joxer`s death at the hands of Eve occurred because despite his advanced years, Joxer could not stand by and see Gabrielle hurt. What a hero...

Other notable relationships over the years that deserve a quick mention:
Xena and Lao Ma. The Debt, ahh, what a wonderful episode! Before I start going on about it again though, Lao Ma had a great influence over Xena, although she didn`t realise it until later.

Xena and Julius Caesar. Another love-hate relationship that was a crucial one in that it was Caesar`s betrayal of her, and his soldiers killing M`Lila that lead Xena to the way of the brutal warrior. Her dealings with Caesar were always painful because of the damage he did to her in the past.

Gabrielle and Aphrodite. Especially in season 5, we saw Gabrielle and the goddess of love become pals. Aphrodite helped to save Gabrielle in Motherhood and seemed VERY friendly with Gabs in season 6`s The God You Know

Gabrielle and Callisto. While Callisto`s chief object of hatred was Xena, she also took delight in taunting Gabrielle. She murdered Gabrielle`s husband Perdicus the day after their wedding (thankfully!) and is someone Gabrielle finds it almost impossible to find any good in. Gabrielle attempts to talk to her around a campfire in A Necessary Evil just lead to Callisto taunting her more.

Gabrielle and the Amazons. Since Gabrielle became an Amazon Queen in Hooves and Harlots we have seen her become close to Ephiny and then later work with other amazons. It is a big part of her characters development, to see her try to reconcile her beliefs with theirs, and the very recent episode To Helicon and Back was a huge one for Gabrielle as a leader of the Amazons.

THE main relationship, and the most important one by a mile though, it the one between Xena and Gabrielle. The two main characters who appear together nearly all the time, the relationship between them is one of the most closely watched by fans since Mulder and Scully! The big question - what is going on between them? Just very good friends or are they sharing a bedroll? The idea that Xena and Gabrielle might be more than friends was one that came up early on in the first season. The gay community was one of the first to really get into the show, and in Xena and Gabrielle, many felt that saw kindred spirits. The cast and crew then began to put in deliberate lines and actions to tease the fans about what has become known as the subtext of the show. Over the years, the producers and writers have had the tricky job of balancing the subtext and keeping their options open. Their attitude has always been that viewers can see what they want to see in the relationship.

Whether you are what is known as a subtexter or a non-subber, what is undeniable is the close relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and that they would do anything for each other. The characters reliance on each other and the friendship that has grown between them is the heart of the show, and what keeps many fans watching. In the first year or so, Xena was very much the leader. However, as the series developed, the partnership between them became more equal, with Xena relying on Gabrielle more and more to do her part. Significant episodes like Is there a Doctor in the House, One Against an Army, Destiny and The Greater Good showed them when one of them was near death. The Quest and Adventures in the Sin Trade showed us the characters when the other was apparently lost...Of course death is an everyday part of life in the Xenaverse, and tends to be pretty temporary but it is in some of these highly stressful and dangerous episodes that we see the Xena and Gabrielle relationship at its most touching. The jail cell scene from Ides of March would bring a tear to the eye of even the hardest nosed of fans - surely!

Then there are the more playful scenes, when we see Xena and Gabrielle in more relaxing circumstances. Episodes like A Day in the Life or The Quill is Mightier where see them not under threat of death or danger are pretty rare! Most of the time, Xena and Gabrielle are a working partnership. This partnership was something that was tested in season 3 when the storyline with Gabrielle`s baby Hope dominated the first half of the series. We saw mistrust and lies between them for the first time, culminating in The Bitter Suite infamous Gabdrag scene. While some fans were not pleased with the conflict, it was one of the many ups and downs that Xena and Gabrielle have gone through, and that have made them stronger. Season 5 was not a typical XENA year due to Lucy Lawless` pregnancy. Some fans felt the Xena/Gabrielle relationship was TOO business-like and distant. Again, a particular scene bothered some people - the episode was Motherhood, and the scene was when a Furies induced Gabrielle stabbed Eve, only to get chakrammed in the head by Xena! to make matters worse, Xena hardly seemed to show any sort of regret and was a bit slow to check up on Gabrielle. Of course, there were reasons for this. The scene had been written very differently, with Xena not knowing who was attacking her daughter originally. By contrast, season 6 has rally pushed the envelope when it comes to the subtext. Xena and Gabrielle are closer than we have ever seen before, and have been shown to be soulmates (whatever interpretation you put on that label..)

However you want to classify their relationship, one thing is for sure, there have not been many friendships like theirs portrayed on TV before. For many of us, an episode that does not include lots of Xena/Gabrielle interaction is always going to be at a disadvantage. They are the heart of the show, and seeing them working together, defeating the bad guys, solving problems and saving the world are why we watch...

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