GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
SYNOPSIS by Bluesong
COMMENTARY 1 BY Beth the Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 BY Shana
COMMENTARY 3 BY Josh Harrison
COMMENTARY 4 BY Jill Hayhurst
RING IN THE RING
RING SYNOPSIS AND WHO THE HECK IS THIS BEOWULF GUY?
BEOWULF SYNOPSIS WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Written by R.J. Stewart
Directed by John Fawcett.
ON AN ALL NEW XENA...
(Xena, in valkyrie armour, takes the Rheingold)
Brunhilda: Xena's reign of terror ended almost thirty-five years ago.
(Xena picks up her sword)
HAUNTED BY THE SINS OF HER DARK PAST...
(Xena snarls; Gabrielle studies a rusted lock and a parchment portraying Xena as a valkyrie)
Xena: Something I did a long time ago before I met you.
(Xena emerges from water)
XENA EMBARKS ON AN EPIC JOURNEY OF REDEMPTION:
(Xena walks with Beowulf)
(Gabrielle bares her sai; Xena, in valkyrie armour, screams a war cry)
HER DANGEROUS QUEST...
Beowulf: You must know this monster pretty well.
...TO RIGHT ONE TERRIBLE WRONG.
Xena: I should; I created it.
(Grendl roars; Xena draws her sword)
BATTLE ON XENA.
TV GUIDE PROMO
Xena embarks on a deadly mission involving her dark past when the Norse warrior Beowulf approaches her for help. Logline.
A highly dramatic three-episode arc that takes Xena and Gabrielle north when a Norse warrior named Beowulf approaches Xena for help. Filled with elaborate special effects, these stories involving Norse mythology will feature such entities as Odin, Grindl, Valkyries and flying horses. PR Press Release
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
1st RELEASE: 11/13/00
An AA average of 3.3
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
Xena/Stargate SG-1 3.3/3.4
Baywatch Hawaii/Maximum Exposure 2.3
Earth: Final Conflict 2.2/2.3
Back2Back Action and Beastmaster 2.1/2.2
Relic Hunter (2.0)
The Lost World (1.8)
Battle Dome (1.6)
Queen of Swords (1.5/1.6)
The Outer Limits (1.5)
The Invisible Man (1.4)
The Immortal (0.8)
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
The full moon. A howl. Xena, with some kind of headdress on, sits by a fire. A monster crashes through the woods. A ring. Images of molten gold. Xena stares at the ring. The monster. Xena puts the ring on. The monster. Xena talks to the monster. Xena and the monster fight. Xena gets the monster behind bars, and seals the bars with a lock with two birds on it. Xena tells the monster it can't win while Xena has the ring. The monster tries to choke Xena through the bars. The monster rips the ring off of Xena's finger. Xena rides away on a flying horse.
35 years later
A man enters a tavern. Xena and Gabrielle eat. Xena is still hungry and wants Gabrielle's food. The man stares at Xena. He asks Xena if she is Xena. He says his name is Beowulf. He throws down a metal symbol thing. Xena tells Gabrielle she has to talk to this guy. Gabrielle looks at the symbol. It is a metal thing with two birds on it.
Xena returns. Gabrielle offers Xena her food. Xena isn't hungry anymore. Later, in their room, Gabrielle says, "Still keeping secrets from me after all these years." Xena says their friendship is the most important thing in her life. Gabrielle says part of being a friend is letting people keep their secrets. They go to sleep. Gabrielle wakes up to find Xena gone. Xena left a scroll telling Gabrielle she had to go take care of some unfinished business, and she doesn't expect to survive. She says she can't have Gabrielle dying with her again, so she's left her behind.
Gabrielle writes in her scrolls. She says she can't respect Xena's wish that she remain behind, so she's been following Xena. Xena's path is her path, she says. She's been traveling due north for weeks. Gabrielle, astride a white horse, rides into a snow-covered village. She sees a story tapestry, and asks the man about it. He tells her about Odin and the Valkyries who ride the flying horses. Odin uses runes to teach the Valkyries how to fly or something like that. Gabrielle says one of the Valkyries is different. The man says that one is ... he forgets. A woman, who has been watching Gabrielle, says that the woman's name is Xena. Gabrielle asks the woman to tell her about Xena. The woman says Xena's reign of terror ended 35 years ago.
The woman says Xena came in from the distant land of Chin. In a flashback, we see Xena finds Odin, the Norse God, crucified on a tree. He is in despair because he doesn't find any good in life. Xena says the challenges of life are the good things. Odin tells Xena that someday someone will conquer her. Xena says she knows that, but in the meantime she isn't going to waste her time on some two-bit god who doesn't know what to do with his immortality. Xena brings Odin out of his despair and in return he makes her a Valkyry.
Xena doesn't get along very well with Grinhilda, the head Valkyry and Odin's lover. Xena persuades some guys to fight in Odin's name, and they all die, even though Grinhilda thought surrendering was a good idea. Later, in the halls of Valhalla, Xena dines with Odin. Grinhilda comes in; she is late because she has been escorting the men to their chambers in Valhalla. Xena says that's great, the guys have earned a spot at Odin's table. Grinhilda is not buying Xena's world view and she leaves. Odin says he loved Grinhilda once. Xena says she can live without love and Odin can, too.
Gabrielle says, "Poor Xena." Brunnhilda, who is telling the story, says, why poor Xena? Gabrielle says because she thinks she can live without love. She tells Brunnhilda she is Xena's friend. Brunnhilda says she'll come back later, after Gabrielle has established camp, and tell her the rest of the story. Gabrielle writes in her scrolls that Xena is back, that she came back to correct some great wrong she did. That is Xena's great curse, to constantly continue to try to correct all her wrongs as she seeks redemption.
Gabrielle hears a noise and rises. She gets out her sais. She calls out to Brunnhilda. She looks startled. Brunnhilda attacks Gabrielle she eventually takes Gabrielle down, but not before getting cut. The woman tells Gabrielle she attacked her to prove to XEna's friend that she is worthy of fighting along side Xena. The woman wants to help Gabrielle find Xena.
Continuing the story in flashbacks, we see Xena concentrating and lighting fires with her mind. Odin is giving her all kinds of powers. Odin says Xena can turn her energy into a never-ending flame if she wants too. Xena says that's it, I can be a barn fire forever? She wants more. She asks Odin about the Rheingold. He won't tell her. Xena says she can't give her love to someone who doesn't trust her. Xena cries. Odin says there, there, he had no idea. He tells Xena the Rheingold is very danger to someone who has forsaken love.
Grinhilda tells Odin she wants the command of the Valkyries back. Xena has gone to speak to the Rhein maidens about the Rheingold, and she must be stop. The Valkyries give chase, on flying horse. They can't stop Xena. She tosses them all off their steeds and they fall to earth. Finally Grinhilda and Xena fight. They knock each other from their flying horses and fall to earth. Xena gets her sword. She goes to kill Grinhilda, but then just whacks her across the head and knocks her out. Xena's flying horse comes to her, and she hops on and flies away. Then, only the Rhein maidens stood between Xena and ultimate power.
Xena plays in the water with the Rhein maidens. One of the maidens says she loves Xena. Xena tells her she wants to be a Rhein maiden, too. And in order to do that, she says, she has to see the Rheingold. The maiden says, okay, follow me. After a really long underwater swim, Xena emerges in a cavern. She sees the Rheingold. The maiden tells Xena she mustn't touch it because it will bring about her own destruction. Xena bloodies the maiden's nose and takes the gold.
Xena forges the gold into a ring. A ring from the Rheingold gives Xena ultimate power. Gabrielle says Xena doesn't need a ring. She's a great fighter. Brunnhilda says Gabrielle must love Xena very much. Gabrielle says, yep.
Xena and Beowulf walk through the snow. Beowulf says Xena misses Gabrielle very much. But neither of them will live long enough to see Gabrielle again.
Gabrielle tells Brunnhilda that Xena came north because Beowulf came to her. She tells Brunnhilda about the lock with the birds. Brunnhilda says she knows now where Xena is going; she is on a suicide mission.
Xena sees murdered men all around her. She pulls out her sword. "Stay strong, Gabrielle," she mutters.
Inside a barn or something, Beowulf sharpens his sword. The beast/monster is now loose, he says. It killed his friends and two of his brothers. The beast/monster is called Grindl. Xena makes a few comments and Beowulf says Xena knows a lot about this monster. Xena says she should, she created it.
Gabrielle and Brunnhilda walk in the dark. Brunnhilda says Grindl was held by a raven lock. And something to do with this ring.
Beowulf and Xena hear the monster outside. It reached through the walls and grabs Beowulf. Grindl enters. It is wearing the ring. Xena stabs Grindl. Xena says the ring has to go back to the Rhein maidens. Xena attacks Grindl. Xena and Beowulf fight Grindl. Xena hits Grindl with the chakram. Grindl beats up Xena and knocks Beowulf asunder. Grindl goes after Xena.
Gabrielle and Brunnhilda arrive in the village, and go to the building (which appears to be the only place standing). Gabrielle tells Brunnhilda that Xena's path is her path. Gabrielle and Brunnhilda go into the house and find Beowulf, all covered up with parts of the building. They dig him out. He says Grindl dragged Xena off. Gabrielle sees Xena's breastplate. She picks it up and fingers it. "Xena," she whispers, looking anguished.
TO BE CONTINUED
This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.
This was a pretty darned excellent episode, even though it was mostly just setup for the next week or two. I liked the structure of the ep - the flashbacks and the division between Gabrielle's story and Xena's. I'm already fired up for next week's episode!
Time for some English Lit! This episode borrowed heavily from two tales from Nordic/Germanic mythology: Beowulf, an epic poem, and Wagner's Ring cycle, which is based on the legend of Seigfried. Beowulf's story is pretty simple, and stays fairly intact for the episode: he fights Grendel. He just gets some Warrior Princess help that wasn't recorded in the books. Grendel's mom also fights Beowulf, although we haven't seen that here (so far). The Ring cycle is a bit more complex, but what can you expect from nine hours of opera? So far, evil Xena has played the part of Alberech, the man who stole the rhinegold from the Rhinemaidens by forsaking love, and forged a powerful ring from the rhinegold. And we've met Brunnhilda, but she's a bit different than in the Ring (or is she?): there, she's one of the valkyries and the daughter of Odin, but disobeys him to save a hero and becomes mortal.
(And for those fans of Looney Tunes who don't know opera, yes, this IS the Brunnhilda that Bugs Bunny dresses up as when Elmer Fudd sings "Oh, Bwunnhilde, you'we so wovewy..." If this Brunnhilda rides a fat white horse with flowers on it, I'm gonna lose it laughing.)
Good opening for the monster Grendel, the lightning illuminating it out of the pitch black over Xena's shoulder. Cool! The creature kind of suffers under closer examination - turns out it's just a stick monster - but it sure got an impressive introduction!
The flying horse effect is kind of cheesy, but I still like it, especially when it's used for 3D effects, not just to horizontally ride in the sky, but to also take off and dive. Xena even swoops a time or two in her battle. Not bad.
Gabrielle loses her curiosity, and her ability to pester incessantly, at the worst possible time. She just drifts off to sleep while Xena stews and frets over this Beowulf guy's message. Forget "friends can have secrets," Gab - if you had needled this story out of Xena, it would have saved you a heck of a lot of trouble.
Speaking of scrolls, it's great to see that Gabrielle is still writing! Keep up the "bard" part of that "warrior bard" business, Gab!
Out of nowhere, Gabrielle's duster from Animal Attraction is back. I'm not complaining, it looks really great... but that duster is 25 years old now. It must have a heck of a moth problem.
Gabrielle has never been one to let a little thing like mileage stand between her and a warrior woman she wants to follow. From the very first episode, the little village girl treks all the way from Poteidaia to Amphipolis on Xena's trail. In The Debt, she manages to follow Xena over the sea to a fortress castle in Chin. And this time, she trails her across most of a continent. Gabrielle must be part bloodhound.
Gabrielle says she's farther north than she's ever been, but that may only be true if the XenaVerse plays with geography as much as it plays with history. Gabrielle's been to Brittania, which is mostly well north of Germany, where the Beowulf and Seigfried legends usually come from. But Beowulf was from Denmark, so she may be pretty parallel to her stint in Brittania... but I think Gabrielle may have been indulging in a little bardic hyperbole.
Gab does a very subtle double-take at the tapestry before she asks about it. Her eagle eyes must be really tuned in to dark-haired warrior women.
Brunnhilda is a mystery so far. She tells Gabrielle that studying evilXena's reign of terror has been a passion of her life. She says that meeting Xena will fulfill a lifelong dream... but then what does she want to do? The show never feels any need to follow mythology, but since the legendary Brunnhilda was a valkyrie, might this Brunnhilda be a valkyrie? One who was involved in the fight against Xena? One somehow related to the defeated Grinhilda? The previous thoughts were NOT spoilers, I have somehow managed to avoid the spoilers for this trilogy and honestly don't know. So it's fun to speculate.
The scene where Xena sends five warriors to their slaughter for no reason except to enjoy watching the battle is a pretty cool "look at how nasty she is" moment.
Gabrielle still has an incredibly naive streak. She finds a woman who's conveniently filling her in on the whole story about what a demon Xena was, then interrupts her to blab what a good friend of hers she is. And now she's taking this woman right to Xena as if it's a puppy she found and wants to keep, without knowing why on earth this woman would want to meet a curse to her people.
No wonder Xena has never had respect for gods; she's been twisting them around her finger for decades. She suckers Odin with the most transparent ploy since the "gimme five down low" game.
The horse battle was only so-so for the most part, but I loved two moments in it: the land on Xena's horse followed by the elbow off, and Grinhilda's piledrive of Xena into the ground. Way to go, Grinhilda!
EvilXena shows an almost-unheard-of moment of... mercy? compassion? respect? when she refuses to kill Grinhilda. I'll bet my VCR that we haven't heard the last of her.
My first thought when I saw that lovely mountainscape as the Rhinemaidens frolicked: "Oh my God, that looks COLD!!!!!" I missed the next moment or so while I shivered sympathetically.
My second thought during the Rhinemaidens scene: Exactly where did Xena get goosed?
What's the deal with the third Rhinemaiden who apparently doesn't want to get her hair wet? Grumpy day?
The Rhinemaidens make a crappy security service. A little splashing, a come-hither whisper, and they're putty in Xena's hands. Practically begging to show her some Rheingold. Barney Fiffe would have been a better protector.
What was the deal with that house where all the warriors were so gruesomely staked out? Beowulf said it wasn't Grendel's lair - the LESS fortunate get taken there. So what was the attraction to the house? Why did they know Grendel would be there?
I spent most of the battle against Grendel screaming "CUT OFF THE HAND!!!" When a ring makes you invincible, and you see the hand holding the ring...
I know I'm supposed to be worried about Xena. But nobody ever worries about the show's star, let alone after the star has already died a half-dozen times. When Gabrielle finds Xena's armor and gasps "Oh no!", instead of thinking "Grendel dragged off Xena and killed her!" like I was supposed to, I thought "Grendel dragged off Xena naked?"
I liked the opening scene of this episode: it was strange and confusing, just like it was supposed to be. I thought at first we might be dealing with another Xena lookalike, before finally realizing we were looking at more escapades of the evil Xena. It was fun to be totally surprised, even for five minutes, by a show I've become so familiar with. ("NOW what's she doing? Why? Who IS this?")
The supporting cast in this episode are all-around excellent. Beowulf is so stoic he's almost boring, but he's still convincing. Grinhilda doesn't convince me that she's much of a warrior, but I give her points for her look when Xena's about to skewer her. Odin and Brunnhilda are awesome. Big thumbs up to the casting team on this episode. My only quibble was with the valkyrie pair that Xena fights on the horses; they were about as intimidating as mice.
This commentary is by Shana.
First off, my own personal preparation of this episode...virtually none. I read Beowulf for college, but it left such an impression on me that I remember absolutely NOTHING of it (and it wasn't that long ago.). I'm sure there will be much discussion of the bastardization of XWP's take on the whole deal, but I don't care about that. I watch XWP because of the characters of Xena and Gabrielle, and don't care how TPTB twist history and literature to fit into their plots. Also, there are no sign or mention of Virgil or Eve in this episode. Awwww...
With that said, let's move on to the show. During the course of this episode, the moon is always full. In the flashbacks and in the present time. It's interesting how the exact same cloud formations manage to move in front of the moon in the past as in the present. Hee hee. The very first scene is of Evil Xena (whom I shall refer to as EX), sitting by a campfire admiring her jewelry. I know it's EX because of the evil looks on her face, and her mascara makes her eyelashes look different. She's wearing the outfit seen in the previews, including the hat with the wings. I've never been a fan of Xena in hats, but I must admit this one bothers me far less than any of the others she was forced to wear. Seems that among her many skills, she learned jewelry making, and she's made herself a gold ring that seems to make her feel powerful. She doesn't seem surprised when a growling slobbering beast comes up behind her. No, it's not Ares (heh heh), it's Grendel ( a name I do remember), and apparently, the ring summons him from where ever Grendels come from. Xena and Grendel fight, and evenutally Xena pulls a chain from her outfit (Can you say S&M?) and manages to cage the beast. During the course of struggling to lock him up, Grendel manages to pull the ring from her finger, but EX just screams, "Don't think you've won ANYTHING! These chains will hold you for eternity and you'll never use the power of the ring! Never!" As the creatures continues to roar, Xena's horse approaches...and uh...I know it's not Argo because I don't think I've ever seen Argo fly! Yep, Xena takes off at a gallop down a runway and mounts to the sky, literally! Get used to flying horses, because they're in this episode a lot.
Cut to "35 Years Later", which is what the screen proclaims. I've heard a lot of comments about how everything seemed to happen to Xena 10 years ago, and since she and Gabs were frozen cavewomen for 25 years, looks like Xena managed to pack one more thing into this time period. Xena and Gabs are in a tavern, and I know I've seen the exterior of that building before. Could it be Gabs' very own home from Potodeia? Those who pay more attention to that kind of detail will be able to tell.
Let me digress a second and say, I don't think I've heard much of the musical score for this episode before, and it's very very appropriate. I'm pretty sure I heard strains of it in The Abyss last week.
Okay, I started having flashbacks of my own during this scene...Gabs: What?Funny thing is, they're playing this scene with no humor. Xena's pretty cranky, that's obvious. And Gabs ain't sharing. When I was little, I loved pork chops and would always eat everything else and save the pork chop for last...it was the best part. My oldest sister used to torment me to get that chop from me, and would sometimes put a big old dirty sister finger on it or stick a big old dirty sister fork in it, so I would get upset and end up throwing it at her. I know, I know, I was a very odd child. I swear, if they weren't interupted, Xena was going to make Gabs cry to get that food from her!
Xena (eyeing Gabs' plate): You gonna finish that?
G: All of it.
X: I thought the portions here are kind of small.
G (waving her fork menacingly): You're not getting mine.
X: Come on, Gabrielle, you're playing with your food.
G: I'm relishing it.
Okay, back to the real world...
Cranky Xena notices someone's watching them, and gets even crankier with him "I don't appreciate being stared at while I'm eating." The stranger approaches, confirms it's Xena, and lays down an item on the table. Xena takes one look at it, says "I've got to talk to this man, Gabrielle," and gets up leaving Gabs at the table. Gabs studies the object, it's a lock with two ravens on it. From the first part of the teaser, we know it's the lock that held Grendel in his cage. Oh yeah, the guy's name is Beowulf.
After the first commercial break, Xena is still talking to the guy while Gabrielle watches, and it's obvious to her and us that Xena is upset. She returns to the table, and apparently the mind manipulations Xena learned from my sister are at work still, because when Xena says the conversation was about nothing, Gab's who has obviously been guilt-ridden since the early part of the scene offers her food to Xena. Nope, Xena's lost her appetite. Hmmm....maybe she didn't study with my sister afterall...
Xena's being all secretive and stuff, and we have the set up for what could be a big conflict. Here's how it plays out...
Cut to the tavern at night, and Xena and Gabrielle are settling in for the night. I have no idea what village they're in, but it's cold again.G: Still keeping secrets from me, after all these years?I couldn't help but think how different this scene would have played out in first or second season. Gabs would have been hurt Xena wouldn't open up to her, but now she expects it, and doesn't seem bothered by it. She knows Xena will tell her in her own good time.
X: Look, it's something I did a long time before I met you. I just don't feel like talking about it right now.
G (sounding a wee bit hurt): All right.
X: I'm not trying to shut you out. You know our friendship's the most important thing in our life. In this case-
G: Xena... you don't have to tell me. Part of being a friend is letting people keep secrets. I respect that.
Gab's turns over and goes to sleep while Xena looks at some burning candles. Uh oh...I had a feeling what was going to happen. I was right.
The sun comes up and Gabrielle pops up in bed, her eyes immediately going to Xena's empty bed. There's a scroll laying on Xena's pillow. Hope it's not a Dear John note!X (in a voice over), Gabrielle, I've gone to take care of some unfinished business. This mission is so dangerous, I'm afraid I won't survive. I can't ask you to die with me once again. Whatever happens, know that my love for you is endless. Xena.When you guys see this episode...look at that scroll that Gabs is reading. Look at the last symbol. It is a lipstick kiss!! I kid you not, a big opened mouth lipstick kiss! It's even in a dark red, while the rest of the words are in black! It's right by the X, which may be Xena's signature, I don't know, I can't read her warrior handwriting! Subtexters, go to work on this one!
We cut to Gabs riding through the forest, doing her own voice over. There are shots of her writing in her scroll as she follows Xena. She says she debatied following Xena, but her path is with Xena's so she has to go. I like that! She's still barding, still riding, and still following Xena. She says she has gone farther north than she's ever been before. There's snow on the ground and the horse breath is visible, but Gabs is sill wearing her abbreviated clothes under that flimsy white and tan coat. Her legs would have to be cold!
But I'm digressing again...Gabs rides into a village and spots a man with a tapestry. One of the figures on the tapestry catches her attention. The man says the women on horses are Valkyris, who were taught by Odin, King of the Norse Gods through runes (chants) and had almost mystical powers. Gabs points to the one dark haired figure on the tapestry and says that one looks different. Who is it? As the man tries to remember, a feminine voice supplies...you guess it...Xena. Gabs turns to meet the speaker, and meets Brunhilda. She's a blonde who I suppose could be called pretty, but has a pretty sour look on her face. She can't be much older than Gabs. Studying Xena is the passion of Brun's life. She refers to Xena's reign of terror which ended long ago, and says Xena has long since disappeared.
Gabs pounces on this, naturally, and wants to know what Brunhilda knows about Xena. Get ready for flashbacks. Brunhilda tells Gabs that Xena arrived from the far east, a land Xena called Chin. Aha, so now we know what happens after the LaoMa story! And I will say, I'm very familiar with the Debt, and LL's characterization of EX in this episode is very, VERY consistent with her work in The Debt, looks and all. There are a couple of points that are debatable, but I always found EX in The Debt to not always be the smartest person in the world, and this will continue here. Brunhilda says they don't think of Chin as Chin, they call it "the land that sent us a demon".
EX with a big EX grin on her face rides up to a man crucified on a tree. "Hey there! Who'd you mess with?" The man tells her he wouldn't allow anyone to crucify him, he wouldn't be there if he didn't want to be, and Xena says "What kind of an idiot would allow himself to be crucified?" That line makes me laugh! I don't know why. Xena finds out the man is Odin, and it's his duty to bring peace, but he's desparing because they're living in a constant state of endless conflict.
EX's response: Damn straight! (LOL!) That's what makes life so worth living. You know everyday I wake up and I feel pumped by the knowledge that there's always someone around the next corner, someone for me to challenge, to fight, and to conquer. Hee hee...that's what I like about EX...always looking for a good tussle! Xena gives a few more verbal jabs, and Odin gets curious. Apparently, he wasn't so ready to die. As Brun explains, Xena's lust for life brought Odin out of his despair. He, in turn, made her one of the Valkyris. Cut to more flying horses.
Xena excelled as a Valkyris, but it was only a matter of time before Xena tangles with Grinhilda (not to be confused with Brunhilda), who was the leader of the Valkyris and Odin's lover. The conflict comes in the form of some men Norsemen being chased by Berzerkers. Just go with me here... Grinhilda wants the men to surrender, but EX will have none of that. She gives one of those EX inspirational speeches we all know and love (did someone say Kill em all!?) and the Norse regain their confidence. They run down the hill, cut to a shot from the opening credits, and the Norse side...uh...loses. EX doesn't seem to care though...she's got that demented "A new Xena is born tonight" look on her face. Man, does that woman love carnage!!
We move to Valhala, and Xena's making a few moves on Odin.O: And what exactly do you desire?
X: Pour me some wine and I'll show you after dinner. (throaty chuckle)
EX and Grinhilda have a tangle of words. To EX, the fundamentals of life are greed, sex, and the will to power. In that order? I don't know, she doesn't say. You don't have to have love in your life, declares EX. It's obvious Odin has moved into the Xena camp, and Grinhilda leaves, saying there's no room for both her and Xena. I love watching EX as Grinhilda leaves. She's eying Odin in that EX way that says she's got him exactly where she wants him. Her mind tricks might not have worked on Lao Ma, but they're working well on Odin.
Cut to Gabs and Brunhilda. "Poor Xena", Gabs declares. LMAO! I love this girl's faithfulness. Brun tells her she hasn't been listening very well. Gabs says Xena is her friend, and she knows Xena can't live without love. Gabs wants more details, and Brunhilda tells her to camp there, and tonight she'll tell Gabs more.
Gabs is scroll writing again. She says she doesn't know what Xena's mission is but she knows what her goal is. She wants to correct a past wrong she did. "My dear friend's curse is to spend the rest of her life seeking a redemption she'll never allow herself." That pretty well sums up the whole theme for XWP, doesn't it? I know Gab's isn't just now realizing it, but it's nice to see it put so succinctly. And another thing, how many times is the word "friend" going to be used in this episode? :o)
While Gabs is writing she hears a disturbance in the bushes. Must be time for a commercial...
Guess who's in the bushes? It's Brunhilda, sword in hand. She attacks Gabrielle, who despite having her sais, uses Brunhilda's own sword to cut Brun's thigh. Gabs is knocked down, and Burnhilda tells her she's pretty good. She offers her hand and Gab, reminescent of Xena, slaps it away wanting to know why Brun attacked. Oh brother, Brun is another Tara, Eris, Amarice Xena-wannabe! She wanted to prove she was good enough to fight with Xena! Gabs has to be sick of this kind of thing, but after a few seconds, accepts the hand, and it's time for more talk. Brunhilda is now dying to meet the "Great Xena" and Gabs says if she tells her all she knows, she might be able to figure out where Xena is. Time for more flashbacks.
Xena's been holding back on her many skills. All this time she's been blowing fire, when Odin taught her how to create using her hand. Xena's not to impressed. She laughingly tells him she can do the same thing by rubbing two sticks together. Odin (I'm so glad he has a short name!) tells her she will soon be able to harness all her energy into a fire that can't be put out.
EX: Turn all my bodily energy into a bonfire. (only it sounds like barnfire) Sounds like self-sacrifice, I'm not into that, Odin. It's easy to tell Odin is smitten with EX. He tells her she has everything all the other Valkryis have, but EX wants more. She approaches him with sparkly eyes, and wants to know about the Rheingold. When he hesitates she turns away. He wants to know where she's going and when she turns back around she's crying. Does EX cry? I know she's manipulative, but it seems rather out of character for her. I'm used to EX getting her way through force, but maybe something else happened in Chin. She tells Odin she can't give him her love if he doesn't trust her. Huh? I was nearly as confused as Odin! She had just told him that people don't have to have love. When he asks her about it, she says "I lied." How can she demand his trust when he can't trust her? EX isn't always incredibly smart, but I'll give her credit for this...she's way smarter than Odin. She really turns on the water works now, and he gives in to the tears immediately. He gives her a hug, and all you can see of her face is one eye and eyebrow. That one eye and eyebrow are more revealing than another person's whole body could ever be! EX has won this skirmish!
Grinhilda is much smarter. She knows EX pretended to love Odin to get the information she wanted. Xena was wanting to find the Rheingold, and now has that information from Odin. Grinhilda wants the command of the Valkyris back, and Odin gives it to her. Hmmm....maybe EX shouldn't have trusted him afterall!
Cut to a long drawn out battle on flying horses. Xena certainly stands out as a Valkyris! All the others, along with everyone else in this episode, are blondes. Every last one of them. Xena and her trusty steed lay all the other Valkyris out with her sword, but Grinhilda comes back for more. I'm sorry, but I wasn't too impressed with the special effects of the flying horses. EX knocks the sword out of Grinhilda's hand, but Grinhilda pulls EX off her horse, and they both become one of those long leg-kicking, screaming falls back to earth.
Cut to commercial and previews for next week which look far more interesting than this week. Looks like Gabrielle is going to be a sacrifice again! Hmmm...why is she laying down on that stone slab? Hmmm....
Back to the Rheingold, both women hit the earth hard, but guess who's up first? EX approaches Grinhilda, menacingly dragging her sword along the ground. But why doesn't she kill her? I dunno. She hesitates, and kicks her in the face instead. Xena's flying horse arrives in slo mo, and Xena takes to the sky again, that confident EX look on her face. Now we learn from Brunhilda that only the Rhein maidens stand between EX and ultimate power.
The next scene is interesting. Very interesting. Xena is swimming down the Rhein River, underwater, and as soon as she surfaces, is splashed in the face by a laughing blonde (of course) girl. EX splashes back with an angry smirk, but when she sees the other girl, the smirk instantly transforms itself into a flirtatious smile. The blonde giggles for her sisters to join them as her new friend is delightful, and Xena gives a little shoulder wiggling giggle worthy of the Poppin Fresh Dough Boy (where did THAT come from?). Oh wait, there are three Rheingold maidens, and one of them is a redhead! Okay, ALMOST everyone in this episode is a blonde. Check out this exchange:Rheingold Maiden 1: I think I love her.EX is grinning again, as RM1 dives under the water and do something to the warrior princess to make a little squeaking yelp. It was a happy yelp (just use your imagination like I did), and Xena dives in under the water after her. When they reammerge giggling again (hmmm), EX, still in flirtation mode, whispers in RM1's ear. RM1 says she can't show her that, (LOL!), and EX says come on just a peek...How can she become a Rhein Maden if she doesn't see it? This pleases RM1, especially after EX adds, "Then I can play with you all day". Oh my my my my!!!
RM2: You fall in love too easily, Sister. (What a nasty smirk Xena gives this Nicole Kidman lookalike!)
RM3: I think I love her too.
RM1: Be quiet. She's my friend.
They do a little underwater Blue Lagoon thing, including a little hand holding, and end up in some cave. EX gasps for air, then wants to know where it is. RM1 points, and EX gets that victorious look in her eye. She picks up a hunk of gold...the Rheingold. RM! says she shouldn't take it, it will bring destruction to those who touch it. EX says only if she hadn't forsaken love. "Have you?" RM1 asks, and her answer is an elbow in the face with a "yup". I guess the romance is over when one girl gives the other girl a very bloody face. EX sticks the gold in her mouth (I thought that's what her cleavage was for), and swims away.
Now we see EX's goldsmithing ability again. I thought it was interesting that in the cave were several items with the same design of the ring that she fashioned. Nice touch.
Cut to a campfire scene with Gabs and Brunhilda, then a scene with present day Xena (finally), with Beowulf. These are good enough write out the dialog...Br: A ring forged from the Rheingold would give Xena ultimate power. She became invincible.Note: This is the first scene where I see any kind of "chemistry" between Brunhilda and Gabs and it's all based on admiration for Xena. And it's not a whole lot of chemistry.
G: Xena wouldn't need a ring. She's a great fighter. Probably the best.
Br: You love her very much, don't you?
G: She's my best (say it with me now) friend. I know her like my own heart.
Br: A friendship like that is something to be envied.
G: It has a price...like everything.
Br: A price you love paying.
G (contemplating): Yeah.
Br: She feels the same?
G: Hope so.
Br: She must, she must have been on a very dangerous mission, otherwise she probably wouldn't have left you behind.G (thoughtfully): That's what her note said.Now to Xena and Beowulf who are walking down a snowy trail:Be: You miss your (can you say it again?) friend, don't you?Gabs and Brunhilda are talking still. Finally, Gabrielle mentions Beowulf (this is the first time she thought to mention this?), and that strikes a spark in Brun. When Gabs talks about the lock with the ravens, Brun knows Xena's on a suicide mission.
Be: She's very beautiful.
X: Yes, she is.
Be: I only saw her the one time, but she seemed very special. Who knows how I'd feel if I got to know her. (Uh oh, why did I just picture Beowulf in a red shirt?)
X; Well you'd like her.
Be: Of course, neither one of us will live long enough to see her again anyway. We'll be there soon.
X (who has gone from smiling to grim): Good.
Be: The people up here think of you as a demon.
X: So they should.
Xena and Beowulf come to the "end of the line", and before entering a foreboding looking cottage, Xena turns and whispers to the air, "Stay strong, Gabrielle." Apparently, she ain't gonna come out of that cottage in one piece. Don't you just hate commercials in an episode like this?
It's night and it's storming. Xena and Beowulf take off their coats and settle in for a talk. There were many dead men outside the cottage, and Beowulf talks about them, saying the ones that weren't left behind were dragged back to the creatures lair and eaten alive. More cannibals anyone? Two of the men were Beowulf's brothers. He's ready to die beside them. Xena says whatever happens, she's with him. Xena asks if the creature has a name. Beowulf tells her it's Grendel. Xena knows Grendel is big and it's slow. This surprises Beowulf, but why should it? She created it!
Brun and Gabs are trudging along. Brun wants to camp, but Gabs says they're going to keep going. Brun says she hopes Grendel doesn't get them, and Gabs stops them. Who's Grendel? Huh? Didn't Brunhilda says Xena was on a suicide mission because Gabs had seen the lock off Grendel's cage? Wouldn't Brun had told her the fact that Grendel was loose was the reason Xena was on a suicide mission? These two have got to learn to communicate better!!
Grendel is growling and carrying on outside the cottage door. Xena and Beowulf are preparing to do battle. Why wasn't I surprised when the creature busts in through the wall Beowulf's head was about an inch and a half from? They struggle, and Xena attacks from behind. She does a few flips and war cries that get both Grendel's and Beowulf's attention. She sees the ring on Grendel, but how to get it? Grendel is one tough cookie! Xena uses a chakram throw, but even it doesn't do much damage. Still she's fairing better than Beowulf who is getting his butt kicked. Finally, Grendel grabs Xena by the throat, and bloodies her up. Beowulf is out cold. The last shot of Xena is those blue eyes staring up menacingly at Grendel, as he slobbers down on her.
All is quiet at the cottage now. Gabrielle and Brunhilda approach. Brun warns Gabs how dangerous this is. Gabs responds, "Xena's path is my path." Brun says "I wish I had a friend like you", to which Gabs puts a hand on her shoulder and says "You do." Hmmm.... Better not let Xena know you touched another girl, Gabs! They enter the cottage and find Beowulf groaning under a pile of debris. He looks at Gabs and says "He dragged her off. I don't know whether she's dead or alive." As Gabs is looking for clues, she spots Xena's breast armor on the floor with a gasp of "Oh no...Xena". And then there are those accursed words...To Be Continued!!! Arrrggghhh!
This is definitely a setup episode, with a long way to go. Nothing is really resolved here. And although Gabs and Xena spent very little time together on screen, their relationship seems stronger than ever, which, of course, is nice. I think it's going to be very interesting to see how Xena responds to knowing Gab's followed her this time. And yes, Xena is all over the previews next week, so she's going to be okay. There's a BIG hug between Xena and Gab's in the previews with Gab's saying "Don't ever leave me again", plus a sobbing scream from the end as Xena drops her sword and chakram, so this one is going to be very intense too. Can't wait!
This commentary is by Josh Harrison.
Wow. This episode, in my humble opinion, is one of the finest hours this series has seen. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it contains many of the elements that have made other episodes classics. I would most closely compare it to "The Debt" from season three. "The Rheingold" has the same epic feel, and could probably survive the transition to the big screen with no loss of impact.
This episode opens with a scene where a Valkyrie-clad Xena is forging a ring. It brings to mind the opening sequence from he movie "Conan the Barbarian". This opening sequence raises several questions - why is Xena dressed that way? What is this ring, and why does she look at it with the naked lust for power we know from the old days? What is the big plant-looking monster that she fights and locks away after she forges the ring? What the heck is going on here?
Fortunately, patience brings answers to many of the questions (along with more questions, but I trust they will be answered in the future). We learn that the events depicted in the opening (the forging of the ring and the fight against the monster) took place thirty-five years earlier - taking into account the "deep freeze" it was in that mysterious "ten winters past". This is an indication that we were seeing Xena before her conversion.
This raises one of my two problems with the story. Just where dies it fit in the chronology of Xena's backstory? It takes place after "The Debt" - because Xena has come from Chin. But does this happen before or after Solan's birth and Borias's death? This is after the Battle of Corinth, right?
It must be, because there isn't enough time for her to have run off for this little side adventure between the past events shown in "Adventures in the Sin Trade" and "Past Imperfect". It also looks like it happens before she gets her chakram (an event we still have not witnessed). But in the cross-fade (when Brunhilda is telling Gabrielle the "legend" of Xena) Xena has the chakram hanging from the saddle.
YAXI? Probably. Despite this minor inconsistency, the story is wonderfully rich and textured. R.J. Stewart does a fabulous job weaving a bunch of different myths and legends together into a seamless whole. The only inconsistency is with the Xenaverse itself - Odin gets a lot older between this episode and the time Hercules meets him in that show's Norse Arc (Norse by Norsevest, Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bridge).
Like I said though, when the story is this exciting, what's a little inconsistency? Xena's past is largely apocryphal anyhow - I get the feeling that the details have drifted as the stories have been told over time.
I'm a little rusty on my Norse mythology, but I'll point out interesting points I noticed.
Xena's first meeting with Odin is taken (partially) from actual myth. According to what I found, Odin hung himself from the World Ash, Yggdrasil, to learn the secret of the runes. (I recall that he hung there for three days and three nights, but couldn't find an actual verification of that tidbit.) His two ravens were named Hugin and Munin (thought and Memory), and they went out into the world each day to gather knowledge for their master.
The Valkyries were servants of Odin (I couldn't find any evidence that they were actually mortal, as described in this episode) who escorted the souls of fallen warriors to Valhalla, where they would fight all day and feast all night, in preparation for Ragnarok (the apocalypse of Norse myth).
All of this Norse myth is combined with the legend of Beowulf and Grendel, which is actually an Anglo-Saxon legend (as far as I could find, there is no direct connection between Norse myth and the Beowulf legend). The epic of Beowulf is the first great English literary masterpiece (at least according to the folks at the electronic Beowulf project, found at http://www.uky.edu/ArtsSciences/English/Beowulf/eBeowulf/guide.htm), and tells the story of Beowulf's fight against three foul monsters (one of which is Grendel).
The third tale that is borrowed from here is Wagner's "Ring Cycle", which is itself based on Norse Myth. How much of an influence this particular piece plays remains to be seen, because it looks like the next chapter (entitled "The Ring") will focus more on the item Xena created with the Rheingold.
Despite the liberties taken with the legend (indeed, we've come to expect legendary liberties where this series is concerned) R.J. blends the disparate elements together into the first chapter of what seems to be a compelling story.
There are a few highlights I'd like to emphasize.
The first is my other problem with this episode. If the people in Norseland remember Xena as a demon, why is Gabrielle so accepting of Brunhilda so quickly? I would think that somebody who spent their life studying (and wanting to fight beside) a person viewed as a demon would elicit a bit more doubt and mistrust on Gabrielle's part. Brunhilda's actions in this episode don't indicate that she's a power hungry warlord, but there's more to the story that remains untold.
Still, I'm willing to let this quibble slide for now, mostly because it is likely Gabrielle is looking for all the help she can get in this foreign land.
Another detail I'd like to emphasize is the way the oral tradition of Norse myth is supported with the tales told by the old skald (Norse bard) and by Brunhilda. It was a nice, but subtle nod to the mythic tradition that inspired this story arc.
Gabrielle's devotion to her friend, and her obvious distress when she finds Xena's bloody armor, emphasizes their relationship. In fact, there are several wonderful nods to their close friendship (however you happen to interpret it) in this episode. Take special notice of the lipmarks on Xena's note to Gabrielle - they're right after the "X" for her signature.
Another important moment comes when Gabrielle is describing Xena's mission to Brunhilda - "She is seeking a redemption she'll never allow herself to have." This is, I think, one of the most significant descriptions ever given of Xena's character. Despite all the good she's done, Xena will never stop trying to atone for her evil past. The only thing that will stop her is her death. In fact, I believe one could argue that is exactly what she is searching for.
This episode gives us more insight into how evil Xena was before her conversion, and why she will never forgive herself. Her desperate quest for temporal and supernatural power continues, and she will go to any lengths to achieve her ends. Seducing and deceiving a god are all in a day's work for this villain.
And yet, we see glimpses of decency, and some questions are raised. Why does Xena spare Grinhilda when the Valkyrie is at her mercy? What does Xena mean when she says she created Grendel? Why did the evil Xena lock the monster away? And what is the significance of the lighting change just before Grendel drags Xena off?
These are questions that will almost certainly be answered in the next chapter, and I am really looking forward to it. Wonderful performances were turned in all around. Lucy always enjoys a turn as "Evil Xena", and Renee carries her part of the story as well. Beowulf doesn't play a significant role in this episode, but the actor does a good job with what he's given. The other performances are solid as well.
The effects are well done. Grendel is especially well handled. It seems that the lessons learned with the Destroyer (back in "A Family Affair") were taken to heart, and we are given a creature that is frightening and deadly. The scenes of the Valkyries flying across the sky are clearly green-screened, but the battle high above the snowy forest is a thrilling sequence.
John Fawcett does a wonderful job here, letting the story develop at its own pace, and keeping the atmosphere dark and cold. We're clearly in dark territory, boys and girls, and with the cliffhanger ending we should take to heart Xena's brief prayer for Gabrielle. "Keep strong." In another week we'll have some more answers.
This arc looks like it's going to be one heck of a ride. I am reluctant to grade this one without the whole story, but I give this episode a solid "A". It is possible that later story details could bring this episode down half a notch or so, but if the arc was written as a single story by R.J. Stewart, I'd be very surprised if that were to happen.
This commentary is by Jill Hayhurst.
It's no wonder Xena was estranged from her mama 10 winters plus 25 winters' ice time ago. She never had time to so much as send her a birthday card, let alone visit. If she wasn't decimating the populace in Ch'in, stealing Boadicia's army in Britannia, alterately whacking at Romans and Centaurs in Greece and points seaward, and a lot of other stuff I've forgotten, she was the one who introduced suicidal bloodlust as a career goal to the Vikings. And we all know what *that* led to. A whole lot of tall, blonde Brits, is what.
This ep opens with a full moon, a happy return to traditional values. Xena's camped by a fire (wearing fancy EvilXena armour and a winged helm), watching the flames and toying with a gold ring, which frankly looks like something from a five and dime store, but it isn't, it's real, she made it herself, seems. Well, maybe if she keeps at it she'll come up with something nicer for Mom's next birthday. Else she might's well just stay away another few winters.
Away behind her, crashing around in the trees, is a, um, well, um, tree. This week's featured opponent is Treebeard? Can't be. My next guess was Gabrielle's grandchild, but even Xenastaff wouldn't do that kind of time-looping. Anyway, it gets closer and we can see it's not him, the face is slightly different, (it's missing a finger, too, hm) and now Xena acts like she knows who it is, so I'll just sit tight. They fight and Xena says that she can't be defeated as long as she's wearing her special Trekkie glow-in-the-dark decoder ring, and sure enough, she works the walking tree into a cave or grotto or some such and slams the gates on it, then locks it with the chain and fancy raven lock she's brought with her. All the while she's doing that, Tree has hold of her left arm and is barking it or something, and when Xena pulls away finally, seems Tree got her ring off. Neener, neener.
Xena's put out, but says the lock and chain will still hold Tree forever, and Tree'll never be able to use the 'power of the ring' (to do what? call Scotty to beam it up?). Still, I'd call that a fight a draw.
Xena whistles up her horse and takes off. As in, how planes take off, except without the Bernoulli effect. This is apparently gonna be one of the more expensive eps.
Cut to 35 years later (says so on the screen) and a rack of furs with a helmet sticking out the top strides purposefully into a tavern. Inside, Xena and Gabrielle are working through lunch while in the background someone on a violin plays a cheery Irish jig. The furry dude says his name's Beowulf and tosses a rusty raven lock on the table. O shades of the green dragon must be made small. Guess there weren't too many of them locks floating around, cos Xena immediately goes to chat with Beowulf and leaves Gabrielle to puzzle over the superfluous hardware.
That night, as they bed down in the tavern (fully dressed and armed, they must have to put down a heck of a deposit on their linens at these taverns), Gab asks about the Beowulf lock thing, but Xena don't wanna talk about it and Gabrielle doesn't push it. Considering what happened the last time she pushed, that's probably all for the best. Comes the dawn, and it seems Xena's gone missing in the night, leaving naught behind but a cryptic note, long on professions of everlasting regard and way short on concrete details. At least it's sealed with a kiss.
Why Xena even bothers trying to give Gabrielle the slip is beyond me. That bard could track a needle in a haystack halfway around the known world, if it'd been used to stitch a rip in Xena's leathers. Xena's gone off, presumably with Beowulf, and they're moving at a dead run, considering that Gabrielle tracks her for weeks and doesn't catch up. She's now in the far north, there's snow on the ground and everyone she meets is wrapped head to toe in cloaks and furs, so Gabrielle puts on a light coat that almost closes in front. She stops off in a small town and chats with a trader about a tapestry he's displaying, that shows the Valkyries riding down from Valhalla (yah! yah!). One of them is different, she's got dark hair. The trader don't recall her name, but the blonde woman hovering behind Gab chimes in saying that one's Xena.
Gabrielle don't even blink, after all, she was Tataka's earthly manifestation not all that long ago. If Xena's current resume doesn't include "Valkyrie", it's only cos she's trying to keep it to one page. So Gabrielle pumps the woman, Brunnhilde, for more information and learns that Xena came around from Ch'in awhile back and got in good with Odin by pointing out how much more fun it is to fight battles and kill folks than to hang from a tree bleeding and moaning. Well, can't argue with that, so Odin gets off the tree and takes Xena home with him and makes her a Valkyrie. She learns to ride the carousel horsies in the sky and shout "Yah!" in chorus with all the others and generally fits right in, 'cept she's evil and the others are noble and they do appear to notice. Odin doesn't. He's a god. They're kinda slow that way.
The Head Valkyrie, Grinhilde, is way underwhelmed by Xena's growing influence over Odin, not to mention the way the Newest Valkyrie conducts herself in the field. To Xena, all fights are to the death, surrender is ignominious, and dying in the name of Odin is a fine, fine thing. Well, it is for her, since it's not her death, and each one furthers her rise in Odin's estimation. She and Grinhilde argue about it in front of him, he takes Xena's side and that's game over for Grinhilde, she's outta there. Odin mutters about how he loved her, and Xena tells him he can live without love.
Gabrielle stops Brunnhilde in her tracks by muttering "Poor Xena." Voicing the sentiments of the masses, Brunn responds, "'Poor Xena'?! Haven't you been listening?" Well, yeah, but this is Gab-- she knows Xena can't live without love, Xena's her, um, her, well, um, friend. (Hey, I've been introduced to folks in much the same way, bet lots of y'all have, too.) Gabrielle wants to know more, and Brunnhilde tells her to camp for the night and she'll come round with more stories, maybe a bottle of wine, some cakes, they'll talk. Friends should talk, don't you think?
Waiting by the fire, Gab jots a few more pictographs in her diary, she figures EvilXena screwed up here as badly as everywhere else and therefore has some fixing to do, and if it's anything like the mess she made in Ch'in, well... Her musings are interrupted by a noise in the bushes, might be Brunnhilde, might be a walking tree, dunno, but whatever it is, when Gabrielle spots it, the sais come out.
Turns out it's Brunnhilde, but instead of the wine and cakes she's brought a sword, and she's pointing it Gab's way. They fight, Gabrielle gets in some good licks but a sword's got more reach than her sais and Gab ends up flat on her back. Instead of offing her, Brunnhilde offers a hand to help her up, but the battlin' bard's way pissed. Brunn says she was just wanting show her worthiness to Gabrielle as a companion in the Search for Xena, kind of an odd approach with Gab and goes to show that when it comes to impressing women, Brunnhilde could use some tips in subtlety.
Gab lets it go, and Brunnhilde picks up the story where she left off earlier. Having gotten Grinhilde out of the picture, Xena's getting very snuggly with Odin. He's teaching her the same stuff he teaches the other Valks, like how to set fire to incidental metal and porcelain hall sculptures to burn off the dust and make less work for the cleaning staff, maybe this sort of thing helps when they're out camping in the wilderness and they need to scare off rabid trees. Anyway, she wants more, she wants to know about the Rheingold, so she pretends to love Odin so he'll tell her and not be all worried she's trying to steal it.
Maybe it's just the way Brunnhilde tells the story, but Xena's profession of LUV for Odin is so puerile, only a middle-aged, newly dumped Norse god would have fallen for it. Grinhilde points this out to Odin, mincing no words, after Xena's taken off on her flying horsie to check out the Rheinish scenery. She points out the local bards sing songs about what the Rheingold can do to a loving heart and what it will do for the bitter, c&w singing heart. Odin is surprised this stuff is common knowledge, much like Hoover finding out that everyone knows about him and that fellow in his apartment. Best line of the ep so far: Grinhilde saying, "You want to mix with the people more, Odin." He gives her back command of the Valkyries so that she can hunt Xena down like a dog and waste her.
It's been tried, but Grin doesn't know that.
Now comes what must be one of the longest XWP scenes we've ever been treated to without a scrap of dialogue. Just "Yah!" and "YAH!" and occasionally, "Alililili!" The Valkyries are chasing down Xena in the sky and she's laughing and tossing them off their rocking horses so that they fall to the earth way below. That's the whole of this scene. Nothing else happens. Well, okay, once in a while Xena frowns petulantly. How Brunnhilde acts this one out for Gabrielle is anyone's guess, but I'll bet when Gab later sketches the whole story for posterity and Melosa II's kids (not Desert Boy's, shame about that), she cuts a few of those 'yahs'.
Finally Grinhilde catches Xena's eye. They fight. Well, okay, they ponderously wave their swords about till Grin loses hers and flings herself at Xena sending them both plunging groundward and us into commercial land. For once, I'm actually grateful. I mean, given the same raw material, Wagner composed The Ride of the Valkyries. Xenastaff composed "Yah!" I'm not sure all this postmodern stuff is a real improvement in some areas.
Commercials over, Xena and Grinhilde plunge down and down, slamming through foliage and finally hitting hard in a frosty glade. Cut to shot of tree, its branches still and quiet. Cut to shot of sky, partly cloudy with light, high breezes and a chance of snow later in the week. All is well, is the message of these pristine wilderness checks, the ecosystem was not even slightly bruised in the making of this week's ep.
Oh, wait-- Grin's banged her lip on a tooth. Damn, that's gotta hurt. She's not happy about it, and it distracts her from noticing Xena's coming up with a drawn sword. Xena starts to take Grinhilde's head off, but thinks better of it and just kicks in her teeth instead. Her horsie gallops down the fairy path just then, and she mounts, sneering meaningfully and rides off with one last parting "Yah!" to drive home how she's the One, she's the Woman, and don't none of youse forget it.
Next thing we know, Xena's doing unto the Rheinmaidens what she done unto Odin, hey, it's a good trick, working well on these Northerners, and before you can pinch a warrior princess' behind, she's tricked one of them into leading her to the Rheingold. Nice bathing outfit she carries around with her, must say. As a parting gift to remember her by, Xena gives her guide a bloody nose.
Now she's got the gold, time to forge. Y'all can go for popcorn during this scene, this is not the last time we'll see it in the next couple weeks. It's not even the first time we saw it this ep, but there's a bit more this time round. She melts the gold, she pours it into a mold that don't look nothing like the finished product, she breaks the mold with a whacking big maul and cools the new ring in a pool of water. Henceforth this sequence will be known as the Forging Scene or That Damn Ring Bit. It has its own leitmotif, so you can tell when it's coming and plan your snack runs accordingly.
Brunnhilde cuts in on this stirring tribute to five and dime smithing and says, in case we forgot, that the Ring will give Xena "ultimate power" and make her invincible. Gabrielle says that Xena didn't need the Ring, she was already the best fighter in the world. Shows what Gab knows about the lure of ultimate power. She's so sweet. Needs a haircut, though. Brunn don't miss a beat, she can see that Gabrielle's got it bad for Xena and says so, then watches her squirm for a bit before letting her off the hook again.
Cut to two racks of furs striding through the snowy countryside. It's Beowulf and Xena (remember Xena? This is her show.), walking in the light of the full moon (yay!) and talking about how sweet Gabrielle is. There's a pattern here, I'm thinking. Beowulf also mentions that the people in these parts think of Xena as a demon, which she likely noticed from the dearth of Solstice and birthday cards with Norse postmarks.
Back to Brunnhilde and Gabrielle-- Brunn still digging for why Xena came north, and Gabrielle mentions the rusty raven lock. That's all Brunnhilde needed to know, she says Xena's on a suicide mission.
Cut back to Beowulf and Xena, it's daytime now, they're in front of a meadhall, looks rather like the last party there could have used a few designated drivers. There's more bodies than were on Omaha beach, and Beowulf leads Xena into the hall, saying this is the end of the line.
Next shot is of them in the hall, now it's night (moon's still full), and for a change it's Beowulf sharpening his sword while Xena prowls around. They're waiting for something. While they wait, Beowulf tells Xena how the bodies all over the place got to be set decorations, seems Grindl the Monster did for them. What they talked about all the long afternoon is anyone's guess, my vote's is that they didn't chat about goldsmithing. Xena says she created Grindl just as there's noises outside that indicate a certain someone's ears have been burning.
Gabrielle and Brunnhilde are quickstepping along the road, Gab says they'll travel through the night, she's clutching her coat in a vain attempt to cover her front from the piercing night wind (her belly button still shows), and Brunnhilde says they'll be wherever they're going by morning. So we already know they'll get there too late. Shucks. Oh, well, this is the kind of timing that makes a trilogy out of a short short, so that's okay.
So, while Beowulf and Xena prepare to meet their Doom, Brunnhilde calls up a flashback to explain how that Doom came to be.
But while she's setting up the in-house movie projector, the Doom bursts into the hall and knocks Beowulf flat. It's Tree! And Tree's got the Ring! How about that-- bejewelled vegetation giving what-for to a pair of carnivores. Talk about subtle propaganda, my hat's off to Xenastaff.
This is a heck of a fight, Tree whups their butts, no two ways about it. The Slicin' -n- Dicin' Chakram barely makes a dent in Tree's foliage, neither does the axe Beowulf finds in the litter of the hall, Xena loses her sword somewheres and in the end, Beowulf's buried under several kilos of masonry and incidental shelving and Tree's advancing on a prone and bloodied and defenseless (but snarling) Xena.
Cut to Brunnhilde and Gabrielle approaching the meadhall, it's another beautiful day, and they're bonding, in a Xena's the Centre of My Life but You're Really Cute kind of way.
They dig Beowulf out from under and he's messed up but he did figure out somehow that Tree had drug Xena off somewheres, must be that x-ray vision all them Norse heroes got, and there ain't naught left but her breastplate, how she shrugged out of that just to be hauled around by Tree is not readily apparent, doubt Tree helped with the buckles, but still, it's on the floor and Gabrielle finds it. It's looking a mite worse for wear.
And that's it for this week! So, what we got-- all in all, extremely, undoubtedly, VERY cool ep. Lots decent butt-kicking, bit too much emphasis on the yahs, excellent stuff developing between Gabrielle and Brunnhilde and a refreshing lack of anything developing between Xena and Beowulf. (Brunnhilde is the hottest ally since Lao Ma, for my money.) And there's a sure-nough Monster! Okay, it's not a scary monster, but hey-- this is a syndie, after all.
RING IN THE RING
The episode homages Wagner's opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Read a detailed plot synopsis of of it here: http://users.utu.fi/hansalmi/topi.html. The opera cycle consists of four grand operas:DAS RHEINGOLD ("The Rhinegold")
DIE WALKUERE (The Valkyrie)
GOETTERDAEMMERUNG ("Twilight of the Gods")
This synopsis is by Sally Dye
For those who are interested, here is a synopsis of the Ring story. (This is taken from the graphic novel by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane)
In the world's dawn, Wotan, king of the gods, sets three mermaidens to guard a hoard of magical treasure -- the Rhinegold. A Ring fashioned from it will grant its wearer power beyond measure, but the gold can be stolen only by one who renounces love for all time. The greedy dwarf, Alberich the Nibelung, accepts these terms and makes off with the gold.
Later, Wotan with the help of the fire god Loge, wrests both Ring and Rhinegold from Alberich to pay the giants Fafner and Fasolt for building the gods' fabled palace, Valhalla. Fafner kills Fasolt and takes the treasure for his own.
Wotan finally realizes they must recover the treasure or the gods and Valhalla are doomed. He also knows that only a mortal hero not bound by the gods' law can wrest the gold from Fafner. To this end, he sires twins -- Siegmund and Sieglinda -- who, when grown, meet and fall in love.
Under pressure from his jealous wife, Wotan must send the valkyrie Brunnhilde to slay Siegmund. When Brunnhilde spares him instead, Wotan himself slays Siegmund -- and puts Brunnhilde to sleep atop a mountain ringed with fire until a hero awakens her as a mortal woman. Sieglinda escapes and gives birth to Siegfried, the hero who is destined to save Brunnhilde and the gods.
Siegfried slays Fafner, who had become a dragon, and obtains both the Ring and the Rhinegold. He then goes to awaken Brunnhilde, the one woman worthy to be his bride. For both of them, it is love at first sight. Siegfried gives the Ring to Brunnhilde and rides off to fulfill his destiny.
Siegfried is tricked, however, by King Gunther and his sister Gutrune, into drinking a potion which makes him forget everything and fall prey to Gutrine's beauty. He also swears a blood oath to bring Brunnhilde to Gunther to be his bride.
Brunnhilde thinks Siegfried has betrayed her, so she reveals to Hagen, Gunther's advisor,(who turns out to be the son of Alberich), the only way Siegfried can be killed. Alberich kills Siegfried and Brunnhilde throws herself onto his funeral pyre. The Rhinemaidens recover the Ring and the Rhinegold, and the twilight of the gods begins.
AND WHO THE HECK IS THIS BEOWULF GUY?
From Kevin Wald. Beowulf is the principal character in the three-thousand-line Old English poem which modern scholars have unimaginatively titled _Beowulf_.
Beowulf is a hero from the tribe of the Geats -- a people located between the Swedes and the Danes. When Hrothgar, king of the Danes, has a pest control problem (a monster named Grendel keeps coming into Heorot, the royal hall, and eating the warriors) Beowulf shows up with fourteen other Geats to help out. Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel, and later, when Grendel's mother shows up, slays her too. B's party heads back to Geatland, and eventually (with one thing and another) he becomes king of the Geats.
He rules in peace for many years; then, when he is an old man, a dragon goes on a rampage, and Beowulf must kill it. He does so, but is himself mortally wounded in the process, and they bury him with much grieving. He is to be the last king of the Geats; without his protection, the nation will eventually cease to exist.
The above two-paragraph summary only gives the broad outline of the plot. There are a number of more detailed summaries available on the web -- several are linked to on Syd Allan's page at (http://www.jagular.com/beowulf.shtml), which also has a bunch of other Beowulf material, including samples of various translations.
Also, those who want to see the original in all its glory might want to check out (http://www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/library/oe/texts/a4.1.html), (http://www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/library/oe/oe.html has texts, in fact, for just about all the Old English poetry known, and much of the prose). Those wanting a translation might want to see gopher://wiretap.spies.com/00/Library/Classic/beowulf.txt, which has a poetic translation by Gummere (presumably because it's in the public domain), which is the only complete on-line translation I have yet found; there are also the translation samples on Syd Allan's page mentioned above.
Click here to read the saga of Beowulf on-line!
From Bohemia125. If you pick up Antonio Banderas' "13th Warrior", its story is a play upon Beowulf.
From Angharad Governal. Beowulf in Hypertext. It's here: http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~beowulf/main.html
This synopsis is by Sally Dye
For those who are interested in Beowulf, here is that story, too.
Hrothgar, king of the Danes, builds a great hall known as Heorot (the Hall of the Hart) which becomes famous far and wide. One night without warning, Grendel, a gigantic, bear-like creature, attacks the hall, killing thirty of Hrothgar's men. For twelve years these raids continue. In faroff Geatland, the warrior Beowulf hears of this and decides he will sail to to Hrothgar's kingdom and offer his help. Arriving there, he tells Hrothgar he plans to fight Grendel in hand- to-hand combat. Neither Hrothgar nor any of his men think Beowulf will survive the night.
After all the warriors are asleep, Grendel stalks in, ready to feast. Beowulf observes the monster as he attacks and eats one of his thanes. Then Grendel turns to Beowulf. They have a great, thundering battle and tear up the hall pretty thoroughly. Beowulf rips Grendel's arm out of the socket, and the monster runs off into the night.
The next morning, they follow the bloody trail left by Grendel to a dark swamp. Unable to go further, they return to the hall, where Hrothgar has put Grendel's arm on display. They repair the hall and hold a great feast in Beowulf's honor. Then they all fall asleep, thinking they are at last safe from Grendel's raids. During the night, Grendel's mother comes to the hall seeking vengeance. She kills one of the warriors, grabs Grendel's arm and flees back to the swamp.
Beowulf and his men return to the swamp, where Beowulf plunges in and swims down to the bottom, dodging sea creatures and other monsters all the way. At the bottom he is dragged into Grendel's cave by his mother. They fight, and Beowulf is fianlly able to kill her. He sees Grendel's dead body there and cuts off the head to take back to Heorot. Hrothgar gives Beowulf much treasure for saving his kingdom.
Beowulf returns to his home, where he eventually becomes king. Many years later, he is forced to fight a dragon because one of his thanes stole an ornamented cup from its treasure hoard. With the help of a young warrior, Wiglaf, he defeats the dragon, but is fatally wounded in the battle.
Beowulf's men burn his body on a funeral pyre and bury his ashes along with the dragon's treasure.
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
11-12-00. The episode is spelled "The Rheingold" in the slate and in the title of the show, but it was spelled "The Rhinegold" in the cuts for the commercials of the satellite feed.
10-13-00. Looks like there are more ex-girlfriends in Xena's past! At least a few. The Rheingold trilogy will include flashbacks to Evil Xena when she hung out with the Rhine nymphs (presumably after burning a path through Asia).
10-13-00. The grand homage to Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas slams smack into another homage to the great medievel epic poem of Beowulf. Only in the Xenaverse!
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These things are by Beth Gaynor.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR The note to Gabrielle teaches us four things about Xena's writing: 1) Xena packs a lot of words in a couple dozen letters. 2) Xena doesn't write in a very straight line. 3) Xena signs her name with an X, with the bottom right part of the X trailing down, just like the show's logo. AND... 4) Xena ends her note to Gabrielle with a big ol' kiss print. Except that the lips are so far apart, it may have been a scream. Or an attempt to give the scroll a hickey. Whatever it was, Xena left the inn with ink all over her lips. I laughed myself silly when I realized that "35 years later" means that, minus 25 years of sleep, we're STILL putting all of Xena's nastiness the famous "Ten Years Ago." By last count, Xena has now been betrayed by Caesar, went head to head with Lao Ma in Chin, run off to the Thunderdome Amazons with Borias and decimated them, AND come west to the Nordic people T.Y.A. Even in an inn, Gabrielle sleeps with her boots on... and her bracelets, and her belt, and maybe even her sais. That can NOT be comfortable. This episode leaves TONS of questions unanswered. Hopefully, we'll get the answers to at least most of them in the next two episodes: * EvilXena went through all that to get the ring, then just leaves it when the monster Grendel grabs it? Why not go after it? * How did Grendel come about? Xena claims to have made it - how? * What the heck does Brunnhilda want Xena for? * What happened to Grinhilda? * And, oh yeah, did Xena survive the battle with Grendel? (Har har har)
Click here to read a transcript of THE RHEINGOLD.
No flying horses were harmed in the making of this motion picture, although several villagers were bombarded with aerial manure.
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