COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Deb E McGhee
COMMENTARY 3 by Xorys
COMMENTARY 4 by Videntur
COMMENTARY 5 by Stryper
COMMENTARY 6 by Bethany Faison
Commentary by Beth Gaynor.
Two stories are going on at once in this episode. On the one hand, we have the attack on this po-dunk town by somebody from Xena's past. On the other, we have Xena jumping at every shadow looking for the boogeyman who's going to try to crucify her and Gab. The woman's a nervous wreck.
Xena's finally wised up and told Gab about the vision. (Don't try to hide things from the bard, especially when it's waking you up pre-dawn.) Did Xena tell Gab that she's on a cross, too? Xena seems to be solely concerned with keeping Gabrielle out of harm's way, but what about her own crucifixion? And has she mentioned "By the way, Gabrielle, if I see you with a pair of scissors I'm going to hog-tie you like I did when you had the fungus"?
Gab summarizes the problem of what to do about the vision nicely: "You can't ignore it. You can't rely on it." Gab refuses to live in fear and wants to act as if it doesn't exist - which has been her response to a number of problems in the past. But thank goodness, that's kicking Xena in the rear a bit. The Warrior Princess needs to refuse to believe it, too - and start plot to foil it when it shows up. But I don't think it would be unreasonable of Gab to agree to a restraining order keeping both of them at least 200 miles clear of that funky mountain.
Watch Borias's hand during the first flashback. This must have been a fun day on the set:
"Cut! OK, that was great, but Marton, on this take, I want you to do something."
"Sure, what do you need?"
"Grab her chest."
"Grope her. Big time. Get to second base and stay there."
"... I'm still getting paid for this, right?"
I guess compared to horseback and bear rug scenes, this was pretty mild. I want to see what was written into the contract when this guy signed up for Borias: "Must get at least one really good compromising position each episode."
Thank goodness the writers made Xena smart enough to figure out who the baddie from the past was; I had it within ten seconds. "Dead guy... dead guy... hold on, who's THAT?" Ding ding ding! We have our villain!
Small side note: this is the first time we've seen Xena with a slave. Once again, if you gotta know evil to fight evil, Xena's ready to fight a whoooole lotta evil.
Interesting argument that Xena and Gabrielle have when Xena suggests that the hospital could use Gab's help. Gab doesn't argue that; instead, she protests that the hospital is too safe. Is Gabrielle now bound and determined to crash and bash alongside the warrior, or is this sheer stubbornness in the face of Xena's overcaution?
Nice message Warlord Xena sends to the town by floating their scouting party back to them - she's SO good when she's bad.
She of the tight little leather outfits switches to furs three feet thick and nobody in the army knows she's pregnant? Note to Warlord Xena: get a smarter army. During that scene with the captured centaurs, Xena was waddling like a penguin. MAJOR kahoneys points, though, for directing a battle while in early labor. Made me squirm just watching it.
Borias and Xena were a helluva match. It's almost a shame that Xena didn't realize that until way too late. ("Almost" because if she had, where would we be now?)
Kaleipus spent the whole fight in the camp trying to stomp on Dagnine. We see it about five times. Kick the twerp already and do something useful, Kaleipus!
A line of crucified bodies from Corinth to the Caspian Sea is a fantastic image, but how on earth did Xena plan to crucify centaurs?
If Satrina was mirroring Xena's tactics, was she going to crucify the town's defenders? And since she failed, does this mean Alti's vision is null and void? (And if so, why were the Romans involved in the vision? I think what Xena should really be on the lookout for is Romans. At the first sight of those guys, go ballistic.)
We get to see Xena's mindset in microcosm during the fight in the tunnel: Gabrielle's getting threatened by the baddies, the head baddie is getting away... and Xena opts for making sure Gabrielle is safe. She's been doing it since episode one, and it's a perspective reminder about the way she's acting now about the vision.
Satrina might be back. But I'm more worried about when Gabrielle is going to cut her hair.
Commentary by Deb E McGhee.
SOUNDBYTE SUMMARY: Replete with series inconsistencies, confusing plotting, and awkward acting, Past Imperfect is XWP's latest, and possibly least successful, 'flashback' episode. Best viewed for its exploration of X&G's development and relationship. 2.5 quills out of 5.
ANALYSIS-REVIEW. The imperfect tense indicates action or a state of being that began and was continuous in the past but for which there is no indicated completion. There is no imperfect tense in English, but in other languages both "I wanted to have an empire" and "I was delivering as he was dying" would be formed using the imperfect tense. The phrase 'past imperfect' makes a fitting title for a flashback episode, and for this episode in particular.
In Past Imperfect, Xena is beset by vivid memories surrounding the Battle of Corinth. She experiences (and describes): (1) How she was thinking and feeling at that time, (2) the past, but concurrent, actions of multiple players, and (3) her career as a warlord -- a story to which we do not hear the ending. Additionally, there are the actions of Satrina, whose scheming began some 12 years ago and reaches its fruition at the battle at Actus. Third is the crucifixion prophecy storyline that began in Adventures in the Sin Trade and has yet to be completed.
However, if we continue with the verb tense metaphor, what we should notice is that only the flashback story fits the conditions for the imperfect. In fact, both Satrina's story and the concerns over the crucifixion are actions that continue into the present -- a condition necessitating the verb tense we call 'present perfect'. Past imperfect and present perfect, then, form the central metaphor around which this episode is constructed.
In the flashbacks, we see more of Xena's depravity, ruthlessness, bloodthirstiness, and lust for power. She is cold, manipulative, distrustful, unscrupulous, quick to anger, impulsive, and, at times, bordering on back-ward, 24-hour restraint, drooling-on-the-chin psychotic. In short, the Xena of old is the model of moral and psychological imperfection. Likewise, her plans to take Corinth and to secure the Ixion stone, her relationship and collaboration with Borias, and her opportunity to have a life with her son all meet with failure. This is the burden that Xena must carry with her each and every day.
There are other imperfections to the flashback narrative. As far as Xena's character development is concerned, we learn little that we did not already know from previous episodes like Orphan of War, Destiny, The Debt, and Sin Trade. Such ill-use of screentime could be excused if those scenes helped to explicate the present-day goings-on at Actus, over-and-above what Xena could describe simply through words; they do not.
But what is worst about these flashbacks is that they are in conflict with previously-established history. Aside from the complete squandering of the much-touted Battle of Corinth, it is now suggested that Xena never decimated "half of [Tyldus'] Centaur army" (cf. Hooves and Harlots), that the circumstances around Borias' death are completely irreconcilable with what *both* Xena and Dagnine had described (cf. Orphan of War), and that Borias and Xena 'really did' love one another (cf. The Debt). I have come to expect intra- and interepisode discontinuity as a matter of course in XWP, but Past Imperfect takes it to the level of absurdity.
Indeed, I am frankly mystified and amazed that XWP would now have me believe that the Borias who threw Xena off his horse once he shot his wad and then turned her over to Ming to be hunted by dogs, and the Xena who by turns makes Charles Manson look like a mental health poster boy, shared a great love that could have perhaps transformed Xena had she only not run from what was buried deep in her heart. One might argue that it is *Xena's* recollection and understanding that is distorted or incomplete, but there are no hints in the narrative to suggest a critique of Xena's description. In fact, Satrina, an outside party, tells us that she recognised the latent power of Xena and Borias' relationship. These discontinuities and attempts to rewrite history were so jarring as to render whatever message that was supposed to be conveyed inscrutable at best and entirely unbelievable at worst.
If XWP is driven to give members of its audience glimpses of 'Evil Xena' simply for their own sake, fine, but please give the rest of us who prefer our plots with a dash of coherence and meaning a little sustenance too.
In contrast to the story told within the flashbacks, the present-day stories had a little more going for them. The conflict with Satrina is the bridge between past and present, and serves to illustrate how the past is never truly behind us. Imperfect gives a slight twist on *this* meeting of Xena's past and present in that Satrina closely follows Xena's attack strategies (rather than being a copycat at the level of general moral depravity like Callisto and Ming Tien), but the metaphor that Xena has to essentially overcome *herself* breaks down when, just as Xena makes the connection, Satrina employs her own idiosyncractic tactic. The writer tries to force the lesson by having Xena turn away from killing Satrina out of respect for Borias' memory (that is, love and forgiveness conquer all) but, again, the Powerful Bond between X&B is a shaky foundation which lacks verisimilitude.
This leaves the crucifixion subplot, a story which was made far too 'sub' relative to the flashbacks, in my opinion. Despite the short-shrift given it, however, there are a number of observations that can be made about Xena, Gabrielle, and X&G.
First, there is a very strong suggestion that, although Xena has finally confessed to Gabrielle, Xena's description of the vision is incomplete. It appears that Gabrielle does *not* know that Xena is also bound to a cross. G asks, "Are you sure *I* was dying," she recalls her own experience from Deliverer and reminds X that X saved her before (suggesting that G does not realise that X would be in no position to undertake such a rescue), and never questions why Xena is solely focussed on Gabrielle's safety but not her own. From all indications, the pattern of flawed communication between X&G which has plagued them for the past three-odd years continues on. Although it is understandable that Xena would put Gabrielle's safety above her own and would want to protect G from the knowledge of X's possible doom, one wonders why Xena does not recognise the strategic advantage in appealing to Gabrielle's love and concern for *Xena's* safety.
Gabrielle's reaction to the vision can be read as defensive or even downright hostile, but it seems to me that she is also frustrated, afraid, and then resigned. That G would be angry that X has kept a significant piece of information from her is understandable. That she would -- because she lacks the whole story -- be lacking in warmth and cuddliness is also understandable. That a person who has experienced such tremendous upheaval in the past year and a half would seek to deny the possibility of yet another trauma -- one that has not even occurred, no less -- makes complete psychological sense. Xena seeks to cope by trying to do something about it, while Gabrielle takes the alternate, but no less 'rational', tack that worrying about the future only makes the present unliveable. When Gabrielle tearfully admits that she "can't go on like this", she comes close to a Lao Ma-esque philosophy: All is as it is. In other words, the present is perfect.
Past Imperfect also continues the exploration of X&G's ever-developing relationship. For her part, Xena is trying to learn how to treat Gabrielle as an equal partner in the relationship, and how to be emotionally vulnerable without completely falling apart. Meanwhile, Gabrielle is learning to assert herself and is contemplating her belief system and moral code. Gabrielle's *direct and sustained* challenge of Xena and Xena's backing down from asserting the undeniable truth of her beliefs represent a significant and fundamental change from the X&G (individually and in relationship) of old. Gabrielle may have overshot the mark in terms of her vehemence, and Xena may need frequent help to keep from totally breaking down, but, as with all relationships of import, theirs is a process. We leave them at the end of the episode where we found them, 'at home' in camp, but the coldness and physical distance of earlier have been replaced by softer words and comfort by the warmth of the campfire.
Past Imperfect was imperfect in many ways, but the story of X&G in the present came close to outweighing those flaws. The premise had potential but the execution lacked. For overall depth and coherence of storytelling, successful integration of the flashback story with the present-day X&G story, and all-around technical merit, XWP has yet to top The Debt II.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY. In addition to the interepisode discontinuities, there were some odd jumps in the plot of the defence of Actus. Why did Xena need the fastest horse if she was travelling with (and needed the help of) a squad of foot-soldiers? If Xena went up onto the damn to try and draw an ambush, and she knew that something might be done to the water, why was she so surprised by the water attack? Xena might want to consider new armour if a piddly dart can go right through the metal-reinforced leather.
Catherine "Satrina" Boniface should have stayed dead after ROC gutted her in The Deliverer. For that matter, Satrina should have stayed a slave and out of the warlord business.
Speaking of better-off dead, Borias died at just the right time, because Marton Csokas was getting just a tad too stilted in the Dashing, Enigmatic, and Noble schtick.
LL's "Evil Xena" has become progressively more excessive, stereotyped, and fragmented. I was bewildered by her choices during the scene in which Xena accuses Borias of sticking around in order to take Solan away (was she going for Bette Davis, there?), and the experience of watching the "Crucify them!" bit was akin to being unable to completely turn away from ads for "World's Most Bizarre Freaks, XII". Aside from a personal preference for steady and understated, the wild-eyed extremeness of the portrayal makes it even harder to believe Xena's transformation; indeed, I would have found it more plausible that Xena terminated her pregnancy or abandoned the infant than the weepy, heartbroken custody-transfer.
For a number of reasons, I wonder if Gabrielle has herself had a vision about the crucifixion, or even many visions in the past that she has not revealed. Only time will tell, but that certainly would put a whole new spin on things.
Is anyone else wondering when Xena became the genius military commander and/or why she now says she "WAS to become Destroyer of Nations" (implying that she never did)?
OBLIGATORY, SEMI-RELEVANT BIBLE AND/OR POP-CULTURE QUOTES.Power is made perfect in weakness.
--II Corinthians 12:9
Each of us/A cell of awareness-
Imperfect and incomplete.
Genetic blends/With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt that's far too fleet.
--Rush, "Free Will"
Commentary by Xorys.
Past Imperfect was another ep about which I have divided feelings. How best to explain..? Certainly this was not a "feel good" ep... the whole ep, for me at least, was dominated by feelings of tragedy and futility. In the scenes set in the past all the pain and effort led up to the birth of Solan and Xena's giving up of him to Kaleipus - and how could we ever forget for a moment where that led to? - The boy was barely grown when his life was arbitrarily cut off as a result of all that Dahak drivel... What a waste! What a tragedy! Of course life is often like that - full of sound and fury, and more to the point, endless labour, striving and pain, and ultimately signifying nothing, it often seems. And the parallel story in the present was completely overshadowed by the dread of the crucifixion prophecy... sure there was a siege and a battle, and Satrina was defeated (for now)... but essentially it was all a lot of harsh, unpleasant effort to put things back to where they started - a state oppressed by anxiety and dread. I mean I frequently feel my own life's like that - but it doesn't exactly leave me feeling cheered and convivial.=20
And for me at least, within this basic framework of tragedy, futility, anxiety and dread, there wasn't really a whole lot in the way of pleasant distractions along the way... Satrina as a new villain was, frankly, a little bit on the boring side, I found - I mean she didn't really *do* anything! She doesn't fight, she hardly acts at all... her fort=E9 is low cunning and duplicity - but that hardly makes for spectacularly dramatic TV. And even as a duplicitous schemer she was pretty darned low-key... perhaps it's just me - did other folks actually find her frightening? Or interesting?
And Borias, I'm sorry to say, got on my nerves in this ep. I can quite acknowledge that he was more morally advanced than Xena, and most of the time when he was disagreeing with her, he was essentially in the right.... but still he came off (to me, anyway) as a patronising prat! He reminded me of those irritating, clingy, unwanted boyfriends who always seem to think they know better than the "little woman" herself what's better for her, and who keep pawing her without being invited in the meantime. As I say, I'm sorry... I don't think he was meant to come off this way, and perhaps my point of view is a bit unfair, since he was, as I say, basically right much of the time - but I can't help the way I feel, and I found all his "my son, my son" whining, and his generally disrespectful attitude towards Xena offensive and aggravating.
So, the ep was dominated by tragedy and dread, Xena was mostly suffering and miserable, Gab was unhappy, Borias was aggravating, Satrina was fairly boring... not a lot of "gee I loved that" moments to take to the bank (one or two... see below). And yet.... having said all these largely negative things, it's not really true that I feel negatively overall about the ep - not at all. It was well written, at least in the sense of being coherent and compelling, and drawing the characters and their situations well... and the writing was even structurally quite interesting - the parallel between the fear and dread in the present, and the duplicity, pain and ultimate tragedy in the past was quite well worked out. Where it possibly fell down was in failing to provide the audience with attachment or relief - but then you could perfectly well argue that a writer had no responsibility to do that (although I think applying such an argument to too great a degree in the medium of a popular TV show could be a rather dangerous thing...) What we had was essentially tragedy without catharsis - a world dominated by regret for the past, and fear of future loss and pain... but without the explicit working out on screen of any element of the tragedy to its cathartic conclusion (well, unless you count Borias' death - which did have some feeling of catharsis about it... but this was rather weakened by the fact that he'd been so irritating throughout the ep)... still, it seems to me that the major plot elements were Solan's birth, and Xena & Gab's trying to come to terms with the shared knowledge of the crucifixion vision - and one of these led to a terrible, absurd, futile tragedy which we all are all too aware of, but which was only a haunting off-screen presence in this ep - and the other just hovered and simmered as an oppressive threat, without really coming any nearer to any kind of resolution. Altogether, I'm not sure how many eps this dark and unresolved I'd want to cope with. But then again, the acting was excellent throughout (well maybe Satrina could have been a bit more focussed and attention-grabbing...), and the direction was tight and yet fluid, clear, yet briskly paced - better than competent, certainly (if not always exactly lyrical or moving...) And there was really nothing in the ep that seemed out of place, or wrong.
In the end then, I guess I'm saying that this was basically a well written, well directed, well acted ep, whose themes were perfectly true to life and appropriate to character - and yet because its twin stories, in past and present, were so dominated by unrelieved, unresolved tragedy and dread, mostly it left me feeling as Xena appeared to feel - drained, depressed and apprehensive. And I didn't have Gab to stroke my hair at the end, either...= :(
I finally saw the new logo they're using on the promos with this ep - the orange background with the X of light cutting across it... very nice. Well I'm glad Xena finally told Gab about the crucifixion vision... although I was a bit surprised - after all in Crusader, the last new ep we saw, Xena was so determined to keep it from Gab because she thought it could only cause Gab pain. I didn't really agree with that decision, and said so... but I didn't expect Xena to reverse it almost overnight, as it were. And of course the problem is that, now that it's out, it's going to be a *constant* source of friction between them... it does indeed add to the tension and pain that Gab was already feeling, and Xena's constantly fretting and trying to put Gab into protected situations only aggravates Gab further (and one can see Gab's point of view there...) Really, if things are going to continue like this for the entire remainder of season four, it's going to get *very* wearing, on X & G, and on the audience! How come Xena always seems to know about entire armies on the warpath which everyone else seems to have overlooked entirely?! So the town gets bombarded with explosive shells! And not only that, but they whine as they come in too!! (Artillery shells whine because of their shape and the speed with which they descend - I don't see *any* reason why flaming balls fired from catapults would whine... but hey, it's less egregious than zippers and flush toilets!) And we got the "Where's my little girl?" / gormless child frozen in the middle of the battle routine again... how many times have they done that one now?? And why did neither mother nor child get a credit? It seemed to me that when the "shell" exploded behind Xena, she sort of stumbled and arched her back in the blast, and then a couple of seconds *after* the blast, she flew up into the air and hit the gate, for no very apparent reason... maybe these were special anti-gravity shells! Dagnine was a surprisingly dignified and restrained evil lieutenant this time, compared to how twitchy and off the wall he was in Orphan Of War... I guess he must have gotten madder after all those years (younger too...) Why would firing a bunch of explosive, incendiary shells into the city serve, as Xena said, as "an opening volley to force people back into the city"?? Err... Xena is nine months pregnant, and "the men" don't know?? Bad Xena is certainly looking badder and badder in these flashbacks.... but I was a bit surprised that she would characterise her motives as "wealth and glory" (by implication, in saying that these are no longer Borias' motivations...) - it somehow seems shallow, and not to really fit in with her character as we've seen it. The jump cut from warlord Xena calling in Dagnine to talk about feeding poisoned grain to the Corinthians and then flinching from the pain of the child she was carrying to present-day Xena talking about the pain and loss of those times and being comforted with a stroke on the shoulder by Gab.... that jump really brought home most immediately the strangeness of the continuity between bad and good Xena, and the considerable ground that has to be covered by Gab's love and acceptance of her partner. BTW - didn't you figure out pretty early on that the leader of the attacking army was a woman? There was something about the *really* ostentatious way everybody kept saying "he" that just made it obvious! Did anyone else get the impression that the hospital in Actus appeared to be run by Mother Theresa's order of nuns? "You're next in command, and you don't have any battle experience...?" Well *there's* a surprise!! How come Xena can recognize every known poison by taste? (I know, I know.... "many skills"!) What was Gab's look in response to Pasicus' "She's amazing!" comment about Xena supposed to mean? I mean, it could have just been "Oh no, there goes another one!" - but somehow it was a very twisted look, almost doubting..... How did the guys under the water breath for all the time Xena and pals were wandering around the shore? I didn't see anything like straws - and besides, surely someone as alert as Xena would have noticed that old trick? Isn't Gab's skirt a lot looser than it used to be? I mean, it really flaps around when she fights now, leaving no doubt as to the colour of her underwear (*not* pink like the dolly's...) So the (very strange) four fingered mountain that features in the background of the crucifixion scene is near Actus! Doesn't this mean that X & G would do well to get as far away from Actus as possible. And BTW, where the heck *is* Actus? When last seen, in Crusader, they were in Phoenicia... I can't find any trace of any actual place called "Actus" or "Aktus" anywhere in the world. I'm a bit confused about how the whole Ixion Stone / Destroyer Of Nations thing worked out... I guess since Xena never did get the Ixion Stone (somehow Borias got hold of the stone and concealed it in the sword that passed to Solan - or at least that's what I believe we found out in Orphan Of War), Alti's prophecy of Xena's destiny didn't really work out. But then I guess that was because Xena made a decision to withdraw her army and leave her son with the centaurs - so essentially Xena changed her own destiny. So... Alti hardly scored 100% in the past on the predictive front.... Re Xena's attempt to kill Kaleipus - surely when you're throwing a knife at someone, going "Aaargh" loudly isn't a good idea...? Bad Xena said that after she won there was going to be a line of crucified bodies from Corinth to the Caspian Sea.... that would be a *very* *very* long line - the Caspian Sea is *nowhere* *near* Corinth... it's east of Turkey, east of the Caucasus, which in turn is east of the Black Sea, and even the Black Sea is a long way from Corinth. From Corinth to the nearest point of the Caspian Sea, as the crow flies, is about 1,700 miles!! That's an *awfully* long line of bodies! I loved Gab's comment: "I'm going onto the battlements - I'm going to reinforce the men!" What was she going to do - nail planks to their spines?? Xena gets hit by a poison dart *again* - and it looked suspiciously like the same dart that was used to trick Baldur on Herc's Norse excursion! I'm always interested to see if the stuff they throw into Xena scripts has any basis in the real world, so I tried looking up Santra Flower and Kala Root... I couldn't find any plant called santra at all. "Kala" is sometimes used to refer to the prickly salt wort or glass wort (more commonly kali), which was burned so that caustic potash could be extracted from its ashes, hence the Latin name "kalium" for potassium, from which the chemical symbol K is derived.... however there doesn't seem to be any particular record of prickly salt wort being used as a medicine or an antidote. Didn't Satrina look like Najara when she first appeared, silhouetted against the tunnel entrance? I *would* have been surprised if it had been Najara. BTW, is it just me, or did anyone else find that Satrina's name conjured up unfortunate linguistic echoes? "I'll deal with Xena - she's in no condition to resist." Well, I already suspected this was a set-up by Xena, but as soon as I heard that, I was certain! And how come *every* time we see Bad Xena she's getting blind-sided, duped and betrayed by someone?? I've remarked on this before, and this ep again was entirely true to form, with Bad Xena being *completely* fooled by Satrina! For someone supposedly so fearsome, Bad Xena seems to have been remarkably stupid... Adding Satrina did at least put a new spin on things, and make the events surrounding Borias' death less predictable (given that we already knew that Dagnine killed him without Xena's permission - although previously she said that she given the order that he was to be captured, whereas we never saw her give any such order this time...) I really did find Borias' whole "my son, my son..." thing annoying - it seemed more like typical patriarchal ego-projection, rather than any sort of genuine concern for nurturing and protecting a new life. OK, I don't really like Borias much, so maybe I'm just biased.... Err... so is kala root a universal antidote, or was Xena entirely sure that Satrina was going to try and poison her with santra flower?? What if Satrina had learned about a *new* poison in the intervening ten years or so? Presumably Xena explained the whole thing to Gabrielle off camera before she went to investigate the tunnel, since Gab seemed to know who Satrina was by name as soon as she saw her... But wait a minute, if Xena was just investigating the tunnel, how could Gab and the soldiers of Actus (who I noticed Xena referred to as hers) tunnel in and break through from the other end?? I mean, how did they know where to dig? "Funny thing about destiny... you can't ignore it... you can't *rely* on it! Alti promised you one, didn't she?" Gab's questioning of the status of the crucifixion vision seems entirely reasonable, but it doesn't really get us anywhere, does it? Are we really going to speculate endlessly about this for the whole remainder of the season? Now the scene where Xena hands over her baby to Kaleipus is something quite remarkable, since (I believe I'm correct in saying) it's the only time in the whole of X:WP where we've actually been shown *exactly* the same scene twice, but enacted completely differently. This raises some interesting technical and philosophical questions, apart from anything else... if we view the whole of the X:WP series as one continuous work of art, then how are we supposed to take being shown the same scene twice, and it's not appearing at all the same?? To some degree at least, it would seem that the show is explicitly declaring itself an unreliable narrator!! If they take that idea and run with it, who knows where we might end up! Of course in both cases we saw the scene as a "flashback", in terms of Xena's memory of it - so I suppose you could say that it's just Xena's memory that's unreliable. But it's not the first time the RenPics staff have explicitly raised the idea of fictive devices and unreliable narrators - for one thing, it's clearly inherent in the "meta" eps such as The Xena Scrolls, and on HTLJ, Yes Virginia There Is A Hercules, and this week's For Those Of You Just Joining Us (e.g. Sorbo / Herc's comment "But Iolaus lived for a hundred years!" when the idea of killing the little guy off on the show was raised...) So are we to take it that what we are seeing is just a consciously fictive *version* of events in Xena and Gab's lives, with the possibility of the version being revised constantly present??
Anyhow, apart from all this Postmodernism 101 stuff, it's really worthwhile to go back and watch the original version of this scene from Orphan Of War, and then re-watch the Past Imperfect version (yes, I'm urging you to go and dig out your tapes and do it, if you have tapes, and you haven't already done it!) The scene *looks* totally different in the two versions - in the old version Kaleipus is thinner and less grizzled, and Xena has big hair and is wearing an elegant looking black cloth cloak with silver fastenings, and no head covering... in the new version she has on her "barbarian" headdress with the metal disks, and a bulky, rough fur which leaves her arms bare... there's fog in the air (unless it's smoke), and she and Kaleipus both look cold... she looks *much* wilder in the new version. And here is the dialogue:
Original version, from Orphan Of War:K. Stop right there! You won't get the Ixion Stone. All of us are willing to die to keep you from that power. And Borias, the man who betrayed Xena to become the greatest friend of the Centaurs, told us everything. He may have died at your command, but he will live forever in our legends.
X. I'm willing to withdraw my army.
K. (laughs) Xena, Destroyer of Nations, isn't known to bargain.
X. (reveals baby from beneath cloak) Take this child. He's my son, and the son of Borias. If he stays with me, he'll become a target for all those who hate me, and he'll learn things a child should never know... he'll become like me.
K. (takes baby) The son of Borias will be raised as my own.
New version, from Past Imperfect:K. Stop there, Xena!
X. You got my message. I just wanna talk to you.
K. As you did before when you tried to kill me? It doesn't matter - you won't get the Ixion Stone. Borias, the friend of the Centaurs, has told us everything. We found his body in your camp. But his legend will live forever with our people.
X. (reveals baby from under heavy fur cape) Take this child. He's my son.... the son of Borias. If he stays with me, he'll become a target for all those who hate me... he'll learn things that a child shouldn't know. He'll become like me. Please....
K. (takes baby, lifts it up and looks at it) The son of Borias shall be raised as my own...
X leaves... groans and sobs as she is out of K's earshot...
I would say that there's no doubt that the reshot version is *way* more powerful and tragic than the original... Xena's pain is so apparent it just tears at you - but now you see also much more than just her pain at giving up her child at that particular point in time... you see the whole conflict inside her, building on Cortese, Caesar, Chin, Alti... and also we know the terrible fate (unfortunately in more ways than one) that awaits in the future for Solan and Xena and Kaleipus. So we feel the burden of pain and doom very heavily... and as we return to the "present" we are still afflicted with a sense of impending doom in the future (Solan's death, foreshadowed in the narrative past, Gabrielle's death, foreshadowed in the narrative present)...
Fade out on Xena's look of anguish and regret by the campfire, as Gab holds her and strokes her hair.......
Commentary by Videntur.
This episode was fantastic and it addressed a number of outstanding issues. First of all, let’s explore each of the characters and see what part they played in giving us answers regarding Solan’s birth, Borias’s death and Xena’s past and present life.
Borias - His love for Xena was never-ending. Despite her thirst for power, blood and glory at the cost of anything, Borias loved her anyway. When the war broke out and Borias came back for Xena he stated his love: “Before Alti, before all this, we had love Xena, maybe we confused it with power-but it was there-its still there-for the sake of our son and us, I’m taking you away.” What would have happened to Xena if Borias has succeeded in taking her away that night? Would Xena have been different. Judging from Xena’s statement to Satrina at the end of this episode, I would say yes, her life would have been different. We see this when Xena, in the tunnel, with a rope around Satrina’s neck states: “You killed Borias-the man who could have changed everything for me if only I had let him. You killed the father of my child.” You hear the anguish and torment that Xena feels from the death of Borias and you truly know that this man if allowed, could have indeed affected the way Xena lived her life. I also must say that the way Borias died was horrible, he endured tremendous pain and yet always tried to get back to Xena and his son. Finally when Dagnine thrust the sword in his back a second time and gave it a final twist, even with that Borias stayed conscious to see his son and call his son’s name (Solan) out to Xena. For the first time, you see a sorrow and softness in the evil Xena that one would never have dreamed possible.
Dagnine - Interesting character. In the episode “Orphan of War”, Dagnine presented himself as a “not to be taken seriously” stupid warlord. In this episode, we see a different Dagnine. He is serious, focused and dedicated to carrying out Xena’s will no matter how many men he would have to kill (which he seemed to enjoy doing immensely). We still don’t see much thinking on his part. Dagnine never initiated an action that wasn’t preceded by some type of instruction from Xena (and later by Satrina). Even if Dagnine had lived, you get the impression that unlike Satrina, he (Dagnine) would not have had enough thought initiative to wage a war against a town using Xena’s own tactics.
Satrina - Definitely an opportunist. Being captured by the evil Xena gave her the opportunity to study one of the most complex and devious minds in fighting history. She had studied Xena and felt that she had probed the inside of Xena’s mind well enough to defeat her by using her own war tactics against her. What she failed to realize is that “no one knows you better than you know yourself”. At first I don’t feel Xena realized this point, especially when she fearfully said to Gabrielle: “How do I defeat myself?” Perhaps Xena panicked for this short time because the crucifixion “prophecy” was constantly on her mind - but we will elaborate on that later in this commentary. One thing for certain, at the end of this episode, Xena did defeat Satrina letting her know by her look, voice and eyes that exploring her (Xena’s) mind was not somewhere Satrina wanted to go.
Gabrielle- Very mentally strong in this episode. Gabrielle let Xena know that she will not hide behind walls to be protected. She is no longer a little girl that needs protecting, and if necessary, she will die with the Warrior Princess if that is what the fates have in store. This is reflected in Gabrielle’s statement: “As long as you’re concentrating on me, you can’t think about the problem.” “Now either I prove you wrong and we go on from here or I prove you right and we die.” Gabrielle now shows that she will follow Xena anywhere even if it means into a fatal battle. Great acting on the part of ROC in the way she embraced Xena at the end of the episode, you knew that Gabrielle was indeed feeling the pain that Xena was reliving in her mind and that Gabrielle is also realizing the toll it is beginning to take on the Warrior. You see that even though soldiers who follow the “good” Xena into battle feel that she is amazing and undefeatable, that she is very vulnerable with Gabrielle being the only one who is really aware of the extent of Xena’s vulnerability.
Xena - Very powerful acting on the part of Lucy Lawless. To switch between a “good” Xena to an “evil” Xena (and really make it convincing) is not an easy task, yet Lucy Lawless does a fantastic job in making it work. When we see the evil Xena, we actually see and feel that she is an uncaring, cold, calculating, blood-thirsty warlord who places becoming the “Destroyer of Nations” above even the birth of her own child. Yet when Xena hands Solan over to Kaleipus, you see a glimpse of the “good” Xena that does reside within. In the present time, you can see that the crucifixion “prophecy” is starting to take its toll. Xena’s voice is not as strong as it should be and at times seems shaky. Her concentration and focus seems a bit slower and we see that she can not tolerate the thought of losing another person that she cares about. We also tend to worry if Xena’s lack of battle focus makes her more vulnerable during battle and perhaps quicker to be wounded. Interestingly, we never hear Xena talk about how she can avoid being crucified, only how she can prevent Gabrielle from being crucified. You can see Xena’s anguish when she turns to Gabrielle and in referring to Alti states: “Funny how I use to look forward to her promises, and everyone always ended in tragedy.” However, one tends to think that Alti always promised Xena something, that was viewed by Xena as being good, which always resulted in tragedy; perhaps, since this time she is promising something viewed by Xena as bad, it will result in something good happening that will be non-tragic for both Xena and Gabrielle. Again, the ending scene was very powerful - the anguish and sadness being experienced by Xena was truly displayed.
Best movement scene in this episode: When Xena ran across the room to stop a patient from being given poisoned grain. Favorite scenes: When Xena had the rope around Satrina’s neck and the way that Xena actually seemed imbalanced and sad at the same time while trying not to kill Satrina (awesome and powerful acting on the part of Lucy Lawless). Next best scene: the closing scene which displayed the true, undying friendship between the Warrior and the Bard. This episode, for me, was more like the Xena we are use to seeing.
Commentary by Stryper.
Wow, what a good episode this was, with a lot of great action, and more of Xena’s past life revealed. The performances were excellent, especially by Marton Csokas, the actor behind Borias’s persona, who’s death scene almost made me swallow my tooth paste (don’t ask… lol). But even a good episode has it’s problems, and this one was no exception.
First of all, the whole “boxed in a city/fort” thing, with no hope of escape, felt a bit too much like “The Price”, where the Horde , an army of primitive, head hunter types, with a savage and unfathomable nature, trap Xena and the remains of a small army in a fort. It went even further when Xena was forced to take command, and tried to put Gabrielle in charge of the hospital. But luckily, Gabrielle refused this post, wanting instead to help fight, and this is where the similarities to “The Price”, end.
Then Xena got blown into the air, by one of the falling fire bombs that the unknown enemy was barraging the city with. A blow so great that it sent her flying through the air where she crashed, very heavily , into a wall, and then droped about 6 to 8 feet to the ground. Okay, now didn’t we see Xena endure the same type of thing in “Destiny”, where she got slammed into a tree by a giant swinging log, but in that episode she eventually died of her injuries (only to be resurrected later through her friends diligent help, and Ambrosia). But in this episode, even though the whole thing looked just as detrimental to Xena’s health, her only consolation seems to be the a curious flashing backs to the past, where we got to witness the days leading up to Solon’s birth, and the death of Borias.
Now comes the part that I found hardest to understand, for we eventually find out that the person leading the attack on the city is in fact the very same servant girl who was there during Solon’s birth, and that she had been studying Xena, all the while that she was with her, so that she could one day conquer an empire of her own. But here’s the thing that made me cry foul, for we also learn, as she had no qualms in telling Xena, because she was under the misguided notion that she had Xena just where she wanted her (when in fact, as we learned later, Xena had her right where she wanted her) that it was due to herself that Borias had died. Supposedly Borias had come back for Xena, out of love for her and their newly born child, which Xena had kept a secret from her men, in order to keep them from using her pregnancy against her (nice to know that you can count on your men in times of need, eh…). The servant girl, Satrina, figured that Borias would get in the way of her plans, so she stabbed him in the leg, while he wasn’t looking, then called out that he had come to kill Xena. Dagnine, who had no idea of Borias’s real intent, fought, and due to Borias’s bad leg wound, and his desperation to get to Xena and his son, eventually defeated him, and (in what I personally found one of the hardest things in the whole Xenaverse to watch, even outdoing the Gab Drag from “The Bitter Suite”) kills him. Now here’s the part that made me go “Exqueese me?!”, when Xena finally turned the tables on Satrina, instead of killing her for her betrayal of her, and for cosing Borias’s death, she sp ares her life, not wanting to soil Borias’s memory with her death. But didn’t Xena kill Ming Tien after his boasting of killing Lao Ma, someone whom Xena also held in deepest regards? Okay, you’re going to say that after “The Bitter Suite”, Xena changed and no longer condones killing for revenge, right? Wrong! For as anyone who’s watched “Crusader” knows, if Gabrielle hadn’t been in the cave during the last fight between Xena and Najara, then Xena would have been the only one to have emerged from the cave. For you could see it in her steely blue eyes, and in the raised boot, ready to stomp on Najara’s tentatively grasping hands, as she clung precariously to the ledge of the rocky precipice. And for what? Murder? Nope, because she had whooped Xena’s butt and had kidnapped her best friend. So now, here she’s been told that the death of her once great love (although she didn’t realize it at the time) and the need to give up her only son had been brought about by this woman, for her own selfish reasons, and Xena’s able to spear her life? Exqueese me if I have just the slightest bit of trouble buying into that. Now if Gabrielle had stepped into the cave at the exact moment that Satrina had divulged this information, giving Xena no chance to react, and left us guessing if she would have done anything to her if Gabrielle hadn’t come, then this I could have fathomed.
As a small side note to this whole death of Borias thing, was I the only one who thought that it was the most vicious, and hardest to watch scene ever filmed for a Xena episode? I mean, I don’t blame Dagnine for killing Borias, he was under false impressions of the whole thing and should in fact be commemorated for defending Xena so diligently. But, to watch poor Borias, a man who we were beginning to see as less the bloodthirsty tyrant/warlord, and more as a man of great passion, especially for Xena, and now his child, in a futile struggle to reach Xena and his newborn son. Then to get cut down so close to his goal, but even though his life was draining out onto the dirt ground, still trying to crawl to her… As I stated before, I almost swallowed a mouthful of toothpaste (I had picked this most inopportune time, to cleanse my teeth) while agonizing with this scene. I also find it a total laugh that in “The Debt part 1”, Xena was wearing a body stocking during her crawl towards Ming Tien’s sleeping quarters, so that her nakedness was covered, and her butt is minus the crack (lol), but the censers have no problem with them showing a man brutally killed. I have no real problem with the violence (although I think that these types of episodes should have a parental advisory stating that this episode has some violent content that’s not suitable for young children) I just find it odd that a brutal death is okay, but a naked butt isn’t. What kind of message does that send out to kids? That violence is okay, but that a naked form, once thought a thing to be immortalized in ancient sculptures, is bad? Oh sorry, I do tend to go off on these little tangents, don’t I… (lol)
Here’s another rather irksome thing; why were only the solders with knives attacking Gabrielle? Did the ones with swords feel to superior to be wasting their skills on, what they probably considered, an easy kill? And who carries “only” a knife into battle anyway? Also, why, after they’ve gone to such great lengths this season to prove to us that Gabrielle has finally come into her own, as far as her competence in fighting, do they still find it necessary to have her get overwhelmed in a fight to the point where Xena had to chose between going after Satrina, or rescuing Gabrielle, yet again? You’d think that after Gabrielle single handedly commanded an army of a few, against a much larger Roman army, in “A Good Day”, and had actually been one of only a handful of survivors (of course the dead all had swords, and died, and she had a staff, and lived. Go figure) that they could have come up with something a little different for a change.“We need the villain to escape, what do we do?”
“I know, Gabby gets overwhelmed and is on the verge of biting it, so Xena has to abandon her pursuit of the baddy, to rescue her.”
“Yeah, but haven’t we done that, like, 60 gazillion times already?”
“Sure, but nobody’ll notice…”
But all the nitpickyness aside, this was a pretty good episode, and hopefully an indication of better episodes to come. Or is it just me?
Commentary by Bethany Faison.
This episode is the story of Borias (and it is a tragedy). Imagine this final scene...Xena is giving birth to their son, crying out in pain and calling out Borias' name. Borias is just outside her tent (can he hear her?), caught in a mortal struggle with Dagnine. He also screams in pain, struggles to reach her, but never does. He never reaches Xena, never holds the baby and never lives to name the child.
Apparently, fifteen minutes had to be edited out of the original cut to make the final product fit the required 45 minute time slot. This may explain why (at least to me, anyway) a lot of the best material seems to have been left out. Instead, we get a lot of time spent in battle scenes in and around Actus. (Yeah, I know it's an adventure / action television show, but Actus is so truly peripheral to the really GOOD material in this episode, that I can only assume we need these events (and the character Satrina) for some future episode.)
This week, we finally get to hear the story of the battle of Corinth. (Xena of Corinth turns out to have lost the Battle of Corinth. Did we know this before?)
Xena finally tells Gabrielle about her vision of their future execution / crucifixion. A surprising amount of anger and confrontation ensues. More, I think, than was actually written into the lines. However, since I can't bring myself to fault the acting of LL or ROC (Oh, heresy!), let's just say the director messed up, instead. If you listen to the lines, I think there was much more to be gotten out of the material. Instead, they seemed to just be yelling at each other. It's only in the closing scene (by the fire) that Gabrielle slows down and tries to provide some understanding and help. They'll do it richer next time (I hope) and there will be a next time (see below).
Unfortunately, the crucifixion vision still hangs over us and even worse, we (and the players) have to continue with it for much of the fourth season. I don't know about you, but I can't take the unknown much longer. Will all the prophecies of The Great Shamaness Alti come to pass? The others have (except Xena hasn't destroyed any nations...yet). No wonder X is terrified, Gabrielle is going to die.
So, Xena finally tells Gabrielle. Once G got over the initial shock of it, I kind of expected her to show more empathy for what Xena would be going through and that her tactic would be to stick close and try to hide her own fear. Well, I guessed wrong. Of course, Gabrielle wouldn't agree to take a safe course and back away from danger and she doesn't have to, but I did think she'd be a little more sympathetic. By the way, do mountains really come in that shape? Gee whiz, I thought it was a tree.
Back to the "other" real material...the personal tragedy of Borias. Yes, falling in love with "The Destroyer of Nations" and fathering her child would be very tragic, wouldn't it? (The newer version of Xena isn't a walk in the park, either.)
It's a really great story, but we didn't get to see very much of it. Is it the medium? Did they try and tell too much in 45 minutes? The key scene of the episode is when Borias returns to Xena's tent to take her with him. She's in a stupor as he tells her that he still loves her and has come back to get her as well as the child. Was there more here that subsequently got cut? It seems to me that there's some part that's missing. Specifically, I was never clear on whether or not Xena found out that Borias had come back for her (and not just the baby). (Her line to Satrina in the tunnel is ambiguous). Now, if she HAD just made this discovery (now that she knows the truth about her own character), now THAT would be good theatre. After all of these years, she would finally see the true scope of her enormity to Borias. This, plus the guilt of giving up Solan (all in one episode). BIG BIG painful ouch!
What we do know is that Xena realizes that Borias knew exactly who she was and loved her anyway. She says he showed her the hatred she had for herself and the love someone could have for a child and she is grateful to him. All of this is particularly sad, now that Solan is dead.
SATRINA, yet another character with a DESTINY to fulfill? And why does she betray Borias and cause all of this human suffering? He has offered the slave her freedom, but she stabs him instead...BECAUSE SHE WANTS TO STAY IN GRAD SCHOOL! YES, unbelievably it's TRUE!! Swallow that one, fans! All you Harvard MBA students look out! Satrina (graduate of Xena U) is coming soon to a town near you! She has studied, she's ambitious, she's inspired and she's ready to do battle! And DON'T come between her and the Professor!
They reshot the forest scene with Kaliepus. I have always liked the first version so very much. I thought LL gave a great performance the first time around and prefer it to this one. Also, wardrobe apparently lost that Irish opera cape she wore the first time around. You remember the one? >From Dublin, black wool, with just a hint of blue. The lining was made of sanded midnight blue silk and the frogs fastened with blackened steel buttons, embossed with lion's heads. (And you thought I didn't notice these things). Stunning. When she lifts open that cape and there's a baby underneath it, whose heart didn't melt for them both?
In the first version, I thought she was more in character with who she was at that stage in her life. This time around, Xena's vulnerable, shaken, hurting, begging, older (aren't we all?). Walking away, her swollen body reminds her that just a brief moment ago she had a child and now she doesn't. In this episode we see (and she remembers) not only the horrible suffering she has endured, but also caused. The memory and knowledge is so terrible, it's a life-saver that she has Gabrielle with her as we fade to black.
THINGS LEFT OUT: Borias' thoughts about trying to make a new life with his son and trying to make Xena a part of that. (It wouldn't have worked out then, because of who she was, but he still loved her and wanted to try. Very sad.). Xena making the decision to abandon the siege of Corinth in favor of her son's life. Xena deciding to take the baby to the centaurs, sending the message to Kaliepus and then walking out to meet him. Goosebumps, and for me it beats poisoned oatmeal almost every time. On the other hand, I guess this episode was dark enough just as it was (particularly with G and X not managing extremely well).
THINGS NOT LEFT OUT: Xena doesn't loose control and kill Satrina. I was very glad to see that Xena's personality remained intact and that she didn't dissolve into the "psycho" Xena again. I think that characterization of her is inconsistent with what we know about her and incorrect. It's detrimental to the series and undermines the original premise of the show. It creeps me out. I hate it, because I want to believe in her (and them) and that they will succeed. Psycho Xena destroys that hope. Xena was originally characterized as a recovering sociopath (a very rare creature in a noble endeavor). Played against the character of Gabrielle, there's enough material there to last for a thousand seasons and it has hardly even been touched yet. Steven didn't need to invent the psycho Xena, I don't know why he did, and I hope she continues to stay off the screen.
THINGS THEY SHOULD HAVE LEFT OUT: The twisting of knife and sword blades. Also, Borias' murder was a little over the top for daytime television (which is when it airs here).
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