Beginning My Search (01-03)
Episode Consideration (04-06)
Why The Finale Failed (07-13)
The Bard's Sacrifice (14-17)
The Lack of Sense (18-20)
Beginning My Search
Kenji explains his story to Xena.
 I did not go into the finale blind. I had time to digest the fact that Xena: Warrior Princess was no more. Not only was this the series ender, but I knew I would get to see Xena die a horrible, brutal death, alone, and that she would not return from the dead. I also knew I would get to witness a devastated Gabrielle, watch her retch at the sight of Xena's decapitated body and search for her missing head. Was I looking forward to seeing this? No. This was not the end I had envisioned for the Warrior and the Bard. I was appalled by the posts I read of the brutality inflicted upon Xena's body, and the finality of her death. Nonetheless, I was compelled to watch it and to search for some meaning for this grisly ending that would justify both Xena's death and separating these soulmates for the remainder of this lifetime.
 I never found it.
 However, before I go into my own reaction to the episode, I would like to say kudos to the actors for their wonderful acting, especially Renee O'Connor. I did not just cry with Gabrielle. I felt her pain. O'Connor did an incredible job. Lucy Lawless was great as Xena, too, but I was more profoundly affected by Renee O'Connor's performance. I carried Gabrielle's anguish with me. This was one of O'Connor's finest performances, and I cannot say enough about it.
 The special effects were well done for the most part, except the mushroom cloud, which was over-the-top, insensitive, and unnecessary. There could have been less time spent on the special effects and more on the story line. Lord Yodoshi was more than a bit cartoonish. Perhaps it was the face makeup or maybe just the flat dialogue.
 I would have liked this episode if the outcome been different and if the mutilation of Xena's body had been less graphic. There were some very rich, emotionally charged scenes giving tremendous depth to the characterizations, and many impressive special effects. Overall the story line was weak, but I still could have liked it.
 I would have preferred fewer flashbacks and more real time interaction between the leads. Much of the first hour focused on Akemi and Xena's past, and, call me selfish, I would have preferred spending the last two hours of the series seeing more contact and connection between Xena and Gabrielle. It was not like they would be back next week.
Why The Finale Failed
 That said, the ending ruined the finale for me for a multitude of reasons. First, it made no sense. Xena had freed the souls yet she had to stay dead because the only way they could be released to a state of grace was if they were avenged. REVENGE = STATE OF GRACE. This is so seriously flawed, it is antithetical. Gabrielle knew that. She said, "Xena, that is not right." So, why did Xena do it?
 The facts as presented were: the fire was an accident, Xena was attacked while trying to put Akemi's ashes in the family shrine, and she defended herself. How does that make her responsible for the 40,000 souls? Why is Akemi free of guilt? She killed her father, which actually started the whole sequence of events. Even allowing Xena to be held accountable for the initial fire and deaths, freeing the souls should have released her from any further responsibility.
 No matter how many times I try to find some sense in this ending, I cannot. Xena stayed dead so revenge could live on. What a great bold and defiant concept.
 Outside of the fact that the ending made no sense, it did not feel right. Gabrielle spent most of the second hour searching for either Xena or her body, and then taking her ashes to the Fountain of Strength, overcoming great obstacles along the way to do so. Sadly, it was all for nothing.
 Am I satisfied with the ending? No. Not in any way, shape or form. For Gabrielle made the ultimate sacrifice here, not Xena. Xena wanted to stay dead so that those 40,000 souls could find peace and so she could finally find redemption. Therefore, when Xena stops Gabrielle from sprinkling her ashes in the water, she tells her the souls have to be avenged. Gabrielle is not impressed and knows that makes no sense, but what Gabrielle thinks does not matter. Because only Xena and Akemi *really* know this is the way it has to be.
 Xena says it is for the greater good. But whose greater good? The 40,000 souls who have already been freed, so they can have vengeance, or her own greater good? Moreover, since when is vengeance for the greater good? Never once does she think of all the good she could still do in the living world. Never once does she question this ridiculous concept. In addition, by not thinking of the possible alternatives, this comes across as a selfish act by Xena. She was so anxious to be redeemed that she did not even question the logic or truth of what Akemi told her. After all, if she returned to life, and those 40,000 souls could not find peace, that would be quite a heavy yoke to carry around.
 Never mind that they were all killed in a horrible accident and she had already freed their souls. Never mind that they did nothing to help themselves. How in the heck do 40,000 people all die in a fire? However, I digress. Xena did not want the responsibility of carrying that burden, so she chose finding her own redemption over Gabrielle. She had given up before. Remember SINS OF THE PAST, THE RECKONING, and LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN?
The Bard's Sacrifice
Gabrielle struggles with the conflict around her.
 It is true that Gabrielle could have sprinkled the ashes into the water anyway. Moreover, it is here that the bard made the greatest sacrifice of this entire series. To go against her own wishes so that her soulmate could find peace was the ultimate sacrifice. She knew what Xena was doing was not right, yet she also understood that Xena had finally found peace. Xena's happiness meant so much to her, that she chose to let her stay dead and set aside her own feelings and needs, knowing full well she would spend her lifetime all alone. I do not consider a ghostly presence a satisfactory companion in the corporeal world.
 Gabrielle paid and will continue to pay the price for Xena's redemption for the remainder of this lifetime. I surely hope Ghost Xena appreciates the sacrifice her soulmate made for her, because obviously Gabrielle's love was not enough. Xena was not willing to sacrifice her own redemption for Gabrielle.
 Gabrielle's full warrior status at the end did not work for me at all either. In SINS OF THE PAST, Gabrielle said, "Teach me all you know." Nevertheless, she changed. As she matured, Gabrielle realized the way of the warrior was not her way and never would be. She chose the way of friendship and followed that way to the very end, putting Xena's needs above her own. She did not believe the way of the warrior was the only way. THE PRICE comes to mind here. She was a talker, a bard, not a killer. She would do anything to protect Xena, but she was never comfortable as a warrior. She did not like killing and it took a tremendous toll on her to kill. Yet, she would protect her soulmate by any means at her disposal. This was the character I knew and loved.
 At the end, when Gabrielle sails off to live the way of the warrior, all that she stood for and all that she believed in was cast aside to give this ending some kind of meaning, of which, in my opinion, there is none. The character was assassinated to fit the plot line. For Gabrielle had become Xena II.
The Lack of Sense
 Xena: Warrior Princess was a story of two strong women, both with very different strengths, but each willing to learn from the other. It was a story of seeking redemption, of friendship and sacrifices, and of love, all in the name of the greater good, but a greater good that made sense. These two women shared a unique relationship, the likes of which had never been seen before in an action/fantasy series. They were heroes, one incredibly flawed, but always striving to make their world a better one. They overcame obstacles and suffered through horrible betrayals, yet their friendship endured. I never wanted to see them separated. However, if they had to be, for it to be believable and not contrived, then it had to make sense. This ending did not. It left me feeling hollow and betrayed, sad and angry, and hurt.
 I knew the series was ending. I had heard all the rumors. I knew it was possible Xena would die, but not for some perceived guilt over some souls finding "peace" through vengeance in the form of her own death. In addition, if Xena had to die, why not Gabrielle, too? Why leave her to wander the countryside alone. What kind of life is that?
 Xena's body was not the only thing mutilated in this episode, her character was, too. The Warrior Princess has always been my favorite, until now. Gabrielle stepped up to take over that role. She always believed that the way to stop the cycle of violence was through love and forgiveness. Moreover, it was her belief in the power of love that allowed her to let Xena go.
After 12 years in the military, I returned to Northeast Ohio and am currently working as a Data Manager. Early in 1998 I watched my first episode of XWP and shortly thereafter ventured on line for the first time and found fan fiction. My schedule required me to be out of town when XWP aired and I actually became a fan of the show by reading some of the excellent stories in the fandom. It was not too long before I had seen every episode. One day, while impatiently waiting for updates to five stories I was reading, I decided to try my own hand at writing. Last year, Renaissance Alliance Publishing, Inc. published my first story, The Agent and its sequel, Dancing With Shadows, under one cover titled Chasing Shadows. My other interests include reading, computers, and learning new software.
Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
Favorite line: Xena: "Gabrielle, in everyone's life, there's something that goes beyond the greater good. That's what you are in my life." LEGACY
First episode seen: THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER...
Least favorite episode: FRIEND IN NEED