Whoosh! Issue 33 - June 1999

IAXS project #049
By Dyann Esparza
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
2583 words

Introduction and Disclaimer (01-02)
Archetypal Relationships (03)
Protector/Innocent (04-07)
Rescuer/Innocent (08-09)
Xena's Light (10-11)
Other Season One Episodes (12-19)
Season Two (20-28)
Season Three (29-30)
Season Four (31-35)

Examining the Depth of Xena and Gabrielle's Relationship

Introduction and Disclaimer

'C'mon...isn't this taking the male symbolism thing a bit too far?'

In what may be one of the most scary promotional shots for XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, Xena and Gabrielle capture the complete essence of the expression, "Don't bother us or we'll bother you."

[1] What small task is this that I have set upon? Examining a relationship that has undergone vast changes and caused more discussion than the Kenneth Starr report? Madness, I suppose. From the outset, I will disclaim that there are two main schools of thought concerning the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle in Xena: Warrior Princess. There are the Xena camps, and there are the Gabrielle camps.

[2] While it is my intention to examine the progression of the relationship in an objective manner, the philosopher in me knows such a goal is unobtainable. With that in mind, I will admit that while I hold each of the characters in equal esteem, I must state that it is the character of Xena who fascinates me. Therefore, if I unintentionally err in defense of or on the side of Xena, I openly confess this bias. That constitutes my disclaimer.

Archetypal Relationships

[3] An archetype is a model or pattern on which all other things of the same kind are based. There are several archetypes for the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle: protector/innocent, rescuer/innocent, etc. The relationship between characters draws us to them, and Xena and Gabrielle are no exception. However, in their case it is not just one archetype that makes their tale so compelling. In this story of a relationship between a former murderer who is trying to atone for her past and the innocent who befriends her on this journey, we see several archetypal manifestations.


They named the hurricane 'Callisto'

Xena attempting to protect Gabrielle from the elements [TSUNAMI].

[4] To begin with, there is the protector/innocent. This is no longer the most common archetype on the show because the innocent, Gabrielle, is innocent no more. However, the relationship continues this archetype because it refuses to stay within the parameters of misty-eyed romantic inclinations. The central character of the story is not so much a hero as an anti-hero. Xena is fallible and does not always do what is best or right.

[5] The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle should not be expected to be a perfect picture of soulmates joined happily ever after. Instead, it is an examination of a relationship that has to acknowledge the flaws of each partner, the small pettinesses and jealousies that arise when emotion overtakes reason. In other words, how can imperfect heroes thrive in a perfect relationship? They cannot.

[6] In SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) we find the tenuous beginnings of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. Gabrielle is at the awkward stage between child and adult. Her dreams are larger than the hamlet she lives in, and she wants more for herself than to be a wife and tend fields all day.

[7] Gabrielle does, however, distinguish herself as having more spunk than the average villager in her encounter with the would-be slavers. Xena initially leaves Gabrielle behind, unwilling to take on the burden of this idealistic youth in addition to her recent quest for redemption. Gabrielle follows, and not only follows, but saves Xena, just as Xena saved Gabrielle earlier from the slavers. The end of the episode holds the tentative promise of friendship between the two heroines.


Gabrielle in a pre-rescue moment [A NECESSARY EVIL].

[8] In Season One there is one episode which cements the relationship that is being forged between Xena and Gabrielle. I am, of course, referring to DREAMWORKER (03/103). Interestingly, the episode that precedes DREAMWORKER, CHARIOTS OF WAR (02/102), is an episode that does little, if anything, to further the connection between Xena and Gabrielle. It becomes, like other episodes of its ilk, the obligatory male love interest/"red shirt" episode. The only reason such episodes are worth any note is the progressive lack of them in later seasons, most especially in Season Three.

[9] DREAMWORKER (03/103) revolves around the kidnaping of Gabrielle and Xena's struggle to rescue her. We have the classic rescuer/innocent scenario. This is also the episode where Gabrielle's blood innocence is introduced as a vital part of her character. It also makes clear to what lengths Xena will go in order to protect that innocence. Their ability to find each other in the dreamscape speaks volumes about the connection that already exists between them. For more on the importance of DREAMWORKER, peruse Whoosh! for several detailed and fascinating articles.

Xena's "Light"

'Cut! I think a bug just crawled up my ear.'

Although Gabrielle was Xena's "light" in THE RECKONING, the not-quite-completely-tamed Xena still found time to deck Gabrielle in a frenzy of blood-lust. That Xena! Can't live with her. Can't live without her.

[10] In THE RECKONING (06/106), it is Gabrielle who is there to rescue Xena, to stand by Xena, and to not let Xena give up. Here is perhaps the clearest example of Gabrielle's "light" being there for Xena. Is it naivete that brings Gabrielle back? At this juncture of their relationship, yes and no. Gabrielle is still awed by the Warrior Princess. In fact, it still looks like a crush of sorts, but Gabrielle also believes in the power of justice. She still has her ideals firmly in place.

[11] The impact of this on Xena is huge. While she may have taken on the role of protecting Gabrielle, it falls in line with the path she is trying to follow, that of protecting those weaker than herself. However, when Gabrielle returns after the blow from Xena, one can see the visible effect on Xena. This is the moment of Gabrielle becoming the light for Xena's soul.

Other Season One Episodes

Of course, Xena knew to take everything Gabrielle said with a grain of salt.

A common scene from the first season: two women on their way from and to adventures galore in pre-Myceneaen Greece

[12] Other episodes of merit for Season One include ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113). ATHENS is the first time that we see Gabrielle leave Xena in order to pursue her own dream. However, while away, Gabrielle realizes that she misses the Warrior Princess. After being accepted to the Athens Academy, in part because she puts into practice what she has begun to learn from Xena, she turns down the offer and rejoins her friend.

[13] A FISTFUL OF DINARS (14/114) should also be considered because two things that occur here impact the Xena/Gabrielle relationship. One is Gabrielle's willful flirtation with Petracles after Xena's warning against it. The second is Xena's almost jealous response to Petracles' advances on Gabrielle. Xena, however, does not appear to be jealous of the attention given to Petracles but rather the attention Petracles is giving to Gabrielle.

[14] MORTAL BELOVED (16/116) becomes a pivotal episode because this is the first time we are introduced to a significant love interest from Xena's past: Marcus [Editor's Note: Actually, Marcus first appeared in THE PATH NOT TAKEN (05/105)]. While he also succumbs to the red shirt syndrome and dies for the second time by the episode's end, this is the first character to come along and present a potential threat to the relationship of Xena and Gabrielle.

[15] THE PRODIGAL (18/118) again finds Gabrielle leaving Xena, this time because she needs to do some soul searching about her abilities. Initially, it appears as though she is hasty to leave, but when we take into consideration that Gabrielle is still young, her desire to return to a place of safety makes sense. What is revealing in this episode is that, at this juncture, Xena is not everything to Gabrielle nor is she 'safe'. Of course, Xena lets her go only to do what is right for Gabrielle, but Xena is a little confused and obviously hurt. Unlike ATHENS ACADEMY (13/113), where she wanted Gabrielle to pursue her dream, in this case Xena is clearly baffled by Gabrielle's insistence that she has to go home to sort this out.

[16] The other thing this episode demonstrates is that Gabrielle utilizes her own skill and intelligence along with the lessons she has been learning while on her travels. Once confident that she is indeed ably suited to travel with the Warrior Princess, she leaves her small town behind again.

[17] ALTARED STATES (19/119) deserves mention not for the main plot but for the sub-plot and the humorous acknowledgment from Gabrielle regarding Xena: "By the Gods... You are beautiful."

[18] TIES THAT BIND (20/120) gives us an example of Gabrielle stepping aside for what she believes to be Xena's good. She does not want to interfere with the father/daughter reunion. She does, however, stand up to Xena during her "relapse" into war-like ways. This is twice now that Gabrielle is the sole factor for bringing Xena back to her senses and twice that Gabrielle's presence thwarts Ares.

[19] Season One concludes with IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124). It is easily one of the most powerful episodes in any season and is right up there with DREAMWORKER (03/103) for cementing the relationship that has been forged between Xena and Gabrielle.

Season Two

Hell freezes over as Gabrielle is silenced.

Even in a different timeline, you cannot keep these ladies apart [REMEMBER NOTHING].

[20] Season Two further confirms the scope and depth of the relationship between the young girl from Poteidaia and the reformed Warlord. It is not so much ORPHAN OF WAR (25/201) that furthers this, though we are given a glimpse of Xena's past. This episode is also the first time we see a disagreement of any depth between Xena and Gabrielle. The request that Gabrielle makes for no more secrets, however, is most significant, and it foreshadows things to come. This statement will come back to haunt both women in Season Three.

[21] The second episode, REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202), is a much more powerful script and indicates exactly how much Gabrielle's blood innocence means to Xena. She sacrifices the life of her brother to preserve it. The fact that she rescues Gabrielle almost immediately and then tries to impress upon Gabrielle's bitter counterpart what she remembered of her friend speaks volumes about how much Xena has come to value Gabrielle.

[22] GIANT KILLER (27/203) is worth a mention only because of the scene by the window. Obviously their relationship has progressed to such a point that Gabrielle feels comfortable in consoling Xena with physical touch.

[23] GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204), a seemingly light-hearted romp, ends with both the sizzling neck bite and, again, a display of trust by both Xena and Gabrielle. How did Gabrielle know what Xena's plan was? She knew well enough to leap down with Xena to face Bacchus. Just another indication of the growing intimacy between warrior and bard.

[24] In RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205) we have an occurrence that strains the relationship. There are two things going on here. One is Gabrielle's abandonment of Xena at a time of pretty high crisis (the release of Callisto, to date, Xena's most fearsome foe), and Xena's willingness to let Gabrielle go.

[25] Yes I did use the word abandonment because, no matter how I look at it, I cannot rationalize Gabrielle's action in this instance. What is of merit is how quickly Callisto moves in to capitalize on the separation. While other villains and enemies of Xena, including Ares, somehow seem to dismiss Gabrielle's importance to Xena, Callisto never fails to use it to her advantage.

[26] The next episode that is indicative of the bond forged between Xena and Gabrielle is THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210). By implication of the storyline, Gabrielle and Xena's descendants will feel the strength of that bond, and that is perhaps one of the most definitive examples given in the Xenaverse that Xena and Gabrielle are indeed soulmates. What was merely implied in DREAMWORKER (03/103) comes to full fruition here.

[27] The trilogy of DESTINY (36/212), THE QUEST (37/213), A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214) is a pristine example of the relationship's evolution. The fact that it is followed by the light, but telling, A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) further cements the level of the relationship.

[28] The remainder of Season Two, with the notable exception of ULYSSES (43/219), continues to develop and shape the relationship. ULYSSES becomes one of those red-shirt obligatory male interest shows that crop up occasionally. It does demonstrate that where ever Xena goes, so goes Gabrielle. Gone are the days of leaving one behind for the betterment of the other. Now, they are inseparable.

Season Three

'Y'know...I have the same headband in blue'

Xena comforts Gabrielle after Gabrielle's first encounter with Dahak, the blind date from Hell [THE DELIVERER].

[29] What can be said about season three? We see a more mature Gabrielle following her heart's dictates, and we see the relationship hit some major stumbling blocks. Due to the volume of opinions already out there, I will not go over Season Three in detail, except to say that Season Three did one thing (regardless of the artistic execution): it gave us an insight into a maturing relationship that was having to deal with cracks in facades. For that, I am thankful.

[30] The ending of Season Three [SACRIFICE (67,68/321,322)] drives home the point that even after everything, there is still a powerful love that exists between Xena and Gabrielle. Regardless of the machinations of man or gods or demons and their progeny, the love endures and Gabrielle's "sacrifice" in the season ender proves that.

Season Four

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts...here they are standing in a row...

Najara kinda came between the two in CRUSADER and THE CONVERT.

[31] Which brings us to our current season. What we have are two heroines who are a little more battle scarred and a little more cautious. The three key episodes for this season are: A GOOD DAY (73/405), LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407), and finally CRUSADER (76/408).

[32] In A GOOD DAY (73/405) we have a wiser Gabrielle, one who has learned the lesson she wanted so badly not to learn: that sometimes all you can do is know that what you did was enough. We see a Xena who no longer professes to have the answers and offers comfort without illusions.

[33] In LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407) we see almost a recreation of THE RECKONING (06/106), but it is vastly different. This is not a naive Gabrielle who defends her champion but a woman out to save Xena from herself and her guilt. Gabrielle has begun to realize the burden of Xena's guilt, and she has also experienced the darkness that is Xena.

[34] Along these same lines, CRUSADER (76/408) is vitally important. Now we know that Gabrielle is afraid of the darkness in Xena, whether she ever admitted that before, and still Gabrielle chooses to stay with Xena. [35] What we are left with, in the middle of Season Four, is a relationship that is mature and painful sometimes, much like relationships are in the real world. There are no sugar-coated answers. Gabrielle, the idealist, has learned the hard truth about the world and has had to restructure her ideals with lessons learned. Xena, who has built herself a shell, must allow herself to feel, no matter how scary or vulnerable feeling may seem.

Don't forget your Zippo!

What a way to end a season.


Dyann Esparza Dyann Esparza
Once there came into the world a fledgling li'l geekling - who wandered the world over and meandered here and there and there and here. Until lo - one day - she - now a full fledged GeekGrrl - found the fledgling Xenaverse and discovered - to her endless delight a site call International Association for Xena Studies and their publication WHOOSH. "Magnificently Kewl" she thought and promptly volunteered (or was swayed by the editor; I can't remember how the story goes) to become a staffer. Still not sure what it is I do - I continue to meander, and that seems to be enough.
Favorite episodes: THE DEBT (52,53/306,307)
Favorite line: Lao Ma: "And you will be my Warrior Princess." THE DEBT I (53/307)
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216)

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