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Callisto Reviewed

THE main villain of the series finally shows her face. Callisto(Hudson Leick) is a terrific baddie. This episode also saw the debut of Joxer - the bumbling pain in the neck warrior played by Ted Raimi. Both of these characters would feature heavily in series two and beyond.

Callisto is terrorizing villages and killing many people, then claiming to be Xena. Our intrepid duo pursue her, but Xena finds a warrior almost her equal, and certainly the only other person we`ve seen able to handle the chakram. Callisto plans to murder the Oracle at Delphi and put the blame on Xena. What is really interesting though, are her motives. Xena`s army was responsible for the death of her family. Meanwhile Joxer is trying to capture Gabrielle in an effort to prove himself to Callisto, but failing miserably. Callisto then kidnaps Gabrielle and she and Xena engage in a memorable ladder fight in which Gab`s life is at stake.

While we caught a glimpse of the Callisto outfit in The Greater Good, here the character really gets going. Hudson Leick plays her as a demented but cunning psycho, all cackles and evil smiles. The character is especially strong because of her history. We rarely see Xena having to answer for her crimes. She is able to move on and only seems to get the benefits of people being a bit afraid or in awe of her. Callisto is like a cross between Jiminy Cricket and a harpy - her taunting of Xena, that she is responsible for Callisto`s actions, are a common theme for the character.

This guilt of Xena`s gives rise to a lovely campfire scene between Xena and Gabrielle that sees Xena really opening up about her past and her guilt for about the first time. It is a wonderful scene that both actresses handle very well.

The climactic ladder fight sequence is apparently similar to some seen in Japanese martial arts films. I haven`t seen any of those, but I certainly enjoyed this one even if it is ridiculously improbable.

Joxer is a character that has provoked much discussion amongst fans. He was supposed to take over from Salmoneus as the comic relief, but many fans found his character tedious. The problems arose in the second series because he was in a third of the episodes, possibly due to Lucy Lawless` accident. I think there was a bit of Joxer overkill. In this episode, his character is funny, but already shows that he has a good heart. I liked the scenes where Gabrielle repeatedly beat him up. He`s no Salmoneus though. Another slight criticism I have is that Hudson Leick is just so skinny! She doesn`t look as if she could swing that sword with much power. A super fit and strong fighter should surely have a bit more muscle.

Look out for Ian Hughes as the bereaved Melas. He was Diomedes, Flora`s boyfriend in The Black Wolf. Director TJ Scott is one who loves fancy camera moves, and the opening sequence is one of his best. He focusses on a dead soldier and a dead child with very similar desperate expressions. Scott`s direction of the ladder fight must also be praised. A very exciting and meorable scene

Writer RJ Stewart created Callisto, and would prove to be about the best writer on the staff, certainly one of the most prolific and consistent.

An important episode in the development of the series and the growth of the characters, this is also a precursor to the second series in it`s introduction of regular characters and its themes of guilt and revenge.

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