Scoring a Ticket (01-02)
Pre-Show Scan (03-04)
The Show Unfolds (05-08)
Le Morte de Xena (11-13)
ONE NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM OF TELEVISION AND RADIO
Scoring a Ticket
For a fleeting moment, a prized treasure.
 I was lucky enough to be among the few who were able to attend the June 19, 2001 finale showing of Xena: Warrior Princess at the Museum of Television and Radio in Los Angeles. A friend who works in the industry and knows I am a Xena fan got a hold of a ticket and excitedly called me to tell me I could go. I had mixed feelings. I was not emotionally prepared to watch the ending that night. I had heard all the rumors, avoided the spoilers, and planned to watch the finale on the upcoming Saturday like everyone else.
 I had watched the show for six years. I did not quite know how to deal with it ending and with the possibility that they would kill off Xena for good. Could it possibly be that I would know all the answers that night, sitting in a room with Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor nonetheless? Of course I jumped at the chance and called in sick to work.
 The Museum of Television and Radio is a small venue. Looking around at the audience, I wondered how many of them were fans and how many were industry people who had perhaps, never watched the show. In the lobby, the fans were easy to spot. Female couples standing close or walking around with items that they longed to have autographed. There were signs posted telling us all there would be no autograph signings and no photographs, but I had a picture of Xena and Gabrielle tucked away in my bag just in case.
 Once inside, I noticed that there were only 150 seats in the entire auditorium. I felt eerily like I was back in film school at UCLA, sitting in a small movie theater, waiting for the instructor to arrive to class. The lights dimmed, a short promo video for the Museum started up, and then R.J. Stewart, Rob Tapert, Lucy Lawless, and Renee O'Connor were ushered into the front row under the cover of darkness. The audience murmured. I was glad I had not read any of the spoilers. I was going to see this ending fresh and unprepared. I knew the rumor was that Xena would be killed, but then I also knew what Rob Tapert had said many months ago that he would not kill either Xena or Gabrielle.
The Show Unfolds
 I sat scrunched into my seat and I watched, dumbfounded. Not only did they kill Xena, they did so brutally and horrifically by filling her body with arrow after arrow and then with the final blow, beheading her. All I could think of was that they were trying to make a statement by killing her this way but I had no idea what it was. Whereas the crucifixion in IDES OF MARCH was symbolic and almost beautiful in its implications, this death was mean spirited and meaningless.
 The entire first episode was a manipulative and contrived back-story involving Borias, a young Japanese woman named Akemi, and a "bond" that she and Xena supposedly shared. Akemi (a poet) apparently foreshadowed Gabrielle. She claimed she "loved" Xena, then she killed her father for some evil he did, and Xena killed her to restore her "honor". Next, a drunken, grieving Xena was attacked when going to honor Akemi's ashes and Xena inadvertently caused a fire that killed 40,000 people. Also thrown in was that somehow Akemi's slain father became a soul-eating demon that Xena could only kill by becoming a spirit herself.
 Therefore, Xena decided she must die. There was no point in her sacrificing herself in this way. Not only did we not care about Akemi, or Yodoshi, we also, sadly, did not care about the faceless 40,000 souls that she was trying to save. What we cared about for six seasons was the relationship that was forged between these two women, lovers or not. The show may have started out as being about Xena and her redemption, but it had evolved into the love story of Xena and Gabrielle. Sadly, this was set aside for this finale and they separated the two physically and emotionally. Xena acted alone in her decision to die, without hesitation. There was no remorse at leaving Gabrielle other than a brief scene between the two where Xena tells Gabrielle that she loves her before heading out to die, and some brief dialog at the end when Xena choose to stay dead.
 Interestingly, the most brutal scene was not the death itself, but one in which Gabrielle must go retrieve Xena's body from the camp of the army that killed her. The moment when Gabrielle sees Xena's headless body hanging in the camp was the pivotal moment for me. Renee O'Connor beautifully acted in it, but when they cut to Xena's headless body filled with holes and arrows, naked, hanging in the rain, and then to Gabrielle's anguish upon seeing her, that was when I got angry. To assure that we got the full impact of it all, we had to see Xena's dismembered head. I felt Gabrielle's pain along with her, but the pain was overshadowed by my sudden anger. I was angry that they had killed her this way, angry that they left Gabrielle alone at the end, and angry at how they handled the "kiss". Of course, they threw in the kiss (one sided, Gabrielle giving spirit Xena water) and it was done incidentally, almost like an afterthought. At that point, we were all so numb that its impact was lost. People applauded, but it was not the reaction one would expect. When the credits rolled, some people booed. Most were in shock. Then came the question and answer period with Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Rob Tapert, and RJ Stewart.
 To be honest, I was happy to see Renee O'Connor and Lucy Lawless up close and personal. Before the show, we had all written our questions on pieces of paper and turned them in, but it was a shame because most of the questions would have been about the finale had we been allowed to ask questions afterwards. Someone did ask Rob Tapert if there was a different version of the ending and he said that he originally had one where Gabrielle died along with Xena. Lawless seemed concerned that people were upset, saying that she did not know why people expected them to "take the easy way out and have them walking off into the sunset together". She said they had never done things the easy way. Tapert interjected that he had agonized over killing Xena for months. Lawless said that it was strange watching herself in this episode because she could see that she was very tired of it and was just going through the motions. She said she remembered the whole time they were filming that she knew it was the end and all she wanted to do was to crawl up into a ball and go to sleep.
 Lawless and O'Connor were both funny and animated during the questions, but there was a tension in the air from the audience. At one point, Tapert was saying that he felt it was time to end the show and a man yelled out "clearly". The rest of the questions were the usual stuff. Apparently, many of the Xena staff were in the audience: producers, writers, and possibly an editor. I wondered how they felt about the way it all ended.
Le Morte de Xena
 When it was over, the audience stood up and waited to see if anyone would sign autographs, but one by one Stewart, Tapert, Lawless, and O'Connor waved to the audience and filed quietly out the back door. Someone yelled out "Go Renee!" and there were cheers and O'Connor did a "fist in the air Amazon salute thing" just as she disappeared out the door.
 I stood against the wall, watching, thinking that I needed to leave. It was all too overwhelming. I had seen the end and part of me wished I never had. Then I told myself, it was just a TV show after all. There would be others, but none quite like this one. I wanted the ending to be different, wanted to go home with maybe an autograph that I did not have to pay 350 dollars for, and a sense of satisfaction and closure for a show that I so loved and cherished. I left with none of those. Instead, I walked out onto Beverly Drive in the heat of the evening and phoned a friend, then sat in a restaurant across a table from her telling her about the whole experience, and my sadness and anger at how it all ended. She is not a fan and she did not quite know what to say, but I imagine that she was thinking, as I later did, that one of the ten Stages of Grief is anger.
 Perhaps that is what it was. However, I do not think so.
Sandra Holland is a native Californian with a film degree from UCLA. When she's not busy talking about, writing about, or complaining about all things Xena to her annoyed friends, she enjoys working as a film and sound editor, writing, reading Harry Potter books, and waiting for the next installment of the Star Wars saga. Now that Xena is over, she spends sleepless nights in front of the television, staring blankly at static, and has been overheard chanting monotonously, "bring me her head, bring me her head".
Favorite episode: THE BITTER SUITE, IDES OF MARCH, WHEN FATES COLLIDE
Favorite line: Minya: "It belongs to me. You don't get that concept very well, do you? The whip is mine, the frying pan is yours. Hower is mine, she's yours." A DAY IN THE LIFE; Singing Villagers: "Nothing changes but the time we don't even change our mind." THE BITTER SUITE
First episode seen: A DAY IN THE LIFE
Least favorite episode: SOUL POSSESSION and LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE