THE PATH NOT TAKEN and THE RECKONING
Special to Whoosh
By Debbie White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
CHANGING TIMES is a regular feature of WHOOSH. It looks at episodes of the internationally syndicated television show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (this month, THE PATH NOT TAKEN #05 and THE RECKONING #06), and considers the changes happening individually and between the two characters, Xena and Gabrielle, along with discussing the clues offered in each episode about their pasts.
The episodes will be reviewed in the order they were originally aired. The reviewer will approach her material as if she did not have knowledge of the upcoming episodes. Insights to subsequent episodes will not be made in the earlier episode but in the latter ones.
The series, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, will be treated as a story where gaps must have explanation and what is there may be given more meaning than originally intended.
THE PATH NOT TAKEN and THE RECKONING
THE PATH NOT TAKEN
It all started with bad saki and a gal that broke her heart...
 In THE PATH NOT TAKEN (#05), Xena deals with a bit of her past which has invaded her present, Gabrielle gets herself into trouble all with the best of intentions, and Argo starts showing her many skills.
The Changing Xena
 This is the first episode in which Xena is approached for help rather than just running in to save the day. At first she brushes it off, saying she doesn't work for nations or money, just for people who need her. She is purposely not fighting for the things she used to fight for: money and power.
 When the boy convinces her his plea is personal and worthy of help, Xena sends him to give her 'pay' to the poor. Again, she's thinking of other people not immediately around (the poor), rather than just herself. Xena is now looking out for people she never used to think about.
 When Xena tells Gabrielle she's going back to Trakus and is strangely looking forward to it, she also says she is certain she is coming back to Gabrielle. She has become confident enough in her control over her evil side that she feels safe going into an 'evil' place she wants to see again.
 Xena thinks she can pull off her being a warlord still, but it doesn't work. The other fighters let themselves be fooled at first, but don't fall for it long. Marcus even comments, "The old Xena would have laughed her head off at that story. You where so determined, like you had something to prove. Now, it's like you have the answer and I've never even found the question." Xena has already changed enough that she noticeably doesn't have that driving force she had that made her so evil.
Gabrielle knows her way around a tavern
 At the beginning of this episode, Xena and Gabrielle walk into a bar full of the lower sort of clientele. When several men try and hit on her, she calmly knocks them down until they leave her alone. When Xena meets up with her old love, Marcus, and he starts kissing her near the well, things are different. The very fact that she lets him kiss her and then only verbally protesting she has to go, shows she cares for him and doesn't want to harm him. Since Marcus and Xena fought together when she was evil, this is the first love interest (versus Xena using men who love her) we know she had back then. The Warrior Princess was able to feel love.
 Xena has now changed someone from evil to good, like Hercules did for her. Marcus did do most of it himself. Yet it was Xena's code of honor (what saved her and turned her back to good) about not killing the defenseless that made him try to change the first time. Marcus had no one to help support him and keep him to the side of good, so he changed back...until Xena once again showed him the way to good.
Xena -- she's changeable!
 There are a few more interesting points about this episode. Xena shows yet again how quick of a thinker she is. She has to deal with a clever man like Mezentius with very little warning about what was going to happen next. Also, Xena really does love Marcus. She wanted to tell Marcus about her plan, even when she still refuses to tell Gabrielle her plans. She wanted to trust him, something warlords don't do, yet she was basing her trust from the knowledge of Marcus she learned when she was a warlord. At the end, she calls Marcus her friend, which is quite a high honor with Xena. Finally, Xena tells Marcus at the end she could have killed Mezentius and Marcus didn't have to die, yet Xena's throw was a little too slow. Imagine the guilt.
The Changing Gabrielle
Um, Gabrielle changeable too!
 Gabrielle doesn't play a huge part in this episode, but she still changes some. At the beginning she asks, "Without adventure, what's the point?" She's still the spunky innocent who thinks talking and logic will solve everything. This time she talks not only herself, but another, into a death sentence. She was only trying to help, but she still simply doesn't understand how evil or sorrow-torn people react yet.
 A few other things are noticeable in this episode. Gabrielle is again left behind and out of the thick of things, but this time Xena has a valid reason: she simply doesn't fit in Trakus. Gabrielle is also concerned that Xena might just leave her and return to her old ways. This shows Gabrielle really does understand how much of a battle it is for Xena to fight her past.
Gabrielle knows a lot more than she lets on at times
Argo Struts Her Stuff
 In this episode Argo starts to show off her many skills as a war-horse. She kicks the drunk at the beginning on a whistle command. Xena whispers in Argo's ear and sends her away before going into Trakus, obviously knowing Argo can take care of herself and follow instructions. Maybe the fact that Argo is a WAR-horse is what makes Gabrielle so jumpy to ride her.
Ares knows what he wants and has no problem going after it
 In this episode (#06), Xena begins her direct fight against the god of war, Ares, but wins by cunning rather than force. Gabrielle plays a major part in saving Xena's hide, but she also learns that justice isn't always served. Argo gets to show off a few more skills.
The Changing Xena
"If I run now, I'll be running forever."
Xena, THE RECKONING
 Xena meets Ares for the first time. When Xena first fights him, she later tells Gabrielle she was equally matched, if not the lesser talent, yet during the whole fight she was smiling that smile of enjoyment she gets when fighting. As Ares says, "Danger excites you and, as you know, I am somewhat dangerous." He tempts her with power and an army, then decrees she could pass "if it would make you happy," and finally her life. Xena admits that she almost calls out his name, but only because she wants to live. Here Xena takes the step in deciding that death for "doing what's right" is more valuable to her than living as Ares' queen.
 Xena also learns how strong a friendship she has with Gabrielle. She tells Gabrielle to leave, but the bard stays to defend her best friend. Xena is put into a fighting daze, through pain and Ares' power, to the point she blindly hits Gabrielle, yet the bard still comes back to help Xena escape. Gabrielle even says, "I trust you. I never thought you meant to hurt me." Trust is something Xena values and her loyalty might have been what was needed to free her. Xena was almost ready to let the villagers kill her because of her guilt at hitting Gabrielle. She was ready to die for a crime she didn't commit because of the crimes she has committed and felt she is still capable of committing. Xena had the quick thinking to win herself free from Ares, but Gabrielle gave her the will to do it.
 Finally, Xena refuses to fight the farmers, despite being threatened, because it would be slaughter. She has taken her code of not killing the defenseless (those with no weapons) to not killing anyone innocent, even if they have weapons.
The Changing Gabrielle
Gabrielle appears to have misplaced her peasant dress
 Gabrielle is the logical and quick thinker again. At the trial, she finds points to put doubt into the villagers' minds while having very little time to think of answers. She also shows her usual gutsy (and loyal) side by staying to defend Xena with her life. She puts the executioner's rope around her neck to assure Xena of a trial. She also stands up against a bunch of angry villagers at the trial and even when it was not in session, probably. She even was willing to break the law to get Xena out in the end, trusting in Xena and her goodness, over the accusations of the villagers and the hit Xena gave her.
Gabrielle discovers her lawyerly tendencies in THE RECKONING
 Gabrielle loses yet another bit of her innocence in THE RECKONING, though. She is so confident that justice always wins that she isn't worried that Xena will be found guilty. Then the villagers almost don't give Xena a trial. Xena tells her, "I've seen what can happen to people who's loved ones were killed. Their vision gets bent and twisted; there's no telling what they'll do." Xena knows that from personal experience, or at least saw it when she conquered villages. Also, when Gabrielle decides to break Xena out, she says, "I also learned there's a big difference between what justice is and what the law is." Gabrielle has lost her complete belief in the law, but not in justice.
Argo Struts Her Stuff
Argo sees all and knows all
 Argo gets to rear twice in this episode, the second time tossing Gabrielle to the ground. Gabrielle even has the guts to then go find Argo and ride her back to Xena's cell. Also, Argo has got to be pretty strong, considering Gabrielle was going to have Argo pull down some pretty secure jail bars.