Changing Times: SINS OF THE PAST
Special to WHOOSH!
By Debbie White (
Content © 1996 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1996 held by Whoosh!
2080 words


[1] CHANGING TIMES is a regular feature of WHOOSH. It looks at episodes of the internationally syndicated television show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (this month, SINS OF THE PAST, episode #01), and considers the changes happening individually and between the two characters, Xena and Gabrielle, along with discussing the clues offered in each episode about their pasts.

[2] The episodes will be reviewed in the order they were originally aired. The reviewer will approach her material as if she did not have knowledge of the upcoming episodes. Insights to subsequent episodes will not be made in the earlier episode but in the latter ones.

[3] The series, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, will be treated as a story where gaps must have explanation and what is there may be given more meaning than originally intended.



[4] SINS OF THE PAST (Episode #01) is an important episode not only because it was the first episode of the series but because it also marks Xena's final acceptance of the journey to do good, and Gabrielle's decision to experience more than others had predetermined for her. Though it may not be obvious, many actions in this episode reveal starting points of change for Xena and Gabrielle.

[5] The first question that comes to mind about SINS OF THE PAST is that of time. When we last saw Xena, she was leaving Hercules to go out alone and redeem her past (UNCHAINED HEART, HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS (HTLJ), episode #13). When we see her again, she has a new war-horse (not cheap or something you quickly train), a new style of armor (not as flamboyant as before), and now uses a neck pinch (and she has it down-pat). Time and adventure(s) may have passed since we last saw her. She also seems harder. Not crueler, but not the 'You unchained my heart' Xena that we last saw in UNCHAINED HEART.

[6] Some feeling of the amount of time that has passed is given when Xena meets a boy in a burned-out village begging for food. The boy could not have survived long, especially though winter, so Xena had probably been wandering alone for a year or less.

The Changing Xena


A short-lived attempt at retirement

[7] One scene in SINS OF THE PAST was particularly curious. In UNCHAINED HEART, Xena was setting off as a warrior to right the wrongs she did. In SINS OF THE PAST, we find her burying her armor and weapons, as though she were trying to bury that past. Xena re-lives the memories of the her evil deeds as she works. The scene has a sense of finality to it.

[8] What happened since we last saw Xena that was so bad that she felt she must renounce becoming the 'true warrior' instead of redeeming herself by becoming one? Did she think she was somehow past redemption? Her mother later suggests it was possible, so Xena may very well have thought that as well. Was the starving boy in the village the last straw that led her to try and bury her past? The last flash of memories she had were of her on Argo and in her new armor, watching a village burn. The village where Xena saved the baby was burned. This village is burned. The guilt and the memories would have been strong.

[9] Also adding to this feeling of finality is when talking over her brother's grave, Xena says, "I thought I could start over, but they don't trust me." People have not been helpful in her journey for redemption. This scene is probably more than a symbolic shedding of the old warrior, especially since she has already done that by changing her armor and horse.

[10] Xena has changed how she reacts to and treats people. When she was evil, she treated people as targets or as beings to do her will. She did not consider their wants if it didn't further her own. At the beginning of SINS OF THE PAST, she is still working on this perception of people. She comes to a village her army gutted, and a boy comes out. The boy, not recognizing who Xena is, asks for food and Xena challenges his request by saying food is scarce. She's still thinking of herself over others. When Xena asks about his parents (who should be providing the food), he tells her of a demon-like Xena leading her army to destroy the village and his parents. Xena looks away in pain, realizing it was her fault, so she gives up her food in payment, poor though it was.

[11] Also, when Gabrielle, then an unknown, spirited girl, offers herself in trade for letting the rest of her village free, Xena defends her and keeps an eye on her throughout the resulting battle. Xena was hearing echoing yells from her past when ones from the present intruded. Maybe Xena saw a reflection of the innocence spirit she used to have and was trying to save it, or maybe she was, in a way, trying to save herself. Maybe she just did not want to see someone hurt, or fought as a part of her redemption. It's probably a mixture of both reasons, but she's looking at Gabrielle as a person rather than something that does not affect her.

[12] Even after burying the outward weapons that made her a warrior, Xena still cannot stop being one. At first she fought bare-handed, but when she grabbed her sword and chakram she came alive. Her face lit up, she gave her war-cry, and preceded to dominate where before she was simply fighting. When she stopped denying what she was, she came alive again. Though not obvious, this may actually be the first time Gabrielle helps save the warrior princess by keeping her from denying a part of herself.

[13] Xena dons her armor again, acts like she has many times before met the demand that she leave soon, and leaves alone to visit Draco to ask that Gabrielle's village be spared. Xena is thinking of the village as people instead of a target (Draco: "You care about that village?!").


Xena dictates her terms to Draco

[14] Draco bares scars for not respecting Xena in a previous encounter. Now he respects her and even offers her a position at his side, leading his army. There is a pull, a seduction, about the whole scene beyond playing the evil warrior princess to get a favor. Xena seems tempted to accept and return to her old ways, but she has now become determined to ask for forgiveness from her mother. She may see that that is the only way she can stay a warrior. To be forgiven, she can't fight beside Draco, so she leaves the temptation behind.


Cyclops rarely get an even break in the Xenaverse

[15] Another interesting encounter is the blind cyclops. Xena refers to her blinding him as 'cutting down on your people-eating.' Did she blind him during the missing TRILOGY to SINS OF THE PAST time, or was it back when she was leading her army? My only thoughts on this are that Xena says she blinded the cyclops, yet while she was leading an army, she generally let them do the killing along with her or for her. This may be a hint as something that happened in the missing time. It may not.

[16] Several interesting things happen when Xena goes home. The greeting is far from friendly. The villagers refer to sons that died under Xena's leadership, and Xena's mother scornfully asks if she's back to 'borrow a few men for an army.' Even though these men went willingly to defend the village, the people here blame Xena for their deaths. They evidently did not like the fact that Xena took the battle beyond defending the village.

[17] When Xena is refused forgiveness, and the villagers come to stone her (because of Draco's army), she says, "Take your revenge. It's true what they say, it's sweet." This may be an attitude that needs changing. More likely, Xena is being rather suicidal. She has been refused the forgiveness she so desperately wanted. Even though she said she was going to spend the rest of her life trying to take away the shame she brought on her family, she almost seems to be unable to accept the fact they will not forgive her. She uses this as a frantic way to test if they really hate her beyond forgiveness. She taunts them to go ahead and hurt her, and she's surprised when they do.


Gravity means nothing to an irate warrior princess

[18] Xena ends up fighting Draco to protect her people. In the end, she lets him live, despite the fact it was a fight to the death. When Draco's archers find themselves too loyal to follow orders to kill the loser, Xena punches her staff against his throat to show she could kill him. Yet she does not. Instead, a deal is made: Draco leaves the village alone.

[19] Why did Xena let him live? If she did not want to fight Draco's army, she was still the dominant warlord and could have simply taken Draco's army after she killed him. Leading armies, a symbol of her evil past, is what she is trying to get away from, though. She knew Draco well enough to know he would honor his word, so she let him go, even though he was hurting people. This is a start on one of her new ideals: killing only in the heat of battle. Later she takes it a step further by taking people to justice for their crimes.

[20] Hercules gave Xena a way to change by giving her a new ideal to try and attain. This ideal did not include an army, since that was a part of her evil past she rejected. Even a companion was not welcome, since it was she who needed to pay and do the redeeming for her past, not someone else. This may have been what lead to the burying her weapons and armor. She knew what she wanted, yet had no example to look at to see places she had gone wrong. All she had were fading memories to go by. Also, "it's hard to be alone." She was constantly surrounded by her army before, even if she was emotionally alone. Then Hercules unchained her emotions, yet she leaves him to find her own way and now has no one to share her emotions with. Her great determination is the only thing keeping her going.

[21] When Gabrielle forces herself into Xena's life, she incurs her debt ("hey, I just saved your life back there") and then her words of "It's hard to prove you're a different person" strike on what Xena struggles with, herself. Gabrielle is not a threat to Xena's work of redemption, and is in fact someone to protect (a good deed). "You aren't alone anymore," Gabrielle says. Gabrielle becomes a friend and an example of all the purity Xena lost.

Meeting Gabrielle

[22] Gabrielle is a young woman looking for a place in life that fits her. She's not very athletic, but makes up for it by talking her way out of bad situations. She has studied maps and received lessons from a traveling bard, so she could tell stories of places, even if she could not go there herself. She's betrothed to a man who lets her have her way and has a loving family, somehow managing to live her 19 or 20 years relatively unscathed.

[23] Then Xena comes, giving her the idea that a woman can survive and have the adventures those tales speak of and do things beyond what she was used to seeing. Xena makes the mistake of telling Gabrielle not to follow her, so of course Gabrielle now has that bright idea and sets out to do it. She uses her logic to get Xena out of being stoned mostly because she is willing to help people. Still, Gabrielle is willing to use anything, including debts with Xena and lies to get a ride to Amphipolis, to get her way. None of her lying is hurtful to anyone, though. Now that she has her way, she's got her hero to teach her to survive and help her experience life...and a friend to face and overcome problems with.


Xena discovers that Gabrielle can cook

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