S4 reviews

16. The Way

writer: RJ Stewart
director: John Fawcett

Guest stars: Timothy Omundson (Eli), Rajneel Singh (Indrajit), Rajiv Varma (Krishna)

The one that has caused a right stink with Hindus as they don't like the fictionalisation of their god Krishna. Now withdrawn from worldwide distribution so unlikely to be seen in the UK!
Xena and Gabrielle meet up with Eli again, and must help defend him against the demon god Indrajit. The half monkey god Hanuman and a bit of sage advice from Krishna also help. A very nasty fight leaves Xena "dis-armed", as Gabrielle re evaluates her "way" in life.
The main debate about this episode has been because of the controversy. The way Hindus see it, Krishna appears fictional and so this is the blasphemy. I think this is a shame as this episode is probably the most important in the development of Xena and Gabrielle's characters for a long, long time. The crucial question of what is the right way for each person to live their lives is addressed. Gabrielle in particular comes to re-evaluate what she wants to be doing with her life, and Xena too is uncertain. An intriguing pre-credits sequence raises issues about Gabrielle's attemps at philosophising and the consequences of the reincarnation they were introduced to in Between the Lines. Naturally enough, seeing what your future self is like forces Xena in particular to re-evaluate her life. While some fans were a little unhappy with Gabrielle's way of peace, personally I thought it was very appropriate and an overdue realisation in some ways. Gradually, Gabrielle has become a warrior, fighting just as many men as Xena usually, just whacking them rather than stabbing them. Gabrielle always was the bard, the optomist and the one who saw the best in people and wanted to help them. While I will be intrigued to see if Gabrielle can remain peace loving when Xena is threatened, I think that this development warrior being just as important as anyone elses.
Another plus point for me was the reappearance of Eli- a very good character who is looking distinctly haunted in this episode. Rather than bringing him peace, his mission seems to be a torment for him as he sees the sufferings of so many desperate people. In this epiosde, the parallels between Eli and Jesus Christ are even more marked. There is his comments about The Truth that he knows, and his attitude of non violence or turning the other cheek are also reminiscent of Jesus. He is called the avatar here- a representation of a god I believe.
Another god like creature seen here is Hanuman- the monkey god well known from the story of Rama and Sita. He is certainly not portrayed in a godlike way, and gets punched around by Xena, but is wonderfully unaffected by her best shots! The other Hindu deity in this episode is the demon king, Indrajit who kidnaps Eli and Gabrielle. It is to get them back that Xena seeks Krishna's help and indeed she certainly needs it as her confrontation with Indrajit is a violent and vicious one. Indeed, I think Xena's initial beating from the 6 armed demon is as naasty as anything we have seen for a while. Certainly since the skewering of the Amazons in Adventures in the Sin Trade. It is all the more shocking as it is Xena rather than some red shirt who gets her limbs chopped off! (Affectionately known as the Xena de Milo in the Encyclopaedia Xenaica.) After calling on Krishna to help her, Xena takes on the form of the goddess Kali, black faced and many arms, she beats Indrajit in another brutal and bloody battle.
The violence was a little extreme in my opinion, but it ceratinly made for a memorable episode, but it is the decisions of the characters and the meetings with the gods that make this one of the better episodes. While devout Hindus may be unhappy, for us non-Hindu viewers, it made me have more interest and respect for the. Certainly, Xena took Krishna's words very much to heart. After The Haircut last week, Gabrielle fans this week had to cope with The Throwing Away of the Staff! Yes, Gabrielle's way of peace means no more Gabwhacking. For now. I hope Ephiny doesn't get too annoyed after all, wasn't that staff her mothers?
An episode that managed to combine spirituality and philosophy with Xena's usual brand of rough stuff, this India sequence of episodes has been marvellous in my opinion. It certainly has had a big effect on Gabrielle and Xena, and it is just a shame that Xena fans worldwide will not get to see this important episode. Good stuff.

Email me if you are a UK fan in need of this ep.

17. The Play's the Thing

writer: Ashley Gable and Thomas A Swyden
director: Christopher Graves

Guest stars: Ted Raimi (Joxer), Jennifer Ward Lealand (Zehra), Alison Wall (Minya), Peter Mueller (Dustinus Hoofmanus), Polly Baigent ("Xena")

The title comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "The play's the think, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King!", when Hamlet is seeking to catch out his wicked stepfather. Such themes as revenge, madness, life and death and the agony of indecision are present. Of course we don't have that sort of rubbish in XENA!! Well, not in the comedies anyway. Like Shakespeare, XENA too has comedies, tragedies and histories but let's not get into all that now.
A Xena light comedy that has Gabrielle persuaded to put on a play- an adaptation of one of her scrolls by unscrupulous con woman Zehra. This episode sees Xena and Gabrielle return to Greece although we do open with them trying out some meditation techniques. Soon Xena is off and Gabrielle is discovering the joys and pitfalls of the theatre. A bit of a homage to Shakespeare in Love, we get an amusing and light hearted look at plays the Ancient Greeks would never dream of performing.
Joxer returns - strange that, as soon as they get back to Greece they run into him? Greece must have been smaller then....The character of the con woman Zehra is played by the excellent Jennifer Ward Lealand, and she is very good bringing a nice humour and showbiz unscrupulous stuff to the episode, manipulating a rather daft Gabrielle. However, the comedy episode are not ones to look for authenticity and consistency of character in, just enjoy them. We have much to enjoy in this one- starting with the very funny casting session. Seeing all those Gabrielle and Xena lookalikes lined up was a hoot, and the "Xena" cast for her athletic prowess was amusingly dumb. The introduction of our old pal Minya was a nice touch. Alison Wall has excellent comic timing and can deliver a line very well. Also amusing was the actor/centaur Dustinus Hoofmanus played by the man who was Lucy Lawless' centaur boyfriend Deric. Wonder if he is worried about type casting? However, the amazement at seeing a centaur seemed a bit strange as we have seen plenty of them before and the reaction has tended to be disdain for the smelly creatures rather than the "oooh, a centaur!" feeling we get here.
Renee O'Connor is a wonderful comedienne, and I feel that her acting future really should go in that direction once XENA is over. Once again she shines. The peace loving Gabrielle has her patience sorely tried by having Joxer as her idiot producer, a less than stellar cast and a right dud of a play! Maybe Gabrielle's pleasure at having a play made of her scroll blinded her to its lack of theatrical appeal. Xena and Gabrielle:A Message of Peace is not likely to be performed very often I feel, although Faster Chakram, Kill, Kill, Kill! stands a chance!
Lucy Lawless as Xena returns for the final punch up and we see Gabrielle hide behind the curtains to avoid the violence. Is this to be her new role during the action sequences? Throw in a nice gag at the end where Minya announce she is a thespian and an equally funny fade out on Joxer left hanging up by his feet and you have an episode that is very funny. I have enjoyed all the comedies this season with the exception of the dull A Tale of Two Muses. While those looking for the story of the characters and what happens next for them won't get much joy in one like this, it is another well crafted episode with a sharp script from writers new to the Xenaverse, excellent performances led by Renee O'Connor and so many funny moments, it would take far too long to list them. What I want to know though, is where has Xena's fringe gone!!?

18. The Convert

writer: Chris Manheim
director : Andrew Merrifield

Guest Stars: Ted Raimi (Joxer), Kathryn Norris (Najara)

Najara returns with yet mental tortures for Xena and Gabrielle as she is up to her usual trouble making between them. The episode opens with Najara free from jail and helping out a group of women under attack from a vicious warlord. After a fight, the warlord is accidentally killed - by Joxer! Gabrielle realises that it is Najara who was involved, but she is hurt and claiming to be a new woman. According to Najara, Eli came to her prison spreading the message of peace. So he does prison visiting does he?? Najara claims to have turned towards that way and once again stirs up things between Xena and Gabrielle by pointing out their differences. Meanwhile, Joxer is suffering guilt over his first kill. This is made even worse when he hears that the warlord has a son, and Joxer wants to be the one to explain to the boy. However, the lad believes his father was a hero and vows to avenge his death. Will Joxer tell him the truth? And how long will Najara keep up her way of peace? As Xena says in one of the best lines, "new outfit, new religion, same old whacko underneath!"
This episode was important for a number of reasons. Chief of which was that after almost three full seasons, Joxer is finally seem as more than a comic buffoon. Ted Raimi is indeed a fine physical comedian, whether you like Joxer or not, but in this episode he finally gains a little more depth as a character. No pratfalls, no goofing, this Joxer is someone you can at least imagine being a genuide friend to Xena and Gabrielle rather that a total liability. I also liked the way Joxer interacted with the young man playing Armand, the warlord's son. A handsom young actor, he was perfectly cast having just the right blend of naivity and idealogy.
Najara is one of the most intriguing baddies the show has produced, mainly due to her being so close to being noble and also to her plausibility. It seems only Xena really knows her as Xena has never been fooled. Poor old Gabrielle is once again the easily taken in sap. Kathryn Norris has slightly less interesting role this time, but once again, Najara gets Xena where it hurts - the crucifixion visions that still plague her and the thought that she might be responsible for Gabrielle's death. Like Hudson Lieck though, Norris really is very, very skinny! All hair and attitude! However, an analysis of Callisto and Najara is an interesting one. Callisto's obsession was Xena, and causing her maximum harm. If that involved Gabrielle, all the better, but Xena was the one. Najara on the other hand seems to have a thing for Gabrielle. Is she looking for a friend, a follower or and acolyte? Whatever it is, Najara's motives in her dealings with our heroes are all towards trying to win Gabrielle, and Xena is merely the biggest obstacle. They are both blonde, pretty and totally crackers!! They are also two complex and intriguing characters.
The Convert featured some of the more action packed scenes we have seen for a while. The opening fight a vicious one, but it is the confrontation between Xena and Najara in the trees that stands out, very reminiscent of the ladder fight from "Callisto". Once again we see that Najara is one of the best fighters Xena has ever faced. She always gets a few blows in on the warrior princess.
As is so often the case, this episode contained a number of interesting additions to the development of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and Gabrielle's change of direction. We saw a number of very domestic seeming scenes between them round the campfire. We even had an Argo scene- not enought of those! As a point of interest, look out for Lucy Lawless struggling with her right bracer during that first cosy campfire scene. She tugs and tugs and then gives up! The episode ends with Gabrielle again wondering how she will continue on her path of peace...a question a few fans are wondering about too.
Yet again we also saw the uncertainty Najara causes. Xena gets annoyed that Gabrielle seems to be falling for Najara's tricks once more. However, alongside this friction, we have a scene where Gabrielle sounds more sure than ever. She tells Najara quite clearly that her place is with Xena and that the old hospice idea can never be for her. By contrast, she seemed to be ready to give up her life with Xena in "Crusader" to start the hospice with Najara, or at the very least she was seriosly considering it.
A less welcome addition was a rather bizarre new weapon for Gabrielle - a powder compact that involves her puffing powder in an assailants eyes. It was not very convincing and I hope this isn't a weapon they are planning on sticking to. However, I thought this was an excellent episode generally. I loved the Joxer storyline- a very overdue event actually giving him something useful to do. I liked the Najara character in Crusader, and having her back was a good idea. She creates a lovely tension between Xena and Gabrielle. Writer Chris Manheim has done a good job and deserves a big kiss from Ted Raimi I think!

19. Takes One to Know One

writer: Jeff Vlaming
director : Christopher Graves

Guest Stars: Ted Raimi (Joxer), Bruce Campbell (Autolycus), Alison Wall (Minya), Darien Tackle (Cyrene), Willa O'Neill (Lila)

Xena arrives at her mother's inn to discover Joxer, Minya, Lila and Autolycus all there planning a surprise party for Gabrielle's birthday. However, another visitor is murdered and one of the family/friends must have done it. The Goddess of retribution,Discord tells Xena she must hand over the culprit before dawn or they will all suffer. So, Xena plays detective in this fun and frothy episode.
While not exactly a comedy, this is a one off episode that is quite light hearted, even though it deals with death and features all sorts of accusations. I liked the format of all the seemingly trustworthy characters having their own motives, and the flashbacks where we saw just exactly what they did. I am NOT a fan of Discord, who I think is very uninteresting. Besides, where on earth did this idea that a death had to be paid for by someone come from? Retribution? Seems unlikely that Discord could be watching all the time. Besides, we see so many warlords and baddies each week, how come she isn't after them? Another slight niggle- Gabrielle is very unsurprised to see her sister, and indeed rather quick to accuse her at one point. Also, I thought Minya had run off with Paulina to become a thespian?
Despite this, Takes One To Know One was quite enjoyable. It was nice to see Gabrielle celebrating her birthday - they never seem to bother with that sort of thing usually on the show. Can we expect a party for Xena next? I guessed the killer quite early on though!

20. Endgame

writer: Steven L Sears
director : Garth Maxwell

Guest Stars: Danielle Cormack (Ephiny), Jennifer Sky (Amarice), David Franklin (Brutus), Jeremy Callaghan (Pompey), Karl Urban (Caesar)

The final couple of episodes of Series 4 are very dramatic ones. The big event of Endgame is the death of a much loved guest star- Ephiny snuffs it before the opening credits! The Romans also play a large role in these final episodes. The alternate title for this episode kind of gives it away - The Death of Pompey. However, the most notable Roman on view is Brutus - who is a major character in this and the event of the Ides of March. He is the most honorable and honest Roman we have met yet. He is the one who kills Ephiny, but it is in a fair battle, and she dies like a warrior. Brutus is captured, but the new queen - Gabrielle - does not want to kill him. Xena has other plans that involve using him to discover what Caesar and Pompey are up to.
Aside from the tragic death of Ephiny, this is a memorable episode in that we once again see Gabrielle's new way of peace being tested. How can she be an Amazon queen while she is on this path? When they first enter the Amazon village, Xena takes over the battle planning, and indeed seems more at home there than ever before - even talking about "us" and "we", which she hasn't before. Maybe she is relieved she won't have to explain to Ephiny why she broke her arm back in The Bitter Suite.
At first I was a little confused by Brutus. Xena and Gabrielle appeared to know him, and he knew them yet they hadn't met had they? This can be explained as the previous Brutus actors have been mere bit part local actors. I think Brutus was one of the solidiers on the beach when Xena was crucified. This actor was a more mature man, the description of him as "young, dark haired", was a bit odd for this man. However, he was a good character, and the actor did a fine job.
There were some great battle scenes in this episode. Xena riding into battle on Argo, sword flying and a feral snarl was particularly memorable. Her confrontation with Pompey was a classic. Not just for the action sequences, but for the superb writing, and the shocking final blow struck by Xena. Quite a stand off. I also really liked the relationship between Xena and Brutus. Xena tries to make him see that Caesar is not a good leader, while he - unsurprisingly - disagrees. With the facts of history proving Xena correct, it is facinating to see how they write Xena into the scenario.
The final funeral scene - while starting badly with too many scantily clad Amazons writhing on the floor - ends superbly, with some wonderful new music fron Joe LoDuca, and a touching scene between Xena and Gabrielle. The one other feature of this episode in the introduction of a young Amazon named Amarice, who is a slightly less annoying version of Tara. The actress has limited talent, and wastes some wonderfully written lines. However, I suppose it was necessary to have at least one Amazon who we knew.
Top marks to writer Steve Sears and director Garth Maxwell. A brilliant episode.


21. The Ides of March

writer: RJ Stewart
director : Ken Girotti

Guest Stars: Timothy Omundson (Eli), Jennifer Sky (Amarice), David Franklin (Brutus), Karl Urban (Caesar), Hudson Leick (Callisto)

Yes, Callisto IS back!! This stunning episode is probably the most shocking ever. Stop right now if you haven't seen it as the surprise element is a biggie. Callisto talks her way out of hell on a mission for the devil - to install Caesar as Emperor and to get Xena to give up her way of the warrior. The episode opens with Xena heading for Rome to finally kill Caesar after he puts a bounty on her head. Because of that crucifixion vision, Gabrielle and Amarice stay in Greece looking for Eli. While Xena is losing her chakram to Callisto and failing to kill Caesar, Gabrielle and Amarice are getting to know Eli again. However, the evil Caesar has a plan to stop Xena. He has Gabrielle arrested and orders her crucifixion. Can Xena save her? Meanwhile, Brutus realises that Caesar must be stopped as the Ides of March approaches....
This is simply a brilliant episode. Combining history, Shakespeare and Greek tragedy, with a dash of mysticism and action, and a return of the wonderful taunting of Callisto, it is an fantstic episode. However, the final 10 minutes or so are about the most painful for fans. Callisto uses Xena's chakram to cripple her in the middle of a fight, and Gabrielle must kill to save her friend. She does, with a vengeance. Gabrielle swings the sword and slices and dices like a true warrior in a shockingly violent sequences as a paralysed Xena can only watch in agony - as we are!
Then that crucifixion scene.
Despite all the flashes of it this season, it is still incredibly moving and painful. What makes it superb drama is that it is intercut with Brutus and the Roman senate planning and executing their assassination of Caesar. The nails being hammered in are seen alongside the stabbing of Caesar in a grippingly painful sequence. There are several Shakespearian lines. One of the more crucial lines in the play Julius Ceasar is the ironic repeat of "..but Brutus is an honorable man", really meaning the opposite. Xena speaks that line here. We also have the famous last words of Caesar, "Et tu Brutus?", translated to "..and you Brutus?" Unfortunately no one saw fit to tell Xena and Gabrielle to ".. beware the Ides of March."
The final scene sees Xena and Gabrielle's spirits leave their bodies as they apparently pass over- indeed the episode disclaimer said it "Xena and Gabrielle were killed in the production of this motion picture." How they return for series 5 remains to be seen. Lets just hope they do give a good explanation. Maybe it will be reversed somehow. After all, Callisto was not supposed to harm Xena at all.
I am not sure about the return of Callisto. While she is a big favourite for some, I felt she had served her purpose. It looks like a ratings decision to bring her back. However, the scenes between her and Xena always crackle with tension, and that is that case again in this episode. I particularly liked her tempting of Xena, and Xena's aceptance of her "way". However, fans who missed the episode "The Way" due to the protests might be a touch confused about what Xena is on about. I am also wondering how Gabrielle will be able to come to terms with what she has done. We saw her kill about 4 men in a minute or so. Many fans have expressed disquiet over the new peaceful Gabrielle, and I must admit to a cheer when she threw the spear at the guard about to kill Xena. This was a direct contrast to A Good Day, when she was unable to kill. In this case it was Xena, and Gabrielle realising that Xena was worth killing for was a big event. I am also wondering how they will explain the chakram being broken in two. Surely Xena doesn't have a spare does she?
A staggeringly shocking, but brilliantly dramatic episode that raises so many questions. How will we survive til next season!!!

22. Deja Vu All Over Again
writer: RJ Stewart
director : Renee O'Connor

Guest Stars: Ted Raimi, Robert Trebor, Kevin Smith

Renee's directorial debut is able to end the series as it is set in the present day. Lucy Lawless plays a woman called Annie who is convinced she is the reincarnation of Xena. Ted Raimi plays her boyfriend Harry and Renee herself is a therapist.
As a clip show, I thought this was an odd one. The clips used were from all over the place; series one that ladder fight from Callisto AGAIN! The tempting of Xena in The Reckoning AGAIN. Usually the clip shows are clips of that particular series. I was also disappointed that the S4 clips were brief and not that well chosen. The clip from In Sickness & in Hell was the most over the top one, brief bits only from the India eps, a tiny bit of Family Affair. However, the story itself was quite a giggle. Mainly it was a chance for Lucy, Ted and Renee to play different characters and get a few in jokes going. Annie is a genuine Xenite with her own chakram, standee and chakram who is also on the internet. One of us!!! Meanwhile, there are lots of Joxer jokes after Annie discovers to her horror that she is not a reincarnation of Xena but...Joxer! "They never should have introduced his character..."
Also back are Robert Trebor in a small and not terribly good role, while Kevin Smith as Ares really needs a haircut! The actual story is a bit weak. Why exactly is Ares out to get Xena again? Apart from the same old obsession. The story he gives is just not convincing. And while Lucy Lawless makes a good Joxer, Ted Raimi does Xena as well as he did Jett! Rather badly. I just do not think he is cut out to do mean. Stick to the comedy Ted! For subtext fans there is even a Xena/Gabrielle kiss, just not Lucy and Renee!
While I am delighted to see Renee O'Connor direct, and I like comedy episodes, I was a bit disappointed with this one. The story was not that strong and the clips used uninspiring. Various theories circulated that it was recut due to bits of The Way being in it. While there were some excellent one liners, I just thought the story did not hang together very well. It was also an odd way to end the series. Still, only a few months til S5....

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