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Deathmask Reviewed

Well, we seem to have met most of Xena`s family now. This episode features Xena`s older brother Toris, and also the warlord who first started Xena off on her path of destruction, Cortese. It was his army that are supposed to have attacked Xena`s home town Amphipolis and the resulting battle saw her beloved younger brother Lyceus killed. It was the attack and Lyceus` death that started Xena off in the army business.

When she and Gabrielle are attacked on the road, Xena recognises the mask of Cortese that the soldiers are wearing. They stumble across a town being raided and upon assisting, they discover Cortese`s raiders are a problem for the kingdom. One of the raiders has a familiar look to him, and turns out to be Toris, who is trying to get close to Cortese to kill him. Xena naturally gets involved and soon makes the connection that the king and Cortese are one and the same. She must expose him and try and prevent another brother being killed in the process.

This episode is an important one in that we learn more of Xena`s past. In this episode Xena and Toris discuss Xena`s actions during Cortese`s attack on their village and we find out what Xena and Lyceus to try and save their home. However, I found it very disappointing in that the character of Cortese was a manipulator, yes, but not terribly brilliant or a tremendous warrior. It seems odd that THIS is the man who was the instigator, the one to start Xena on her path of violence, as he isn`t that impressive. His army are the usual thugs, and Cortese, while having a good way to keep his subjects happy as king, just isn`t very fearsome. The actor playing Toris, Joseph Kell, was clearly chose for his resemblance to Lucy Lawless, (get me a blue eyes dark haired actor with good bones!) and while he is OK, the character of Toris is a bit of a mess. After all this time he is so desperate to get Cortese, and the one time he gets anywhere close is just the time when little sis appears. You would think that he would have come to terms in some way and built a life of his own. If he was as tormented as he claims during some of his chats with Xena, then how come he either hasn`t attacked Cortese before and been killed or at least known to Cortese. We are supposed to believe that he has bided his time, for 10 years but now suddenly is out for vengeance. While his approach provides a lot of the drama in this episode as Toris and Xena work together, and get to know each other again, someone as impetuous as Toris surely wouldn`t have lasted long as a warrior. This episode is a curio for Xena fans though, to see her and her brother together is very intriguing. It must be very hard to have a sister like Xena and not to be half the fighter she is. Poor Toris looks as though he has had a hard time, but consider their mother; Toris claims not to have been back, we know Xena has only returned once, and Lyceus was killed. If anyone has a reason to hate Cortese it would be Cyrene, their mum.

There are also some nice Xena/Gabrielle scenes where we see their friendship in action or when Gabrielle tells Toris why Xena is her friend. Xena displays another talent as she does a good trick involving her breast dagger! This episode has a lot of potential- a glimpse into Xena`s past and a meeting with some of the people who shaped her life, but it doesn`t come off despite a fairly good story. It is a shame one of the main script writers didn`t write the story as such an important one in the development of Xena`s character should have been more involving and more believable. Toris has never been mentioned again in the whole show!!

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