Fait Accompli? Or Just Fate? Ruminations on REMEMBER NOTHING
IAXS Project # 067
By Bret Rudnick (brudnick@head-cfa.harvard.edu)
Content © 1996 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1996 held by Whoosh!
1584 words


[1] At one time or another, all of us ask "what if" about a certain event in our lives. We ponder whether we would have done "this" instead of "that" and how our lives would have been different. Xena gets the chance to find out in REMEMBER NOTHING (episode #26), the second episode of the second season of the internationally syndicated television show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.



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They don't build temples like they used to!


[2] At a certain time of every year, Xena makes a trip back to her homeland to pay homage and remembrance to her deceased brother, Lyceus. She makes the offering at a temple to The Fates.


[3] After making her offering, the temple is attacked by bandits. Xena and Gabrielle beat back the attackers who were roughing up the temple priests and who apparently came to rob and despoil it. As the last attacker strikes, Gabrielle warns Xena to look behind her. Xena reflexively defends herself and kills the bandit. As the bandit collapses from a fatal sword wound, his helmet falls off to reveal he is little more than a boy.



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Thank goodness there are only three of them!


[4] Xena returns to the temple and is surprised to see the Fates inside. The Fates are embodied in the separate visages of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. "You know us?" they ask in turn. Xena responds that she does, that all know the faces of Fate. "But few glimpse them," they respond, "and fewer still incur our debt." They are grateful for Xena saving the temple and ask her to name her reward.


[5] Xena wants no part of a reward. She's disgusted that she had to kill a boy moments ago and this, coupled with thoughts of Lyceus, has brought many unpleasant memories to the surface. She curses her past and regrets it, lamenting that she ever picked up a sword. The Fates tell her, "All is restored." Xena interprets this to mean the boy has been brought back to life, but the Fates simply respond again, "All is restored". They warn, however, that if Xena sheds a drop of blood in anger, things will revert to the way they were before their intervention.


[6] Puzzled, Xena leaves the temple looking for Gabrielle, but instead finds herself clad in the normal clothing of a young woman, rather than in her armor. Gabrielle is nowhere to be found. Xena then finds her brother Lyceus, alive and well.


[7] In this alternate version of her life, Xena's brother did not die as he had in the past she was familiar with. Instead of being killed by the warlord Cortese's warriors (described in DEATH MASK, episode #23), Lyceus lived. Both he and Xena fled to safety, and their lives had been relatively pleasant since. Xena also learns she has a fiancee (a fact she is not terribly giddy about), Mathias, who is a good friend to Lyceus. But all is not completely strawberries and cream, either.



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Xena visits her brother at the masoleum


[8] Xena learns that this alternate life has its sorrows as well as its joys. Her mother, Cyrene, did not survive Cortese's attack and so Xena had a new loss to cope with. Over the tomb of Cyrene, Xena mourns her mother and says at least she has some comfort that she did not shame her mother in this life as she had in the other. Xena also affirms that the loss of her mother and Gabrielle will be the greatest burdens to bear in her new life (Xena reasoned that Gabrielle did not leave her home and hence was safe). As difficult as it was for Xena to grasp this new reality, she nevertheless decides that she will do everything in her power to keep this reality intact.


[9] Xena is very glad to have her brother alive and with her. The guilt she felt at his death is a great burden removed. But more burdens are to come.



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In this timeline, Xena never saved Gabrielle from the slavers


[10] Xena finds that Gabrielle is alive in this life, but as a slave. Her village was attacked and she was taken prisoner. Further, sadistic warlords that Xena killed or defeated in her other life are alive and well in this one. The Amazons are dead or enslaved, as are the centaurs. These warlords, Myzantius (see PATH NOT TAKEN, episode #05), Krykus (see HOOVES & HARLOTS, episode #10), and Capucious, are planning to unite and take over the known world.


[11] However, Xena's concerns are more immediate and personal. She wants to rescue Gabrielle. Xena discovers that this is not so easy a task for a non-warrior princess who cannot shed blood in anger. Gabrielle has been whipped for running away at least once before, and even though she hates and despises her warlord master, Myzantius, she has no spirit for escape. We see the broken and despondent Gabrielle in this life is nothing like the Gabrielle in the other.


[12] After an abortive attempt to free Gabrielle, Mathias "saves" Xena from a potentially difficult situation and admonishes her, "You can't change the world, Xena." One of the Fates congratulates Xena on her quick thinking in the attempt at freeing Gabrielle, and points out that Xena will have to do quite a bit more quick thinking if Xena continues on her current path. The Fate then reminds Xena of what she must to do to put things back as they were. But Xena believes all she has to do is save Gabrielle and then those most important to her will be safe. Xena is then reminded by the Fate of Xena's own words, that this is a different world, and so are many of the people here. Still, Xena persists, and Gabrielle is freed.


[13] For a brief moment, things look up. There even seems to be a hint of attraction between Gabrielle and Lyceus. Xena is pleased that the two people closest to her feel that way about each other. But Gabrielle's taste of freedom is short-lived. Xena's fiancee, Mathias, betrays her, her brother, and Gabrielle to the local warlord, and they are all arrested.


[14] Mathias naively believed he had made a deal with Myzantius. In exchange for the return of Gabrielle, the rest of them would be let alone. Not so. They are all hauled off to the local dungeon, except Mathias, who remains free in appreciation for his treachery.


[15] Lyceus is upset that Xena refused to pick up a sword and fight with him rather than be taken. Xena can't explain her actions, but Lyceus is firm that some things are worth fighting and dying for, even if it may be a lost cause. Lyceus will not stand by to see others crushed underfoot.


[16] Disguised as one of the retinue of the late-arriving Capucious and realizing the error of his ways, Mathias helps free the others. They make their way to the Great Hall where the three warlords are in conference. There is a big fight, naturally.


[17] Xena still refuses to pick up a sword, hoping beyond hope to make it through this experience with her new world intact. At one point, Gabrielle's hated former master, Myzantius, rushes the newly-freed slave, and Gabrielle runs him through with a sword. The look on Gabrielle's face greatly affects Xena -- Xena has seen that look before -- one of pleasure from killing, justified thought it may be.


[18] The thought of her innocent friend, who had never taken a life before, doing so and perhaps embarking upon the path Xena herself did so many years ago is too much for Xena to bear. She silently bids farewell to her brother and runs an opponent through. The world changes back to as it was, just before Xena killed the boy outside the Temple of the Fates.


[19] This time, when Gabrielle warns her, Xena does not kill the boy but allows him to flee after she makes him swear he will not waste his life by killing. In that sense, she got her earlier wish to get the boy's life back, albeit by a very roundabout path.


[20] Xena and Gabrielle walk off into the sunset together, pondering the mysteries of Fate.


[21] One of the many potential lessons of this episode is that we cannot always see the long-term consequences of our actions. In Xena's alternate world, many more people suffered because her earlier actions against tyranny and oppression did not take place. Sometimes, in looking at our actions and how they affect us personally, we fail to see the larger picture of those actions on the world around us. One person _can_ make a difference, and Xena was shown just how much she has done so. She was granted the original wish of getting back the life of the boy she took, but by a very roundabout way, and she was given the further reward of seeing how she did make a difference in the world. Although that caused her additional pain, it may well have saved much more pain in future.


[22] How many of us, given the opportunity, would change a major life event we have experienced? In so doing, who is to say if that would be "better" or "worse"? Perhaps the best life is lived prudently and thoughtfully, or perhaps we should follow out hearts when the opportunity presents itself. But only time, and perhaps fate, can tell.



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