STAGES OF GRIEF:
COMING TO TERMS WITH XENA'S DEMISE
Gabrielle has her own troubles coming to grips with the situation.
 How do I feel about the ending of Xena: Warrior Princess? Angry, sad, puzzled, understanding, irritated, baffled, concerned, slighted, afraid, cynical, bewildered, resigned, abandoned, and betrayed.
 Listing all of those feelings, I am reminded of the emotional stages we humans experience when we are faced with loss of someone or something important in our lives: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. [Note 01]
 It is not a river in Egypt or even Europe, as Joxer would have us believe. When I first read the spoiler, I did not believe it. I felt baffled by what I was reading. They kill her? What? Why? For a little while, I tried to convince myself that it was some cruel joke that would be resolved when the episode aired. Even now, I sometimes think, it must have been a mistake, where there was a purpose, that Robert Tapert will recant, he will make a movie that offers a whole new ending, and this monstrosity can be shelved and forgotten. I continue reminding myself that it is possible for a major popular fictional hero to be revived. When Sherlock Holmes' fans would not stand for the demise of their hero, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought back Sherlock after he had killed him off. [Note 02] Surely, that will happen with Xena. Right?
 I am talking raving, fist-shaking, sailor-swearing, rage! When I saw for myself how the series ended, I was very angry. Xena was murdered brutally, complicit in her own murder, decapitated, and her body desecrated and cremated. I thought, "how dare Tapert and Stewart and any of the other phallically-fixated, jerk-off producers use their so-called creative power to kill off one of the most positive, powerful women characters ever". Why would Xena choose death? Was she depressed? Had she been harboring some death wish the past six years?
 I assert that Xena had grown past that kind of self-obsession. She was sure of herself now and knew that the best way to atone for her past was to live and fight evil as she found it. Why would she run towards death?
 This was not the Xena I knew. She let herself be duped by Akemi, twice. I can understand the young Xena falling for the beautiful, exotic girl who supposedly worships her. Akemi's flattery, her love poetry, and her foreign grace seduced Xena. However, why would the Xena we know, the clever, strong-willed Warrior Princess who has found the love of her life, let herself be duped by Akemi a second time? "A friend in need?" Akemi was no friend to Xena. She lured Xena blindly into a conspiracy, which caused the death of thousands and ultimately cost Xena her life. Akemi is the one who killed her father, she is the one who committed seppuku, she is the one who broke Xena's heart (and now Gabrielle's) with her conniving. The night of the fire, Xena was acting out of love, fulfilling her friend's last wish. True, Xena was drunk that night and the young Xena had not developed the compassion for others that she would embrace after knowing Gabrielle. However, she never intended the fire to happen. She was defending herself and Akemi's remains from the villagers.
 No justice is done by Xena's death. For Xena to be asked to condemn herself to death for this accident is not fair, as Gabrielle points out so emotionally. Xena is not a stupid woman. Yet, in this last episode she lets Akemi seduce her again, this time into dying and giving up all hope of resurrection. Who is this Xena? I do not recognize her.
 If Xena's senseless demise is not enough of a bitter pill to swallow, Gabrielle, that sweet, buff thing, is left alive. The love of her life is now a wraith, cold comforts that must be. Why cannot Xena and Gab have a life together in the present as living, breathing women? What is this ghost kick you are on, Rob? Good idea, Rob! Make sure the whole world knows that love between two women cannot thrive except in death! Soul mates, my *ss! What about the here and now? Moreover, thanks for making sure that Xena and Gabrielle never kiss each other as adult women who share love and lust! The kiss was the best of all the Xena and Gabrielle kisses, but again, there was a pragmatic purposepassing on the water of strength. Could they share a hot kiss like that with any other purpose behind it other than they revel in their physical intimacy?
 Rob Tapert and the gang must mistrust and disregard the fans' vision of Xena and Gabrielle and their relationship. They choose to foist their own vision on us, no matter how skewed it is. I want to say to Rob Tapert, "You had a good idea in developing this series, mister, I will give you that much, but Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, the writers, directors, and crew brought it to life. Be clear, sir, we fans made it the phenomenon it is. How dare you thumb your nose at us! How dare you throw that away?"
 Prozac, anyone? I am not sleeping well. The night after I saw the finale, I kept waking up, trying to make sense of it. I still ache with loss and sadness. I keep telling myself, "It is just a TV show, let it go. It is not that important." I decided the morning after the finale aired, that the only reasonable thing to do would be to pack up my videos, box up my pictures, throw or give everything away, unsubscribe from Whoosh and other e-mail lists. Just check out of the Xenaverse.
 Creation and e-Bay rejoice! I have not gone so far as to bargain with any of the gods, Eli's or otherwise. However, I suppose if somehow, someway Xena is brought back and her rush toward suicide is plausibly explained I will be ready to forgive but never forget. I will live up to my promises, although Rob Tapert does not think he has to. To show my good faith, I have gone ahead and paid Creation for my e-Bay Xena auction purchase although I was regretting having ever bid on it. I promise not to ever bad-mouth the show or boycott it or throwaway any of my Pasadena convention pictures. I will even go so far as to learn to like MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS. Maybe if I do all that, Xena will live again. What do you say, Universe? It is a deal?
 Nope, not quite yet. I feel this loss deeply but since I am a woman who tries to balance emotion with intellect, I have been reading and studying hero literature to try to understand why Rob Tapert and company did what they did.
 As a hero in the classical sense, Xena's job was to redeem herself and society through a self-less act. She had to give up something or someone very important to her. It would have to be an act that demanded all her courage, all her self. I imagine that Rob Tapert and R.J. Stewart think that is what her suicidal frenzy in this last episode was supposed to bea final, self-less sacrifice. However, what I saw her do in this last episode was not sacrifice, it was suicidal stupidity. More importantly, Xena has redeemed herself and society repeatedly. She did not have to go out this way.
 To ease my way toward acceptance, I have been watching some past episodes. I was not sure I could watch them, knowing what I now know about Xena's final moments. Strangely, it helps. It is like looking at an old photo album of family and friends who have gone away. Sad, but somehow comforting.
 My denial, anger, and depression will end. I have already realized that bargaining for a better finale will not work. Therefore, I will not have to watch MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS again, thank the gods. I already feel better from the therapeutic effect of writing this piece. Time does heal everything, right? I suppose, after a while, after I have finally boxed up the videos and put the Xena merchandise away in the basement, the pain of the loss will fade.
 However, accept Xena's death? Accept the way the series ended? I can intellectualize and study the problem all I want, but on an emotional level, I do not think I can accept that the story had to end this way. Being at peace with Xena choosing death will take a long time, if I can ever be at peace with it. Accepting that Gabrielle must go on alone, even if she does now have her very own sidekick, albeit a non-corporeal one will not be easy either. Accepting that one of the most clever, moving, inspiring fictional journeys I have taken in my 53 years had to end this wayno, not quite yet and probably never.
Dr. Elizabeth Kuhbler Ross describes these stages in detail in her book On Death and Dying, (N.Y. MacMillan 1969).
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Doyle killed Holmes off in his story, "The Final Problem", by having him disappear over a cliff in a fall while fighting his nemesis, Dr. Moriarity. After fans complained and demanded more Holmes' stories, Doyle brought him back in the story "The Return of Sherlock Holmes".
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Mary Beth Floyd
Born and raised in Denver, Colorado (one of the few native Coloradans left), I have lived and worked in Denver most of my life. I have worked as a paralegal, a teacher, a library-assistant, and a dirt-shaker for a geology firm. [Not as glamorous as Lucy's Australian rock-breaking experience, I'm afraid.] I lived in Kyoto, Japan for a year teaching English as a second languageone of the best experiences of my life. [I encountered no one like Akemi, thank the gods.] I recently went to New Zealand on a Xena pilgrimage, and walked on Bethell's Beach, strolled along the Perdicus Memorial trail, and ventured into Callisto's cave. I am not new to fandomI had a Haley Mills scrapbook as a child, watched Carol Burnett faithfully every Tuesday night as a teenager, and laughed and rejoiced with Ellen DeGeneres as a 40-something. I have never, however, been such an outspoken fan of any show as I am for XWP. Battle on!
Favorite episode: Used to be THE DEBT but is now WHEN FATES COLLIDE.
Favorite line: Xena to Gabrielle: "If I only had only 30 seconds to live, I'd want to spend them looking into your eyes." FRIEND IN NEED II.
First episode seen: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (I was hooked from then on).
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (what were they thinking?)