Whoosh! Issue 22 - July 1998


IAXS project #417
By Judy Fisher
Copyright © 1998 held by author
2613 words

Author's Note: This article was written in August of 1997, before the continuity confusion of season three. I may attempt a similar project for season three, but feel it will prove more problematic than was season two.

Introduction (01-04)
Revised Episode Order And Commentary (05-26)
Conclusion (27)
End Notes

Improving Season Two:
Episode Order and Relationship Development/Continuity on Xena: Warrior Princess


[1] I am a recent convert to the ranks of the hardcore nutballs, and I have seen very few first season episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP). Though I have heard more than a few Xenites state that they preferred the first season, it is the second season that won me over. That does not mean that I cannot be critical of some aspects of the second season, chief of which is the order in which the episodes were aired.

[2] Episode order is a highly complex decision-making process for all concerned with XWP. On top of all the normal creative, production and financial concerns that a television series must deal with, XWP in the second season had the abnormal circumstance of the injury of Lucy Lawless (LL) [Note 01]. That they dealt with it successfully is yet another reason fans of this show are so enthusiastic. The fact remains that the order in which the episodes were originally shown left this viewer confused and troubled by a number of inconsistencies, the most important of which concern the development of the two chief characters and their relationship.

[3] LL's injury may be partly responsible, or it may be unrelated. The purpose of this essay is not to blame anyone at Renaissance Pictures or Universal/MCA (The Powers That Be), but rather offer grounds for constructive improvement. Whether TPTB are open to such suggestions for XWP when it is "stripped" for nightly showing on the USA cable network next year is outside my purview. But, if only for the Xenite with the complete season two "Xena stack" of video tapes, here are my suggestions for re-ordering the season two episodes in a way that creates greater narrative continuity and, more importantly, shows growing the intimacy between Xena and Gabrielle. As no less an authority than the New York Times has stated, "Whatever their sexual bond, their fondness for one another is the heart of the show". [Note 02]

[4] Let me state for the record, that I consider myself "subtext positive" [Note 03], and that is the perspective I bring to this ordering of the episodes. At the same time, only what happens on the screen is "canon" for me. This is not fan fiction. I like keep an open mind as to what could happen off screen between our heroines.

Revised Episode Order and Commentary

  1. ORPHAN OF WAR (25/201).
    [5] No reason not to have it first. I believe it picks up adequately from IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124), the last episode of the first season. [Besides, young Solan needed a year-and-a-half to reach his MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311) height!]

    Er...did you bring the manual for this thing?

  2. THE EXECUTION (41/217).
    [6] There are major problems with this episode, which, had it been better "executed" (and had it resolved around the issue of execution), could have been placed later in the season. Gabrielle shows appalling naivete in her hero-worship of the flawed Meleager, and even worse, works at cross-purposes with Xena without even bothering to tell her that she would do so [Note 04]. This amounts to a serious betrayal, and hence I am placing (burying) this episode early in the season.

  3. REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202).
    [7] The only thing which can be said in favor of THE EXECUTION (41/217) is that it underscores (however inadequately) Gabrielle's "blood innocence". REMEMBER NOTHING (which, for the record, I have not seen) then dramatically presents Xena with the alternative -- which makes Xena appreciate Gabrielle "just for being" Gabrielle, immaturity and all.

  4. GIANT KILLER (27/203).
    [8] Xena experiences the death of a friend, which makes her, once again, go out of her way to make sure that does not happen to Gabrielle in...

    Joxer...put that away...

    [9] At the end of GIRLS, Gabrielle "really wants to thank" Xena, and these warm feelings continue into the comedy of...

  6. WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206).
    [10] ...wherein Gabrielle cannot get too mad even at the idiotic Meg, because she (if only physically!) reminds her so much of her friend.

  7. RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205).
    [11] Time for drama! This episode could have been done differently (and better), if only by breaking it into two separate episodes: a "to be continued" under Xena standing alone in the deserted wedding hall would have been very dramatic, but that is outside our power to change. Also outside our power is the creation of an episode in which Xena explicitly reveals her true feelings about Gabrielle's marriage (the feelings we saw on Xena's face). We can only hope [Note 05]. But let us move on, proceeding directly to...

  8. INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207).
    [12] I have no idea why TPTB did not show RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205) and INTIMATE STRANGER in this (obvious) order. Did they think they needed levity after RETURN OF CALLISTO? Continuity is more important: Xena's feelings of guilt for letting Callisto die in RETURN OF CALLISTO carries right over to INTIMATE STRANGER.

  9. TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208).
    [13] This is a "no-brainer". After Lucy Lawless' accident, they had to stay with Hudson Leick as Xena. But what comes next?

    Read MY horoscope next!

  10. THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210).
    [14] "Why?" you ask. XENA SCROLLS obviously can be located anywhere (after the first season). My thinking here goes more along the lines of breaking up the previous "Callisto Trilogy" with what comes after. And what comes after is the disappointing...

  11. ULYSSES (43/219).
    [15] Nevertheless, how much better to place it here rather than later in the season! ULYSSES is the bookend to RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205). It is Gabrielle's chance to recite back Xena's "your happiness will make me happy" speech. Let us put Xena's lapse of loyalty (to say nothing of taste) here, and get it over with [Note 06].

  12. A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209).
    [16] Believe it or not, this is actually the beginning of another trilogy, of sorts. Three comedy-dramas [Note 07] highlighting friendship, fun, some danger -- and shopping! Here it is in the form of holiday shopping...

    [17] Here is shopping in the form of trying on different kinds of clothes and personas, while...

  14. BLIND FAITH (42/218).
    [18] BLIND FAITH begins with "haggling and squandering a couple of dinars". These three episodes are lightweight, to be sure, but, I would argue, with ever-increasing friendship (or is it subtext?) as a primary theme. SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209) ends with Xena's "you are a gift to me," MISS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211) has "Miss Artiphys" and the "aha!" moment s/he provides to our little Gabrielle, and BLIND FAITH shows Xena risking her life (as always, but stated explicitly for a change) for Gabrielle. Moreover BLIND FAITH has a series of subtext moments: Gabrielle's heart-to-heart with Vidalis ("certain someone", "can't be with them now" -- and it is "them" not "him"!), the Xena/Gabrielle reunion amidst the flames with Palaemon discreetly turning away, Xena's "sight for sore eyes" and finally the subtext of "sidekicks" ("nice work if you can get it"). On this happy note, we move on to the intense drama of...

  15. DESTINY (36/212).
    [19] Now it is Gabrielle's turn to give her all to save Xena, while we are learning how Xena became Xena. Xena, above all remember your destiny: hmmm, and that destiny seems to be a certain bard who needs you.

  16. THE QUEST (37/213).
    [20] What can I say that has not already been said? My personal theory on the b*tt-grab: Xena naturally took hold of her beloved during "The Kiss", "blissed out", and lost control of Autolycus. Autolycus, not Xena, ended the kiss, but being a stereotypical TV horny male, our boy neglected to remove his hand from where he happily found it, and paid the price! But seriously, folks, where does Xena and Gabrielle's relationship stand now? Closer, sure. But "are they?" I would argue that that question is still open (just as TPTB wants it). We can only hope that they will answer it in the way we all (almost all) want later on.

  17. A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214).
    [21] Ho hum, time to save Gabrielle again. Nevertheless, how fun for us when psycho-Barbie is around! On a personal note, Callisto raises certain feelings of ambivalence for me. On the one hand, she is a "third wheel" to Xena and Gabrielle. On the other, the three make a nifty triangle. As Lady Delirium, an Internet Xenite who once noted at a web site devoted to Callisto, Callisto "understands perfectly X&G's relationship, and is not shy about letting them know it" even when Xena and/or Gabrielle might be shy themselves. Nevertheless, after Callisto is safely trapped (for the second season and first half of the third) in lava, it makes sense that Xena might ride off without Gabrielle, leaving her to face the greater horror of...

  18. FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216).
    [22] Strangely enough, I do not hate Joxer and I did not hate this episode. I just wish TPTB would use him to advance and not stall the main (Xena and Gabrielle) plot [see COMEDY OF EROS (46/222) below]. Do not worry, Gabrielle fans! Neither Aphrodite's bell or Cupid's arrows will fool her for long!

    100 bottles of ale on the wall...

  19. A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215).
    [23] In all honesty, I did not love this episode nearly as much as most (especially pro-subtext) Xenites. It is a visual treat, along with tons of subtext lines, many very witty: "cook with your juices", "get this close", "she likes what I do", and "Hower's mine -- she's yours". Along with being a day in the life, however, to me it also shows a plateau in Xena and Gabrielle's relationship: comfortable, bantering familiarity -- but not that much romance (just my humble opinion).

  20. COMEDY OF EROS (46/222).
    [24] I cannot figure out why TPTB ended the season with this episode, other than cheapness (to not do any more). It covers some of the same ground as FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), and it is funny, but why? I cannot really place it any earlier in the season, either. However, since Xena now knows that Joxer is in love with Gabrielle, would it not be interesting if Joxer learned that Xena is in love with Gabrielle too? This is what I meant about using Joxer to advance the story. Sort of along the lines of this episode's exchange between Xena and Draco over the "woman they love", only more so. We shall see.

  21. THE LOST MARINER (45/221).
    [25] A much better sea-going adventure than ULYSSES (43/219)! Xena is especially caring and affectionate (love that shipboard reunion!), and Gabby appreciates it, with or without the possible "Xena, I do love you" line. The side-by-side conclusion is also indicative of the chummy beginning of...

    Prime waterfront property! Just 3,000 dinars!

  22. THE PRICE (44/220).
    [26] This episode totally rocks, but I am sure some of you are wondering about my choice for it to conclude season two. Is not in my episode order about character/ relationship development (from a subtext-positive perspective)? Xena and Gabrielle have never been angrier with each other than in this episode! However, growth in intimacy of a relationship does not mean lack of conflict. Far from it. Intimacy includes honesty between partners -- that is what they have become - and honesty brings conflict. Here, unlike THE EXECUTION (41/217), they hash it out. (I love Gabrielle's disgusted "By the gods, Xena!" when Xena starts to torture the Horde prisoner). If Xena had not literally shaken Gabrielle for her childish naivete about war, if Gabrielle had not proven to Xena that she could stand up to her, and that she was willing to die for her beliefs, Xena would have never made her most explicit declaration of love to date: "You don't know how much I love... that".


[27] Perhaps one of the reasons that Xena has hung back from revealing her feelings for Gabrielle has to do with Gabrielle's youth: Xena's belief that Gabrielle both (1) could not handle what Xena feels for her; and (2) because of her youth, should not have to. Perhaps, to Xena, there is an element of age-inappropriateness involved [Note 08]. This has led, however, to Xena hiding not only her love for Gabrielle, but also her anger at Gabrielle's immaturity and occasional thoughtless acts toward Xena. Ironically, it takes the "Dark Xena" -- the one who does not hide her anger -- to awaken a new maturity in Gabrielle. A mature Gabrielle! There will be more conflict with this person in the year(s) ahead, but this is a woman who Xena can fully love, and (perhaps? please?!) a woman capable of fully loving Xena in return.

End Notes

Note 01:
Lucy Lawless fractured her pelvis during a pre-taped Tonight Show stunt on October 8, 1996. This caused her to miss shooting for about six weeks and required changed endings for INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207) and TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208); and kept her work light for several weeks thereafter [e.g., THE QUEST (37/213) and FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216)].
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Note 02:
Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, "Yi Yi Yi Yi Yi! Xena Takes on Broadway", New York Times, August 31, 1997.
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Note 03:
Subtext in XWP means different things to different Xenites, but to all of them it refers to the growing intimacy between Xena and Gabrielle. Some pro-subtext Xenites see their (Xena and Gabrielle's) relationship as having become sexual at some point during the first three seasons. Others, including myself, feel that their relationship has yet to be consummated, yet hold out hope that it will.
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Note 04:
I am thinking of when they are both on Argo, and Gabrielle warns Meleager.
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Note 05:
Kudos to Lucy Lawless for her best performance through the first two seasons. From the pathos she achieved as Xena embraced Gabrielle in the good-bye scene, to her riding into the fight with Callisto, to her moving prayer, and her haunted look as Callisto sunk into the sand. Lucy Lawless was truly outstanding. Moreover, all this in an episode that could have been so much better! Emmy-people get a clue!
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Note 06:
Kudos to Renee O'Connor for her fighting skills, which are the highlights of ULYSSES (43/219).
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Note 07:
"Comedy-drama" -- is this not the show's essential genre?
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Note 08:
This can also be seen as the inappropriateness of a sexual relationship between teacher and student. I am indebted here to Linda Knighton's "Xena Warrior Princess: A Native American Perspective." Whoosh! #03.
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Judy Fisher Judy Fisher
I am a doctoral candidate in the field of religion, specifically the Christian ecumenical movement. My vocational goal is ecumenical administration from 9-5, and at night write the Great American Novel, the Academy Award-winning screenplay, and "A Theology of Xena".
Favorite episode: Three-way tie: THE PRICE (44/220); BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302); ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
Favorite line: Xena:"Even in death, Gabrielle, I'll never leave you." ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
First episode seen: ALTARED STATES (19/119)
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308)

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