S4 reviews


writer: RJ Stewart
director: Paul Lynch

Guest stars: Kathryn Norris (Najara)

Mentioned in the previous episode was a comment by Xena about Gabrielle's spiritual quest, which was odd as we haven't seen much of that so far, but in this episode we meet a new and possibly recurring foe. Najara is an intriguing character who we initially meet as Xena and Gabrielle are drawn into a fight with her men by mistake. She realises they are on the same side thanks to some invisible Djinn- who speak to her. This should have given Xena and Gabrielle a clue they were dealing with a whacko but...
She seems perfect to Gabrielle in particular. Najara fights for good and seeks to turn people towards the light. She speaks of opening a hospice for the sick and even has a sing song with her troops! After a sort of bird watching together, Gabrielle reveals that she is unsure whether her purpose in life is to fight like Xena does. Xena is equally torn as she is still having those visions about her and Gabrielle's deaths bu crucifixion. Najara somehow sees these too and Xena shares her thoughts that Gabrielle might be better off without her. However, as she rides off, planning to leave the bard, Xena discovers that Najara is not just a do gooder, but more of an ethnic cleanser! The sinful must be put to death. Xena returns to confront Najara, who also seems rather fond of Gabrielle. Najara even beats Xena up! Needless to say, it all ends happily, but the ending is VERY similar to the episode Callisto, where the blonde psycho is taken away in chains grinning. Will she be back?
Well I hope so as I thought Najara was an interesting character and the actree who played her was more convincing that some we have seen recently. She was fairly obviously too good to be true, and the speed with which Xena decided to leave Gabrielle with her was a bit much. I did like her dilemma though, and the scene in which Xena opens up to Najara about Gabrielle was beautifully done by Lucy Lawless. Equally improbable was the speed with which Gabrielle seemed to fall under Najara's spell. Admittedly, she seemed to know all the right buttons to push- the helping, hospice, lack of violence. It was a bit of a shock to hear Gabrielle discuss NOT staying with Xena, and for her too I think from the look on Xena's face.
Another oddity was the affection Najara seemed to have for Gabrielle- again awfully quickly. After the big fight between Xena and Najara(one of the visions Xena had courtesy of Alti in Sin Trade 2 by the way), Xena grins rather strangely while saying that Najara has a weakness and it is the same one she has- namely Gabrielle. It was facinating to see another female fighter with skills equal to Xena's, although Kathryn Norris was not as totally convincing in the fight scenes as Lucy is, but then Lucy does sneer so beautifully! An intriguing opponent, although the episode had its inconsistancies.

Past Imperfect

writer: Steven L Sears
director: Garth Maxwell

Guest stars: Marton Csokas (Borias), Mark Fergusson (Dagnine), Catherine Boniface (Satrina)

A wonderful episode that features the (presumably) final appearance of Borias, the story of the siege of Corinth and the birth of Solon. It opens with Xena and Gabrielle helping out a town that is about to be attacked. When catapaults start to rain down burning bombs, Xena is suddenly reminded of how she used this very tactic to attack Corinth many years before. She realises that someone is using the exact same tactics against this town and against her. The episode shifts between the past and present. We have a heavily pregnant Xena at odds with Borias over the centaurs and Xena's attempts to capture the Ixion stone, while in the present, Xena has finally told Gabrielle about Alti's prediction of their deaths by crucifixion. Xena's fears for Gabrielle and her attempts to protect her friend while the town is under attack are another strong theme.
I love the flashbacks to Xena's past, and Borias has proved to be a charismatic and convincing partner for Xena. I like the way his character has gradually altered to fit in with what we first heard about him way back in the opening Series Two episode, Orphan of War. That episode is the one that ties in with this one the most. The Borias of Orphan of War seemed to be a totally different character from the man we first met in The Debt, but by this episode, he has become an honourable warrior, and he does indeed prove to be a friend to the Centaurs. His death is inevitable. We know that from Orphan of War, but even so I thought it was done so well and was genuinely tragic. He proved to be such a strong character that when Xena finally captures the girl who is copying her attack tactics, her anger at her is for killing the father of her child- Borias. Xena acknowledges that he could have made all the difference to her and definitely to her child so that maybe Solon would have lived. A very powerful scene. It was good to see that someone who had an influence over Xena's earlier life like Borias was not so easily forgotten.
Alongside this compelling storyline is the recurring one for this series of the crucifixion vision. The episode opens with Xena telling Gabrielle about it, but what was intriguing was her reaction. She was annoyed and angry at Xena for believing it and I liked the way she refused to be swayed by it. Gabrielle is in denial. She does not believe in it and says to Xena that she cannot afford to. It is yet another shift in the dynamics of their partnership as Gabrielle is not the little tagalong who does exactly what Xena says any more.
The chief disappointment in this episode is the identity of the villain. Satrina is a weak and unconvincing baddie, and when surrounded by such realistic characters like Borais, Kaleipas and Dagnine, who we have met before and know something of, she comes across as even more two dimensional. She is played by the same actress who was Meridian, who Gabrielle killed to lose her blood innocence in The Deliverer, but she lacks any sparkle or charisma and is a disappointment.
Another feature of the episode that was a slight weakness in my opinion was the re-shot scene where Xena hands Solon over to Kaleipas. This was about the first flashback scene ever in Orphan of War. I believe it was re-shot so that the costumes and the way Lucy Lawless portrays the early Xena fitted in, but the origianl scene was powerful and touching and nicely underplayed by Ms Lawless. Here, she rather overdoes the emotions I think. OK, so handing your son over to someone would be emotional, and maybe they WANTED Xena to be more broken up over it, but I preferred that original scene.
We have had a lot of flashbacks to Xena's past now, and I do think the producers must beware not to over use this. However, this is one of my favourite episodes of the season so far. Wonderful storylines both in the present and the past. Themes and events that are important ones to the development of the series are dealt with. The birth of Xena's son and the loss of Borias were clearly important to her, while the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle and the way they deal with problems are also in this episode. Lucy Lawless shines once again, particularly in the scene where she confronts Satrina, and she shows Xena's anger at her for betraying incredibly well. Lucy Lawless can do the menacing and aggressive side of Xena so well- the main reason for the show's success in my opinion, a fully convincing lead character. Yet she can also show Xena's vulnerability, as in the final few shots of a teary eyed Xena remembering how she gave away her now dead son. Just wonderful...

Key to the Kingdom

writer: Eric Morris
director: Bruce Campbell

Guest stars: Bruce Campbell (Autolycus), Ted Raimi (Joxer), Paul Willis (Oremestin), Martin Howells (Kryptos), Craig Parker (Cleades).

No Gabrielle at all, very little Xena, just Meg, Joxer and Autolycus who steal a baby. Sounds dreadful right? Well no actually, this was a surprisingly enjoyable comedy episode that benefits from a decent storyline. We open with Autolycus stealing a ruby and then meeting who he thinks is Xena. Of course this is Meg accompanied by Joxer and these two brainboxes have a cunning plan! They plan to steal the crown of Athena, but to do that they need a special key, which is help in a palace. Joxer's plan is a pretty daft one, but Auto decides to help if he can do the planning. However, it turns out that Meg knows more than she is letting on as the key turns out to be a baby. Meg wanted the baby not and treasure. After the baby crawls off the trio decide that they will try and find the crown, and when they do they have a big surprise in store!
There are not too many deeper themes explored in this episode, although we do get in insight into Meg's character. Lucy Lawless has said a few times that she loves playing Meg more than anything, and we learn that she is not just a good time girl, but someone who wants a family too. Aaahh!
I must say I like Joxer a lot more this season. The main reason is that he has been used much better so far, his character in episodes for a purpose, not just to annoy Xena and Gabrielle. He is funny in this one, and is rather sweet as he considers becoming a father. However, is it Gabrielle or Meg who is his true love? He certainly seems fond of Meg here, although they seem pals more than lovers.
One of the guest stars Paul Willis is almost instantly recognisable as the ever so creepy Atyminius from the first season episode Mortal Beloved. He is equally creepy here although he looks a lot shorter! Bruce Campbell directs and stars, and as usual Auto is fun. The episodes moves along briskly and like I said at the start, it has a good plot- something which certainly helps! The premise for the episode was not that enticing but Campbell the director and new writer Eric Morris deserve praise for an enjoyable romp.

Daughter of Pomira

writer: Linda McGibney
director: Patrick Norriss

Guest stars: Beth Allen (Vanessa/Pilee), Mandy McMullin (Adiah), Bruce Hopkins (Rahal), Craig Ancell (Milo), Watchman Rivers (Cirvik).

One of the best Series 2 episodes, The Price, featured a creepy but deadly foe named the Horde, who were very much portrayed as native savages. In this episode, we learn more about them as Xena and Gabrielle try to rescue a girl who was taken by them in an attack many years before. However, when Xena infiltrates the Horde camp, it becomes clear the girl is no prisoner, but the chieftain's adopted daughter. Their dilemma is then, to return her to her natural parents, or suffer the wrath of the Horde, or the Pomira as they call themselves. Meanwhile a hotheaded hunter named Milo is determined to start a war between the groups. Can Xena and Gabrielle keep the peace and make it a nice happy ending for everyone. (Well of course they do!!)
One of the more traditional, 'Xena solves a problem' episodes, but one that is done rather nicely. The dilemma is an intriguing one, and the young girl who plays the title character Vanessa (or Pilee as she is called by the Pomira), is very good. In some ways I was sorry to see the fearsome Horde become another group of settlers who just want to be left alone. They were wonderfully menacing and mysterious in The Price, whereas now they are a group of tree hugging, at one with the Earth types! It is good to have a touch of danger around in a show like this.
Less convincing, and frankly a right waste of time is the character of Milo. I suppose a new foe was needed as the Pomira are engaged in a perfectly just battle in this episode. Hence the pointlessly tedious Milo, a mercenary whose chief function is to fight Xena in the biggest choreographed punch up at the end of the episode.
Another interesting feature of this episode is the Xena/Gabrielle dynamic. It is mainly at Gabrielle's urging that they go to rescue Vanessa, as she is convinced the child needs her mother. A bit of guilt over Hope again maybe? Xena is less sure, but seems happy to go with Gabrielle's idea. Later, Xena seems to be back in battle mode and is setting up the town for war. Gabrielle comes to see Xena, but this is no rerun of The Price. Xena soon explains to her friend that she is pushing Vanessa into helping solve the problem. Gabrielle seems very sure of Xena this time, and doesn't question her. Maybe a bit more trust since Series 2? Finally, the last scene is a delight, with the pair exchanging a lovely bit of banter. We don't hear Gabrielle tease Xena very often unfortunately, so it is nice to see it here.
So, while not a groundbreakingly innovative episode, I enjoyed this one. A good story, and Xena getting wet again! However, I really wonder how she managed to survive undercover as a Pomira woman when she knows one word- kaltaka. Fortunately, that is the only word anyone shouts at her. Lucky huh!

If the Shoe Fits

writer: Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster
director: Josh Becker

Guest stars: Ted Raimi (Joxer), Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite), Olivia Tennet (Alesia)

A wonderfully funny comedy that owes a bit to the style of A Day in the Life. This one sees Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer meeting an unbelievably cute little princess who has run away from home as she doesn't like her new step mother. As luck would have it, her father is an old friend of Xena's- yes that bloodthirsty warlord sure did make a lot of friends!- and so to keep her amused, Gabrielle begins to tell her a story. The story of Tyrella, who was obviously the ancient Greek version of Cinderella. The fun of this episode is that the story is acted out by the actors, so we have Gabrielle as Tyrella, Xena as the wicked step mother, Aphrodite as Tyrella's vain sister, Joxer as the handsome prince, Joxer as Tyro- his version of Tyrella, Xena as his fairy Godsmother, Xena as a much more aggressive Tyrella etc etc. Needless to say, the fairy tales progress along the predictable lines, although it is Joxer's Tyro who makes it to the ball to dance with the beautiful princess (Gabrielle), before the sand timer runs out and he switches back to his rags.
It would take far too long to go into every detail of this very funnny episode, but special mention must go to little Olivia Tennet who was criminally cute, and delivered all her lines so well. It was rather sweet to see Xena walking along holding her hand too. A real cutie.
The opening of this episode is also one Gabrielle fans enjoyed. We see Gabrielle having a shower- all mod cons in their camp site- and someone stealing her "favourite shirt". Yes, the mini BGSB might be on its way out!! Gabrielle has to wear a sack during thie episode, although she does keep cutting it down, so it is quite fetching by the end. In another homage to A Day in the Life, we see a bit of the bickering and bantering between a slightly grumpy bard and a slightly inconsiderate warrior. All good fun.
The subplot of the king and queen having to get Alesia to like the queen was a bit ho hum. Rather dodgy cod-English accents too for the royals. I was also not totally convinced by Aphrodite's broodiness. Would she really want a little human child to look after? However, we do finally get the chance to admire Alexandra Tydings' tatoos!
Other highlights, more frying pan humour, Xena as Tyrella- a kick ass version naturally, all the fantasy fairy tale sequences, Joxer and Gabrielle's dancing, Gabrielle walking off in a huff and Xena's reaction, Joxer singing something OTHER than his Joxer the Mighty song, Gabrielle lifting up Xena at the end! Yes, this one is right up there with my very favourite comedies. A delight.

Paradise Found

writer: Chris Manheim
director: Robert Tapert

Guest stars: Jeremy Roberts (Aiden), Mervyn Smith (Gar)

Pile of pretentious crap or deep and a meaningful spiritual quest for Xena and Gabrielle? This one kicks off the India episodes, although the voice over at the start letting us know we are in India sounded as though it had been added on later. Xena and Gabrielle(with her mini BGSB back :-(), are in a cave after a fight. Xena has a nasty gash on her leg while Gabrielle is straight out of the bath. Hearing a strange noise, they soon do an Alice in Wonderland, falling down a hole into a strage and colourful world, that the comment looks a bit like Illusia. They meet a funny little man, who directs them to Aidan's house. He is a guru type who soon offers to help them, or more particularly Gabrielle, find inner peace. However, it soon becomes clear that while Gabrielle learns yoga, Xena is getting more and more jumpy and aggressive.
The chief feature of this Rob Tapert directed episode is the lingering camera work on Renee O'Connor. I don't know if Lucy felt like a she wanted a bit less attention, but this episode certainly seems to be pushing Renee as Miss Body Beautiful! ROCfans rejoice! Gabrielle also gets into a very flattering rust coloured silky halter top(right) and loose trousers that look great on her, while Xena ends up with one of the daftest over the top make up jobs ever for her final 'I've gone nuts', scene.
While all those lingering shots of Renee O'Connor might be pretty enough, I found the gradual break down of Xena's control more interesting. There is a wonderful scene in the bathtub- again! Xena is beginning to feel her self control slip, and Gabrielle comes in to talk. Xena has a wierd fantasy about hurting her that is quite disturbing, but Lucy Lawless is just so good once again. We can see so clearly in her face how dangerous Xena is feeling. Which makes the decision to give her wild hair and rabbits teeth for the maddness scene all the more ridiculous. Lucy Lawless doesn't need daft props like this, and the wild hair thing is just getting SOOO over used!
The other scene you might have heard about is the one where Gabrielle has a bad back and gets a massage from Xena. At this point, Xena is losing it, and a sign of it is a recurring nosebleed. The drops of CGI blood reminding her of the blood on her hands, and of that crucifixion vision that Alti told them about. However, in Xena's wild imaginings, SHE is swinging the hammer....
The final 5 minutes are rather poor as Xena:Warrior Rabbit battles- "guess what? He's a baddie", Aidan, although the special effects are very impressive as this wierd world just sort of melts away.
The theme of Gabrielle's search for answers and inner peace will continue. This story was visually excellent, but rather pretentious. The sight of Renee O'Connor performing her yoga in skimpy outfits isn't enough to convince me this was a great episode, but it was quite enjoyable. No more rabbit teeth though.


writer: Chris Manheim
director: Garth Maxwell

Guest stars: Timothy Omundson (Eli), Monroe Reimes (Vikram)

The first proper India episode sees Gabrielle and Xena meeting a street magician named Eli, charismatically played by Timothy Omundson. However his act goes wrong when his assisstant becomes possessed by a demon. Naturally Xena and Gabrielle are on hand to help, and after their combined efforts the demon is exorcised. The locals believe that Gabrielle healed her and that she is a devi- a healing deity. Indeed Gabrielle does seem to have gained the power to heal, but Xena is uneasy. She finds out about a demon named Tatarka who appears to be the one who has taken possession of her pal. Xena and Eli must team up to defeat Tatarka and save Gabrielle.
One of the best things about this episode is the way the production team have transformed New Zealand into India. Full of colour and atmosphere, they have done an excellent job. A fun ans fast paced story that benefits from being fairly simple - little soul searching in this one- although it does show yet another test for the Xena/Gabrielle relationship. However seeing Renee O'Connor chew the scenery as the demoness and taunting and beating up on Xena is a hoot, and Xena's dilemma about whether to kill the demon and so also kill her friend, was intriguing. There are also some wonderful scenes between Xena and Gabrielle when Xena is uncertain about Gabrielle's new 'gifts'. More good work from both actresses, and more layers of the relationship between the pair are uncovered.
Male guest stars are less common than female ones and often less successful, but Eli is a really likable character. He will return in The Way, but this introductory appearance is very good. The actor makes an immediate impression as an unusual and complex character. While Eli turns out to be a man of spiritual strength, he starts off as a bit if a coward. A charming charlatan but definitely not a warrior, warlord or king. Xena helps him out and he repays her by trying to hypnotise her! Not easy to catch out the warrior princess! Again, it is Xena who virtually forces him into accepting his fate- as the true devi.
There are plot holes - as always. A rather unnecessary dog chase to show off all the "Indian street" sets, a bit of over the top posing by Renee O'Connor as Tatarka,(if that is how you spell it, Lucy Lawless says it a few different ways!) and a slightly unconvincing fight, but on the whole I really enjoyed this episode. Excellent performances, wonderful production design and an enjoyable storyline gets the proper India episodes off to a great start.

Between the Lines

writer: Steven L Sears
director: Rick Jacobson

Guest stars : Claire Stansfield (Alti)

Still in India, Xena and Gabrielle have a very strange encounter with a woman who is about to be killed which results in them being thrown into future reincarnation of their souls. Xena meets up with Alti in the future, while Gabrielle gets a few last minute tips on how to beat her and learns the art of the mendhi!
More mystical happenings in India for Xena and Gabrielle. I know many fans just adored this one, but to be honest I found it a bit confused and jumbled. The chief problem for me was how and why the event of this episode happened. The Indian woman, Naima seems to have extraordinary powers herself, yet at the start she is about to be cremated alive with her husband- an ancient practice known as 'suti', I believe. Surely if she is the powerful woman she appears, she would not have just given up. Especially as moments later she is ushering Xena into her unknown future. The encounters in the future were about the best bits for me. I love Alti as a character and the woman playing the future incarnation of her captured the Alti nastiness well before Claire Stansfield returned. The irony of Xena being reincarnated as the Mother of Peace, Arminestra was quite nicely done, but the oh-so-noble men willing to die for her was a bit too good to be true. Meanwhile, Naima is telling Gabrielle about the power of the mendhi in a totally incomprehensible bit of dialogue that seems to be a McGuffin and a darn good excuse to get Renee O'Connor some nice mendhi tattoos and leads up to a really sensual sequence later when Xena and Gabrielle mendhi paint each other. Ooh-eer!
Gabrielle follows Xena and there is an amusing little scene as she is reincarnated as a young male warrior. However the climactic battle with Alti back in the regular Xenaverse is another oddity. Xena takes a beating once again and Gabrielle gets that haircut, but Alti is ultimately beaten only when Naima aids the floundering duo. Quite whizzy SFX incuding some cosmic chakrams finally do her in (hurrah!) only for Xena to discover she isn't gone forever, just moved onto the next life!
This was an enjoyable episode but there were just so many plot holes that it annoyed me a bit. Why did Xena need to cut Gabrielle's hair with her chakram? Why not chakram Alti's hand? We have seen Xena in Tartarus in Destiny, yet it now appears neither Xena or Gabrielle is heading for Tartarus, the Elysian Fields or the Amazon Land of the Dead! How come the reincarnated pair are still in the very same town- they are travellers? I still don't get that power of the mendhi deal- especially as I understand the mendhi is something to do with weddings rather than any other ceremony. However, worthy of mention are the dazzling special effects as they travel between time zones, and in that psychic battle with Alti; a very nice little closing scene where Xena invents the univeral symbol for women; and an equally pleasant opening scene where Xena finally gets into India fashions. Look good on you Lucy! Along with Paradise Found, just a touch pretentious in my opinion, but a facinating idea that merely lacked sufficient explanation.

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