The Original Series (01-09)
The Next Generation (10-15)
Gabrielle's Makeover (16-23)
The Original Series
'And a classic it is, too,' retorts Ares upon hearing Athena's plan.
"I'm about to start catapulting dead cows into the village." Xena, Warrior Princess: The Original Series (XWP:TOS), which lasted four seasons, began with Xena's quest for redemption and ended with that quest fulfilled. The narrative thread, blending elements of dramatic irony and broadside comedy, wound its way, with the inexorability of an overweening fate, to the series' tragic conclusion. The artistic triumph of XWP:TOS lay in its ability to create the compelling illusion that the tale of Xena and Gabrielle could not have ended any other way. From the moment of their meeting, the pair embarked upon a path that brought them inevitably to the frigid embrace of the everlasting arms, their mutual love and devotion victorious over the world's cruelty, ambition, pride, and greed.
-- Athena in AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE (104/514)
 On the heels of a "religious" conversion, Xena exchanges the brass and leather of the conqueror for the cord and linen of the penitent. Riding alone through the coastal stretches of Lower Macedonia, on her way home to the eastern shore of the Strymon River, the gateway to the wild reaches of Thrace, Xena rescues a klatch of unarmed women from the predatory grip of the slavers with whom she has recently been associated. In so doing, Xena encounters her sparkling, bright-eyed nemesis, who, with lightning-quick intuition, senses that though she may be a young, inexperienced villager, she is somehow destined to become the mentor, guide, counselor, friend, lover in soul, and perhaps in body, of the dreadful Destroyer of Nations. Xena meets her karmic match before the glancing chakram has had the chance to careen back to her outstretched hand. Thus the stage is set for the dramatic events that follow.
 Over patches of smooth and rough terrain, when the wind of faith and friendship blows awry, as it often does, the cradle of their relationship rocks, growing deeper and stronger, more supple and elastic, the pair united in a bond that no sai can sever nor sword swipe. Gabrielle is the sun around whom Planet Xena revolves, the still point of Xena's turning world. Xena is the True North of Gabrielle's moral compass, the barrel that crashes over the falls of Gabrielle's longing and skims along the rapids of her fierce will. Through kiss and rift, drag and spaz, Xena - though it nearly kills her - learns to be vulnerable and trusting, while Gabrielle - though it often galls her - learns that the raised shield of the mind is forever smashed by the hurled lance of the heart.
 In THE GREATER GOOD (21/121) Callisto makes her initial appearance by shooting Xena with a poisoned dart from behind a tree. By this act, Xena and Gabrielle get their first jolting indication that they are indeed mortal, that one of them might die and leave the other bereft, and that the stem of their love may be cut off before its flower has had the chance to bloom. We have seen a perky, stern, brave, tough, alert, resourceful, and caring Gabrielle, but never, before that moment, a grieving Gabrielle. In IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124), it is Xena's turn to be stricken by the grief of premature and unmerited loss. Her shrilling wail - "Gabrielle, don't leave me!" - accompanied by her frantic beating on Gabrielle's expired chest sets the tone of their evolving relationship more acutely than the boldest declaration of love and loyalty following the most errant feats of derring do.
 Again, in DESTINY (36/212), the partners face the possibility of permanent separation due to untimely death, Gabrielle having recently lost Perdicus to Callisto's murderous machinations. In the frost and snow of Mt. Nessus, at Nicklio's cabin, as Xena lies dying on her litter, wrapped in warm but comfortless furs, Gabrielle whispers plaintively, "You can't leave me. I know it's not your time. I can feel it in my heart". Thanks to M'lila's otherworldly intervention, Gabrielle's words prove true.
 Later on, in BLIND FAITH (42/218), Xena runs a risk akin to Gabrielle's risk in the DESTINY (36/212), QUEST (37/213), A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214) trilogy. At the Amazon village, in a desperate leap of nearly hopeless faith, Gabrielle believed, in defiance of her senses, that Xena's soul could revive within its body. Palaemon marvels at Xena's capacity for self-sacrifice. Forget the antidote; never mind the threat of permanent blindness: not when Gabrielle's life is at stake. Better, like the groping Oedipus, to wander sightless for the rest of her days than to desert a beloved companion in need.
 Death came to Hope and Solan in MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311). It nearly came to Xena and Gabrielle's bond of love in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312). In what may have been the finest episode of the original series, ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), that bond became cemented for all time as the pair came to see that their love was stronger, and longer lasting, than death.
 Untimely death and loss burst painfully upon them on at least four further occasions. In SACRIFICE (67-68/321-322) and ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401- 402) it appeared that Gabrielle may have been gone forever. The loss of Phlanagus in A GOOD DAY (73/405) and the even greater loss of Ephiny (and Solari) in ENDGAME (88/420) haunted them as well. By that time, the die had been cast. Xena and Caesar were on a collision course, and Gabrielle could only watch and wait, keeping the heart fires burning with her last captive breaths:
Xena: "I wish I had read your scrolls." Xena goes first but tarries until the two can go together. They were not angels, saints, or exemplars of conventional family values. Xena made it clear to Solan in no uncertain terms: 'ain't no way I'm gonna let you grow up to be like me'. Though she wanted to, Gabrielle was never able to be a mother to Hope and, in the end, had to do away with her. Despite their efforts, they were not able to rid Callisto of her demons, nor, when it came to the Amazons, could they bring themselves to rule and serve their closest friends and staunchest allies. They cared deeply for Joxer and knew he was a hero, but they snapped him up and down like a yo-yo, walking his dog, looping his loop, mostly letting him sleep. In the end, they died as they lived, joined at the rib, tri-breasted, single- hearted.
Gabrielle: "I think you would have liked them."
-- IDES OF MARCH (89/421)
The Next Generation Six months after Xena, Warrior Princess: The Original Series wrapped, Xena, Warrior Princess: The Next Generation (XWP:TNG) made its debut. A made-over Xena was pregnant because Lucy Lawless was pregnant, though the one situation need not have dictated the other. A made-over Gabrielle, to the delight of some and the chagrin of others, cut loose and tore up the turf. The peevish gods, except the one we loved to hate and the one we loved to love, bit the dust.
 If XWP:TOS explored the challenges facing Xena and Gabrielle as they forged their intimate bond in a largely hostile and indifferent world, XWP:TNG explores the challenges that confront their forged bond. The new series concerns itself less with the fusion of souls than the clash of selves. No overweening fate draws the duo ever forward to an ineluctable destiny. Within the limits imposed by their choices, hedged by the clumsy excesses of the gods, the pair chart their own way and make of their lives what they will.
Alti has surprises in store in THEM BONES, THEM BONES.
 In XWP:TNG, death has lost its sting, mortality its ache. Charon, the boatman who conveys the souls of the dead from this life to the next, mutters, as he poles his craft hoping for fat tips from his passengers, that he does not get "no respect". THEM BONES, THEM BONES (95/505) reprises the looming specter of loss in IS THERE A DOCTOR¬ (24/124), yet Xena's cr¡ de coeur ["cry from the heart"] now seems a distant, derivative echo, sincere but attenuated:
Xena [hovering over Gabrielle's shamanically journeying body, Gabrielle just having been easily disarmed by Alti's superior power]: "Gabrielle, this is not your destiny, come on...". A sigh of relief that Gabrielle's been spared the fatal thrust, but, coming after the events in FALLEN ANGEL (91/501) and CHAKRAM (92/502), it is shades of BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302).
Alti [having deliciously informed Gabrielle that her body will die when Alti has counted to]: "Ten!"
Xena: "Come on, Gabrielle. No. Come on, Gabrielle... No! Come on! Yes, gotcha! Don't you ever do that again, you hear? Never do that again."
-- THEM BONES, THEM BONES (95/505)
 There is much sound in GOD FEARING CHILD (102/512) and no little fury in ETERNAL BONDS (103/513), and there were great pyrotechnics in PURITY (65/506) and BACK IN THE BOTTLE (97/507), but to what end? Eve must be born so that the gods will die? But the gods are a sorry bunch, hardly bound for any sort of glory. If a death were needed to facilitate the transition from a god-centered to a human-centered Xenaverse, Eli's could have served the prophetic purpose.
 Even the cliffhanger, LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE (109/519), depends upon an awkward legerdemain. Xena and Gabrielle on ice for a quarter of a century permits Eve to grow up relatively free of vexing parental supervision, the better to wreck havoc in the neighborhood. Joxer's death, which might have been poignant, seems redundant. With little to no loss of dramatic buildup, culminating in Xena's and Eve's light-struck apotheosis in MOTHERHOOD (112/522), Joxer could as well have strapped on his helmet, given Gabrielle a hug and Virgil a handshake, and gone trucking home to Meg.
Gabrielle's Makeover Yet if XWP:TNG were to be judged by criteria appropriate to XWP:TOS, the achievement of its first season might be underestimated.
 XWP:TOS was primarily Xena's vehicle. XWP:TNG is primarily Gabrielle's. Though Gabrielle may often have been out of sight in Season One of XWP:TNG, she was never out of mind. Xena's skills are entrepreneurial. Xena's success lies in the force of her personality. Gabrielle's skills are executive. Gabrielle's success lies in her ability to adapt effectively to changing circumstances.
 Consider the ideal of the contemporary, middle class woman: cool, competent, professional, independent, mature, empowered, pragmatic, and assertive. She moves adroitly in the world, aware that power is not a thing to be disdained but a tool to be used in the pursuit of her goals and objectives.
 Match the original and the made-over Gabrielle against the ideal, and the latter comes closer to approximating it. Seasons Two and possibly Three of XWP:TNG will likely portray the growth and development of the sophisticated Gabrielle, as XWP:TOS portrayed the growth and development of the idealistic Gabrielle.
 In AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE (104/514), during the break in the battle, an odd exchange takes place between Gabrielle and one of the villagers. The fellow insists that he is a farmer, not a soldier. He has no quarrel with Athena, who has been good to Amphipolis. (He may have forgotten Athena's absence when Cortese's deadly raid sent a number of Amphipolitans to their graves, including Lyceus, Xena's younger brother).
Villager #2: "So, what are we supposed to do? Just hand over her little babe to get killed?"
Villager #1: "If the gods will it, who are we to stand in the way? Athena's always protected us. What do we know about this Eli and his way? All I know is he wound up on the end of Ares' sword. If she [Athena] wants the child, I say we give it to her."
--AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE (104/514)
Gabrielle has villager problems in AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE.
 This is a reasonable thing for a frightened villager to say. Xena may have saved the town from being torched by Draco, and, perhaps for that reason, the townsfolk are indebted to her. But Xena has not always been their champion. Many of the townsfolk recall a time when Xena was a wild child with a violent streak who helped cause some of their past difficulties.
 Overhearing the grumbling in the ranks, the new Gabrielle steps forward and does something the original Gabrielle would not likely have done. She shames the malingerer into compliance at what may be the cost of his life:
Gabrielle: "Do you want to give Eve to Athena?! Does anybody else feel that way?! ... If any one of you is willing to give up their own child, speak up! 'Cause I will not have you fighting next to me! Back to your posts!" The grumbler slinks back to the barricades. Then follows a bit of duplicity in the service of a worthy cause:
Ares [furious at thinking he's been double-crossed]: "I saved your child!"
Xena [smug as a bug in a pulled out from under the God of War's rug]: "Uh uh. You saved my dolly."
Conclusion Might a mature, empowered, pragmatic Gabrielle be a kinder, gentler, more humane, and compassionate Gabrielle? Not necessarily. Might an independent, self-motivated Gabrielle remain with Xena through thick and thin, or might she bid Xena farewell and strike out on her own? That remains to be seen. The made-over Gabrielle's task may be to find her way apart from Xena, making the most of the opportunities that come her way. This contrasts with what the made-over Xena's task may be: to find a measure of meaning and purpose apart from Gabrielle, even as Xena strives to resist the temptation to micromanage Eve's career in the wake of Eve's repentance and redemption.
 I look forward with reluctance to the day when the Bard of Poteidaia and the Terror of Amphipolis ride off, separately or together, into the sunset. Unlike XWP:TOS, which, for all its campiness, achieved the grandeur of cathartic tragedy, a brilliant accomplishment in a culture that tends to equate a tragic vision of life with pessimism, negativity, and sloth, XWP:TNG may achieve a different sort of grandeur and a brilliance of its own: the affirmation of courage, optimism, personal responsibility, and self- reliance in a depressed and exhausted age that, devoid of comforting absolutes, often seeks solace in the worship of the gods of addiction, denial, and despair.
I live in the hills, play Irish music, dig in the garden, work on junk cars, and drive an egg truck. We threw a XWP party last year. Three Xena's, two Gabs, an Ares, a Joxer, and the cops showed up.
Favorite episode: The touchy feely ones.
Favorite line: A tie between "Gabrielle awoke with a jerk." THE QUILL IS MIGTIER¬ (56/310) and "I have never - nor will I ever - dance nude in the rain." FORGET ME NOT (63/317)
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: THE PLAY'S THE THING (85/417) only because Dustinus Hoofmanus' sole purpose was to stirrup trouble.