Whoosh! Issue 60 - September 2001

THE GRIEF CENTER
By Lynne Jones
Content © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2001 held by Whoosh!
3080 words


When Spoilers Collide (01-03)
Convention (04-06)
Being Played Like a Fine Violin (07-08)
Some Issues (09-12)
Raising the Bar (13-15)
They Lost Us (16-20)
Completing Whose Circle? (21-26)
Biography



THE GRIEF CENTER



When Spoilers Collide

Bears a striking resemblance to some 'Little Chef' roadside eateries in the UK
Japa was about as far as Xena and Gabrielle ever traveled.

[01] To put this into perspective, I live in the United Kingdom. There was no chance that I would watch the series finale at the same time as most fans in the United States. Fortunately, because of Xena, friends from the States taped the episodes and sent them to me.

[02] I have always loved the spoilers on the Internet. Knowing what is going to happen never spoils it for me. It merely helps me enjoy it more. Therefore, I was ready to hear what had happened via the Internet as soon as FRIEND IN NEED II aired.

[03] When I signed on to surf on Monday June 16, 2001, however, I was completely unprepared for the news of Xena's death. I was angry, felt betrayed, and, ultimately, extremely disappointed that a show that I had grown to love, even adore, had ended in such a shocking way. I fired off a few angry e-mails to friends and received shock and sympathy in reply. It affected me for a couple of days at work, to the extent that I felt it difficult to do anything but think about what had happened. I could not even look at Xena photos, without thinking about how it had ended. Plus, it was hard to look at Lucy Lawless smiling her way through all the interviews she did that week, as much as I admire her and love her work. I felt like I had been played for a sucker, a sap.


Convention

[04] I went to Pasadena for my first ever Xena convention only months before and had enjoyed it. I traveled nearly 4,000 miles in order to say thank you for giving me such a fabulous show for six years in person to Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, and to all the Xena staff,. Watching the show, to quote an Upbeat Entertainment On-Line tribute,

"was like gazing at an exquisite Salvador Dali painting, in that each time you stopped and stared at the masterpiece, really looked at it, there was something else, something even more innovative and spectacular to uncover and analyze layers upon layers of intricately woven meanings all fused together with such perfection."

[05] I had a fantastic time. I met some fabulous people who I know will be friends for years. I enjoyed all the guest stars, particularly Lawless and O'Connor, though Lucy Lawless did seem rather intense. Perhaps we now know why. I was on a high that only this news of the finale could bring me down from. I wonder how they managed to remain so upbeat. They must have known what the reaction to the finale would be.

[06] It was fantastic to watch episodes of Xena at the convention. I was in a roomful of a few thousand people who loved Xena as much as I did and we watched Xena and Gabrielle onscreen together. We loved it. However, did Rob Tapert, Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, or RJ Stewart watch us watching the episode? Did anyone report to them what the reaction was? How everyone cheered, especially when Xena and Gabrielle fought back to back in LAST OF THE CENTAURS? The subtexters had fun, and so did everyone. Like the young Downs syndrome girl who knew every Xena move when she was on stage to fight against Zoe Bell. That is how much this show means to the fans. Maybe they should have tuned in to our reactions. They might have learned something.


Being Played Like a Fine Violin

Force to play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' a billion times, Akemi goes mad and starts killing her family
Akemi plays a stringed instrument.

[07] Most of the week of the finale I read synopses of the episodes; read Lawless', O'Connor's, Tapert's, and Stewart's views on the endings; exchanged e-mails with friends; and read the outpourings of grief on various message boards. By the following Monday I had calmed down enough to view things slightly differently. Not least to regain my perspective that, after all, it was 'just a TV show'. However, the dominant emotion was still one of disappointment, complete with a slight unease and sense of being 'played'.

[08] Having seen the episode and reflected some more, I am of the opinion that it was an awesome piece of work which made every other series finale I have seen look like a cartoon, that is if you can ignore the last five minutes.


Some Issues

[09] We have had six years of a fabulous TV show. Six fantastic years, years when they took all kinds of risks, such as the Rift, but all of which eventually worked and made you come back for more. I will watch all the episodes repeatedly, especially my favorites, and every time I will see something knew and clever, something to savor and think about.

[10] Having said that, I have some major issues with the finale, and by implication, its writers, and its stars.

[11] The production team excelled themselves in the series finale. I have always loved to watch Xena because it was like watching a mini-movie, rather than another TV episode. The producers did even better this time. It was fabulous to watch. The sound was amazing. Xena is the only show I get the full effect of surround sound on my speakers, more so even than on some DVDs.

[12] Xena sets the standard for fight scenes against which all TV shows will always be judged. Nothing compares to Xena. You only have to watch Dark Angel's fight scenes to see how wooden it can look even when much money is spent. Much kudos is deserved to Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Zoe Bell, the stunt doubles, Paul Grinder, and all the fight co-ordinators. The fight scenes have always been a favorite of many fans. Of course, there are some fans who are not as keen on the fight scenes, but when Xena and Gabrielle, but particularly Xena, kick *ss, it is fantastic. In addition, Lawless sells it so well. She says she never really liked doing the fights, but it is clear that Xena loved it. So did I. I loved where Xena fought for the katana in her bikini top. I also loved the fight scenes where she actually met her death and then later fought Yodoshi as a ghost. Those scenes lifted the standard utterly out of sight. The bar was raised higher than I thought previously possible.


Raising the Bar

[13] Speaking of the raising of the bar, Lawless and O'Connor were amazing in this episode. It is no wonder we are all so emotionally invested in these two characters. Not surprisingly, as well, why we feel so upset and betrayed. They have made Xena and Gabrielle totally and utterly believable, like two good friends who you rarely see in person but who you often hear from. Each of them conveys so many emotions and thoughts with just a look, so much left unspoken. They have you riveted to your seat. Brava, ladies. At last the rest of the world seems to be taking notice of what we, the Xena fans, have always known, that both of these ladies stand head and shoulders in acting ability above recent Emmy winners. Indeed, above quite a few recent Oscar winners. In addition, Lawless looked fabulous in that gold Samurai outfit. Hardly practical, but that was not the point!

[14] Many fans have been in shock at how brutally Xena died and how she behaved towards Yodoshi until she was strong enough to fight him back. Personally, I thought that although this was shocking, it was very well written. As a warrior, that is how Xena would have liked to die: in battle, slicing and dicing. As perhaps the greatest warrior ever, it was entirely appropriate that her death should be so noble and against such huge odds. Subsequent events in the teahouse, however apparently degrading for Xena, just proved how far Xena was prepared to go to achieve redemption for the 40,000 souls, anything to get close enough to Yodoshi to kill him. Remember, too, that being beheaded is an honorable way for a Samurai to die. It showed that Gabrielle could never be as great a warrior as Xena that she was unable to behead the male Samurai when given the opportunity. She denied him that honor, thus he lost face, a fate to him worse than death. Xena would have understood that and dispatched the man as he asked.

[15] The finale was a triumph of writing, acting, and emotionally well played and produced. Bravo to everyone, except those final few minutes. That is where they lost us, or at least many all of us.


They Lost Us

How much salt to add to the soup was always a source of dispute
Xena prevents Gabrielle from restoring her body.

[16] I stopped breathing for a few seconds when Xena put her hand over Gabrielle's and stopped her from emptying the ashes out into the Fountain of Strength. When Xena gave her the reason, which seemed so impossibly feeble and unfair, that I had to yell NO at the screen. It did not hang together and it was wrong. It was as if another episode had been tacked on to the end.

[17] It was reported that Rob Tapert flip-flopped several times about whether to let Xena remain dead or not, or whether to let Xena and Gabrielle die together. The latter would have been far preferable than what he ultimately chose. One can understand completely, particularly at an intellectual level, why he decided to let Xena stay dead, and his arguments for doing what he did. Personally, I do not agree with them. This was one time when it was better to go with his gut and go the easy way, give us what we wanted, than to go the possibly intellectually superior, and also more gossip-worthy, route.

[18] To leave Xena dead showed that she was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for others. It showed that she allowed herself to be forgiven and to have peace, so she decided to stay dead. Sorry, to me that sends the message that redemption is only possible if you die. Not exactly an uplifting message. Plus, those souls demanded to be avenged. Xena was trying to lose her lust for vengeance. Surely, she could have allowed herself that forgiveness, and allow Gabrielle to revive her? Yes, Xena did many bad things. However, this was ancient times. What she did was a drop in the bucket compared to how much good she had done since. Furthermore, even the Greek gods were hardly above reproach.

[19] Gabrielle should have argued more. Xena did not have to stay dead to save those souls. It is difficult to believe that Gabrielle would have given up so easily as this. That is not the Gabrielle we know! What about all the people Xena could have saved if she had lived? What happened to "I'm tired of paying for my past sins, what's important now is you" from ONE AGAINST AN ARMY? What happened to someone being more important than the greater good as in LEGACY? What was that the point of this? Having done so much to redeem herself for six long years, and her being at fault in the first place for the death of the 40,000 souls being a rather tenuous link, she should have lived.

[20] Xena may have achieved a sense of peace, but does Gabrielle have to be left alone? All she has left is Lilla. This is exceptionally hard to take, ghost of Xena or no ghost. Whatever happened should have happened to them together. After six years of this being all about love and their being together, to end it like this was unforgivable.


Completing Whose Circle?

[21] The Powers That Be have talked about the finale completing the circle from the first episodes. With the possible exception of The X-Files, Xena is the only TV show I have seen that has stayed true to its original premise right through to the sixth season. Most lose it after the first. Rob Tapert and the rest of the team are to be mightily congratulated for that. It was one of the things that drew me to the show in the beginning. Xena in her quest for redemption has never wavered. However, did I miss something? When did Gabrielle want to become mini-Xena? I know she wanted to be taught everything Xena knew but I thought we had been through this warrior vs. bard thing in LEGACY and resolved it? I thought she wanted to be a force for peace and only to fight when she had to. Why did she have to take the chakram? That is Xena's signature weapon. I can handle the pinch but I really thought this was a step too far and I, well, thought it was plain dumb. For me, this part of Gabrielle becoming Xena: The Next Generation came right out of left field.

[22] I cannot help feeling that Robert Tapert originally wanted to leave Xena alive, though I hear he denies this, but that, because he knew how the fans would react, that he went for the shock value. Then he wrote a thin plotline to support it at the last minute, or perhaps RJ Stewart persuaded him. I have no doubt it was their decision though, and that they were both well equipped to persuade Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor either way. Ultimately, I feel cheated and disappointed. He gave us a 'guy gift'—they want to give us something they think we will like, but instead they give us something that they like and we do not like at all. They cannot understand why we are upset because we realize they do not know us at all, because they cannot even give us a gift we would like. Therefore, Tapert chose the ending he wanted. However, the fans deserved maybe just a little bit more respect for their love for the characters he created.

[23] We all know Xena is not dead, she is merely residing in a little black pot. Was it me or did that look totally plastic? There is always an out, so why give us this grief? For what? A series ender? I suspect that everyone clamoring on the Internet for a movie helps him out, though I know the calls for a movie would have happened anyway. This is merely a neat shocker of a plot device because, you can bet your boots within the first five minutes of any movie - presto - Xena is reconstituted with a bit of holy water and yeast. After a blessing from an obscure Japanese god, the small print on her death warrant is found to say that Xena made the ultimate sacrifice so is entitled to a third, or is it even a fourth, chance at life. Bingo, she is back to life, so it was just a cheat to get us upset all along. That sucks more than ever.

[24] I wonder how Rob Tapert feels about the reaction. About how they all feel. They say they do not check out the Internet, they must be the only ones who do not. I wonder how I would feel about one of my creations if I made a decision I was not 100% sure about, even if I subsequently came to believe I was right, then watched everyone I created it for tell me how much they hated it and how upset they were about my decision. I suspect I would react just how they have: accept the critical praise, and then go away and think about things before doing anything. However, I would, most definitely, be quite upset myself. Particularly if the depth of the reaction was as strong as it has been to Xena's death. I do believe they genuinely care about the fans. At some point Rob Tapert may even admit that he could, or even should, have ended it differently, or apologize to the fans for not gauging the strength of the reaction more accurately.

[25] At the end of the day, though, you have to admit Rob Tapert is a genius. He certainly always gets a reaction, such a clever guy. Whichever way he had gone, he would have received criticism. He chose probably the harder way, though I think he ultimately chose it out of defiance, rather than what was best for the character or for the message it sent to the fans. What a pity he could not have gotten it 100% right and just had the courage to go for a happy ending and let Gabrielle bring Xena back. Sure, the show, and its hero, never did do things the easy way, but this was the time to be courageous and give Xena and Gabrielle and the fans a piece of good fortune and an ending they could be happy about. For a change.

[26] However it ended, we certainly got an episode to remember. Even if most of us will always switch it off about five minutes before the ending when we watch it again.

Biography

jones Lynne Jones
The photo is me reaching my highest mental age so far—6. I live in the north of England, spent 6 years living in Canada in the '90s (where I first fell in love with the show) and work as a project leader for software development teams. I'm 44 and, overall, think Xena is the best TV show ever - bar none. It's the only show that's made me a true 'fanatic', drawn in by the performances of the 2 best leading ladies in the business. An unbelievable benefit of being a Xena fan is the friends I have made through it. Xena fans seem to be the most intelligent fans bunch! I just wish more people in England 'got' the show!


Favorite episode: It is between ONE AGAINST AN ARMY and WHEN FATES COLLIDE. I think the former - I love the fight scenes in it.
Favorite line: Xena: "I have many skills." VARIOUS EPISODES; Xena: "For me our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could."
First episode seen: FISTFUL OF DINARS
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS

 

 

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