From the Editor-in-Chief:
About that Wacky Ending and Kudos
From the Graphics Editor:
The Night Of The Decided Disappointment
From the Senior Technical Producer:
The End Of Xena: Another View
From the Editor-in-Chief:
ABOUT THAT WACKY ENDING AND KUDOS
About That Wacky Ending
Yes, I spoil the series-ender. So continue reading at your own risk...
I went to the Museum of Television and Radio west coast premiere of FRIEND IN NEED. Seeing a new show on a big screen with 149 other fans of the show is a heady experience. I know my enjoyment of the moment was most likely because of that element. However, as much as I enjoyed the first 80 minutes, everything kind of went "thunk" during the last ten minutes. For me, those last ten minutes felt untrue and, honestly, pointless. And seriously anti-climatic. It was like being on a roller coaster ride. The roller coaster is fun and exciting and one's sense of peril and adrenaline rush is not lessened because one knows that they are not going to die or be in any real danger on it. But then after one has ridden on a very exciting and different roller coaster, and it crashes at the end...even though one is happy THEY have survived, it still takes away the sense of fun that was around previously before the crash. It sobers you up and the fun that was, is no more.
There has been much comment on and off line about how the fans were naive in expecting the producers of Xena: Warrior Princess to give the "fans what they want". That doing so would be "predictable" or not the "bold choice" or the "defiance" that the creators were obviously aiming for. That somehow, giving the "fans what they want" was an "easy way" out. I personally do not see where giving "fans what they want" would have been so terrible and non-effective. The fact of the matter, the fans are there so that the producers and those below that food chain can make their money. It is a symbiotic relationship. If there were no fans, there would be no houses in Hollywood Hills, no beamer convertibles to cruise PCH, etc. The business is a business after all, but its a business dependent upon people wanting to consume the product. And the more people that want to consume, the more the business thrives. Yet, thinking of this solely in business terms is inappropriate. There is a trust between the producers and the consumers of this product which is not the same as if they were shilling soap. Xena could just as easily be like Relic Hunter or Queen of Swords or Sheena... but you do not see those shows being invited to give a seminar at a prestigious institution like the Museum of Television and Radio. You do not see these shows as firmly entrenched in the popular culture of our era. And you do not see these shows bringing in thousands of people to conventions and buying props from the show in the 5 figures. So what's the difference? Hey! Xena has a lot of fans. A lot of loyal and enthusiastic and financially well-endowed fans! And fans who love the Internet as their medium of choice for discussion, communication, and socialization.
And how is "riding off into the sunset" become an "easy choice", a choice that would not be "defiant" or "bold"?
(1) Because it would be out of character? No, it would not be out of character. Xena is first and foremost a survivor. That is part of the archetype, the myth. That is her essence. We can watch everyone else in the universe die. But the strength in Xena is how she lives.
(2) Because Xena as a show likes to screw with its audience's mind? Yes, then it would make sense. But this forgets that the show has become more than just some little project the producers where playing with in their backyard for the past 6 years and then sent it off onto the airwaves to see if anyone would be amused with it for a few minutes long enough to catch the commercial and eventually buy something. One could kill off the main character in Relic Hunter, Sheena, or Queen of Swords. Yes, some would be angry, but those shows are just TV shows, they have not transcended themselves as Xena has. It is rare, but sometimes an artistic creation (including a knuckled-headed TV show) transcends its creators and takes on a super-meaning to the culture at hand. This has happened to Xena. It has become much more than the sum of its parts. I suspect the creators are still looking at it as a collection of parts which they create. After the seminar at the Museum of Television and Radio, it became painfully obvious to me that the creators of Xena still only myopically see the show as their little thing that they did. It was clear that they had no idea how this show has affected the culture around them. That is okay. That is not their job. Their job is just to produce. The fact that they do not understand what they have created is ultimately irrelevant. The only material fact it that their creation has transcended that level and now exists as Plato would say, "In the ether". It exists there whether the producers know or not. However, perhaps because they do not realize this super-transcendence, they either were not expecting such a fan reaction (aka cultural reaction) to their series-ender or they just did not care.
So, they dropped the "easy choice", and settled on a different conclusion. For what it is worth, I personally do not see how the ending served any real purpose other than the producers symbolically got to wipe their hands of the whole thing. It came across to me as a "burning your bridge behind you" kind of thing. True, they have done this before (their arrogance in the Dahak story line comes to mind) and it is sad that they made the same judgment call for the series-ender. As a fan, I would have preferred looking forward with excitement to the series-ender, and only be sad because the show is ending NOT because the series-ender sucked big time for 8 (or more) out of 10 on-line fans. That is what is sad, at least for me. The show could have ended so easily on a high note and what's so bad about that? Ending on a high note, offering an ending trying to make the fans happy, is NOT "the easy way out". It is darn difficult because if it were easy, I suspect they would have been doing it all along, which they obviously have not. Another sad part about this fiasco, is that the producers did not even need to reshoot anything to have corrected the problem. They could have just aired the episodes in this order: FRIEND IN NEED I, FRIEND IN NEED II, and WHEN FATES COLLIDE. And you know what? If they had, I suspect there would be many more people spending their energy talking about how much they are going to miss the show in pleasant nostalgia, INSTEAD OF how badly the series ender tanked and wondering why the heck they stayed with the show as long as they did.
Big kudos to Bluesong, aka Anita Firebaugh, who has been writing synopses for Whoosh since god-knows-when. She would make sure we got our fix as soon as we could. If you would like to thank Bluesong for the gift that never stops giving, please feel free to drop her a line and tell her personally a big "Thank you!".
One does not keep a site like this running without the help of many many people. The Executive Committee keeps me honest, and they are Bret Ryan Rudnick, Betsy Book, and Cynthia Ward Cooper. The senior editors keep me sane, and they are Bongo Bear and Darise Error. Then there is the staff, which keeps this site working throughout all sorts of weather.
There are the editors: Missy Ragona, Bonnie Tryonoviech, Lyris, Bluesong, Carol, Lydia Woods
There are the reviewers: Beboman, Sally Dye, Anita Firebaugh, Beth Gaynor, Lady Jane Grey, Shana, John, deb7, Missy Good, Nora, Ellen, Shaych, Loretta Miller, James Ott, Simlady,
There are the columnists/area managers/bottle washers: Debbie Cassetta, Chris Clogston, C.R., Laura Sue Dean, Michael Klossner, Tory Moore, Holly Paddock, Lydia Woods, Eric Chor, Jacquie Propps
There are the roving correspondents: Barb Binder, Dahak, Alex Poindexter
There are emeritus staff: Adrienne Dandy, Jill Dybka, Dyann Esparza, Fillipa Morgan Flasheart, Tricia Heintz, Jeff Jenkins, Carol Johnston, Chris Kearns, Erin Keefer, Dianne Kelly, August Krickel, Dinah Malone, Catherine O'Grady, Marian Pappaceno, Stacey Robillard, Debbie Roche, Joanna Sandsmark, Liz Sheppard, Diane Silver, Kent Simmons, Tom Simpson, Serge Allen Walters, UtahFan, Debbie White, Faith A. Williamson, Xorys
Not to forget the over-achieving contributors (4 or more papers): Mark Allen, Ed Baker, Betsy Book, Carolyn Bremer, Virgina Carper, Cynthia Ward Cooper, Nusi Dekker, Maria Erb, Darise Error, Dyann Esparza, Beth Gaynor, Rachel Gordon, Nicola Guest, Dana Hlusko, Michael Klossner, Linda Knighton, Richard LaFleur, Brian Edward Lashmar, Kate Maynard, Edward Mazzeri, Melissa Meister, Nicholas Nayko, Marian Pappaceno, Donald Plunkett, Clayton J. Powers, Stacey Robillard, Bret Ryan Rudnick, Julie Ruffell, Joanna Sandsmark, Diane Silver, Shelley Sullivan, Janet Elizabeth Swainston, Gregory R. Swenson, Kym Masera Taborn, Debbie White, Catherine M. Wilson
And of course I know I am missing people left and right...there have been THOUSANDS who have contributed to this site one way or another. Some day when I have more time I will create a fitting memorial to them all (yes, I am a tad crazy).
Kym Taborn, Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Whoosh,
communing with nature during the May 2001 Pasadena Xena Convention
Kym Masera Taborn
Calabasas, CA June 21, 2001
From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE DECIDED DISAPPOINTMENT
This editorial is as spoiler-heavy as it gets regarding the series finale. So if you haven't seen the finale yet and don't want to know anything about it STOP READING NOW.
From the Second Season Xena episode THE EXECUTION:Meleager: "See you guys."
Gabrielle: "Bye, Meleager. [to Xena] When I’m that age, I hope I’m knitting socks."
Xena: "Ah, don’t worry about it. People in our line of work never get to be that age."
Gabrielle: "That’s a comforting thought."
Twice before, at least that I instantly recall, I've seen a television series self-destruct at the hands of its creators. The first instance was a series called Beauty And The Beast and the second was Forever Knight.
In Beauty And The Beast, a series which aired for three seasons, the story primarily involved a relationship of "forbidden love" between Catherine (Linda Hamilton), an attorney who lived above ground, and Vincent (Ron Perlman), a man-beast who lived "down below" ground in a Labyrinth inhabited by societal misfits. It was, for all intents and purposes, a love story between the two title characters. This was jarringly brought to a halt very early in its third season when one of the title characters, Catherine, was killed. The series did not survive either. Moral: When one of the two main characters in your story gets killed (for certain) people don't like that. A lot. Then they lose interest in the show.
In Forever Knight, a vampire-turned-cop named Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) decides to renounce his evil ways and attempt to redeem himself. He is aided by Dr. Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher) who is attempting to "cure" his vampiric condition and make him human once again. For the vast majority of fans who registered an opinion, the heart of the show was the relationship between Nick and Nat. Would Nick overcome his "brick" status and that stupid "I'm a guy I can't commit" thing to do the decent and kiss the girl? That was the burning question of the show. Well after three seasons, during which various secondary cast members got replaced with lackluster lesser paid wannabes, the series finale ended with all but one of the principal cast dead. Really dead, not vampire undead. Moral: When a series ends on a serious downer, people aren't interested in watching it again (or picking it up for the first time). Fans feel a bit betrayed.
Any of this sound familiar?
Sound like something you'd want to invest a lot of time in to see again?
Seen either of the above named series repeated in your local broadcast market lately?
Due to the nature of multiple season television, and the hope of all creators of syndicated television that their show will continue to go on until all hopes of renewal are exhausted (or at least reap the profits of repeated showings for eternity), one finds it possible to conclude that these shows ended the way they did not just as a statement of "artistic decision", but also perhaps as a more decisive "up yours" from the creators of the show to others in the chainstudios, distributors, and other network types, perhaps even from actors who wanted to burn their stereotyped bridges behind them. I never got the feeling that ire was directed at the fans per se -- there wasn't, back then (ten plus years ago) nearly the quantity of forums for fan feedback that exist today. But fans were a big part of the collateral damage. They still are.
I can't help but wonder if perhaps Xena has entered the same realm with the broadcast of its series finale.
Was the Xena series "defiant"? You bet. Was it artistically done? Absolutely, in terms of cinematography, framing of scenes, lighting, set design, editing, and so forth.
Was the ending unexpected? Not really. After all Xena and Gabrielle have been "killed" numerous times before, and since Season One it became almost a tradition to "kill" one or the other of the two main characters, often close to or at the end of a season, only to bring them back later.
But this was a series finale, not a season finale. There is no coming back from the last episode. One can look to the disclaimer on the episodes to note that "Xena was permanently harmed in the making of this motion picture." Boy howdy.
Oh, sure, in the very unlikely event a movie or telefilm is financed in future it's an easy out -- Gabrielle is on her way to Egypt with an urn full of ashes. Anyone who has seen THE MUMMY, One or Two, will tell you how wide open a door that is. But if you think there will be a Telefilm or feature within the next five years to "put everything right" I've got some waterlogged real estate to sell you. Cheap.
As far as anyone who has been a fan of the show is concerned, the last transmission of the show has Gabrielle, all alone, except for a ghost only she can see and hear. She'll be lucky not to be stoned to death by a populace thinking she is mad if they see her talking to "herself".
Perhaps my sense of this finale is jaded as one who has followed the series from Day One. From my point of view, the show evolved to be about the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, regardless of how one interprets their sexual preferences. Each drew strength and comfort from the other. Sometimes they fought each other. Hey, I can't think of any long-term relationships that aren't like that at one time or another. But time and time again we've heard how "love is the way" and how good will conquer evil, and how one can be redeemed and can remake oneself from moment to moment. Xena's redemption was always denied by her alone, not by others or tied to something specific she had to do or was forbade to do (and Xena's redemption was solved a couple of seasons ago after that FALLEN ANGEL business). I doubt that people thought Xena's promise to Gabrielle, "I will never leave you" would be translated as "I will haunt you until the end of your natural life."
The series finale had me on the edge of my seat. It was a good story (though we've seen many elements before in THE DEBT, CALLISTO, The Chin episodes from Season Five, The "India" arc, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and certain other films of Japanese and Chinese origin, particularly YOJIMBO, SEVEN SAMURAI, KAGEMUSHA, ROSHOMON, and many others.
Then came the last ten minutes. From the scene onwards with Xena's "ghost" and Gabrielle at the waters on the side of Mt. Fuji, everything seemed forced and rushed. It just didn't fit with the episode I was watching, much less than the TV series I had been following for six years. If there was a party in the finale that was guilty of a great wrong against the souls of Higuchi, it was Akemi, who, if blame has to be placed, is responsible for the chain of woe by killing Yodoshi in the first place after deceiving Xena from the get-go. There is a wonderful snippet of dialogue in FIN1 (that might have been cut in the version you saw) in which Borias recognises Akemi's true nature and points out to Xena that Akemi was "playing you like a 2-dinar bouzouki." How right he was!
Some people have pointed out that the ending was Rob Tapert's artistic vision, and no one else should have any say in that. From an artistic point of view that is entirely correct. But a multi-year television show reaches a point where it no longer is one man's statement. XENA transcended itself to become much more than the sum of its parts, artistic though those parts may be. The show became an icon, a symbol, a rallying point for many people, particularly women, young and old. There is as much responsibility in such a creation for the effect it has as there is artistic vision.
Do I presume to tell someone else how to paint their painting? No. But I am the best judge of what I personally like or what I personally think may be an adverse choice. This particular choice did not seem right to me. But that is my opinion alone.
If WHOOSH! has ever done any sort of service for the online fan community, it has been as a place to express opinionthe opinion of all readers and viewers of the show. In my time here I've seen hundredsthousandsof such opinions pass by. But one of my strongest memories will be of the letter I saw from a mother whose teenage daughter had some guests for a sleep-over. At some point during the night, all the girls, deeply hurt and feeling betrayed by the finale ending, gathered all their XENA memorabilia together... and burned it. I was gobsmacked at the implication. Dreams shattered, hope lost, faith destroyed. Whether one agrees with it or not, the event shows how much something that is "just a TV show" can affect others. Is it healthy? Hard to say. Passion can be used for positive and negative things. I would, however, say that a show that can inspire others to better themselves, to think more of themselves, that went from cult status to worldwide icon, that gathered people together who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, is something that is beyond mere "artistic vision".
If both the Xena and Gabrielle characters had died in the finale it might have been preferable to just one going on forever alone, haunted by a spirit only she can see and hear. It's beyond sad. This is not an unhappy ending, it's a dismal ending that, to me, simply doesn't fit. It's not a question of disagreeing with an artistic vision, it more like "Huh? This makes no sense to me."
But sense is not required for viewing a show.
It is hoped more sense is required when making one.
Hermosa Beach, California
20 June 2001
From the Senior Technical Producer:
THE END OF XENA: ANOTHER VIEW
Like many others, I approached the final episode of Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) with a mixture of trepidation and relief. I had been enraptured with the character and the show since its very first airing, but had gotten away from XWP during the fifth season. I was sick of the show, sick of the splintering and dissent found in fandom. My new work schedule and malfunctioning VCR had meant that I missed many of the sixth season episodes, further distancing me from the show. I continued to work on Whoosh!, but more as a favor to Kym than out of love for the show. However, I felt it important that I be there at the end.
Although I had done my best to avoid spoilers, it was inadvertently confirmed for me that Xena did indeed die, for real. I did my best to suppress this knowledge, telling myself that she'd died before, that there were rumors of a movie, etc. My suspension of disbelief worked fairly well.
I don’t need to describe the episode, entitled A FRIEND IN NEED; that has been done elsewhere, and in more depth than I could provide after a single viewing. I am aware that the reaction of most fans ranges from anger to outright denial. I, however, found the ending satisfying, and entirely appropriate. Here are my reasons:
The ending was true to Xena’s character.
From the very beginning, we have known that Xena was seeking redemption, even at the cost of her own mortality. In THE GREATER GOOD, Xena teaches Gabrielle that the welfare of the many outweighs the importance of a single life. For her to have allowed Gabrielle to bring her back to life at the expense of 40,000 souls would have been grossly out of character, and a real betrayal of the principles by which she lived.
The ending has been criticized from a feminist perspective—it is said that Xena’s grisly death sends a message that strong women end up being shut up, and worse—dismembered, mutilated, mocked. I beg to differ.
Xena controlled her death from beginning to end. She chose to die. She was killed in battle, against impossible odds, fighting for something she believed in—the best death a warrior could want. She continued her fight from the shadow world, successfully dispatching Yodoshi and freeing the 40,000 souls he had imprisoned. Ultimately, she chose to stay dead, so that the souls could remain free. This is a message of surpassing empowerment and strength of character, of faith and boundless possibilities. Through her actions, Xena transcends gender. She becomes a hero for the ages.
The ending is true to XWP’s Hong Kong action film roots.
XWP was the product of its creators’ love of HK (Hong Kong) action films such as The Bride With White Hair and the Swordsman series. In fact, A FRIEND IN NEED is directly inspired by the HK film A Chinese Ghost Story. In all of these films, the major characters come to tragic ends. One of the hallmarks of the HK genre is that everybody usually dies. As my friend Laura Irvine, a true HK film connoisseur, points out, “If Tapert and co. were really following the HK lead, then not only would both [Xena and Gabrielle] die, but they wouldn't be able to reincarnate together either!” According to HK standards, XWP fans got a happy ending.
The ending brings us full circle, and provides closure.
The final episode parallels the first when Xena buries her leather armor. In both instances, she paradoxically begins a new phase of her life by choosing to die.
XWP’s companion series, Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, ended with its heroes jauntily walking off into the sunset. That was an appropriate conclusion for that series, which had typically been much lighter in tone than XWP. By contrast, the central themes of XWP have always been dark, complex, even uncomfortable. The title character has committed untold atrocities; she had become so evil that her own mother wanted her dead. Such a person will likely not have an easy life, or attain a happy ending, no matter how many good deeds she does.
Xena was not immortal. We knew that she would have to die, sooner or later. I am glad we were told how, and why. I am glad that we know for certain that she achieved the redemption she so wanted. It gives us an ending to her story.
Watching A FRIEND IN NEED made me remember what I so loved about XWP--its mixture of action/comedy/tragedy; the presence of strong women characters; and most of all, the chances that it took. It is sad to know that there will be no more new episodes, but, just as Xena’s death also frees Gabrielle to continue her own journey, the end of the series sends us on our way, wiser and more enlightened. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go.
Cynthia Ward Cooper
Senior Technical Producer
June 25, 2001