Whoosh! Issue 48 - September 2000

By John Baber
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
4675 words

Author's Note: The following is an essay or rant by one who has been dissatisfied with the direction of the series since the Third Season Rift between Xena and Gabrielle. If you are happy with the show in the Fifth Season, feel free to skip this essay.

Seasonal Comparison (01-07)
Rotating Writers (08-10)
Hope and Eve (11-14)
Ming Tien and Eve (15-18)
Najara and Eve (19-22)
Ted Raimi (Joxer) (23-26)
Judeo-Christian Religion (27-28)
The Soul in the Fifth Season (29-37)
Xena's relationship with Lao Ma/Distance from Gabrielle (38-41)
Gab's changes since THE DELIVERER (42-54)
The Relationship (55-58)
Conclusion (59)

Season Five in Review

Get a grip on yourself girl!  At least you get to star in your own series!

Joxer and Amarice seek to recover the bodies of Gabrielle and Xena in FALLEN ANGEL.

Seasonal Comparison

[1] To understand the Fifth Season, you must know what went on before [Note 01].

[2] First Season's CALLISTO (22/122):

GABRIELLE You did it. When your village was destroyed, you were -- infected with blood lust. But you overcame it. XENA I was lucky. I saw what I'd become and I was able to turn it around. If something happened to mother or Hercules -- or you. I might do just the same. GABRIELLE No. No, look, you promise me. (XENA looks at her and is sort of jarred from her trance.) If something happens to me, you will not become a monster. There's only one way to end this cycle of hatred and it's through love, and forgiveness.
[3] Second Season's THE PRICE (44/220):

GABRIELLE Don't do this. It's murder! XENA I've told you, Gabrielle, this is war! Go back to the hospital! GABRIELLE So I can pick and choose who lives and who dies? So, I can be a murderer, too?
[4] Third Season's ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313):

GABRIELLE Don't you argue with me! I know that I'm going to die -- I accept that. Why can't you? A long time ago, I accepted the consequences of our life together -- that it might one day come to this. It has. I'm not afraid. XENA You always said that I was the brave one. Look at you now. If this is to be our destiny, let's see it out together. Even in death, Gabrielle -- I will never leave you.
[5] Fourth Season's IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404):

GABRIELLE Yoo-hoo? Bunny? Here, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny? Hah. Are ya hungry? Come here, bunny. Yeah. Um-mmm. It's good. You're such a cute, little rabbit.
[6] Ooops, scratch that last one.

[7] With these in mind, let us examine the changes of the Fifth Season.

Rotating Writers

[8] There were a number of scripts early this season written by the departing Xena co-executive producer, Steven Sears, but they were heavily rewritten after his departure. Instead, the name Buddy Williers was assigned to the scripts he initiated, in order to indicate that they were completely rewritten under the supervision of the new co-executive producers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, fresh off their Hercules production gig. Orci and Kurtzman apparently did not work out and were sent packing after writing at least half the fifth season. Finally, RJ Stewart was brought back in to take the helm for the season's final episodes.

[9] In my episode reviews and in those by others, we have sought to fix the blame for the various problems this season on the scripts by Orci and Kurtzman. But, sad to say, this show has always had the same editorial supervision of Robert Tapert, and, to a lesser extent, his wife, Lucy Lawless, who plays the title character. If Lucy Lawless had any issues with the direction of this season, she apparently did not speak up to complain. Ms. Lawless does say in a recent interview that she will be taking more control over how her character is portrayed, and one could assume Renee O'Connor might partake of this same privilege as well.

[10] The problems of this season cannot all be put on Orci and Kurtzman. The episodes that RJ Stewart has taken a hand in rewriting are just as incoherent and unfocused as the worst examples of this season. Sadly, you cannot blame an entire season on the rotating writers, but rather those responsible for keeping the story focused - the producers of the show. If this is an example of how well they track the continuity of their show, may I respectfully suggest they hire some full-time story editors, because there are none to be seen in the credits.

Hope and Eve

One of the Furies tries to moderate a dispute between Hope and Gabrielle over hair care products

Gabrielle confronts a Furies-induced image of Hope in MOTHERHOOD.

[11] As odd as it may seem, Renaissance Pictures may have had good intentions in redoing the Hope storyline this season. Aside from Eve's crucifying proclivities, this is how the Third Season's Rift should have been done. Xena should have given Gabrielle her unconditional support during her Third Season pregnancy. Gabrielle should have striven at every opportunity to raise her magical child with love, teach her goodness, and give her every chance to reform.

[12] Perhaps the intentions of Renaissance Pictures were good (there is a saying about intentions and the road to hell), but the execution was quite flawed. Xena was portrayed this season as totally self- centered over her pregnancy. Gabrielle says she is willing to give her life for Xena's unborn child [THEM BONES THEM BONES (95/505)], gives her Right of Caste to Eve [LIFEBLOOD (106/516)], and wants to settle down with Xena to raise Eve [KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517)]. Xena's reaction? Boredom.

[13] Even after Eve is shown to be evil and just like Gabrielle's own daughter, whom Xena condemned to death, Gabrielle gives her unconditional support and love to Xena, and even the murderess Eve. This is how the Third Season Rift could have been handled, but it was not. Issues of justice and accountability aside, this is how Xena and Gabrielle should have treated each other before.

[14] For the writers to make no mention of what went before means Xena was always right in condemning Hope, and reforming Eve. This is not to mention the difference in how Xena attempted to "reform" Lao Ma's teenage son, Ming Tien. It makes Xena look arrogant and petty and Gabrielle gullible and stupid. This is not the look you want for the Hero and her sidekick.

Ming Tien and Eve

[15] As of the Third Season, Ming Tien was Lao Ma's teenage son, and ruler of ancient China (Ch'in). From the grave, Lao Ma sent a message to Xena that "the Green Dragon should be made small" [THE DEBT (52/306)]. This meant that if Ming grew into a despot, Xena was to deal with him in some manner.

[16] Finding out that Ming Tien murdered his own mother, Xena murdered him by ramming a hairpin through his temple. Her reason was vengeance for Lao Ma. This is a common theme for Xena. Recall her stated reason for the "Gab drag" in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) was "Vengeance!" And when Xena stabbed Callisto in SACRIFICE II (68/322), again it was out of vengeance for Callisto mocking Gabrielle's death. All well and good, yet when presented with a similar despotic young adult, her own daughter Eve, Xena made no such rush to judgment.

[17] With Ming Tien, Xena was avenging a blood debt, in honor of her mentor and lover, Lao Ma. Yet there was also a blood debt to settle with Eve. Have we not been reminded at every opportunity that Joxer is family to Xena and Gabrielle? In fact, the Furies tormented Gabrielle because Joxer was considered close family [MOTHERHOOD (112/522)]. One sees that Xena's philosophy is vengeance for Solan, vengeance for Lao Ma, vengeance for Gabrielle, but no vengeance for Joxer.

[18] Inadvertently, in writing Xena as giving her own daughter a chance to reform, the writers throw questionable light on Xena's prior acts of vengeance. Recall that Xena's whole production number in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) revolved around what she did to Ming Tien. She was not sorry she killed him ("I killed ya, you b*st*rd!"). So it merely comes down to favoritism when her daughter is involved.

Najara and Eve

[19] Najara was a vigilante who heard the voices of spirits called the Djinn (genies). They commanded her to defeat and convert evildoers upon pain of death. Because of this, Xena brought her to justice, and turned her over to the authorities for trial [CRUSADER (76/408)].

[20] In EVE (111/521), Xena clearly teamed up with Roman soldiers sent by Augustus (Octavius), expressly for the purpose of bringing Eve to justice. But because Eve has seen "the light" and been baptized, she is suddenly no longer responsible for her crimes. How this will pan out in the Sixth Season is anyone's guess, but it is apparent that based on this, Xena should have given Najara more of a chance to reform in CRUSADER (76/408) than she did.

[21] Even Xena now listens to the instructions of spirits, as she sought in EVE (111/521), and finally received in MOTHERHOOD (112/522). Xena hears spirit voices, and her mission becomes clear. RJ Stewart claimed in an interview that this act was the same as what Xena did in Second Season's RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205). But that was a prayer to anyone who would listen to preserve Gabrielle's joy of life. Here Xena is praying to a specific spirit (Eli) to preserve Eve's Christian soul, which is not quite the same thing.

[22] Probably the most interesting thing about Najara is that she only became certifiably crazy after being converted by Eli [THE CONVERT (86/418)], just like Fifth Season Xena and Gabrielle!

Ted Raimi (Joxer)

[23] Joxer has had a turbulent history with the fans of the show. When he was introduced, there were many fans like me who enjoyed his antics and thought his bumbling attempts to be a warrior were amusing. In later episodes, his character wore out his welcome with lecherous and possibly criminal conduct [FORGET ME NOT (63/317); KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517)].

[24] Merits of Joxer's role aside, the unavoidable problem was his frequency on the series. Side characters like Cecrops (Tony Todd), Ephiny (Danielle Cormack), or Salmoneus (Robert Trebor) had scarce airplay, while Joxer always seemed to be there, getting in the way.

[25] He has had useful roles [SACRIFICE II (68/322); EVE (111/521)] and touching roles [THE CONVERT (86/418)]. But all too often he added nothing to a particular script in episodes without number. Many times it just seemed that Ted Raimi was available on the set and was worked into the script. This usually resulted in sacrificing Renee O'Connor's screen time or her scenes with Lucy Lawless. Time and time again, he was there simply because of the mistaken belief that "everyone loves Joxer".

[26] Joxer received a glorious death scene this season at the hands of Xena's daughter. But since there is talk from Ted Raimi himself that Joxer could return in the Sixth Season, I ask you to forgive me if I skip the eulogy.

Judeo-Christian religion

[27] When the archangel Michael was first introduced last season on Hercules, no one could say what religion he represented. The angel features in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish theology. Yet as of the end of Xena's Fifth Season, there is no mistake that this is Christianity they are portraying. I have no problem with the show embracing Christianity, but does this show do the tenets of that religion justice? I do not think so. If Robert Tapert desires Xena's grand destiny to be to bring on the Dark Ages, that is his prerogative, but it does not make her any sort of a hero.

[28] As others have noted, Eli's God claims to be the God of Love, yet demands the deaths of other gods to prove his love. Although Renaissance Pictures may be aiming for showing His Christian love, they have the unpleasant precedent of Dahak having the same goals. He also wanted to eliminate the Greek gods and convert the Greek people to his cult. Not a good comparison, is it?

The Soul in the Fifth Season

Three seconds before being consigned to 'the other place', Michael is caught checking out Callisto's posterior

The spirit of Callisto beams at Xena in FALLEN ANGEL.

[29] Worthy of a whole essay in itself is the subject of a person's soul. As for Greeks, do their souls reside in the Greek afterlives (Tartarus, the Elysian Fields), or Christian Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory? I am deliberately ignoring the contradiction raised between THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210) and DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422) for obvious reasons.

[30] In INTIMATE STRANGERS (31/207), we learned that the spirit of Callisto had been consigned to the Greek afterlife of Tartarus to be punished for her crimes. This realm was under the jurisdiction of the Greek god Hades, as was presumably the Elysian Fields. This was later confirmed on Hercules in diverse ways.

[31] At the episode's end, the spirit of her mother confronted Callisto. Her mother told her that she had to pay for her crimes in life, and that was the close of the episode. Now move ahead to the Fifth Season premiere, FALLEN ANGEL (91/501). Callisto has been yanked out of Tartarus, and is now consigned to Christian Hell. Callisto's mother, once within Hades' domain, is now a resident of Heaven, who gets to reunite with Callisto there. At no time is it ever explained how Callisto and her family were yanked out of the jurisdiction of Hades, and placed in a foreign God's afterlife.

[32] Does Renaissance Pictures believe in an all-encompassing deity who is behind all religion? RJ Stewart and Steve Sears both confirmed this in interviews (the latter in person). Yet I really have to ask if a single devout Hindu believes Krishna is the Christian god, or vice versa. Renaissance Pictures cannot embrace a modern religion like Hinduism, and then claim that Christianity is the true faith, which is their blatant theme of the Fifth Season. I will leave to theologians the awesome task of splicing these two religions together, and move on to the easier task of discussing The Soul.

[33] The Hope storyline of the Third Season clearly established that Renaissance Pictures believes in the concept of Original Sin, in the idea that a child can be born evil. This view could be extended to modern views such as racial and ethnic bigotry, of believing someone is less-than-human because of the way they were born. Obviously not a theme they intended with a godly impregnation, but a disturbing impression nonetheless.

[34] Amusingly, the issue of a soul's innocence has been a crucial part of episodes this season. In THEM BONES (95/505), Xena underwent a feeling of vague unease. After consulting an Amazon shamaness (avoiding the obvious question on how Michael felt about this), Xena determined that the spirit of Alti wanted to place her evil soul into Xena's womb. Xena reacted with horror at the prospect, and indeed the act was presented as the most vile, forced intrusion a villain like Alti could perform upon Xena - an act that could only be viewed as one of vengeance.

[35] Now skip ahead to SEEDS OF FAITH (99/509). Here Callisto reveals to Xena that it was she who impregnated Xena with the fetus. Then Callisto dissolves and implants her very soul into Xena's womb. Because Callisto acted out of love (rather than vengeance like Alti), Xena ludicrously reacts with the joy of motherhood. No visits back to the Amazons to expunge this adult spirit in her fetus, no skeletal bone battles. Why? The unstated reason is that because of Callisto's purity, Xena has no objection to "making up" to the former warlord in this fashion. Oddly, Xena never stops to consider this child could be born evil like Hope.

[36] Does Xena question if Callisto erased all her own memories? Will the infant pop out suddenly speaking Greek and acting like evil warlord Callisto? Or will the baby be born with the memories of angelic Callisto? Good questions all, but Xena never stops to ask any of them. I am not saying there should have been answers here, but it is not a resolution if it raises more questions.

[37] This brings us to the most interesting question. The fetus was alive all the way from FALLEN ANGEL (91/509), yet Callisto did not implant her soul into the fetus until late in the term [SEEDS OF FAITH (99/509)]. THEM BONES (95/505) made clear that when Alti was defeated, the fetus got its soul back. This means that there was a soul there all along from conception. As another on- line poster, Nah-ah, pointed out, then what did Callisto do with this original soul when she put her own soul into Xena in SEEDS OF FAITH (99/509)? There is obviously no answer to this, but if Renaissance Pictures is going to totally revise their entire premise of the afterlife and souls, they should at least try to have their revisions make sense.

Table of Contents
Next Section

Return to Top Return to Index