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COMMENTARIES ON
A FRIEND IN NEED II
(134/622)
First released: June 18, 2001





COMMENTARY 1 BY Beth the Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 BY Jason Boaz
COMMENTARY 3 BY Ariana
COMMENTARY 4 BY Rooks
COMMENTARY 5 BY John Vasser
COMMENTARY 6 BY Geek's Mom
COMMENTARY 7 BY Joss Harrison
COMMENTARY 8 BY Beboman
COMMENTARY 9 BY Nicolette VanBrabant
COMMENTARY 10 BY Joe McCusker

COMMENTARY 1:

This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.

I'm so glad we had this time together,
Just to have a laugh or sing a song.
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, "So long."

I think I was guaranteed to walk away from this episode with mixed feelings. It's the end of my all-time favorite series, for cryin' out loud. And sure enough, I've really liked some parts of this episode, and really hated others. And some parts I've gone between liking and hating every ten minutes or so. I've settled on one decision, though: this episode was a fitting end all the way around, because it both showcased the show's greatest strengths, and some of its biggest weaknesses bit it on the ass.

The last episode starts in the same place the first episode did, with Xena burying her armor and sword. This time she actually goes through with her suicidal plans, but she decides at the last minute not to bury the chakram. That gets passed on to Gabrielle, a fitting legacy.

Those were some hellacious taiko drummers - for a minute I thought the Japanese army had resurrected Gareth from A Day in the Life. Historical points for the XenaStaff: taiko drums really were used in battle to stir up the armies and shake up the enemies.

The whole "three armies" business was pretty useless. Of the three armies, we saw a few get blown up and a couple dozen get slaughtered by Xena... and then none of them are heard from again. While everyone's worrying about Yodoshi, is anybody taking care of these three mythical armies that are knocking on the door?

I'm very glad that this episode opened with Gabrielle getting a clue about Xena shipping her off. How many times could she have possibly fallen for that "look, a bright shiny object! And now, I'm off" trick?

The mushroom cloud business was weird, bizarre - how many incendiary devices could that army have had, and how was anyone left standing after it was over? But I took it as a sign of the episode setting. People get easily offended by generalizations, but I'm going to make one and hope no one gets peeved: Japanese entertainment seems chock full of mushroom clouds. Godzilla and a dozen other monsters were born of them, and most of the japanimation I've seen can't let an explosion NOT form a mushroom cloud. So I guess it makes XenaVersian sense that if there's a big explosion in Japa, it forms a mushroom cloud. It's a bold choice for an *American* show to use in Japan, but whatever.

So I was wrong last week: Xena's bikini samurai outfit isn't convenient for seppuku, it's convenient for being made into a pincushion. She got five - count 'em five - arrows in her before going berserker on the soldiers. I can't imagine how much swinging a sword with arrows in both shoulders would hurt. Xena's reactions throughout that final battle are of more and more determination as she knows the fight's really going down like she planned and this was going to be it. Holy shmoly.

Xena goes down screaming Gabrielle's name in battle. In a way, she does get to live the last 30 seconds of her life looking into Gab's eyes... in a twisted, hallucinogenic kind of way.

Xena's hell on the wardrobe department! She gets nekkid twice in five minutes, with red kimonos reappearing just fine after Yodoshi fire-whipped the first one off of her. Thank goodness for those gremlins with the sewing kits!

Sign of the show: When Gabrielle realizes she's talking to a ghost, she's more peeved than anything else. "Geez, AGAIN?!?" Xena immediately points out that they've dealt with death before, which is a good thing, because if she hadn't, every member of the viewing audience would have.

I thought Gab's next line was telling: "How could you have let yourself be killed?" Even standing in front of her ghost, Gabrielle has absolute faith that Xena could only be killed if she had allowed it.

Xena can't touch the chakram, but can hug Gabrielle. I guess being a soulmate has its privileges.

Loved it that when the ghost-killer showed up, Gab turned into a guard dog in a heartbeat. Rruff!

I realize that Akemi's tattoo was a wonderful thing she did for Gabrielle. But I couldn't help chuckling when old galpal meets new and offers "There's something I'd like to give you"... a few hours of scarring pain with a bunch of needles. Ain't that the way!

Finding Xena's corpse was majorly disturbing and gross, especially the shot of the body dropping from the ropes. Let's all make a pact to just tell the kiddies that Xena lived happily ever after. But now with that said, I gotta point out: the wounds were wrong. Xena was shot in the right arm and the left knee, but the body had those wounds switched. (Flipped image?)

Awesome sound work during the "sounds behind the sounds" showdown between Gabrielle and the "you're not a samurai, you're a fraud" dude. Kudos to the foley artists! And to Gabrielle: she takes him down with one swing, then refuses three times over to give him a warrior's death. Do NOT p*ss off the bard, especially when she's in a hurry.

Slaughter in the tea house! The ghost killer and the monk bite it most gruesomely with barely a moment to see it go by. Which, in a twisted way, I liked, since that would be the way something like that would go down in a real battle.

Yodoshi loses an arm and takes two sword thrusts to the gut, but he's the Black Knight of Japa. "It's only a flesh wound! I'll breathe your kneecaps off!"

They never said this specifically, but I assumed that Gabrielle took that non-samurai guy's horse after she defeated him. Which means he speared his own horse to stop her. JEEZ, what a creep!

The non-samurai and Gabrielle's second fight was a really neat boxing match. Cool fight.

The kiss was a very strange rendition of the age-old "are they or aren't they" game. This time (right up to the very end of the show) they continue to dance around the possibilities, but with a new twist: the motivation for the kiss is purely platonic, but the photography of the kiss is purely erotic. If I had seen that kiss without the plot explanation, I would have said that if that was for any medical reason I would eat my fedora. Chomp, chomp.

Gabrielle uses the chakram! Backlit for heroic coolness and everything! And she looks just as shocked as I was that she did it. Yet another advanced telegraph that Gabrielle is going to be the hero next.

And in the very end, the story is kneecapped by a last-minute switcheroo. Xena is redeemed NOW? I thought that issue was settled a couple of seasons ago. And we just now decide to mention that the souls have to be avenged by Xena's death? Permanently? When Yodoshi and Akemi, the two who are the real forces behind all the nastiness, are now shuffled off the mortal coil? It was a real shame, but I spent the last five minutes yelling "WHAT!?!?!?!? Come AGAIN?!?!" at the screen.

We also get swamped in the end with the mulligan stew that the show has made of religions and the afterlife. Xena stays a ghost? Whatever happened to tartarus, the Amazon land of the dead, reincarnation, and heaven? Are all of those trumped by the latest version of an afterlife we've seen, or does she visit each in turn?

So, depending on your frame of mind, there's two possible ways to view this ending. The nice way: Xena's story is closed, she's found her meaning, she got a great warrior's death, Gabrielle stands proud as a complete hero herself, and the soulmates will continue together as always. The nasty way: Xena bit it because she tripped over a plot device, died horribly, and now Gabrielle's left alone and everyone else thinks she's a lunatic because she's talking to the air. I've bounced between these frames of mind a lot the past few days.

Ending an amazing show like Xena is tough to do. I think I would have had mixed feelings no matter what they did. Everybody lives: cheesy and too trite. Everybody dies: too depressing, and been done already. I have to hand it to the Xena folks: One dies, one lives was the riskiest way to end it. I don't think that risky automatically equals good, but it was gutsy. And could have been much worse. If Xena had stayed dead because Gabrielle failed to get her to the fountain, there would have been a one-woman riot through the streets of Columbus.

It's strange to be writing my last wool-gathering. I'm really not sure how to wrap it up. Xena has brought me a lot of great things, beyond just six years of cool entertainment. I've been lucky to be a fan, and lucky as a fan. My thanks one more time to everyone who's ever written about one of my wool-gatherings, even if they were to nitpick my nitpickings, but especially the ones that encouraged me to keep it up. I'm going to miss the show like crazy, but I'm also taking a lot away from it that's going to last beyond the reruns. I hope all the rest of the hardcore diehard nutballs can say the same.

Some people have asked me what I plan to do next, so I'll post an answer here. The Rate-A-Xena site will stay up and running until the votes dwindle down to a trickle. Once that happens, I'll shut off the voting booths and not update the site any more, but the ratings, wool-gatherings, and convention reports will remain for time immemorial. Myself, I'm going to be turning my attentions back to the site that I used to work on until Xena showed up, throttled it dead, and demanded my attention instead. I used to write movie reviews and weekly updates at http://www.bgaynor.pair.com/dark.htm. The site's full of cobwebs now, but within a month it'll be shining like new, I swear it! Feel free to visit; fellow Xena alums are always welcome.

HIGHLIGHTS

Gabrielle wins the award for the absolute coolest look of the past season or so. I thought the tattoo was sock-knocking, then they wrapped it up in that blue and black samurai outfit. Lordy, that was so awesome it was nearly illegal.

What a difference a few short years make. Back in the first seasons, even when Gabrielle was as macho as she could be, it was more like watching a kitten spitting. Now, when she makes short work of a camp and screams "GIVE ME HER HEAD!!!" into the rain, I believed without a doubt that entire armies better tremble before this chick.

Enduring image of the episode #1: Gabrielle standing alone in a forest over Xena's funeral pyre. Ouch, my heart.

Enduring image of the episode #2: Gabrielle alone on the boat. Ouch, my heart again.



COMMENTARY 2:

This commentary is by Jason Boaz.

Well, Xena, Warrior Princess has ended with a colossal battle between Lord Yodoshi and Xena. First of all, I'd like to speak of Xena's actions throughout the entire series. Over the years, she went on a quest for redemption. At the same time, keeping her word to Gabrielle, slowly teaching her everything she knew. Along the way she and Gabrielle died several times. They kept coming back. The main reason Xena came back was because she felt she shouldn't die for good, until she felt she was at a point where she can finally redeem herself. She fought bravely against that Japanese army. With a clever mix of nitro, gunpowder, and bombs, she made a big bang! But then, against immeasurable odds, she was being attacked, arrow by malicious arrow...until that general chopped her head off. Gabrielle was right. Xena wouldn't allow herself to be killed unless it was something that had to be done. She battled Yodoshi, and freed 40000 souls, plus Akemi, the other two girls, Kenji, his fellow monk, and Harutaka from his grasp. During the time Gabrielle went to fetch Xena's body, Akemi told her about a catch. If Xena came back to life, the 40000 souls would be condemned. Xena, being the noble woman she is, felt it was finally time for her to stay dead...but not to leave Earth. Her teaching Gabrielle the pinch was the signal for the completion of the battling bard of Poteidaia's training. Because she redeemed all of those souls, she felt she can FINALLY redeem herself.

Next thing, is to speak of Gabrielle. All through her journey with Xena, she wanted to be a warrior, like her. She gradually learned how to fight. Sure, she made a few mistakes along the way, but she finally learned all of the "many skills" Xena knew. I don't think she killed the guy who killed Xena when he came back to fight a third time...there was no blood on the Chakram, when it returned. She must've learned to use it on KO opponent mode...however that's set. (I wonder if he's stupid enough to be roped in by Hope just for revenge?) She's now off for a new adventure, with her friend still at her side. Her dedication to Xena had enabled her to retrieve the body of her friend, which she still carries with her in the form of ashes.

Oh...Yodoshi. Talk about an evil man. He killed his own family...and probably was the one who sold Akemi to Kao himself. Akemi probably felt an obligation that the Furies feel should be enforced...those who are evil enough to kill their entire family should never be forgiven. He was probably an evil warlord in life. After he died, the first time, he became the demon lord of the Dark Land. Now, he's dead, again...this time for good. May his black soul rot in the depths of the Netherealm. Callisto is much better than him...beneath her evil exterior, was a girl who wanted to set right the death of her parents, and maybe her sister. (Or is her sister alive? I dunno...they messed up the Season 6 premiere of Hercules, I'm unsure) Anyhow...that's why Xena, after a long run of being her rival, was finally able to forgive Callisto, and allow herself to be a demon, so she and Gabrielle would come back together in ANY WAY POSSIBLE.

Akemi, a noble girl devoted to avenging her family, and ridding the world of her evil warlord of a father, met Xena on a twist of fate. She used the pinch to vanquish Yodoshi's bodily form...and tried to help Xena kill him as a demon. Too bad Yodoshi has no qualms over swallowing her soul. At least her honor is finally restored. Stupid villagers should've let Xena go by...if they didn't make her lose the ashes, the accidental burning of Higuchi would never have happened.

And now, for Kenji and Harutaka. The monk and the ghost killer were pure of heart, and mind. Kenji did his best to help Xena...even though Yodoshi pulled a Discord on him. (slicing his head off) That's just bad luck. Hartaka did his best, and helped Xena wound the insidious Yodoshi, even at the cost for his own life.

And now, after six years on the air, Xena; Warrior Princess has come to an end...or has it? To know what I mean, look into my submission for "Why Did The Series End This Way?")

Gabrielle used a kiss in order to give Xena water from the fountain of strength. She did well in carrying that water. She didn't talk, and she didn't swallow. That dragon tattoo was pretty cool.



COMMENTARY 3:

This commentary is by Ariana.

What bothers me so much about this ending?

That's easy. It took a show that glorified life and the struggle to do what's right, the power to reinvent yourself despite the wrongs of your past, the power of love and redemption, and cut the legs out of all those things (or I suppose that should be cut the head off). In the end the moral is that there is no redemption in life. There is no forgiveness, no true atonement other than suffering as much as possible.

And maybe, if you suffer a whole lot and give up enough, give up everything, that will somehow honor those who might have been hurt by you. Even if the hurt was not intentional. Or maybe especially if the hurt was not intentional.

So for a show about the power of courage and love, we are left with the idea that honor, redemption, and forgiveness can only be found in death.

Xena died as she chose to live, a great warrior taking on a foe which she would never be able to defeat: The ghost of her own past. And her honor came in facing it bravely, destroying as much of it as she could before it could claim her.

And Xena's ultimate legacy to Gabrielle is to curse her to the same fate. To the knowledge that the one thing she desires most is something which will always elude her in this world. Xena will always be there with Gabrielle, just within her grasp yet forever out of reach, just as Redemption was for Xena.

And so Gabrielle will fight, and live by the sword for two reasons. To make use of the skills she has paid so dearly for, and in that maybe to give some meaning to the sacrifices she has made. But also because she will now crave death just as Xena always has, because now it is the only thing that can bring her what she wants the most.

She'll be a warrior and chase death because deep down she wants it to catch her. She won't do it in spite of the fact that one day it will be her head rolling around on a forest floor. She'll do it because of that fact.

Maybe the message is that is what makes a truly great warrior. Being in love with death, itself.

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Or, as Callisto understood so well, "It'll bring you peace if you let it."

I suppose what bothers me, and what I didn't understand about the story they were telling up until now, is that death is the only thing that can bring any of them peace. Love can only help by raising the stakes of sacrifice.

Gabrielle was both the reason Xena chose to go on in the beginning, and the thing Xena had to be willing to lose to buy her redemption in the end. That means, in retrospect, that all those times Xena said she counted Gabrielle in her life above the greater good, it was wrong. That the fact she loved so intensely meant that sacrificing it in this life is the only price she could pay that would be great enough to make up for those sins of her past. The ultimate price of Xena's peace was Gabrielle's pain.

I think they intend the inherent tragedy in that idea to be muted by the fact that we know their spirits will go on, and be reunited eventually. Love endures.

Doesn't seem like much of a comfort, really, in the face of such relentless tragedy.



COMMENTARY 4:

This commentary is by Rooks.

Gabrielle: So, how about it?
Xena: How about what?
Gabrielle: Forgiving yourself.
Xena: Gabrielle, thatís not for me. But I wonít let that monster that I used to be, the one thatís sleeping so close to my heart, destroy all the good I can do now.
Gabrielle: Not as long as Iím around.

-- Locked Up And Tied Down

The production values, the cinematography, the look and feel of A Friend In Need part II are all incredible - some of the best I've ever seen on television. But in lieu of talking about those things, I thought I'd talk a bit about the way the episode ended. Everyone knows that the look of the episode was great. Everyone knows that it contained very few actual ideas about the relationship, opting rather to tell a protracted story with high gloss. Where the ideas come in are at the end, and I thought I'd talk a bit about how the series has ended, and why I think it made me feel the way it did?

How did I feel? Generally, I was unmoved, but I think there is a very good reason for that. First of all, however, let me state that I have no problem whatsoever with a finale in which Xena dies and Gabrielle does not. I had thought for a while this season that such an ending could be very powerful and moving. Secondly, I have no problem with graphic violence, even if it is directed at our heroes. The violence in Friend In Need II shocked me, especially the decapitations, and the depiction of Xena's body made me cringe (at first I didn't even know what I was looking at). But while I was shocked, I was not angered.

Finally, I don't believe that Xena's willingness to die was out of character, given what we've seen before. Whether or not Xena actually caused the deaths of the 40,000 people at Higutchi is irrelevant - the point is that she *believes* she was responsible. In order to find redemption, you have to find it within your own soul. That's the way guilt works.

In "Friend" part 1 it is established that, in Akemi's land, a dead soul must be avenged in order to be set free. To avenge the soul, their killer must be killed. This is why Akemi kills her father in cold blood. The bit about "restoring honour" I'm a bit less clear on, but am willing to grant the point for the benefit of the plot, and the sake of drama.

This brings us to the inherent flaw in the episode. Xena accepts that she must die, because that is the way things work *here*. In other words, she's taking the mores of Akemi's society and treating them as though they are absolute, rather than relative. We've seen Xena do terrible things in prior flashbacks. She's killed many people, and never felt as though she needed to be killed...that they must be avenged. It's only here, in Japan, where vengeance is such an important thing.

This sort of thing is not new. We've seen Xena and Gabrielle adopt different views on their life based on where they are. The Debt II was probably the start of it. Xena obtained massive amounts of power by following Lao Ma's teachings. It's not exactly a candidate, but it was a sudden new development that was never seen outside of the land of Chin.

But the real problems began, I believe, somewhere between Between The Lines and The Ides of March, the best episode this series has ever produced. Ides really started us down the path of this kind of moral relativism, where your sins are based on _where you are_ or _what culture you belong to_. In Fallen Angel, it was most apparent that Xena and Gabrielle were suddenly subject to a number of seemingly-arbitrary rules which had never applied to them before. And then ensued all of season 5, where Eve's sins could be healed with a beam of light and a drop of water.

Tara: Do you think she was born good? I mean, my father always told me that I was bad from day one.
Xena: That is not true. You are what you do. You can re-create yourself every second of your life.

- Forgiven

Season Five was widely hated, and with good reason. I think we, at least those of us in North America, tend to subscribe to moral relativism to a certain extent, but that we also believe in a certain amount of personal freedom. And up until season three, and sporadically through three and four, Xena felt the same way - her ideas were largely about how you must be true to yourself, your love for others will save you, and you can re-invent yourself every day. One of the reasons Season Five felt so out of place is because the scripts increasingly began to indicate that Xena was not in control of her own fate; that redemption is not a personal quest, but one which is determined by some arbitrary cosmos.

Of course, XWP is a fantasy show - why shouldn't the Gods or Powers of the land you are in hold sway over you? I wouldn't have a problem with that view if *the show* had ever made an effort to demonstrate it. But we've never received any sort of statement on what the rules are in Xena's world; the fact that they changed with no explanation was one of the most maddening things about season five.

This ending is in keeping with the Season Five view of the world. That the actual beliefs of another society are not, in fact, merely beliefs, but are rather tacit law. Is this consistent with where the show has been headed? Yes, I suppose it is. Is it satisfying? Not at all. Not for people who find meaning in the first few seasons of XWP, and not for people who believe in a personal quest over a karmic one. The anger these people might feel right now, I believe, is not due to the fact Xena chose death, but rather that the cathartic release connected to her death has been denied due to the poor foundation of ideas upon which her sacrifice was based. It's the difference between story and plot, again. Thematically, we can't connect to what happened, because this theme hasn't been developed well enough. It's half baked, thrown in to satisfy someone's desire to see a grandiose martyr story. It's not based on the premises this show was created with.

Watching Friend part II, I realized one of the reasons I was so unmoved by Xena's final farewell is because up until the final three minutes, it could have gone either way. I would have been equally convinced of Xena's resolve to remain alive and continue her commitment to redeeming herself. How moved can you be for the payoff to which there is no setup?

That's not to say the episode isn't cool to watch. It is. It just isn't deep. It's petty images. Very nice images, and the images are something that I've always watched this show for, so I don't want to sell them short. I loved watching Lucy and Renee connect on screen. I loved the battle sequences, all of them (and there sure were a lot). Many episodes have been nothing but pretty pictures before. I don't see why I should loathe the finale if it does the same. I'm not angry. I'm not devastated. I'm not glad.

Perhaps it is my own fault that I had hoped for more. I suppose my obsession for the show hasn't quite been the same since the end of Season Four. I don't have much more to talk about, so I think I will let this series just quietly slip away.

See you later. Friend.

Rating: 6/10

Bits And Bites:

Some quotes. That's all.

Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

- Macbeth, Act V, Scene V.

Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, where once I was blind, now I can see.

- John IX: 24,25





COMMENTARY 5:

This commentary is by John Vasser.

Those who say this was an awesome spectacle are right. But it wasn't Xena!

Xena: WP episodes have always had a certain essence, an aura, an indescribable something that connected with all of us and tugged at our heart strings.

Who were those two women pretending to be Xena and Gabrielle in this finale? Even some of the episodes of the past that were less than great were identified by the presence of those two friends. They were always totally there and involved as their character. We got to know them so well and loved them dearly.

That is what separates the FIN episodes from all the others. Two strange women who looked somewhat like Xena and Gab were in it, but they were not one with the story. This is not surprising because the story itself was a conglomeration of acts that defied reason, reminding me of a puzzle composed of pieces from several different puzzle boxes.

Essentially the six year Xena series was predicated on two friends working to rectify some horrible event that Xena had caused in her past. Between times, they risked their lives constantly to help anyone who needed them without any thought of recompense.

She and Gab came to dedicate their combined lives for "the greater good." We've read the excuse that "Xena had to die because of the Japanese code of honor." Fooey! She was more a follower of Eli who preached forgiveness and love, not human sacrifice.

The point has been made that Tapert owns Xena and has the right to do what he wants with the characters. "Lucyfer", in a net chat, disputes this and presents her reasons. I agree with her and add that IMHO, Xena was created and sustained by a whole group of people. Liz Friedman comes to mind as one who was extremely involved.

Lucy Lawless, when complimented on her role ALWAYS answered that many people went into making the character called Xena. It is important to understand that Lucy is not Xena -- she just plays the part. From what Lucy has said, she would have liked to continue the series but on a 6 ep a year basis. All indications are that she would not have opted to destroy Xena. It is said that she does not watch the eps but did watch FIN and was surprised by it. She said on Conan that she told her husband [Tapert] that he had outed Xena.

I'd sure like to know where that was. If it was the so-called kiss which was a transfer of water to a loved one with no hint of physical passion, give me a break!

And whoa! Lucy was playing the part and didn't know what the finished product was? Could be. Film makers can add subtract and do the most wonderful and enhancing fakery imaginable. Anyway, I believe Lucy would not have chosen to have her character killed, but she was not in charge. She, like Gab, were only hired actors.

For those who say that the series was about a bad woman seeking redemption for her evilness, I say balderdash. That was just an excuse that was made to kill her. The story line always was about a loving friendship that two great women shared with us all. We learned the lessons right along with them about our dark side.

FIN appeared to blame Xena for inventing and setting off the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Remember this final ep was first called "Japan". Was this Tapert's way of atoning for his country's sin of killing thousands of Japanese? Or perhaps he was making a statement FOR capitol punishment by killing Xena -- his country being one of the very few in the world that still allows that.

FIN's pyrotechnics spewed color and confusion trying to make up for a lame plot and a lamer ending. The incessant changes of clothing muddied the very thinnest of plot lines.

We were told to enjoy the action and that "Xena would go out with a bang." They got that wrong. The action was vicious, contrived and too violent to believe. Xena went out, not with a bang but with a river of our tears and broken hearts.



COMMENTARY 6:

This commentary is by Geek's Mom.

Here my mother's comments about the episode. Why did I want to watch it with her? Because she was born and raised Japanese and I figure if there was anyone who could answer some of the questions, it would be she.

First: The beheading was indeed in line with samurai stuff- to possess the head of a worthy opponent was a great honor. Gross, but there it is. She also didn't seem to think the display of the headless body was abnormal, but then admitted she wasn't sure what they did with the bodies after they got the head.

Second: She has no idea who Lord Yodoshi was supposed to be based upon. I was like, come on mom, no soul eating demon hanging out in Japanese fables or fairytales? I got the equivalent of a blank stare.

Thirdly: Most importantly, my mother saw little actual Japanese except for the costumes and some pretty obvious 'cultural references' like the beheading thing came from Shogun. And she didn't know what script they were using, as she didn't think it looked like Japanese. Could be they were trying to pretend it was 'old script' but my mom studies Japanese Calligraphy, so she is pretty familiar with most of the complex 'old' languages. (As a quick FYI, Japan has several alphabets that it can and has used. The most 'common' would be kanji, although I think they can use 2 others in modern day terms. Calligraphy is often one of the 'old' alphabets. Used because it is more ornate.)

Lastly: My mother doesn't know why Xena had to stay dead either.

On a hunch, I had to watch a Chinese Ghost Story again, and that really is where the story idea for a FIN came from. I am slightly annoyed that TPTB on the show felt that Chinese lore and Japanese lore are interchangeable, but whatever.

And of course, at the very end, my mother believed firmly that there would be another Xena movie. She told me emphatically, There will be another one, Gabrielle is carrying Xena's ashes. She will find a way to bring her back.

My favorite comment from my mother: It is just movies, I know they can't really do that, so when it seems to far out there, or too much, I tell myself it is a movie and they make things up.

My favorite comment from my GF: So, if the souls had to be avenged, all those times that Xena died, were they like 'WOOO' and then she came back to like and they went 'Awwwww'?

Second fave comment from my GF: Callisto's soul is p*ss*ed



COMMENTARY 7:

This commentary is by Josh Harrison.

I didn't think they'd do it, but it ended in the best way possible.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the end of the series, and how I would end it if I had creative control. I saw three possible endings: Xena and Gabrielle could walk off into the sunset and other adventures, Xena could retire and Gabrielle could carry on the hero work, or Xena could die.

Personally, the death of Xena seemed to be the only satisfactory way to end the show. The premise of the series was Xena's quest for redemption. Despite everything that has happened in the past six years, I don't think that she would have quietly accepted retirement. Her conscience bothers her too much for that. In Xena's mind, only the greatest sacrifice would be able to redeem her - the loss of her own life in defense of others.

Cynic that I am, however, I didn't think that they would do it. The possibility of a movie a few years down the line, and the money that could still be made seemed too great a temptation. Would Rob kill the golden goose? I honestly didn't think it was very likely.

While I haven't read anybody else's actual comments on the episode, I do know that there is quite a bit of negative feeling in the fans because Xena was killed. I can certainly understand this attitude - after all, we have come to love this dark-haired warrior over the years, and it is never easy to let someone we love go. There is bound to be a period of mourning, and the various stages of grief will all (I am sure) make themselves known at some point.

Xena (the series) is myth. The purpose of myth (among other things) is to instruct. What lesson can be drawn from this final tale? There are two lessons that I feel can (and should) be learned.

First, the greatest - and most heroic - sacrifice that any person can make is that of his or her own life. Xena knew the cost of saving the souls trapped by Yodoshi was her own life. It was a price she was willing to pay. I'm sure that her self-assumed responsibility for their torment made it easier (that hyper-active conscience acting up again), but it was still a tremendously heroic act.

The other lesson is perhaps even more important. Gabrielle accepted her friend's choice. She did not invalidate Xena's sacrifice by acting out of her own selfish need. Instead, she realized that Xena would always be with her, even in death. Carrying on the battle for the greater good is what Xena would want - and the greatest way to honor her life.

In the same way, we should celebrate the life of Xena. Even though the series has ended, it will always remain a part of our hearts. We should strive to carry on the lessons we have learned over the years, honoring the memory of a show that has made us more than we could have ever hoped to be.

There are several bits and pieces in this episode that jumped out at me, and I would like to highlight a few of them.

First of all, the episode opens with Xena burying her armor. This is a very significant moment. As you may recall, we first met Xena (in the series, at least) as she was burying her armor. The series is framed by these two events. In the series premiere, it was an attempt to turn away from the warrior path she had been following. In the finale, it appears to be an act of acceptance.

Xena went out the way I always felt she should - in glorious battle, taking as many of the enemy with her as she could. Despite multiple arrow wounds (I counted six, though there were probably more) she mows down soldiers like they were so much wheat. It is only with her lifeblood ebbing away that she is finally brought down.

What was up with the massive explosion? I know that science and history are a little skewed in the Xenaverse, but could somebody explain to me why it looked like Xena had set off a small-yield nuclear weapon? The firestorm and subsequent gale-force winds were way out of proportion with the amount of gunpowder.

I really liked that Gabrielle put the pieces together and figured out that Xena wasn't expecting to come back.

The plan to defeat Yodoshi wasn't particularly convoluted, as far as Xena plans go. Get the anklet that summons him, set a trap, and then kill him. Of course, nothing is ever that simple. It turns out Yodoshi is drinking from the Fountain of Strength - the same fountain that Gabrielle is taking Xena's ashes to. I loved the look that passed over Xena's face when she realized what was going on.

The duel between Gabrielle and the commander of the army was excellent, and very true to what I understand about samurai dueling. Unlike western sword fighting, the samurai duel consists of a very quick exchange that decides the winner very quickly. Of course, Gabrielle can't kill her opponent in cold blood, so she simply cold-cocks him.

That whole sequence - from the moment Gabrielle enters the camp, to her departure with Xena's body - reminded me of the classic film Unforgiven. There is a climactic revenge sequence that takes place during a storm in that movie as well, and the mood was eerily similar.

During the funeral pyre, I thought the background music should have been the famous dirge sung by Lucy Lawless (first heard in The Path Not Taken). Ah well. I can always mute the scene and play my CD in the background.

Isn't it fortunate that funerary urns come equipped with childproof caps?

I noticed one hiccup in the episode continuity. They refer to the sacred katana multiple times as the weapon that will defeat Yodoshi. During the fight in the bathhouse, the sword used is the Ghost Hunter's. Then during the climactic fight at the Fountain of Strength, Xena asks Gabrielle for the sacred katana - and Gabrielle gives her the sword she has been carrying!

This can, I suppose, be explained away. The monk was supposed the say the prayers that would bless the blade, giving it the necessary power. He could easily have done this with Ghost Hunter's sword, and the sacred katana (which Xena claimed in the first part, and Gabrielle was carrying because she had recovered Xena's body) had the necessary power already. It isn't a big deal, but it did strike me as a little odd.

During her appearance on the Late Show with Conan O'Brien this past week, Lucy said that Rob had "outed her character" in the finale. I don't really see this as official confirmation of the dynamic duo's lesbian relationship, but there is evidence in the finale to support that interpretation. There is, of course, "the kiss". Gabrielle transfers a mouthful of water from the Fountain of Strength in classic "mouth-to-mouth" fashion. The expression on both their faces after that exchange is very... interesting. I'll let the individual viewers to make up their own minds.

(By the way, don't take that as my ringing endorsement of the "subtext" in the series. I have never denied that the series could be interpreted that way, but I still maintain that their sexual relationship - or lack thereof - has any real bearing on the message of the series. They love each other, and let's leave it at that.)

I nearly cheered when Gabrielle threw the chakram - it was a wonderful moment, and I think it was another clue that Xena wasn't coming back. The chakram had accepted a new master, if you want to look at it that way. Alternatively, you can see it as the moment Gabrielle stepped into Xena's shoes. Another part of Xena's saga has ended - the apprentice is now on her own.

There were a couple of moments during that final battle when Xena and Gabrielle were gazing meaningfully at each other while other stuff was happening. My thoughts at the time, "Hey girls, the fight isn't over yet. There's still a demon to slay!" It was very touching, but seemed inappropriate at the time.

Now, Xena and Gabrielle's final moments together as the sun goes down are very touching. In many ways, I feel that this scene is the true end of the series. The scene on the boat is more of an epilogue.

And speaking of the scene on the boat...

If there is one scene that is open to interpretation in this episode, it is this one. I really enjoyed how Gabrielle picked up where they had left off at the opening of this two-part epic. I liked the irony that she was now the girl with the chakram.

There are two ways those final moments can be taken. First, you can believe that Xena's spirit is literally hanging around, and will offer Gabrielle advice, be a companion, or whatever else is necessary.

Or you can take the point of view that I prefer - Xena was merely in Gabrielle's mind, and that while Xena continues to live in Gabrielle's heart, she isn't literally hanging about "in spirit". That idea cheapens Xena's sacrifice in my mind, because she didn't really lose anything.

So, when all is said and done, what do I think of this episode? It is very difficult to say. I don't think it was the finest hours of the series, but it was very well done. I think the problem with this episode (like so many others the past couple of seasons) is that there has been a strong sense of "been there, done that" (and no, I don't mean the classic episode). Many of the stories are different takes on old episodes, shifted around because of the changes in Xena and Gabrielle's relationship.

There was very little that was fresh, or new in A Friend in Need. Does that weaken its impact? Perhaps a little. But I think the fact that the ending upsets people, that people have found themselves in shock, on the verge of tears says quite a bit about the impact of this episode - and the entire series.

There are episodes that I like better than this one. There are episodes that I feel are more technically brilliant. But I don't think I have ever been quite as surprised as I was when Xena kept Gabrielle from pouring her ashes into the fountain. Even at the end, Rob Tapert and the rest of the staff have taken a risk - and it paid off wonderfully, in my opinion.

This episode earns an "A".



COMMENTARY 8:

This commentary is by Beboman.

After watching this episode three times and, YES, crying my eyes out, my heart is still in pain for the love portrayed in this episode. This was one of the greatest love stories ever told. In a way, it reminded me of "Love Story", so I find it hard to even try to write a commentary that would do honor to this great episode.

First of all, I would like to say that I did not only love this episode, I think it was one of the best, if not the greatest episode, we have been given by RenPic.

Like Ms. Lawless said in all the interviews, this was a total and complete roller coaster ride of emotions and feelings. It was a true and complete love story, one full of sacrifices and hard choices.

One thing that attracted me to this show in the beginning was it never took the easy way out of anything, not even during the pregnancy of the lead. The easy way out at that time would have been to chalk the baby up to one of the male characters, but they didn't do that. They took the harder road and did something I had not seen on television before.

Then why take the easy way with the final episode. No, that would have been a discredit to the characters and this show is not about that.

However, I'm going to step off my soapbox at this time because I would like to touch on all that in another article. This article is to comment on the show and I will really try to do it justice.

This was a super excellent show with everything that makes a great "made for television" episode. Nothing was held back to make this episode the best ever.

The acting of our leads was so outstanding that it is hard to pinpoint just one particular scene. These two actresses were so in touch with the other and the characters that many times words were not needed. Their body language in many parts said it all.

Both Xena and Gabrielle have gone full circle and have woven such an emotional story with their lives, of love, understanding, sacrifices, redemption, soul searching and great, fascinating deeds. All this put together makes them and their love indestructible, a love that not even death can stop. As Xena once said in "One Against an Army", "even in death, Gabrielle, I will always be with you". Xena has kept that promise not only once, but many times, especially in this episode. Xena will always be at Gabrielle's side, guiding her, protecting her and, above all loving her.

The script for this episode, as well as FINI, was solid, hitting everything that needed to be said without beating the issues to a pulp. It was full of subtlety and harshness that depicted both a great love and both an internal and an external war which finally lead to Xena's internal peace.

The direction of this episode was right on the mark. There was no unnecessary action or camera angles that took away from the story. The story of these two characters was the focus of the show. Everything else was a means to get to the final point and a means to frame the story.

The special effects were just outstanding and were properly used. There was nothing that did not serve to add to the story. I really loved everything that was done with the Ghosteater, Lord Yodoshi. Also, the tattoo on Gabrielle was very well done. Xena not being able to take the Chakram was very well done.

The costumes in this show for Ms. Lawless and Ms. O'Connor were simply out of this world. The red costume Ms. Lawless wore was so beautiful and she just looked so good in it. The costume Ms. O'Connor wore after she had the tattoo done was just great. She looked like a great warrior in it.

The makeup department also did an excellent job, especially with the elaborate tattoo Gabrielle got for her protection. Lord Yodoshi's makeup was also very good. Both were very good examples of dedication and hard work.

In general, everyone related to this show and this final episode did a superior job. I am very thankful for all your efforts and hard work. I not only loved this show, but it sparked some really deep emotions and feelings.

Now talking about emotions and feelings, I find that I have to say this one more time. I HATE THE CHARACTER OF AKEMI. If Xena had never met this conniving little wench, she would not have gone through all this and she would probably not be dead. (I really don't think so, because if she had not died at the hands of the Samurais, she would have died at the hands of someone else who wanted revenge. But again, that is for another time to argue.)

I think Michelle Ang did a super job with this character. She is a very talented actress. But I still don't like what the character signified in the life of Xena and, as a consequence, in the life of Gabrielle.

With all this said, I will state again that this episode was too good just to mention a few scenes. That being the case, I will just say one more time, thank you RenPic, Ms. Lawless, Ms. O'Connor and everyone who worked on this episode for giving us such a great story, full of love and sacrifices. Thank you for everything this episode means and for a work of art like no other on television for a long time.



COMMENTARY 9:

This commentary is by Nicolette VanBrabant.

Was it beautifully shot? Yes
Was the music riveting? Yes
Were ROC and LL captivating? Yes
Were the special F/X great? Yes
Was the action up to X:WP capabilities? Yes
Were the characters "in character"? Yes
Was it sad? Yes
Was it funny? Yes
Was it touching?Yes
Was it a good story? No

So you're probably wondering why I don't like it. I'm looking at this ep from 2 perspectives - so bear with me as I try to put this down in writing.

From within - within the written story, and how it was presented onscreen From wihout-from the perspective of the overall series and the viewpoints expressed by TPTB.

WITHIN: (within the boundaries of this story)

The friendship endures was an understatement from LL on Leno. She should have said the Love endures. As has been the case all season, Gabrielle's and Xena's relationship has been the focal point and shown to us in such beautiful clarity and gentleness. This ep is the epitome of that. With or without the kiss sequence (which was so sensual and tender) the chemistry of X&G exploded through the chem lab's roof. Gabrielle gave Xena the greatest gift she could, Xena's piece of mind and her redemption. Xena gave Gabrielle all she had - her love, knowledge of how to be a warrior, and her love for eternity. Thank you TPTB for staying true to that particular storyline.

The action sequences were very good, with the exception of the last fight between ghost Xena and Yodoshi. It was overdone and actually made me laugh. Probably not intended to be interpreted that way. The best fight sequence EVER for Gabrielle was the confrontation between her and the samurai. One blow, she had him. And it wasn't due to brute strength, as was always Xena's trademark, but cunning and stealth. With looks of intense determination and intelligence Gabrielle belittled and dishonored the man who killed her soulmate. Very powerful scene and ROC was beyond great. (And wet yet again, poor woman) The water tower scene---well what can I say, pretty silly, but fun. I couldn't take it seriously just nice moves from the girl team. Interesting way of getting up there Gabs! Note the soldiers running away from WATER!! Kinda wimpy don't you think?

The backstory. Evil Xena - glad to see you again!! What was with your hair??? Kind of long and ratty this time out wasn't it?? I've always loved the back stories of Xena. However this one bothered me, as I will explore in a bit. From within the storyline, the comment made by Xena "she broke my heart" had me on the edge of my seat. What???? This I have to see! So, I was expecting major sparks between evil Xena and this little Akime. What I saw couldn't light a match! Was this bad acting? Or, just poor writing? I'm not sure at this point, but her relationship with Akemi didn't enthrall me or make me care one way or another. So, now I have a problem with the basis of this story. Who cares!! Why go to Japan at all?? Xena at this point didn't know about the 40,000 souls - so why did she go? She was betrayed by the little scamp and her "heart was broken", and why now?? So anyway, because of the story of this little Akemi kid, I was angry they even went to Japan.

The Higuchi deaths. Ok so now they are in Japan (interesting pronunciation by Xena- I liked it) and we have that silly water tower scene. Then the 40,000 lives destroyed dilemma. Many fans are upset with this plot development because it was an accident. I will take the other side, accidents can often be our fault (think accidental gunshot, or drunken driving) it's tragic, but we are ultimately responsible. I'll buy that plot point. Why 40,000?? Kind of a big number isn't it for a fire breathing trick, right? Wouldn't matter to me if it was 1,000 or 500. Xena was responsible, so using 40,000 was over the top and unnecessary. The Yodoshi soul eating Lord of the Darkland fellow - what a nice guy!! Comes when you tinkle an anklet!! Loves his jewelry and geisha girls! Sorry, he wasn't scary, Alti was much more evil and unpredictable. Still, I concur that Xena had to go to the other side to right the wrong she had done.

The pinch scene - what can I say (((swooooon))) That had to have been the most romantic scene we have ever been given while they were both alive, awake, with memory etc etc. LL was excellent here.

DUMBEST MOMENT: The atomic bomb sequence - stupid, and insulting because this ep took place in Japan---uh Rob this wasn't supposed to be a comedy episode was it?

Xena's death scene. Very well portrayed, shot, acted and edited. Placing those quick flashbacks and Gabrielle voiceovers did me in. I believe that was in homage for all of those fans who cherish X&G and the love they had for each other. It was better Gab wasn't there to see it, thank you Xena for thinking of her during that spell. Very, very moving. BUT, I am questioning whether or not she really died honorably. Since this was a suicide mission and she wanted to die, I second Gabrielle's question to the samurai who killed her: "Was that honorable, you outnumbered her 1000 to 1?" I don't think the way she died was honorable. Her honor came in the fact she was willing to die. Willing to die to save others has been a sacrifice Xena has said and made time and time again.

Xena meeting Gabrielle as a ghost. Another good scene. EXCEPT: Xena looked as shocked as Gabby when she couldn't hold the chakram--why?? She knew she was dead!

The introduction of the soulmate to the ex love. Nice term to use, (would've been great to see some body contact here...). And then THE plan for Gabrielle. YAY a way to get her beloved back. GABBY"S BEST LINE: ghost killer guy: "Would you be willing to sacrifice your life in exchange for your friend's?" (HEY dude that's her soulmate!) Gabrielle:" WITHOUT HESITATION" Great delivery ROC. I simply loved her response and it was all in the way she said it. True to the Gabby character again!!

The tattoo scene. Wish it could have been longer (well seeing the comfort part!) Was this scene blurry for everyone, it looked as though they used a soft lens--very hazy even. But, Xena comforting her - <>

The goodbye until Mt Fuji. MAJOR PROBLEMS HERE. Xena: "Goodbye old friend" WHAT!! This isn't Joxer for God's sake---you don't know if you'll ever see her again ---hug her (kiss her ) say thank you, I love you something besides that idiotic line. Yuck. Thank you Gabs for turning around with determination that you will meet her again. ANOTHER MAJOR FLAW HERE: Xena sends her away without warning her of the state of her body. This was out of character and cruel to Gabrielle.

Finding the body. This was in many ways very necessary. I wasn't offended. It gave Gabrielle the focus, determination and resolve to complete the plan and avenge Xena's death. And that is what she did, didn't she?? By knocking out the samurai she gave him a fate worse than death--dishonor. And, she kept her integrity in the process. This was my favorite Gab scene of the ep. (well maybe after the kiss ) The "for shock value" scene was the head on the bench. That was the scene which was uncalled for and belittled the Xena character. Just hand over a bag with a ball in it and get on with things.

The final sequence. Great acting, horrible fight with Xena and Mr. Soul Eater. The stupidest line: Yodoshi to Akemi as she was about to kill (?) him : "What my own daughter!" Umm Mr. bad makeup ghost guy--hate to tell you this but she killed you the first time, remember??? Swallowing her up - I was rooting him on!! (Not an Akemi fan, sorry) The kiss - good god what a sensual moment!!! More, I want more more I say (oh yeah the series is over) :( ROC has the touch, so incredibly loving and gentle. Wanna teach me?? :D

The last goodbye. Within the story once again, Xena chose the only path she could - to stay dead. I wouldn't have expected any less of her, or of Gabrielle - for the choice was truly hers to make, wasn't it? Lucy in Pasadena re the finale: It is heartwrenching. That WAS ANOTHER UNDERSTATEMENT!! I've seen that sequence many times this week (thanks Whoosh) and I always cry!! ROC once again was completely in the scene. Hey, I just had a thought---she was 3 months pregnant at the time maybe it was hormones - you know how emotional pregnant women can get :) That's the key ROC - act when you're pregnant!! (just kidding folks)

The boat. Too sad, (hey where was the crew??) So now we have Gabby all alone talking to a ghost no one can see. Think people will say she's crazy??

OK that ends my "from within" segment. I will continue with why I was disappointed by this ep, and left feeling very disillusioned in my "from without" commentary.

FROM WITHOUT

There are 3 things that ruined the finale for me.
1. The story
2. TPTB viewpoint on redemption
3. The resolution of Gabrielle's character

In some semblance of order here goes:

1. The story. Nothing new, not exciting, poor character development of Akemi Was anyone scared of Yodoshi?

We have seen episodes (The Debt, the Ring Trilogy) where out of the blue Xena is called back to atone for some horrendous misdeed. Think Gabby ever got the urge to whack Xena for not telling her yet another major life-altering evil Xena experience? Old, tired worn out story line.

It was said this week that RT wanted to make a Japan ep with a ghost for a long time now. Why make it have something to do with Xena's past?

The rest of my storyline comments are contained in my "from within" commentary.

2. REDEMPTION

I can honestly say after reading post after post this past week, that I completely disagree with RT's vision of how Xena was to be redeemed. (Remember I'm not talking about within the context of the FIN story) As stated by Carbonek who attended the panel discussion 6/19: RJ Stewart and Rob Tapert fielded the question about the ending of the series, and the 'final' death of Xena. RJ started off by saying that Xena has been on a quest for redemption, but turning to good wasn't enough to redeem her from her past deeds. She was a war criminal. In order for her to be fully redeemed, she would have to pay a great price. In this case, the ultimate redemption for Xena is that she doesn't get to come back from death. And herein lies the division between many fans' viewpoint and the creators'. To begin with, we have a series where the flawed hero who is rescued by a simple village girl (well ok maybe it was Hercules), turns her path around to fight for the greater good, while learning the importance and the power of love and forgiveness. Granted, Xena has been on a quest for redemption, there is no doubt in my mind about that. However, by saying death is her only way out, it negates the 6 years of "doing the right thing", growing, learning and fighting for the greater good. You may say, Xena never "felt" redeemed so she had to make her life sacrifice to finally accept redemption. I answer the argument with - then she took the easy way out. Living and struggling and trying to atone is much harder than taking your own life (and that' s what they had her do) and laying your conscience to rest. TPTB are telling us redemption can never be earned, no matter what you do. This is not the series as I saw it.

In addition to attain redemption we must be forgiven. To be forgiven, we must repent (and be sincere about it). Let's start there. Has Xena repented? Does she mean it? Well if she hasn't, then what have we been watching? She has offered her life up to right wrongs many times, she fights for the good cause, and she is IMHO sorry for the messes she made as evil Xena. Has she been forgiven? Who forgives? I'm going to throw Fallen Angel in this argument, because it seems it was forgotten. Xena was purifed when she died and was made archangel, all sins were wiped clean. She only became a demon when she took on Callisto's sins (not her own). She was then brought back by the GOL as a mortal, and what a gift that was. This was forgiveness in its highest form wasn't it? And, this happened after all the events of evil Xena, including the 40,000 trapped souls scenario. Now about redemption. She gave her life up, she rescued the souls from Mr Vaccuum Cleaner. Based on prior eps she's always been allowed to come back. Let's look at AITST. She wiped out a whole amazon tribe -a blood thirsty (well Alti was), ruthless and contemptuous act. She journeyed to the Amazon land of the dead, to free those souls which were trapped because of what she did. Why didn't RT throw that "I have to stay dead so they can be avenged" line in at this point? Major YAXI moment. Or, is this just because they were from Japan?? (dumb point I know). She took responsibility then, and my god she thought Gabby was dead at that point so don't you think she would have welcomed death/redemption? What are TPTB saying then?

Another issue I have with death being the only thing to redeem her stance: If no good works, or forgiveness or repentance would be enough to redeem her [b]in her eyes and in the eyes of the victims[/b], if she was still the "war criminal" they suggest (therefore unchanged only "softened" as they also said at the panel discussion) then how can she be allowed to roam the earth as a ghost with her soulmate? Gabrielle could talk with her, touch her (kiss her )etc, shouldn't she be in tartarus, hell, whatever if she was this bad? Is her ghost then, just Gabrielle coping with her loss - a figment of her imagination? Sad thought that is.

To sum it up in a very simple way: A much more powerful a statement could have been made if TPTB allowed Xena to choose life over death. To be given this decision at the point where Gabrielle was going to put her ashes in the fountain--Xena you can choose to stay dead, if that really makes you "feel" redeemed, but by your actions, your willingness to give up your life and willingness to separate from your soulmate is your true redemption--therefore you may choose life, you are redeemed. And she accepts, and lives her life next to the only one who truly matters to her and walks the "Path for the Greater Good." Isn't this a better statement, more hopeful and more in keeping with the series' themes?

One final thought on redemption - For those of you who want a movie, sequel, etc. and loved the ending: How in your hearts can you turn her death/redemption around (for her to be a mortal again) and feel good about it? If this is her only way out and she has to stay dead, then NOTHING should be reasonable enough to allow her to come back.

3. Gabrielle

The resolution of Gabrielle's character, to me is the real tragedy of FIN. We can all agree on the incredible character growth of Gabrielle. From a klutzy but brassy village girl, to the partner and soulmate of Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle's maturity into adulthood has not been an easy road. It was her choice, and in so making it, I'm sure never regretted.

What did/does Gabrielle crave? In SOTP, she pleaded to Xena to take her with her, teach her everything she knows. She told Lila she wanted to be a warrior, just like Xena. Naive kid wasn't she? Throughout the first 2 seasons, Gabrielle learns what being a warrior really means, and sees the consequences of such actions, through Xena's eyes (not her own.) She learns how to live with the danger, and eventually how to defend herself. Xena talked of Gabrielle's "code" one Xena attempted to protect and uphold time and time again - love and forgiveness, and non-violence. This code was in effect even after the death of Gabrielle's husband, when she saw vengeance and wanted to draw her first blood but couldn't "take a life."

"Everything changed" after Dahak's rape and birth of Hope. The entire rift arc left Gabrielle in a very different mental state, where her code and blood innocence had been tragically altered. She began to search for her meaning in life. However, even during this pivotal time, Gabrielle never turned into a a vengeance seeker, or warrior.

The fourth season was Gabrielle's quest for a path. Even during this period she never mentioned wanted to be a warrior, ever. Not since that first episode. So, she embraced the Way of Love for a while, and then Xena was injured and we all know her true path was The Way of Friendship.

This path continued in the 5th season. Many say she turned into a mini warrior here. I have to caution that example, with 2 points. First, she changes weapons in the episode Chakram. What does she choose (well TPTB) a defensive weapon yet again - the sais. I read an interview last year commenting on this choice, and it was stated TPTB wanted Gabrielle to continue to be true to her peace loving character. Secondly, she was fighting to protect pregnant Xena and/or the baby/Eve. Ares attempted to make her his new champion in Succession and Seeds of Faith - she doesn't cave in, nor is she really tempted. She will always fight side by side with Xena, when a battle is necessary, but never did she relish it.

The 6th season - we know Gabrielle coming to terms with her warrior capabilities was a theme throughout. In Who's Gurkhan? she had the perfect opportunity to avenge the death of her parents--she didn't make the kill. In Legacy - accidentally murdering an innocent (for the first time?) just about killed her. Remember she talked about the light going out - the prayer Xena used in ROC. Then in The Abyss, her hesitation and the coming around to having to accept her guilt and move forward. A very costly lesson. (but led to some great cave scenes :) ) The most telling story this year was To Helicon and Back. Gabrielle could now lead an army on her own (as contrasted to A Good Day) but at what price? She said it best "I lose a piece of myself after each battle. Xena: War is tough on the soul." I took this to mean Gabrielle, while learning how to fight, and the skills to keep her alive while traveling with Xena, and the acceptance of leading and commanding battles, still retained her code, her path, her belief of love and forgiveness for ending the cycle of hate and violence. She never. not once expressed the desire to be a warrior. She still looked to Xena for direction (even in FIN), her skills were still no match for Xena's. While a capable fighter, Varia leveled her in Path of Vengeance.

Now the finale. I believe it was Lucy who said FIN was the ep that showcased the birth of a new warrior - Gabrielle. WHAT? Is a warrior's path and all the guilt, remorse, killing Gabrielle's true path? What happened to her code, what happened to the path of friendship? Seeing Gabrielle on the boat with the chakram on her waist was an awful image. Saying she's going to the land of Pharaohs like Xena had said was disheartening, it didn't ring true. Many applauded her new talent to throw the chakram - I cried. It killed the Gabby I've grown to love. It backs up Ares' view that the world was built by warriors - the statement that sickened Gabrielle in Seeds of Faith.

Here I go again with an idea for a more powerful statement: Gabrielle does not wear the chakram in the final scene, and when she speaks with Xena, she says she is going to find Eve, to help her and protect her in spreading Eli's message of the way of love. She knows she will never walk the path of peace without using her weapons of defense, but what a team the two of them could make. Xena's daughter who was Livia and who understands war and all that goes with it, and Gabrielle Xena's soulmate to carry on the legacy for the greater good.

Final comments.

Am I a disgruntled angry fan? No, just a sad and disappointed one. There were missed opportunities in the final eps. Ones that would have had a stronger, lasting impact--just as bold and defiant as the choices they went with.

Death is not an end, we all know that especially in the Xenaverse. Gabrielle and Xena will be together - always. I have said many times if one was to survive and be strong it would be Gabrielle. There is some comfort in knowing that she is the remaining partner, because she is an incredibly strong woman.

Xena was Gabrielle's student in matters of life and love. This point was not deviated from in the finale. The two had grown together in so many ways, closing the gap between extreme darkness and pure light. It was a meeting of souls which would have made for a beautiful story if both were able to go forward together in this life, for this joining had taken place only recently. They were never given the chance to show the world what 2 powerful, intellectual, wise women could do when both were finally at peace with themselves and each other. This is the hope and vision TPTB robbed us of with the parting of the soulmates and peace being awarded to Xena only in death. It would have been an awesome image to part with and I believe it would have empowered women all over to know they continued on that legacy for the greater good together, at peace at last.



COMMENTARY 10:

This commentary is by Joe McCusker.

If I had been among the lucky few at the Museum of Television and Radio's premiere of Xena's Series Finale, with the stars and TPTB present, I would have been part of the audience that cheered when the lights came up. I believe that for many reasons, the ending that Rob and RJ boldly chose was the most fitting and deserving ending for a heroine of Xena's magnitude. I'll attempt to list some of those reasons.

Finality. It's my humble opinion that the immediate outrage that was vented by the more vocal Xenites was an understandable expression of shock/denial followed swiftly by anger, the first two of the five stages of grief for the reality that Xena is not going to rise from the dead this time. It would take so much longer to finally reach acceptance, that no more new Xena adventures are forthcoming, had the ending not been controversial and caused such a sudden disturbance of emotions. At least the show went out with a bang instead of a whimper. The severity of the conclusion squashes any existing false hope that Xena's legend continues offscreen. I always treated Xena's absence from Greek mythology as being explained by the premise that her heroic deeds were scribed by Gabrielle in the XENA SCROLLS and were only recently discovered and presented in chronological order by Hollywood (by way of NZ) for television. Eventually, the series would end when we had been treated to the last scroll that the Battling Bard of Poteidaia had written of her adventures with the Warrior Princess. Would the optimists among us say that Gabrielle and Xena continued to have adventures beyond Japan, but that these scrolls were lost or simply untold? With the end of Xena's life, it only makes sense that Gabrielle put down her quill, ceased to be a bard and instead followed in her mentor's boots down the Way of the Warrior.

Character Consistency. How many times over the years did Xena take a particular course of action, because it was the right thing to do? In their first encounter, Xena said that she saved Callisto's life in CALLISTO because it was the right thing to do. But occasionally, especially when Xena's moral compass, Gabrielle was not around, Xena would veer off the high ground and take the low road, as when she allowed Callisto to drown in the quicksand in RETURN OF CALLISTO. But ultimately, she did right by Callisto by giving up her own heavenly absolution for her enemy's and taking over the eternal damnation intended for Callisto in FALLEN ANGEL. In Xena's heart, she knew it was the only thing to do. In a first season episode that closely parallels the decision that Xena and Gabrielle are faced with in the end of FRIEND IN NEED, MORTAL BELOVED has Marcus in Xena's place and Xena in Gabrielle's. Xena pleaded with Marcus to take his second chance at life and keep Hades' helmet avoiding eternity in Tartarus. It was Marcus who reminded Xena of lessons learned from her.

"Xena, I died doing a selfless act. You taught me how sweet that could be and I know you'd do the same if you were in my place." ..."You taught me that life and death is not about what we want. It's about what's right."

Xena so believed this that she personally stabbed the man she loved in the heart to earn him another judgment and an eternity in the Elysian Fields. These are all examples of tough choices that Xena faced and made from both sides of the same dilemma. Each time, she chose personal sacrifice for the greater good over her own happiness. This is what sets Xena above an average action hero and makes her a mythical legend. So in the series finale, Xena stayed true to character and made the same choice that she had consistently made before.

Tragedy is an important element of Greek mythology. Very few, if any, Greek heroes had happy lives. Hercules slaughtered his own family in a fit of Hera induced madness. But that version is too horrible for a family show. So in the Herca/Xenaverse, Deianeira and the children were killed in a fire caused by Hera rather than patricide. This leaves Hercules less guilt-ridden but equally devastated and lonely. If the good and noble Herc was denied happiness with the love of his life, why should we expect any less tragic of an outcome for the even more flawed Xena? The entire series can now be seen as a self contained epic myth with Rob, Steven Sears and RJ as the primary storytellers. Xena was their creation and I think that no one would know better than they that like Gladiator's Maximus, an honorable and spectacular warrior's battle to the death is the only way this show could end and be true to the spirit of the Warrior Princess.

Timelessness. Death can't be cheated infinitely or it loses it's potency as a dramatic element. As far as we have seen, Xena has passed into the Underworld so many times that she should have applied for temporary residency status. Whether Xena is a ghostly traveling companion of Gabrielle's or merely a figment of her imagination isn't as important as the fact that their love did not end with the conclusion of the show. We already know that Xena and Gabrielle's ubers will be reunited in future reincarnations from episodes like BETWEEN THE LINES to the present day in SOUL POSSESSION. I'm not sure how Xena could be cloned from a hair found in her tomb in SEND IN THE CLONES, if she was in fact cremated. Nevertheless, X&G's genetic copies are alive and well sipping champagne in the 21st century. How many bodies can the same soul occupy at once? I don't know, but it's all proof that as soulmates, the eternal bond between our protagonists transcends spiritual and physical limitations and are irresistibly reunited through the ages.

In fact, the only problem that I had with the ending is that when faced with where she would go next, Gabrielle considered going south, to the Land of the Pharaohs instead of seeking out Eve. As Xena's only living child, Eve definitely has a right to know what happened to her mother. What I liked most about the final show is that like a chakram, it came full circle back to the beginning. Xena buried her armor and sword in SINS OF THE PAST to run from who she was. In FIN, she does the same thing because she now accepts that her earthly possessions won't be needed in the next phase of her existence. A young girl asks Xena to take her as an apprentice in the final story as also happened in the beginning. But whereas Xena's heart and trust were betrayed by Akemi, Gabrielle completed the training she began in the first show proving that Borias was wrong- Xena actually was an excellent teacher, after all.




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