The climax to series 4 that saw Xena and Gabrielle crucified was about the ultimate in agony for fans. If there had been any doubt that the show was to return then we would have been very worried that it was indeed all over as it was made quite clear that Xena and Gabrielle really were dead. The disclaimer said it
: "Xena and Gabrielle were killed in the making of this motion picture." However, when you know a series is returning, much of the tension is lost. The main question was how would this situation be resolved. Some of us are still a bit annoyed that Gabrielle's survival after Sacrifice 2 was never adequately explained, so the way back had to be convincing.
We begin as the last series ended with Xena and Gabrielle's spirits. However, this version of the afterlife is quite different from the Elysian Fields we saw in Mortal Beloved or the Amazon land of the Dead in Adventures in the Sin Trade. Instead, this episode goes for a Judaeo-Christian vision of Heaven and Hell, complete with angels, arch-angels and demons. Unusually for a Xena episode, special effects are very much in evidence. I guess now Hercules is winding up Flat Earth are trying to keep busy.
This episode mainly follows Xena and Gabrielle's afterlife adventures with the arch-angel Michael and the demon Callisto and other assorted angels and devils. There is also the B story as Joxer, Amarice and Eli rescue Xena and Gabrielle's bodies from their crosses and attempt to take them back to Greece. But does it all work or is it just a lot of fancy but empty effects? Well yes, I thought it worked very well actually. After such a momentous death, the return of our heroic pair had to be special and this episode is quite epic in scale and ambition. Of course even their deaths can't be simple, and I particularly liked the way Xena and Gabrielle refuse to be parted even when one is in heaven and one in hell. At one point Xena dives into an abyss heading for hell to rescue Gabrielle, such is her determination. This is the sort of action we wanted to see at the end of Sacrifice 2. Both are prepared to sacrifice everything for the other.
However, it is not Gabrielle who Xena sacrifices her soul for. As an arch-angel, Xena's guilt over Callisto overcomes her, and Xena gives up her soul to take away Callisto's pain, much to Gabrielle's anger. These themes of guilt, love and sacrifice have arisen many times on the show, as has the good versus evil theme whose ultimate manifestation are the angels and demons whose gigantic battle are the spectacular climax to the episode. Where some people had worries was whether all the make up and SFX would detract from the story and characters. Xena:Warrior Princess has never relied on effects that much before. Personally I loved the angel outfits. Gabrielle was a stunning arch-angel and Xena looked great as a demon. Strangely both looked odd as the opposite. Demon Gabby was very disconcerting and angel Xena not half as much fun as the bad girl! The actual flying angels were OK. Not very authentic looking, but then what does a "real" angel fly like anyway. The sets making up heaven and hell were a little disappointing. Heaven and Hell should be infinite really, although obviously the budget wasn't quite up to that. It just looked rather quiet up there. And my goodness, it is easy to become an arch-angel! I needn't worry about my afterlife now!
Meanwhile, I liked the story following Joxer, Amarice and Eli. Ted Raimi shows Joxer's grief in a very genuine way. The increasingly Christ-like Eli is suitable angst-ridden. Amarice is even more annoying than Joxer! Her character appears in quite a few episodes, and while I know why she has been introduced, I still don't like her. She gets to sneer at Joxer and pick on Eli here. Two characters who have far more depth and integrity than her.
Finally, the actual resurrection. Well, obviously they have to return and much of the summer speculation focussed on Eli and his similarity to Jesus, leading to a miracle resurrection. The actual explanation was just a little dodgy requiring further suspension of disbelief but the moment when Xena and Gabrielle open their eyes was just wonderful. They're back!
I don't imagine there are too many episodes like this planned. I know I am not into the SFX that much, but for this story and the heaven and hell scenario, I thought the combination of costume, make up and effects produced a visually dazzling episode. To bring them back from the dead needed to be a bit magical and mystical, and it was. A satisfying season opener.
DISCLAIMER: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
After the amazing events of Fallen Angel that saw Xena and Gabrielle return from the dead, we see the return of my favourite baddie - Ares. Kevin Smith has thankfully had a haircut too!
However, Xena is not herself. She has forgotten all about her violent past, and on top of all that ANOTHER war god, Kal is interested in her, or rather her chakram. Yes, the episode is called Chakram for a reason. Many fans were left wondering by the breaking of the chakram in Ides of March, and it turns out that there is another Chakram. This other one has the power to kill a god - kind of like the Hind's blood dagger. Ares and Kal both want it, of course. Meanwhile, Gabrielle and Amarice are having to do the fighting as Xena seems to have forgotten how.
The first episode proper -with Xena and Gabrielle back on Earth -is a very enjoyable one. For much of the episode we see a very different Xena. One who doesn't have Xena's dark side. Once again Lucy Lawless does well, very subtle differences such as the way Xena runs of just carries herself. Lucy is fairly obviously pregnant here, although no one seems to notice! We also get to see Gabrielle's new costume that shows off yet more of Renee O'Connor's toned limbs! Joxer's wolf whistle was probably echoed by a lot of fans. Gabrielle also has some new weapons. Called 'sais', they are like small daggers. Xena is also in a new outfit - a distinctly non-warrior like dress. However, an even bigger change in Xena's look is to come....
The story is a good one, although the weapons capable of killing a god are certainly piling up. I liked Kal- although he is unlikely to return. The actor did a good job of making him sexy and menacing in a very short time. Talking of sexy, Kevin Smith certainly cheered me up. The old rogue is not above the sneaky tricks though and tries to take advantage of the amnesiac Xena in yet another memorable bathtub scene. As Amarice says, what is it with Xena and war gods?
This is also the episode where Joxer finally tells Gabrielle he loves her. Typically, he chooses a less than perfect moment but it is another nice little intriging moment. The final resolution sees the new chakram appear. Opinion is divided on it. It isn't as stylish as the old one, but it is a very cool weapon, and the bit where the mean old Xena that we know and love returns is one of those moments where you can't help but cheer. While inner peace is all very well, we do NOT want a peace loving Xena do we! Seeing Xena and Gabrielle fighting the bad guys together is great, and with Lucy's pregnancy there is a lot more work for Renee in the future. Apparently the Amazon fighting staff was going to make a come back, but a new weapon was introduced instead. She certainly looks to enjoy throwing herself into the fight scenes.
DISCLAIMER: Xena's dark and violent past was restored during the production of this motion picture.
A new warrior is keen to gain Ares respect and take on the role of his chosen.
Her name is Mavican, and after she challenges Xena and Gabrielle, Ares decides
to test them all. In a rather spooky, Star-Trek-y move, he transports them to a
special land where he makes the rules and Xena and Gabrielle must figure out how
to defeat Mavican and save themselves.
A quite untypical Xena episode, by fan favourite Steve Sears sees the new
battling Gabrielle attract the attention of Ares and indeed the warrior
Gabrielle is quite a change from the peace loving lass of Series 4. This is an
unusual episode. I particularly liked the plot twists and turns, as Xena and Gab
figure out the solution to Ares puzzles. Sadly, the character of Mavican was
less successful in my opinion. She was not a particularly convincing warrior,
and the actress was so 'well endowed', I kept fearing she was going to fall out
of her costume! She didn't have the charisma of Callisto, Alti or Najara and
this was a big weakness when the show only had four actors in it.
I was a bit dubious about Ares' interest in Gabrielle. While she is clearly a warrior herself this season, the producers have not made her an invincible one. She frequently loses or retreats, and is still at heart a peaceful person. So why would Ares want her as his chosen? This image we have had of Ares before is that he revels in death and destruction, bloodshed and badness. Gabrielle is becoming more skilled, and is a resourceful and determined warrior, but that is all. I wondered whether despite his protestations to the contrary, Ares still carried a faint hope that Xena will return to his cause one day.
The plot twist...and look away if you haven't seen it....is that Ares puts Xena and Gabrielle into the same body. Xena gets the days, and Gabrielle the nights. A sneaky move, and one that creates an intriguing situation. However, there was something not quite right about an episode that has so little Xena/Gabrielle interaction. Although it was fun watching them try to solve their problem.
An original idea and an facinating situation, but let down a little by the rather predictable guest character.
DISCLAIMER: Ares' libido was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.
The first comic episode of the season sees Xena finally realising she is pregnant. It also brings up Joxer's love for Gabrielle again and her negative reaction to it. A far more handsome love features for Gabrielle as she finally gets her own horse, and a good looking stallion he is too!
The episode opens with Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer and Amarice coming across the horse caught in a trap. After rescuing him, they travel to the town of Spamona, a sort of cowboy town complete with its own female sheriff, ex-Amazon Queen Melosa Alison Bruce who plays yet another old friend of Xena's. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Xena sure has a lot of old friends, considering what a bloodthirtsy warlord she was.
While in Spamona, Amarice and Armand(from last season's the Convert) meet and sort of fall for each other, while Xena's 'condition' is confirmed by a healer. Gabrielle works with her horse trying to gain his trust. There is also the little matter of a dastardly warlord named Darcon, David Te Rare - another Xena regular, better known as Callisto's leuitenant Theodorus. Plus, Darcon happens to be Talia's estranged husband.
I really enjoyed this episode on a lot of levels. Firstly, the cowboy town was great fun. We had the salloon with swing doors, the big shoot out, and even the little jingle of spurs every time Talia and some of the other cowboys walked. The pregnancy storyline is obviously a biggie for the year, and once again, the producers have gone for an unusual way of developing the storyline. The actual scene where Xena tells the others is a scream...literally! While some of Xena's food cravings and vomiting are a bit over the top, it was all done in such a light hearted and fun way, that I thought it worked very well.
In a further development to her character, Gabrielle's horse subplot showed how Gab tackles a challenge herself and doesn't just turn to Xena for help anymore. I hear the horse will finally get a name.
The one part of the episode that was a bit less thrilling was the supposed romance between Amarice ans Armand. Clearly with Lucy's pregnancy, the work load is having to be spread a bit, but the romance was fairly obviously a time filler. I am not a huge Amarice fan, although I liked Armand when we met him in The Convert, and the young man who plays him is very handsome. I do with Ted Raimi would leave his shirt ON by the way! His pale while skin is quite alarming in that bath house scene!
The final confrontations with Darcon was like many other bad guy fights on earlier seasons, but with some lovely touches, like the bullet ricochet sound effects for the weapons thrown. Once again Gabrielle gets to kick butt in a big way. Already Lucy Lawless is fighting much less, and her stand in can be spotted in a few scenes. Renee O'Connor is going to be busy for a while yet...
DISCLAIMER: Although the rabbit died, no other animals were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
One of the scariest teasers for ages opens this wonderfully trippy episode that is really Adventures in the Sin Trade Part 3. After a really nasty premonition, Xena realises her unborn baby's soul is in danger and returns to visit the Northern Amazons and Yakut to help sort things out. To prove you can't keep a good woman down, Alti is back, and this time she is after Xena's baby. Another trip to the spirit realm is needed as in Sin Trade, to defeat Alti there and prevent her stealing the baby's soul. Gabrielle mirrors Xena's antics of Sin Trade part 1, as she hunts and kills a deer to use its spirit to pass over. Of course, Alti being as powerful as she is, even when dead, soon has Gab gasping. So now it is a group effort now involving Yakut and her amazons as Xena must battle Alti in the spirit world.
I love the character Alti, and I think Claire Stansfield is so deliciously over the top, she is wonderful. Many of the features of Adventures in the Sin Trade are here. Lots of women on buckskins - I want a set! The scenes of Gabrielle in her hunting gear as she follows the ritual to become a shamen are very moody. Lots of tiptoeing through woodlands looking sweet. The spirit realm itself is a suitable spooky place with some wierd freeze frame effects used as Gabrielle realises she isn't in Greece anymore. I especially liked the bizzare and hallucinogenic sequences used to denote the passing of a soul into the spirit realm. Lots of quickly flashed images that were quite disturbing (PLEASE...don't put spiders in..I HATE spiders!)
Best of all in this episode was the inventive final fight between skeleton Xena and skeleton Alti. The effects people at Flat Earth did a marvellous job, and full marks to the producers for another inventive way of getting Lucy out of strenuous fight scenes. While it was a slight shame not to see more of Ms Stansfield, I loved the Jason and the Argonaut style skeletons.
Steven L Sears has been involved with the show for a long time, and left recently to develop a series himself based on Sheena, queen of the jungle. This is one of hos last scripts, but it was changed quite a bit by new executive producers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Hence, the scriptwriter being a pseudonymous Buddy Williers. Sears has always written well for Gabrielle and for the amazons, and he will be missed. As much for his accessability to the fans as anything.
DISCLAIMER: Xena and Alti were bad to the bone during production of this motion picture.
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