GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
SYNOPSIS by Bluesong
COMMENTARY 1 BY Beth the Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 BY Shana
COMMENTARY 3 BY Josh Harrison
RING IN THE RING
AND WHO THE HECK IS THIS BEOWULF GUY?
GRENDEL VS. GRINHILDA
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Written by Joel Metzger
Directed by Rick Jacobson
TV GUIDE PROMO
Xena must battle a monster of her own making to recover the destructive Rheingold ring she forged in her days as an evil warrior. Logline
In the conclusion [sic], Gabrielle, Beowulf and Brunhilda discover a severely wounded Xena hiding from the beast Grindl. Xena explains her history with the beast, and how a magical ring is at the root of the problem. Later, Brunhilda kidnaps Gabrielle and confesses her love for her. Xena and Beowulf, meanwhile, battle an array of villains who seek to take possession of the ring. TVGuide Online.
Xena must battle Grindl, a monster she created when she was an evil warrior, in order to recover a dangerous enchanted ring. ClickTV
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
A "previously on Xena" montage from The Rheingold.
Gabrielle, Brunhilda, and Beowulf search for Xena in a very desolate forest that looks like a fire just went through it. Brunhilda tells Gabrielle not to get her hopes up. Beowulf finds Xena's blood on a tree, and says this is where it ends. Gabrielle says no, this is where Xena got away. She sees part of Xena's armor on the ground and picks it up. Beowulf says Gabrielle isn't being realistic. Gabrielle insists Xena is alive. She says they must split up, so they do. Gabrielle wanders around the desolate deforested forest. She hears something. She calls out Xena's name, and Xena reaches out and grabs her and pulls her behind a tree. The monster roars, and Xena points. Grindl walks along the horizon. They watch. Beowulf calls out Gabrielle's name, and Grindl turns and heads off.
Xena and Gabrielle hug. Gabrielle tells Xena not to leave her again. She says Xena is hurt, and helps Xena sit down. Xena looks pretty beat up. Brunhilda and Beowulf come up. They tell Xena that Grindl has cut off their escape by the cliffs. Xena tells Brunhilda and Beowulf they should leave. Gabrielle says she isn't leaving Xena, and then Brunhilda and Beowulf tell Xena they aren't leaving Gabrielle in an interesting little exchange of looks and conversation. Brunhilda makes some comment about warriors, and how great it is to meet a real warrior, and Xena tells her that she's changed in 35 years, she's learned about love and peace and stuff, and she looks adoringly at Gabrielle while she speaks.
Xena cleans up well. They find Grindl's lair. Gabrielle asks Xena is she's sure about this. Xena says she is. They all go into the lair, which is filled with lots of tunnels. Xena calls Grindl "her" and Gabrielle wants to know what this Grindl is. Xena tells a story in flashback. She says that after she stole the gold, she was getting ready to put on the ring when Grinhilda the Valkyrie shot an arrow and took the ring from Xena. The ring will give a mortal the power of a god, but the mortal must forsake love. Grinhilda hasn't forsaken love, but she says that to stop Xena, she'll risk that she'll have the power of a god long enough to stop Xena before the curse kicks in and her essence is destroyed. Grinhilda puts on the ring. Xena and Grinhilda fight. Xena gets whooped, but just as Grinhilda gets ready to stomp Xena into little pieces, Grinhilda starts to feel the effects of the ring. She turns into a monster because she valued her beauty and looks and humanity above everything else. Xena cuts off one of Monster Grinhilda's fingers, and gets the ring. Xena puts on the ring. Monster Grinhilda flees, and Xena locks her up, as seen in The Rheingold. Xena does this because she wants Grinhilda to suffer her ugliness forever. But, as we already know, the Monster Grinhilda got the ring. The ring was useless to Monster Grinhilda, but Xena says that after 35 years, Monster Grinhilda must have learned how to forsake love. Xena wants Gabrielle and friends to drop the mountain on Monster Grinhilda.
Xena runs down the tunnels. The Grindl roars. Xena sees the monster. Grindl sees Xena and runs after her. Xena leads Grindl down the tunnels. Xena taunts Grindl. "Come on, you remember me," she says. Grindl goes after Xena. Xena gets to the place for the rockslide, but Grindl catches on and runs away. Xena gives chase. Gabrielle goes after Xena, and Beowulf and Brunhilda chase after Gabrielle. They all catch up to Grindl as it turns on Xena, and then it fights everyone. They all get knocked around by Grindl. The timbers in the tunnel start cracking, and Xena tells Beowulf to get the others out. He does, and Xena tosses the chakram and starts a rockslide. She and Grindl are trapped on one side of the rockslide.
Brunhilda and Beowulf are very concerned about Gabrielle, but Gabrielle is only concerned about Xena. She starts tossing rocks and the others help.
Xena and Grindl, on the other side, fight. Xena runs and leads Grindl down a tunnel again. They fight some more. Xena gets knocked around. Gabrielle crawls through the hole she made in the rockslide. She finds Xena's chakram, grabs it, and runs through the tunnels. Brunhilda and Beowulf crawl after Gabrielle.
Grindl grabs Xena in a death grip. Gabrielle runs forward and sees that Xena is in trouble. She jumps on Grindl's back and jabs at Grindl's neck with the chakram. Grindl drops Xena, and tosses Gabrielle off. Xena grabs the chakram and sticks it in Grindl. Grindl dies. Xena takes the ring off Grindl's finger. Xena hears a noise, and tells Gabrielle and friends (who finally arrive) that they have to get out.
Xena says that Grindl wasn't Grinhilda. Grindl had all its fingers. Grinhilda was missing one because Xena cut it off a long time ago, Xena says. They hear a monster noise. Xena says, that's Grinhilda. She says they have to get the ring to Rhein maidens. A raven sits on a branch, watching, and it seems to telepathically communicate with Brunhilda. The bird then flies to Odin.
Brunhilda and Gabrielle talk as they travel, stuff about love and warrioring and such. Xena stops, and asks Brunhilda to scout up ahead. Xena takes Gabrielle aside and tells her she does not like Brunhilda. She doesn't trust her.
Brunhilda sees more ravens. Odin appears. He tells Brunhilda that she was supposed to get the ring from Xena and bring it straight to him. He says he knows that Brunhilda is in love with Gabrielle. Brunhilda says she had to play up to Gabrielle to win her trust. The Valkyries all appear. Odin tells them that Xena's weakness is her partner, Gabrielle. He says, get Gabrielle. Xena will trade the ring for Gabrielle, or Gabrielle will be killed. The Valkyries ride off.
Beowulf and Xena wonder what is keeping Brunhilda. The Valkyries appear. "Get the blond," someone says. Beowulf and Xena fight the Valkyries. As they fight, Brunhilda rides up on a horse, and swoops Gabrielle off. The horse flies away into the air, with Gabrielle yelling "Xena!" and Xena stops and yells, "Gabrielle." Xena and Beowulf continue to fight Valkyries. Xena tells Beowulf to see where Brunhilda is taking Gabrielle. Xena keeps fighting. Odin appears. He says he'll trade Gabrielle for the ring. Xena says no deal, because the Valkyries were as surprised as anyone when Brunhilda rode in and took Gabrielle. Brunhilda is acting alone, Xena says. Odin tells Xena that she killed Grinhilda's son, that Grinhilda was pregnant when Xena turned her into a monster with the ring. Xena tells Odin she's taking the ring back to the Rhein maidens. Odin says he wants the ring himself. After Xena, it was easy for him to forsake love, and he wants the ring for more power and to keep godslayers like Xena off his back. Beowulf comes to Xena and says Brunhilda has Gabrielle in the East Bog.
Brunhilda stops, and she and Gabrielle have a spat. Gabrielle says she has to get back to help Xena, and Brunhilda says, Xena, Xena, is that all you think about? Brunhilda, who is a Valkyrie, says she has escorted lots of warriors to Valhalla and Gabrielle has the purest and brightest heart of any fighter, and she has changed Brunhilda, just like she changed Xena. Gabrielle says she's sorry. Brunhilda says she defied her god for Gabrielle.
Odin goes to Monster Grinhilda. He tells her Xena killed Junior Grindl. Odin says he'll take Monster Grinhilda to Xena. They do a god disappearing act.
Gabrielle tells Brunhilda that she and Xena have this connection, that they are soulmates. It just kind of happened. Xena and Gabrielle are meant to be together. Brunhilda says she'll prove which warrior deserves Gabrielle's love.
Beowulf and Xena walk through the bog, looking for Gabrielle. Xena says Beowulf must know the bog. He says it's a nasty place and he's never been there, but he'd go through the fires of hell for Gabrielle. Odin and the Valkyries show up again. Odin says he wants the ring. Xena says, step aside, or join the Olympians. Monster Grinhilda grabs Xena. Odin tells the Valkyries to find Gabrielle and kill her.
Beowulf fights the Valkyries. Xena finally gets around to where she can attack Monster Grinhilda. Xena throws the chakram, and it circles around Odin, keeping him busy dodging it, while Xena gets away from Grinhilda. Xena fights Grinhilda and Valkyries while the chakram flies around.
A Valkyrie stabs Beowulf, who falls to the ground. Grinhilda knocks Xena down. Xena is surrounded, without weapons, by Odin, Grindl, and Valkyries. Xena begins to slip on the ring. Odin says it will destroy whatever Xena holds the most dear. He says it will kill her and Gabrielle. Xena says she has to take that chance. She puts on the ring. Her sword and chakram come to her. She deflects Odin's fireballs into Grinhilda and into Valkyries.
Gabrielle, chasing after Brunhilda, tells her she can't win in a fight against Xena. Valkyries attack them, and Brunhilda fights them off. Gabrielle fights off one, too. Then Brunhilda says Odin and the Valkyries will kill Xena before she can do it herself, to prove her love for Gabrielle. Gabrielle says, you're going to spill blood to prove you love me? You're sick. Gabrielle walks off.
Xena continues fighting Monster Grinhilda and deflecting Odin's fireballs. She kills a Valkyrie. She gets Grinhilda, and then hears Gabrielle call out her name. She does one of her famous long-distance flips and goes away. Odin says leave her, the ring is killing what she values the most.
Brunhilda finds Xena can't remember who she is. She drops her sword. She has lost her sense of self and her memories of Gabrielle. Brunhilda tells Xena to give her the ring. Xena gives Brunhilda the ring. Xena looks at the chakram, and cuts her hand open with it. She drops it.
Brunhilda finds Gabrielle. She tells her that Xena won't know her now, that Xena put on the ring. Gabrielle says, "no." Brunhilda gives Gabrielle the ring. Brunhilda says Xena lost what she valued most, her memories of Gabrielle and what they share. Brunhilda says that Odin and the Valkyries will stalk Gabrielle forever. Brunhilda says she will protect Gabrielle by becoming an eternal flame and encircling her. Only a certain pure soul or something like that can pass through the flame; nothing can harm Gabrielle. Brunhilda chants and turns into a pillar of flame. She encircles Gabrielle, who finds herself arrayed in pretty clothes.
Beowulf wakes up. He stumbles around and finds Xena's sword and chakram. He calls out her name.
Gabrielle lies down on a big flat rock, with the ring in her hand, and goes to sleep with the flame encircling her.
Xena wanders through he bog. She says she can hear laughter. Who am I? She screams.
TO BE CONTINUED
This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.
This episode cracked me up. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the heck out of it. But the whole episode can be summed up like this:Beowulf and Brunnhilda: "GABRIELLE!!!"
Xena: "Grinhilda and I have a date with destiny."
That was it! That was the whole episode. Everybody was reduced to pretty simple motivations. Xena follows the monster (and with a horrible line like "date with destiny"), Gabrielle follows Xena, and the rest of the pack trails behind like puppies. And it's amazing, but such a simple setup still gave us a pretty rip-roarin' good episode.
Let's go over the ring rules. Someone puts on the ring. IF they have forsaken love, they get superpowers. Yummy. IF they have not, they get superpowers for about 45 seconds, then the thing they value the most gets taken away from them AND they lose the superpowers. The ring rules don't seem to address what happens if you've already lost the thing you value most and you put the ring on again. It seems that the ring is a one-try-per-customer kind of deal. Except for Xena - she tried it once sans love, and once with love. What IDJIT set up the rules for this ring? Whoever can do the most damage with it wins.
Gabrielle has the faith and tracking instincts of a bloodhound. But during the hunt, I kept expecting Xena to drop down from the trees - Gab, dear, I know you're distraught, but you and Xena are both amazons. If she's not leaving tracks, look UP.
Brunnhilda's motivations are finally revealed. She's on a mission for Odin, but is really working for her own ends: she's a groupie with a bad case of battle lust. Until Xena and Gabrielle stomp that lust into pieces and it has to turn to a different object.
There was brief - very brief - setup last week for the incredibly sudden attacks of lovestruck that Brunnhilda and Beowulf suffered this week for Gabrielle. Good lord, what perfume is the bard wearing? These two didn't fall for her, they lept off cliffs without their bungee cords. And Xena, who's known that Gabrielle's all that for seasons now, grinds her teeth at it all. Her "Nope, don't like her" speech to Gabrielle after a mooning Brunnhilda's departure was hilarious.
Actually, a LOT about this lovesick business was hilarious. Gabrielle kneels, hale and hearty, over a battered and bloody Xena who's been missing and in Grendel's clutches for a day. And yet Beowulf and Brunnhilda's lines are "Gabrielle!" "Gabrielle, are you all right?" Beowulf redeems himself with his witty "You look awful" line to Xena, but geez, Xena should be piping up with "Yeah, guys, and I'm fine, too, thanks for asking." Even Brunnhilda seems to realize how ridiculous this all is the third time they go through it, when Gab slips between the rocks to take off after Xena. Gab screams for Xena, Beowulf screams for Gab, and Brunnhilda gives an exasperated sigh. Ain't love a bitch?
I was glad to see, after the big fight last week, that someone had thought of chopping off the hand that wears the ring! I still have no idea why nobody uses it now, after it had proved so handy (pardon the pun) 35 years ago.
Hey, mark this day down in history: a bad guy actually did NOT fall for a trap! Grendel figures out that following Xena into an ambush would be a bad thing to do. Way to go, baby stick monster!
I appreciate the effect of darkness and confusion in a fight. But that cave battle was so poorly lit and quickly cut that I couldn't tell a blasted thing that happened.
"I thought I told you not to come in here!" "I never listen!" I think that exchange summarized Gabrielle's whole life.
Poor Beowulf. The guy's also majorly smitten with Gabrielle, but seems buried under the been-here-for-years-you-don't- have-a-chance Xena and the subtlety-of-a-stick-monster Brunnhilda.
Has anybody seen the subtext? Brunnhilda is hopelessly, incredibly in love with Gabrielle and is cheesed off because she doesn't stand a chance, since Gabrielle's perfectly happy with her "partner"/"soulmate"/"we're meant to be together" babe, Xena. To quote Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Giles, "The subtext is rapidly becoming... text."
Odin now has a major thing going for the ring for two reasons: he's abandoned love, and Xena's running around with the power to kill gods. The writers even set up why Odin didn't take the ring from Grinhilda earlier: he was hoping to get someone while they were weak and couldn't defend their ring. Good thinking, but Odin's problem is that he's also become a major coward. He sends Grinhilda to fight Xena, goes after the bard, ducks and hides like a baby when the chakram goes flying... he's scared to death. How's HE supposed to get the guts to grab that ring?
Loved how the stick monster disguises itself as a tree to ambush (ba-dump-dum) Xena. That's making use of available resources!
Awesome effect of the sword and chakram flying up to Xena's hands when she gains the power of the ring. We get treated to butt-kicking on a whole new level for the rest of that fight.
Another note for the field guide: stick monsters bleed sawdust when Xena kicks them in the guts hard enough.
Beowulf isn't stupid enough to think that Xena's dead twice. He finds Xena's sword and bloody chakram, but takes a lesson from Gabrielle's determination (and for once in this episode doesn't think of the bard first) and continues his hunt.
And now we're waiting another week until the end! This has been an absolutely ROCKIN' trilogy so far. I can't wait to see the big finale next week; Beowulf's gotta find Xena, Xena's gotta get her memory back and prove she's Gabrielle's soulmate, and Gabrielle's gotta get out of the oven. Brunnhilda... I guess Brunnhilda will just need to find a nice volcano to settle down with. Sorry, Brunnhilda.
Determination points for the bard: Gabrielle scrambles through rock, can't throw the chakram, so she leaps right onto Grendel's back and uses the chakram like a mad butcher knife. Way to go, Gab!
Brunnhilda's sacrifice for Gabrielle is an absolutely, flat- out, without a doubt, sock-knocking amazing scene. For a lot of reasons. It was set up very subtly last week. Xena was the one who discovered that the power of the the runes could lead to a person giving up their essence to form an eternal flame. The obvious setup was that Xena would eventually use that power. The fact that a different valkyrie used it was awesome. Which leads to my second reason for loving this scene - that it was such a surprise. Brunnhilda was so corrupted until this point, that when she managed to wheedle away the ring, I was totally sold that she was going to put it on. When she handed it to Gabrielle, my jaw hit the floor. Next reason for loving the scene was that it was just plain powerful. Brunnhilda, who is fighting a losing battle for Gabrielle's love, anyway, decides that the least she can do is prove her worthiness of a love she'll never get, and gives herself up to protect Gabrielle, the ring, and the greater good Gabrielle espouses, all without the fighting and bloodshed she'd followed until then. Can't beat that for a statement.
This commentary is by Shana.
Hmmm....I'm calmed down a wee bit since I first watched this one this morning. I don't take To Be Continued's well, especially when they are this intriguing. From the previews, and from the shots that were missing in the episode up till the last couple of minutes, I knew several things were not going to be resolved before the end of this episode.
Unfortunately, I was right.
But I WILL survive the week, only because I've got to see how this thing turns out! Advance press on these episodes hinted this trilogy might be rather weak in the world of Xena. Boy, is THAT ever wrong. This mixture of Norse Gods and Xena and Gabs is turning out to be one of the most intense, exciting forays ever!
Before I start, I need to make a comment on The Rheingold. Something was nagging at me about Lucy's portrayal of EX (Evil Xena of the past), compared to past season's episodes, and while watching the aforementoned episode again last night, I figured out what it was. It's the voice. I noticed in fifth season, Lucy's voice had changed dramatically from earlier seasons. It became quieter, more hoarse, and it became harder to hear her. I know Lucy has said in interviews that playing Xena has ripped her vocal cords to shreds, and know she doesn't have any control over it, so this is NOT a complaint, just an observation. EX has the same vocal qualities as present day Xena, and despite the amazing facial expressions and body movements, the EX in the Norse Trilogy is different from other portrayals in the voice.
Okay, on with the commentary. The episodes starts with some well-compiled clips of last week. Like we needed reminding, right? I was sitting there thinking, "You just cut a minute out of this week by showing clips of last week". I'm pretty greedy with my Xena time. The first shot after that is Gabrielle, Brunhilda, and Beowulf moving through the forest, searching for Xena. You do remember that Xena is lost, don't you? She was dragged away by Grindel...remember? Okay, now that we're on the same page, the first bits of dialogue are pretty remarkable. Beowulf: "We're deep in Grendel territory." Brunhilda: "The chances of finding her are getting less and less." (Shouldn't that be fewer and fewer?) Gabs: "Then we pick up the pace." Brunhilda: "What I'm trying to say is, don't get your hopes up, Gabrielle." Gabrielle: "I'm not relying on hope, Xena's tough to kill." Gabrielle gives a small smile as she delivers the first part of that line. Not relying on hope? Hmmm....I always find it ironic when "hope" is spoken by Gabs or Xena. The remarkable thing about this trio is watching Gabs lead the way. Beowulf and Brun are following HER and she has taken command, much like Xena would if she were there. The bard has grown... Beowulf finds some of Xena's blood on a tree and says somberly..."This is is where it ended." Gabs checks it out and declares "This is where she got away...not long ago..." Her voice is sure of itself...she simply knows. She looks on the ground and finds one of Xena's gauntlets. Let's see, Gabs has Xena's breast armor and a gauntlet...Xena's gonna be naked before long!
But I digress, as usual. Beowulf says, "Gabrielle, are you being totally honest with yourself? I mean all of the evidence points to the fact that Xena-" Gabrielle cuts him off with an emphatic, "She got away! She waited for her chance and she escaped." "Where are her tracks?" Brun asks. "Xena is alive," Gabs says, more definite than ever, "If we split up, we can cover more ground." At this point, I realize, and I like to think Gabs does too, the fact that Brun and Beo are both acting as if they don't want Xena to be found. Somehow their expressions are more of displeasure at Gabs proclamations, instead of doubt as I would have expected. Y'know, looking at Beowulf with that dumb helmet with the nose guard, it's a wonder this guy isn't cross-eyed when he takes the helmet off! That thing would drive me to distraction!
Gabrielle is unwavering. That unbreakable bond between her and Xena is stronger than ever! They split up, and the camera follows Gabs, who is still holding the gauntlet. She hides behind a tree, hearing a rumbling noise in the distance. Peering ahead, she whispers, "Xena?" A hand suddenly wraps around her mouth , and pulls her more directly behind the tree! Ahhh! No, it's just Xena...looking a little bloody, and shall we say peeved? Gabs glances over at who grabbed her, realizes who it is, and even as relief pours over her, Xena is pointing to where the rumbling is. We get a lovely profile of Grindel, obviously searching for his lost prey. Grindel hears Beowulf shout, and moves out of sight, and it's time for a tight embrace. "Don't ever leave me again," Gabs tells Xena, and Xena just hangs on tight with her eyes squeezed tight. Hmmm...that's a lot of tights! After they release, Gabs realizes Xena's pretty beat up...there's some nasty looking gore on that right thigh of hers, and settles her down at the base of a tree to patch her up. Xena, of course, says she's all right "Don't fuss", and Gabs hands her the gauntlet with a little sigh of relief. About this time, Brun and Beo run up. Now, I'm not a genius or anything, but as the two approach, they are shouting, "Gabrielle" and I could swear Xena's eyes fly right past Beowulf and she's immediately sizing up who the other blonde chick is. You'll see why in a minute.
Brun asks if Gabrielle is okay. Excuse me? Gabbers is sitting there totally spotless next to a woman covered in blood, and she wants to know how Gabs is? Uh huh. I think I know where we're headed! Brun finally realizes it's Xena sitting there. Beowulf and Xena are old chums now. Beoulf: "Clean yourself up; You look awful." Xena replies "Thanks," with one of those quirky Xena grins. Beowulf takes off to check up on Grendel, and Brun starts in on her "waited my entire life to meet you" spiel. Xena's response, "If I had known I had a fan coming, I would have combed my hair." LOL! She gives another one of those ironic grins, only this time to Gabs who smiles at her in turn. This turns into a full fledged grin from Xena. I like this episode already! Brunhilda keeps gushing about how legendary Xena is, and Xena tells her she didn't think she'd be too popular around here. Brunhilda confides, "Weaklings don't like you, I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and your philosophy." She wants to be like just like Xena. Xena's attention is distracted as Gabs is tying the bandage on her thigh with a non-too-gentle manner. Hmmm....is the bard interested in Xena's response? Xena tells Brun her life is devoted to "life, love, and peace." Brun wants to know what happened to change her. The music swells and Xena looks at Gabs with yet a different smile...dare I say this one is more intimate? "Lots of reasons," she whispers, as Gabbers returns the smile in kind. Brun eyes the both of them with the same expression Xena uses at the end of Heart of Darkness with Virgil and Gabrielle. You may think I'm overanalyzing here, but I'm not. I felt this the first time I watched it. There is so much tension there, it's thicker than the mist surrounding them.
Beowulf returns and says Grendel seems to be gone, but Xena tells him, "She's out there somewhere." No one else on screen seemed to catch that, but a light bulb went off in my head immediately. "She?" If you read my commentary last week, you know I don't remember anything about the Beowulf legend, but I immediately had this figured out. If the following statement makes you say, "Well, duh," to me...you won't hurt my feelings. I now realized Grendel was actually Grinhilda. Okay say it...duh! At least I'm smarter than Gabs, Brun, and Beo. They haven't caught on at this point!
Gabs wants to get Xena out of there, but Xena says she has and Grendel have a "date with destiny." Brunhilda says Grendel heard them searching for Gabs, doubled back and has their escape cut off. "That's right," Xena tells her, and Brun looks proud of herself for being clever in front of Xena. I'm beginning to really NOT like her. Xena tells Brun and Beo that they should go. She tells Gabs she knows better than to try to talk her out of leaving. Hee hee! Xena's finally learning! But B & B should live to fight another day. It's her battle. " It's our battle," Gabs corrects. "I won't leave Gabrielle," Brunhilda declares. Xena's look directed at her is one of total shock and amazement. Can't blame her. Gabs gives Brun a small smile, looking very pleased. Uh oh. Then comes the kicker..."Neither will I," Beowulf states. Xena's stare registers even more shock and amazement. Can't blame her again! She studies back and forth between Beowulf and Brunhilda, not looking at Gabrielle once. She's wondering what game is afoot. Exactly what happened during this search for her? I mean, it's obvious it didn't take long for Gabs to find her, so how in the world did Beowulf become so enraptured with Gabs in that short of time? I think it's intriguing that Xena doesn't look at Gabs, who is looking a little surprised, during this exchange. Maybe she knows Gabs is just as shocked. "Well, I guess we're in this together then," Xena states. They hear Grendel making some noise off camera, and Xena leads the way. Then cut to the opening credits. Whew! All this from the teaser!!
They're walking through the woods, following the creature. When they find Grendel's lair, Gabs questions if Xena is sure about this, but, this is Xena, so, of course, she is! The music in this episode rocks! Beowulf wants to know what the plan is as they walk through the lair, which is actually an extensive cavern. Xena wants to lure Grendel in there and have the others bring the mountain down on her head. Gabs finally catches on..."Her? What is this Grendel?" Xena: "A mistake, I made a very long time ago." Guess what, time for flashbacks!
For the third time we watch EX make the ring, which now in my mind looks like a cherry lifesaver in its molten state. No wonder I've been craving them all week! But now we see the rest of the scene. Grinhilda watches the ring cool, then shoots an arrow which takes the ring from EX's hand and delivers it into her own. EX and Grin have a verbal battle. "I've thrashed you before, Grinhilda, I can do it again!" We learn more about the power of the ring. We know if one forsakes love, they can use the power of the ring. We learned that last week. If one puts on the ring without forsaking love, it destroys what they value most. Grin tells her now, that before the destruction kicks in, the wearer gets a surge of Godlike power. Riiight. EX wants to know if Grin will take the chance to she'll have time to kill her before that destruction kicks in. Grinhilda is going to take the chance. EX destroyed the honor of the Valkyris. "Let's see if you took notes," EX snarls, kickinng up her sword into her hand. Something else strikes me as different about EX from earlier versions of her. She makes the same noises in battle as fifth and sixth season, which are different from earlier versions. Guess it's the voice thing again!
EX and Grinhilda are dueling it out. It's an impressive battle, and at one point, Grin knocks Xena on her warrior butt. EX comes up for more and is knocked down again. As she's snarling and recovering, Grin's time ran out, and she transforms. "It's a whole new you, Grinhilda," EX quips. A lightbulb just went off again. Since this is a spoiler, I'll go ahead and say, I knew immediately this wasn't the same creature we saw in profile in the woods. There were some major differences in the head area. EX uses her sword to pick up Grinhildas lost necklace from the floor and sounds victorious as she tells Grendel, " Now we see what you value the most Grinhilda...what you hold dearest in your heart...your humanity...your beauty!" She takes a mighty chop with her sword, and takes off Grendel's ring finger. She picks up the ring and gives me the finger! Nahh...she's just putting the ring on her middle finger. She puts on the ring and gets that look on her face like Bacchae Gabs just bit her on the neck again. Good thing EX had forsaken love!
Cut to the present and a Xena who doesn't look too proud of herself. Beo and Brun are shocked that the monster is Grinhilda. (Who named this creature, anyway?) Brun wants to know why she didn't just kill her, obviously she doesn't really know EX's torturous ways. "Killing her would have been kind compared to what I had in mind for her," Xena replies. Flashback again, and a voice over as Xena tells about locking her in the cage using chains she stole from Odin and Grin's necklace. The cage is actually the caverns they are in now, a mine. EX wanted Grin to suffer with her own ugliness forever. The scene fades back to the present. "I knew the power of the ring would be useless to her unless..." Xena's voice tapers off and Gabs finishes it, "she learns to forsake love." "That's right," Xena tells her. "Thirty-five years of imprisonment is enough to drive the love out of anyone's heart." Twenty-five years under ice didn't seem to hurt her and Gabbers any, but I'm digressing. So I'll digress a little more. Last week, the operative word was "friend." This week it seems to be "love". Can't wait to see what next week's is!
The writing and directing credits are just now coming up, and I'm exhausted! They hear the creature approaches, and Xena asks, "Are you ready for this?" It's a rhetorical question, and the plan is put into place as Xena finds Grendel and begins to taunt her. "Come and get some!" Xena is so wickedly funny when she's taunting someone to chase her! "You know you want it! You remember me, don't you? Come on!" We see that she's luring the creature under an overhang where the other three wait, to create a cavein, I'd assume. Brun looks like she wants to jump down, but Gabs tells her "We wait for Xena's signal." Why did I just get an image of Tara from "Forgiven"? I realized the creature was not really Grendel, once again, but the one we saw in profile from before. Xena doesn't realize it yet, though.
The next part made me laugh out loud. Hard. Xena's having trouble positioning the creature just right, it must smell the others, and keeps looking up. She tells them "Stay here" and takes off at a run. She temporarily gets the creature to follow her, but loses it, and suddenly, at her heels are the other three. "I thought I told you not to come in here," she says in her cranky Xena voice. "I never listen" Gabrielle answers smugly. LMAO! And here I was, giving credit to Xena for realizing that earlier on! I loved that part!
The creature attacks, and it's another long battle. Everyone is knocked down repeatedly, but they don't give up. Xena hears the sounds of rocks beginning to fall, and tells Beowulf to get the others to the other side. A beam cracks and the rocks start to fall, sealing off Xena and Grendel on the inside. Here's an interesting exchange...Beowulf: Gabrielle, are you hurt?Hmmm??? What's wrong with that picture?
Brunhilda (to Gabs): Are you all right?
Gabrielle: Xena? Xena!!
Gabs and the others stare at the rock wall, then begin to dig through it. Xena takes on the creature face to face in a very vicious fight. That creature doesn't like her! It's favorite method of attack seems to be picking Xena up by the face and slamming her into rock walls! Gabs has a big enough hole in the wall, and squirms through it, screaming her own personal warcry..."XEENNAA!!" Brun is yelling, "Gabrielle, wait, wait, wait!" but Gabs keeps going. She picks up Xena's chakram off the floor and gasps "Xena," then takes off at a dead run. In the last two episodes, Gabs has spent an awful lot of time picking up Xena's discarded items from the floor. Guess we know who does the housecleaning! The Gab fans are going to love this next part! The creature has pinned Xena's arms to her body and picked her up by them. Gabrielle flies into the picture and launches herself onto the creature from behind, and stabs it repeatedly with the chakram! Whoo hoo! Points for Gabs! The creature finally releases Xena and manages to throw Gabs from its back, and the chakram soars through the air. Xena grabs it and takes over the killing, finishing off the creature with the chakram. Xena gets a lightbulb of her own, and realizes the creature can't be Grinhilda as Beowulf and Brunhilda approach. She gives one of those hand to face gestures to Gabs then picks up the ring. Gabbers knows something's still not right. "What's going on?" Xena says, "Let's get out of here."
Outside the mine, Gabs wants to know what the problem is and Xena explains this creature she just killed wasn't missing a finger. Funny, I knew it wasn't Grinhilda cause the hair style was different, but whatever works. Xena hears Grendel off in the distance, and says they need to get the ring back to the Rhein maidens. During this they are being watched by a raven. Hmmm....I would swear this was the same shot used in the Abyss when the bird told the pig people where Virgil was! The raven flies to Valhala and Odin. Guess he's still around.
Here comes a fun part of the episode. I'm a very active viewer, and I do believe I began doing the leg kicks Xena demonstrated so wonderfully in Been There, Done That during this part...Brun: She really is giving up the power of the ring. She is not the Xena of the legends.At this point, Xena was about five strides ahead of the talking twosome, but now she stops to fiddle with the bandage on her thigh. I think her ears are burning!
Gabs: She fights for good now.
Brun: I don't know...I mean, in battle she's everything I imagined she'd be, yes...
Gabs: There's more to being a warrior than the skill.Gabs: There's fighting for what you believe in, the people that you love.Watch Xena's disgusted eye roll at this line! Hee hee.
Brun: You know, before I met you I never thought of a warrior as having any love but the love of battle...
Gabs gives Brun a sweet smile. But I can't help thinking Gabs is still naive at this point, and is just being her usual optimistic self. Xena the cynic, on the other hand...Xena: I'm going to tend to this...Brunhilda, could you scout up ahead, see what's over that ridge?Uh huh, methinks the warrior princess has ulterior motives!
Brunhilda gives Gabs another smile, and with a slight nod, moves on.Xena: Thank you.Xena watches her go with an odd expression, and delivers the line of the episode, at least for me. It's all in the delivery! (Someday I'm going to right an article about great Xena quotes that shouldn't work, but do, and that will be the title..."It's all in the delivery.")Xena: I don't like her.My leg kicking went into overdrive at that point!!
Gabs is taken aback by this (the "I don't like her" line, not my leg kicking!), and wants to know why Xena feels that way. Xena says Brun isn't who she says she is. Gabrielle thinks Brun is searching, but Xena tells her that Brun is exactly like the way she used to be. Beowulf watches this with interest.
Brun has moved up ahead and who should appear before her, but a raven? Who should appear behind her, but Odin himself! There are even a few Valkyris along for the ride! Seems Brunhilda is working for him, but now Odin is angry with Brun. Brun was supposed to let Xena get the ring, then attack her in her weakened state and take it. Brun says there were complications. Here's the exact line, folks, directly from Odin's mouth, "Complications? My ravens...they tell me you've fallen in love with her partner. Is it possible you thought that killing Xena would kill any chance you had with Gabrielle?" Take it for what it's worth, but I'd say that is NOT subtext.
Brun mutters, "Bunch of stool pigeons" then tries to tell Odin, it was all an act. He ain't buying. He shuts her up and tells the Valkyris they need to go after Xena's weakness...her partner, Gabrielle. Check out the Valkyris that the camera keeps focusing on. This chick has obviously watched The Debt a lot. She's been working on her Evil Xena sneer. Kinda looks like Xena with blonde hair and brown eyes too. She wants to know what happens if they grab Gabs and Xena won't trade the ring for her. "Oh, she'll trade," Odin assures her. He moves in toward Brun, who's looking very uncomforable, "or Gabrielle will be killed." The Valkyris take off.
Cut back to Xena, Gabs, and Beo. "What's keeping Brunhilda?" Beowulf asks. "Something's goin' on", Xena, master of understatement, growls, and here come the Valkyris. "That one, get the blonde!" says the Xena wannabe Valkyris, and the fight is on! Xena and Beowulf take on the thugs, while Gabbers kind of hangs on in the background. Hmmm...she must be waiting on a knight in shining armor! Well, she got the next best thing...Brunhilda comes galloping on the scene and in one fell swoop, snatches Gabrielle on the horse and takes off to the sky! Aha! Brun is a Valkyris! I suspected as much! We hear Gabrielle's warcry as she gains altitude and then Xena's answering call, "Gabrielle!" as we fade to commercial.
The previews for next week show in this segment, but I'm not going to tell about them quite yet...gotta get through to the twists in this one first!
Beowulf calls after Gabbers too, but they still have a fight on their hands. Threre is some ferocious action in this one! Xena yells to Beowulf, "See if you can find out where she's headed" and continues kicking butt. Beowulf takes off, and Odin appears. He tells the Valkyris to leave. "Thirty five years," he tells Xena. "You're amazing, Xena. For a mortal." Odin wants to trade the ring for Gabbers, but now Xena's the one who ain't buying. She saw the Valkyris when Brun snatched Gabs and they were just as surprised as she was. "She's acting alone." But now Odin tells her that Grinhilda was withchild when Xena caged her, and Xena has killed her son. Now, we know where the other creature came from. Xena is affected by this, obviously, but she says she has to take the ring back to the Rhein maidens. It takes a moment for her to realize that Odin wants the ring for himself. Of course, he wants ultimate power. "Have you forsaken love?" she asks. "After you, it wasn't very hard," he answers. Heh heh. (That was me, not Xena or Odin.) Xena tells him she won't give him the ring and Odin says she leaves him no choice. He knows her ability to forsake love is long gone. Odin tells her he'll give Grinhilda her regards and disappears. Beo show up and says Brun has taken Gabs to the Eastern bog. "Take me there," Xena demands, and off they go.
Meanwhile, Brun lands her horse and tosses Gabs to the ground. Check this out:G: What are you doing?Gabrielle is staring at her, her mouth open. I don't think she's so naive anymore!
B: Odin and the others were going to kill you for the ring.
G: We left Xena to fight them all.
B: Is Xena all you think about? (Obviously, they don't have TV reception in Valhala or Brun never would have asked!)
G: Xena is my family! She's the most important thing in my life!
B: Gabrielle, listen to me. I bring to Valhala the bravest warriors slain in battle...heroes. But your heart has more truth and courage than any that I've seen. The beauty inside you burns like a star, Gabrielle, I was supposed to betray you and Xena, but I couldn't...not now...you've changed me.B: You've open my eyes and you've changed me the way you changed Xena.I could tell by the look in her eye what Gabs was going to say next.G: I don't know what to say.
G: I'm sorry.
The scene briefly cuts to Odin appearing before Grendel and telling her that Xena killed her son. At this point, who cares about that?
Back to Gabs and Brun...G: Xena and I have a connection. It's stronger than either one of us. We're soulmates!Brun is absorbing this as we hear Xena's desperate cry off screen, "Gabrielle!!!" Gabrielle gives her answering warcry with a look of relief. Brun draws her sword.
B: My love is strong. I can feel it!
G: I'm trying to tell you that Xena and I are meant to be together. We didn't...we didn't make it that way...it just is!B: I can see your heart lies with Xena. (It's about time!) But I'll prove to you which one of us deserves your love.Brun takes off toward the call, Gabrielle following her.
Xena and Beo are looking for Gabbers. Xena asks Beo if he knows his way around here, and Beo says he never had any reason to travel through this foul pit. Then he declares, once again to Xena's consternation and amazement, "For Gabrielle, I'd go through the fires of hell."
I've got to interject here with a few thoughts. The disclaimer for this episode is "Gabrielle's popluarity soared in the making of this motion picture", and that's an understatement. I can see why Brunhilda has fallen for her. She's been hanging with her by the campfire, seeing the kind of dedication and yes, love, Gabrielle is capable of, and wants it for herself instead of Xena. I really think Brunhilda isn't aware how much she is like Evil Xena. Xena noticed it quickly enough though.
As for Beowulf, it really surprised me when he began making his feelings known about Gabs. I mean, he had only seen her for oh...about two minutes, and he was already determined to protect her at all costs. What's Xena? Chopped liver? I can't help but wonder if deep inside Xena, she might be thinking the same thing. His attitude toward her is almost like an attitude you'd have with a close drinking buddy. He respects her, but treats her more like a guy than a woman. I'm beginning to think there's some connection between Beowulf and Brunhilda that will be revealed next week. Hearing Beowulf chime in after Brunhilda makes me think he may want Gabs, just so Brun (and possibly Xena), can't have her.
Okay, back to the episode...at this time, Odin and his Valkyris show up again. Xena tells him to step aside, or he'd join the other Olympians. Now I KNOW there is no TV in Valhala, because Odin starts tossing fireballs. Didn't he see Motherhood? Xena backs into a tree that moves...uh...excuse me, Xena...that's Grinhilda behind you! There's lots more fierce sword play. Lots more! Xena's got all kinds of foes to face. An angry creature, numerous Valkyris, and one very angry Norse god! She distracts Odin by doing the ol' chakram toss, and the camera follows its ricocheting movements quite a bit. Odin is constantly having to duck. You know, it srtikes me that if Xena could control the altitude of that chakram while it's in flight, she'd be able to kick even more tail! Like she can't kick enough as it is.
The Xena wannabe Valkarys stabs Beowulf. He collapses as Xena shouts his name in slo motion. She gets backed against a real tree, this time, and all the enemies are closing in on her. Odin taunts her, and Xena gives him the finger...well, you know, she holds the ring up and gets ready to put it on her finger. Uh oh... Odin tells her there's no way the ring will work for her, she can't forsake her love for Gabrielle. Xena gives that bloodied faced, confident, gives-me-goosebumps snarl, "The ring works for everyone at first...ask her," indicating Grendel. Odin continues to taunt her. "What do you hold dearest in your heart, Xena? Are you ready to lose it?"
"I'm out of options," she growls. And she puts on the ring. The thunder crashes and Xena has that "Gabs just bit me again" look on her face. Then there's a wicked light cast on her face. Must be commercial time again!
I hope I'm doing this episode justice!
Xena stands up, looking very powerful and confident. Her personality is more magnetic than ever as her sword and chakram fly to her hands. Odin shoots a fireball at her, but she deflects it into Grendel and then in a matter of seconds, takes out some of the Valkyris. A few, including the Xena wannabe escape. Right into the path of Gabs and Brun.
Brun is now leading, by the way. Gabs is telling her she can't win. She wants to talk about it. But they've got a fight on their hands. They stop the Valkyris, and get ready for more of my leg kicks!G (hearing off screen noises):Xena...Love that "You're sick" line! Reminds me of Xena telling Ares he sickens her!
B (almost pouting): They're going to kill her before I get the chance to prove my love for you!
G (grabbing Brun angrily): What are you fighting for? You wanna win my love? You're going to shed blood for what? For me? (Shakes her head) You call that love?.................You're sick...
Gabs walks away, with Brun watching. She doesn't look so confident now.
Cut back to Xena, and you guessed it...more fighting. The Xena wannabe Valkyris is back for more, but she's no match for a ring inspired Warrior Goddess. With a single punch, she sends Grendel flying toward Olympus. Then she hears Gabrielle's warcry. From the look in her eye, something's going wrong upstairs. She does one of those incredible billion in a row somersaults offscreen in the direction of Gabber's voice. Odin says let her go, right now the ring is killing what she values the most.
Brun finds Xena and tells her Odin will bring on all his forces to get the ring. Xena looks down at her finger. Brun says "You haven't forsaken your love. Take it off." Xena's response..."I don't know what your talking about."Yep, Xena's lost her sense of self, her memory. Xena asks "I don't know how I got here. What's my name...what's my name?" Brunhilda doesn't answer, but asks (of course!), "What about Gabrielle?" "I don't know her," Xena replies. Brun tells her to give the ring to her. "Why does everybody want my ring?" Xena asks, hugging it to her. I suddenly got a picture in my head of a tiny Daffy Duck with a giant pearl..."It's mine, it's mine, it's mine! All mine!" But Brun says "Give me the ring and everybody will leave you alone." Xena doesn't know any different. She drops her sword and gives Brunhilda the ring. Brun takes off to find Gabs, and Xena picks up her chakram. She's holding it in her hand, checking it out with first a caveman look (I'm not kidding...when you see the episode, you'll laugh!), then a bemused smile, and blood starts running down her hand. Yow! That thing's sharp! Xena drops it next to her sword.
Well, Brunhilda found her hook. She goes to Gabs and gives her the ring. She tells her Xena lost what she values most. Gabrielle...memories of her and the woman she helped her to become. Gabs is in denial but Brun keeps talking. "The ring is too powerful to fall into undeserving hands. And so are you." Brun says she has to protect her by turning into an eternal flame for Gabs. Only a true soulmate can pass through it, and she will be protected. Doh! Here comes the stuff from the previews in the last two minutes of screen time! Brun does some soft chanting and turns into a flaming wall. Was this what Odin was trying to tell Xena about last week? "See Gabrielle, you have changed me," the fire says, and it passes right through Gabs who gets a costume change and a new barette for her hair. She'd been watching the fire with a wide-eyed gaze, and Brun actually moves through her, instead of the reverse, but then again, Gabbers didn't try to get away from her. What's up with that?
Beowulf gets up...guess he wasn't dead after all. He calls Xena's name, searching for her. Xena is wandering through the forest. Gabrielle has laid herself out on a rock, her eyes closed with a soft smile. Her hand relaxes open to reveal the ring laying on her palm. The music swells to the strains of "Someday my Princess will Come". Naaah, I made that part up, but it might as well have! Xena's stumbling through the forest still. She's lost it, obviously. "I can hear you, laughing at me...Who am I? Who am I?" She's terrified. "Who am I? Who am IIIIIII?????" She's screaming at the sky, on her knees, a sob in a voice, as it fades to Sam and Rob's name. To be continued! ARRRRRGGGHHHH! I wanted to scream "Who are you?" right back, but controlled myself. Naah, I made that part up too. I did scream!
I'd say subtext is out the door and maintext has made its presence known. I kept thinking that Xena and Gabs have always said they loved each other, and I always felt, sure they loved each other as two friends love each other. But now with Brunhilda vying to be Gabs' SOULMATE, and winning her LOVE, it all becomes a singular thing. You can love lots of friends, but this is obviously the kind of love that lovers share. The "I'm in love with you, you're the only one for me" kind of love. Does that make sense? Gabrielle can't be in love with Xena and Brunhilda at the same time.
And rightly so, Xena is very very upset by the situation. I feel sorry for her in this episode, because she's spending so much time fighting off attackers, she doesn't have the time to really talk to Gabrielle about the situation. They are together for about half the episode, but always with Brunhilda and Beowulf in tow, and then when Brunhilda snatches her to the sky, all they can do is scream each other's names. Xena has to be terrified while she's fighting Odin and his pack of marauders. What is Brunhilda doing with Gabs and how is Gabs reacting? That makes her amnesia even more difficult for me to handle. What do you think her first thoughts are going to be when she gets her memory back and realizes Gabs has been alone with Brunhilda all this time?
I didn't get the chance to talk about the previews for next week's episode in my earlier review. To be honest, they're far less revealing than previews for The Ring. Xena is running around in a long white dress, still trying to figure out who she is. And there's a shot of a Valkyris beating up on her that is reminescent of "Chakram". But this is a different kind of memory loss. Xena hasn't just lost her dark side...she's lost it ALL. And most interesting of all, there's not a single shot of Gabrielle in the preview. Last time we see her in The Ring, she's laying down on the rock, as seen in the previews. This ride isn't over by a long shot!
This commentary is by Josh Harrison.
The second part of Xena's "Ring Cycle" continues the compelling storyline that started in last week's "The Rheingold." I was initially concerned that a different writer would result in a less-than-cohesive storyline, but my fears proved groundless.
There are two major themes running through this episode, and they are what I would like to focus on in this commentary.
The first theme that I noticed was that everything that happened in this episode was (directly or indirectly) a result of Xena's choices. The theft of the Rheingold, the creation of the ring and Grinhilda's transformation - even Odin's corruption happen because of young Xena's lust for power and her decision to forsake love.
This is familiar territory - this is hardly the first time Xena has performed a "clean-up" mission to atone for choices she made in the past. In fact, this strongly parallels the storyline from another epic, "The Debt", where Xena travels to Chin to repair damage she caused as a bloodthirsty warlord.
There is a noticeable contrast between the Ring Arc and "The Debt" however. Both involve (at least initially) Xena traveling to eliminate a monster she created, the reasons she goes are very different. In "The Debt" she is driven by a need for vengeance, while in this story she is driven by the need to atone for a crime committed against another. Xena feels responsible for the trouble the monstrous Grinhilda has caused, and wants to put the former Valkyrie to rest.
Gabrielle is different in this cycle as well. In "The Debt" she was emotionally vulnerable, desperately clinging to Xena as an anchor in a life that had been turned upside down. The events in Britannia left her scarred and vulnerable to manipulation by Ares, believing she was acting in Xena's best interest.
In this storyline, she is a more mature, emotionally secure woman who understands her role as Xena's boon companion. She doesn't follow Xena to stop her, but rather she goes to help her accomplish the mission. Alone, Xena is attempting a suicide mission. Together, they have a chance to defeat the forces allied against them.
The theme of choice and consequence manifests in other situations as well. Brunhilda's defiance of Odin's order is an example, as is Xena's desperate use of the Ring's power. Choices are made, and the consequences of those choices are gladly faced.
The other major theme running through this episode is love - mainly Gabrielle's love for Xena, and how her love affects those around her. For the first time Gabrielle has people fighting at her side out of devotion to her.
Brunhilda is especially changed by the bard's presence. A Valkyrie who followed in Xena's legacy of battle for the sake of battle, she comes to love Gabrielle's compassion and devotion. Brunhilda learns that it is better to fight for something than simply to fight.
But she misunderstands the lesson as well. A fascinating love triangle develops between Brunhilda, Xena, and Gabrielle. In fact, it brings to mind the relationship between Xena, Gab, and Najara in Season Four's "Crusader" and "The Convert".
At first Brunhilda's love is selfish, interested in protecting Gabrielle for her own need. It is only when Gabrielle (in a wonderful speech) shows Brunhilda the error of her ways that the former Valkyrie understands that the way to prove her devotion to Gabrielle is not through the death of others, but through her own death.
This death is figurative, but Brunhilda's transformation is a sacrifice to protect not only Gabrielle, but the Ring as well. Its power must not fall into the wrong hands, and Brunhilda gives her life to make sure that doesn't happen.
These themes are played out against a very active backdrop. The plot moves along at a quick pace, and story revelations crop up in between the brief breathers between battles. Grinhilda was pregnant when she was transformed into the monster, and it is her son that has been terrorizing the neighborhood. Grindl's death allows Odin and Grinhilda to ally against Xena, and they make a frightening pair.
Joel Metzger does a wonderful job of weaving together the different threads from myth and legend into a rousing tale of adventure. The expected Xenaverse twists are present, but there are no major plot holes that I could pick up on. The major plot elements of the Beowulf saga and the mythic Ring Cycle are present.
One potential question still lurks in my mind. I'm not certain what happened with the Ring. It was a minor case of muddy writing, I believe.
We were supposed to believe that Grindl was, in fact, Grinhilda. We were supposed to believe that she had forsaken love and used the Ring to escape from her prison. But then we learn it wasn't Grinhilda who was dead -- it was her son. He had the Ring, and Xena took it from him after he was killed.
My question is this - did Grindl use the Ring to escape, or did Grinhilda? And if Grinhilda used it, when did she give it to her son? It appears that Grinhilda cared for her son - as monstrous as he was. If that's the case, then she didn't forsake love after all, and couldn't use the ring. I'm certain there is a fairly simple explanation for this plot knot, but it was never addressed, and the resolution of that sequence got brushed aside in the onslaught of action scenes that followed.
Overall, "The Ring" is a wonderful continuation of "The Rheingold", and a wonderful cliffhanger for next week's stunning conclusion. This episode was a roller-coaster ride of action and suspense, filled with wonderful heart-pounding moments.
Among the most notable moments were Gabrielle's frenzied attack on Grindl with Xena's chakram, Xena's fight with Grinhilda, Odin, and the Valkyries after she puts on the Ring, and the moment when the chakram cuts into her hand.
That was, incidentally, only the second time in Xenaverse history the chakram has wounded Xena. The other time was in "The Ides of March" when Callisto threw it at her.
Xena has returned to "superhero" battle status in the sixth season. She was badly beaten in this episode, but her wounds were not as severe as they were during Season Four when opponents like Najara and Milo left her worn down and bloodied. Here she takes on a god, two monsters, and a flight of Valkyries - yet she emerges looking a lot less hurt than in either of those battles I mentioned.
I think it is safe to say that this story arc - indeed, much of this season - has combined the best elements of past years into a wonderful mix. High adventure, intense action, and powerful storytelling have combined in a mix that has fans old and new cheering "the return of the Warrior Princess". I sincerely hope that Rob Tapert & Company can sustain this momentum through the rest of the season. If they do, the series will end on the high note it so richly deserves.
Overall, I enjoyed this hour of television a great deal. Some questions from last week were answered, while other questions were raised. The stakes have been pushed almost to the breaking point, and this fan is perched on the edge of his seat, waiting to see how it will all turn out. There are a couple of minor problems present in the script, but nothing earth- or plot-shattering. Stores like this are why this show is so wonderful. I give it an A.
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")
AND WHO THE HECK IS THIS BEOWOLF GUY?
From Kevin Wald. Beowulf is the principal character in the three-thousand-line Old English poem which modern scholars have unimaginatively titled _Beowolf_.
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.
GRENDEL VS. GRINHILDA?
From Eric Shih.
Just a note to clarify the Grendel (Grindl)/Grinhilda relationship:
Many of your commentators are confusing Grendel with his mother, Grinhilda, calling Grinhilda Grendel. This is not the case!
In the Beowulf legend, Grendel was definitely a "he", and he was the one that was terrorizing Hrothgar's kingdom. He lived in some sort of lair (the caves), that was also home to his mother (name not given). Grendel does most of the killing in the stories that I've read.
If reading the Ring cycle is not your cup of tea, there is a good book out that tells the story from Grendel's point of view...it is imaginatively titled "Grendel". I can't quite recall the author, but I think his first name was John [Gardner]. He's relatively well known -- John Updike (?) or John Steinbeck (?). If you get the book, you'll recognize the author. It's eerie, because the (Xena version) Rhine Maiden's Rhinegold stash is located in a place that, by description, matches the description of Grendel's lair in "Grendel"...TPTB might have read the book!
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
12-30-00. The Ring Trilogy of episodes won a "Bemmie" from IGN for "Best Episode" for the year 2000. IGN described their choice as such: "Best Episode: The Ring Arc, Xena: Warrior Princess. For sheer audacity, this three-part arc (consisting of The Rheingold, The Ring, and Return of the Valkyrie) wins, hands down. Not only does it incorporate outrageous, epic twists into an already epic show, but it also throws in wild cards like Beowulf, Grendel, and a subtexty twist on the Sleeping Beauty legend (guess who gets to awaken snoozing Gabrielle with a smooch? Mmm hmm). The whole shebang is akin to a bigass Xena movie, and it's a fine, emotionally-wrenching mark to leave on the show's final season. Here's to hoping that Xena and Gabs ride off into the sunset in similarly b*tt-kickin' style."
11-19-00. Nope. It's RETURN OF THE VALKYRIE that is the Xena looses her memory and gets married episode.
10-13-00. This might be the episode where Xena looses her memory and then goes out and gets married. Newspaper reports said that the wedding ceremony would comprise of the bride (Xena) riding down the aisle and then after the marriage the husband would slaughter the cow to serve to the guests. But the real fun will be when Xena gets her memory back and has to get rid of the redshirt. Maybe we will get to see a homage to "Scenes from a Marriage"?
10-13-00. There was some question as to whose redshirt Beowulf will be...will he be Xena's or Gabrielle's? Will he be Xena's groom? Or will be wind up too old for either? Will he even be necessary for the story? Stay tuned...
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These things are by Beth Gaynor.
It was fun to picking out more pieces from "real" literature that the Xenafolks plucked for this trilogy. The two big ones this time are that Beowulf is still stuck fighting both Grendel and Grendel's mom, and the wall of fire. In Wagner's ring cycle, it's Brunnhilda who sleeps in a ring of fire that only the bravest of heroes can cross. XenaStaff turns that part around a bit, but Brunnhilda is still a Valkyrie who gives herself up in order to save a mortal she loves.
So Grinhilda, even after becoming a monster, can't use the ring. But her son, Grendel, is apparently a rotten apple (or at least became one after 30-some years) and has no problem forsaking love and wearing the ring. Here's your handy-dandy field guide to stick monsters: Baby stick monsters prove that they're not babies after 35 years by sporting manly goatees. Momma stick monsters have none.
There's a slight Valkyrie addition problem in the big finale. Five valkyries show up with Odin. Odin sends three off to get Gabrielle... but three are in the fight with Xena and Beowulf. And to additionally confuse matters, two valkyries charge Brunnhilda and Gabrielle. Then in one shot, the third jumps into the fray with Brunnhilda. But then Brunnhilda kills her one, Gabrielle knocks hers out... and the third is nowhere to be seen. She must have realized she was needed back at the Xena fight and scurried away.
Click here to read a transcript of THE RING.
Gabrielle's popluarity soared in the making of this motion picture
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