Group Therapy #280-282
From: Melodie Romeo
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2001 7:33 PM
The Season Finale of Xena: Warrior Princess
The following is my true and honest reaction to the season ending of a series I have faithfully watched for six years. If my words seem like the confused ramblings of a romantic, sentimental intellectual, then that is only because they are.
Some parts I felt were very touching, fitting, and in character for Xena, Gabrielle, and the series, but there were other parts that just didn't seem to make sense. I know we are dealing with a series that takes Hippocrites, Ulysses, and Julius Caesar and makes them all contemporaries - a world in which it takes only a few weeks to travel from the Mediterranean to the Far East, and in which there is always some special ritual available to raise the dead - but there were a few too many inconsistencies in this episode. First of all, Xena was so distraught by Akemi's suicide, that she went off on a drunken binge (something she never did when one of her other special friends died). But mostly, how did this "village" in Japan even have 40,000 people living in it to get burnt up in a time when the population of Rome was maybe only twice that size? What did she do, burn down half of Honshu? Even if she did, it still was only an accident. She didn't kill anyone on purpose and was actually just defending herself from being beaten. Still, let us suppose she was responsible for their deaths - which she did not even know about until this episode. She was led to believe that to atone for this damage, she needed only to kill the evil ghost-eating demon, not stay permanently dead herself. So what I want to know is, when did Akemi tell her this second part? We viewers never saw that, and when the spirits were released they were all thanking Xena for redeeming them, indicating that from that moment they were freed. Even Akemi said that in so doing Xena had redeemed herself. However, in one "death" episode Xena ends up in paradise and another shows her reborn in a future life as a saint. Does she even still need to be redeemed? Then if Xena already knew how things would end, why let Gabrielle risk her life fighting the Samurai and bringing her ashes up the mountain, or risk falling off the cliff to retrieve them? And come to think of it, how did Gabrielle manage to build a fire hot enough to reduce Xena's body to ashes after that torrential rain storm? Without an oven, that fire would have to be extremely large and hot and burn a long time. Anyway, it just didn't seem necessary in this incidence for Xena to have to remain dead in order to secure the eternal futures of the 40,000 souls. After all, when she killed them it was an accident. It was the evil demon who had trapped their souls and made them his slaves, and it was scheming, deceptive Akemi who killed him in the first place setting the whole scenario in motion. Even freeing their souls and killing the demon was not enough for the Powers That Be - Xena had to die too?
Like many fans, I was sad to see Xena go and even shed a tear. I have no doubt that the writers and producers thought that it would be a tragically romantic ending to have Xena die in order to save thousands and find final redemption for herself, but I just can't quite come to terms with the way they did it. Yes, Gabrielle knows enough now to make it on her own, but would she want to? She is, in fact, left all alone. We haven't heard anything from Eve and Homer in ages, her Amazon friends are all dead, Joxer is dead, Eli is dead, her family seems to all be dead except for her niece, and even if some of the old characters (Autolycus, Minya, Salmoneus, Tara, Hercules, and Iolaus) were still alive, they'd be very old. Gabby is supposed to be about 10 years younger than Xena and a ghost won't keep her warm on a cold night. Will she end up finding someone else or will she sacrifice any hope at happiness for the memory of Xena? Or will she welcome death as a warrior when it finds her, glad to be reunited with her soul-mate? And here I have to raise the question, why was Gabrielle, who is terribly prone to sea-sickness, on that ship sailing half way around the world all by herself? There was not another soul on board! (Except for Xena 's ghost, while though providing companionship, could not possibly help with the rigging or sheering or anything else.) When was Gabby supposed to sleep?
Plusses in the episode: Renee did a superb job of acting when she found Xena's headless corpse. Her response was very heartfelt and believable. I was pleased to see the scene with the transference of water from Gabrielle's mouth to Xena's. Here the viewer could see the depth of the bond between them and read in whatever meaning he or she wanted to. There is no denying it was a kiss, albeit a life-saving (for the moment) one. The final analysis. Did Xena have to die to end the series? Did Buffy have to die? (though at least we must assume that she will be coming back since the show is having another season.) Does everyone have to die? One commentary raised the point that the show seems to be sending the message that no matter how much good one does it is never enough to make up for the bad and therefore death is the only solution. That is far too pessimistic an approach for me to ever accept, and I do not think that is what the producers intended to get across. Yet we are left with the fatalistic doom, feeling that love is not enough, and that even though a person changes he or she still must pay the price for their past mistakes. Xena was obviously willing to accept that, but it is difficult for us to. We would rather fall asleep at night with the comfort that she is still roaming about the ancient world fighting for right at Gabby's side. We would really like to leave the series open for a movie (which in the world of Xenaverse is still a possibility.) But from the series standpoint, the death of a main character, dying the way in which she would want to - saving others - is a believable ending to the life of a warrior. Try to imagine what an old Xena would do - hit bad guys with her cane? And after six years in series time - probably more if you account for travel in Xena time - she was reasonably around thirty-five years old. That isn't very old today, but in those days she would not have been a young chick anymore. I do not think she HAD to die, and I do not like the way they did it, but the producers found it a fitting ending (like John Wayne in so many movies). I just feel sorry for Gabrielle . . . and us, the poor, mourning fans, who still hope that the Powers That Be find a way to bring her back to us once again.
Sent: Sunday, June 24, 2001 9:52 AM
Subject: What I Really Thought About FIN
I should start by saying that my closest friend and I have taken to nitpicking the show for each other quite thoroughly, mostly just in this season; we love it, but we tear every episode apart, pointing out continuity flaws, really bad effects, problems with it fitting into the established Xenaverse ("Soul Possession" suffered greatly in this category) as well as the things we loved. We had almost nothing bad to say about "Friend in Need", and rated it an A, possibly even an A+.
My initial reaction after it was all over was the feeling that this was perhaps the best episode of the entire series. The story was beautiful, complex and convoluted, yet all the pieces fell neatly into place at the end.
The photography, costumes and visual images were nothing short of stunning, and the effects were worthy of a feature film. The water tower scene was the first fight scene in a while that made my jaw drop, and it really felt like they were pulling out all the stops. I remember thinking while watching it that while "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" seemed to be inspired by "Xena", it now seemed that "Xena" was drawing from the movie as well. Gabrielle finally got a chance to demonstrate just how far she has developed in her fighting skills, and all her scenes were just poetry in motion. Xena's suicide was heartbreaking and unforgettable, as well as the images of her broken body and decapitated head. And they finally gave us a real kiss, which totally stopped my heart. I would love to know why they decided to do that after so strenuously denying the subtext for six years!
As for the ending, I am torn on that. When my friend gloomily told me she could see Xena's death coming, I reminded her how many other times she has died. However, this seemed pretty final. Although I certainly wasn't happy that she had to stay dead, I agree with a lot of the points made by Shelley Sullivan on the Whoosh! page, about the writers sweeping the fact that Xena has never really had to pay for her crimes under the carpet, as well as her comment that "Xena was defeating death with almost boring regularity." My friend was saddened by Gabrielle being left all alone. When the final credits rolled, I was weeping uncontrollably, not so much at the episode itself but at the end of what has been six years of true magic.
From reading some boards it seems like a lot of fans are disappointed in this episode as a series ender, but I think the writers had a very tall order to fill. The show has done its best to please all the people all of the time, and proven that that is just not possible. My friend commented that part of the appeal of "Xena" has always been its darker aspects, so a sugarcoated fairy tale ending would not have been more satisfying, and I agree. My bigger concern is whether this ending leaves an opening for a possible movie, but we have seen the writers pull it off before, so I have faith.
I think this episode was fitting and satisfying as a series ender. The plot choices were brave, the production values were too big for television, and the characters will live forever in my heart...and isn't this everything that made us love the show from the beginning?
From: Robin Pearson
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2001 10:47 PM
Subject: Group Therapy Submission
A Joxerite Watches The Series Finale
As I begin to write this, I’m hesitant to introduce myself as a Xena fan. You see, I’m also a Joxer fan. Yes, one of those. So I’m not sure I have the right to make any claims to hardcore nutballism. I’m hesitant even to call myself a Joxer fan unconditionally, since I don’t like the way the character ended up being written, and watching his scenes often engenders a feeling similar to that of watching a car wreck - it makes you flinch, but you can’t turn away. Rather, perhaps, you should call me a fan of Joxer as he might have been written. A fan of the character that never actually was, or the idea of a character which ended up scattered to the winds.
There was another letter before this. There was hurt, angry letter after I saw Soul Possession, six pages which were never posted anywhere, because after writing them I decided it would be churlish to go raining on everybody else’s parade. I would rain quietly, in the privacy of my own room, and that would be enough. Now there is this letter. But this letter is not angry, or shouldn’t be. It’s wistful, and contemplative, and sad yes, but not for quite the same reasons. I just finished watching Friend in Need II, for the second time. I cried at the end. I cried both times. And it was not so much for a character who wasn’t there as for a character who, suddenly, was.
I suppose I should explain myself a little, the history of how I came to this point. My views are probably influenced somewhat by the fact that I started watching Xena when Joxer was already there, and so, to me, he always seemed like an essential part of the show. I missed the first two seasons when he wasn’t there, those that almost everyone in the fandom seems to consider the “good” seasons. I didn’t see the first tentative blossomings of love between Xena and Gabrielle. I didn’t experience that nearly spiritual awakening so many in the Xenaverse seem to have had, the realization that “oh, it’s not just me, I’m not just sick, they really *are* a couple!” I’ve been able to reconstruct what happened, more or less, by voraciously consuming episode summaries and transcripts, by catching a few reruns, but I feel a little like the person who arrived late at the party.
No, by the time I joined the fandom, Gabby and Xena were already a couple, and Joxer was firmly embroiled in the middle of their lives, provoking raging debate in the on-line community, angering those who felt he didn’t belong in the show at all, who felt he was an obstacle, a nuisance disrupting the Xena/Gabrielle relationship, getting between them, threatening to derail the innovative feminism of the show with a threadbare heterosexual subplot, to drag it down with low comedy. I found the character instantly fascinating because of the controversy he provoked. I could see massive potential just bubbling under the surface - not the usual “he could be a great warrior, just give him a chance” sort of potential that many of his defenders argued for, but something much more than that - potential *not* to be a warrior.
The character, in fact, seemed like a marvelous counterbalance and foil to Gabrielle. Where Gabrielle was a female originally trapped by gender expectations into tedious village life when she yearned for something more, Joxer seemed to be a male equally trapped by gender expectations into the role of brutal killer when he was, at heart, a gentle and domestic soul. I expected Xena to free him, just as she had freed Gabrielle, but to a path that led in the opposite direction. I expected Gabrielle, with one foot in village life and one foot in that of a warrior, to be essential in helping destroy the last and most pernicious of gender expectations, the notion that while it is okay for a girl to act like a “boy,” it still isn’t okay for a boy to act like a “girl.” There seemed to be to be an undeniable thematic bond between the destinies of the three characters. Instead of viewing the heroes of Xena as a couple, I saw them as a trio.
Fanfiction only reinforced my view that the three were inextricably linked, despite the fact that very little of the kind I liked best existed. I couldn’t really get into alt fic because it seemed wrong to me that the character of Joxer should be so thoroughly erased and excluded as he was in most alt fic, when he wasn’t being painfully ridiculed. Therefore, the majority of the body of Xena fanfiction was lost on me, or I was lost to it. On the other hand, though it was nice to see Joxer in Joxer/Gabby relationship fics, those seemed wrong too, because Xena was left out. It was impossible to deny the power of the Xena/Gabrielle relationship, and yet it disturbed me when alt fics denied the very existence of Joxer, never mind any sort of bond he might have with Xena and Gabrielle. Then there was slashfic, mostly linking Joxer to Ares, but again, Xena and Gabrielle were missing.
The only kind of fanfic that appealed to me, in fact, but which did so very strongly, were those few rare stories in which all three characters were linked together (footnote one). I soon began to perceive their relationship as polyamatory, or at least, to yearn for it to be. Polyamory seemed to me the simplest and happiest solution to the entire Joxer controversy. Instead of having to choose to ally myself with homosexuality or heterosexuality, with dominant culture within the Xenaverse or dominant culture outside of it, with one shipperdom or the other, why not refuse the age old pattern of inclusion/exclusion that characterizes patriarchy, and embrace both sides? Wouldn’t the most subversive act, in keeping with the spirit of the show, be to love all the characters, instead of only the one, or the two?
Apparently not, came the resounding reply, both from the fan community and the show itself. The Joxer character failed to progress as I thought he would. The Joxer wars continued until his proponents were effectively ghettoized, either banished from or abandoning the mainstream fan community. Although JESSS (Joxer Enthusiasts Supporting Sapphic Subtext) seemed like a step in the right direction, it remained just another fringe group on the edge of the fandom, never really reaching the majority of fans. You were either a Joxerite or you weren’t, and if you were, it became harder and harder to defend a character who was often painful or embarrassing to watch, who seemed to make progress one week and regress the next, depending on the whim of the writers. Reading Joxfic started to evoke the feeling of someone attempting to suture a raw, gaping wound. This wound ran deep - the more one identified with Joxer, the more one felt oneself an outsider, rejected by the fandom and frustrated by the show, which appeared determined to keep the character in the preordained role of Pathetic Male (tm). Then, when it seemed the character could be assassinated no further, they finally, dismissively, killed him off.
They did not, however, let him die. One of the most romantic elements of the show is the existence of the Uberverse, in which Gabrielle and Xena continue to be reincarnated to find each other and fall in love over and over again, as eternally linked soulmates. It is also, however, one of the most tragic elements, for where I and other Joxer fans see or would like to see an intertwined trinity of souls, the show presents an Uberverse in which, though Xena and Gabrielle are destined for eternal, blissful union, Joxer is condemned to eternal loneliness, forever doomed to be excluded from such a relationship, to wander hopelessly after our heroines, drawn to them like an iron filing to two magnets, and to love them unrequitedly, but not to be loved the same way in return. He is only to be tolerated, if that, and set aside at the first opportunity, as Annie is casually abandoned by Harry in Deja Vu All Over Again, as soon as everyone realizes their past identity and what role they should be playing.
It was too cruel. For such a thing to happen in one lifetime was sad, but then, sometimes that happens. For such a thing to happen in *every* lifetime, however, seemed like deliberate Sisyphean torment. What did Joxer ever do to deserve that? Exist? From simply despairing of the show, I began to actively dislike it. It viscerally angered me that the writers wouldn’t even let the character, at the very least, *move on*, let him stop being in love with the people who, apparently, were never going to love him back. Reassessing his relationship with Xena and Gabrielle, it began to seem exploitative, even abusive. Would it have been funny for the character to be slapped and kicked and had his nose twisted and his ear yanked if he had been female, and our heroines had been male? Would there have been “Die, Joxer, Die” websites in that universe? I found it hypocritical of the show to condemn the violence of patriarchy in one breath, and perpetuate it in the next, to be so forgiving of female characters who might be considered inept or annoying (Genia in Many Happy Returns, Eve in any number of episodes), and so contemptuous of Joxer for the same reasons.
In particular, I began to focus my dislike on Gabrielle, who struck me as a symbol of this hypocrisy. Her character was supposedly built on forgiveness and understanding of others, but where she had nothing but patience and sympathy for virtually everyone else, she seemed the most intolerant of Joxer, and was more physically abusive of him than Xena. Moreover, she seemed smug. She was supposed to be an odd one herself, the girl who never fit in at home in her little village, the strange, sunny personality with dogged devotion to peculiar ideas (like forgiving reformed warlords), but increasingly, she came across as someone banal and ordinary with illusions of grandeur, as the spoiled, popular girl, the one who always got everything she wanted, including soulmates. Or as someone grasping, an upwardly mobile suburbanite, a view that was reinforced by the class-based reading of the show Carlos Rebello offered in his Whoosh article, “The Death of the Lidador.” Why was Gabrielle portrayed as heroic for her determination to insert herself into Xena’s life, and Joxer ridiculed for the same thing? In the first two seasons, after all, from what I could reconstruct, she was the inept comic relief, the character whose necessity to the show fans once questioned. In the series premiere, Xena told her to get lost several times, and she displayed a Joxerish refusal to take no for an answer, a similarity blithe disregard for reality as it was defined by other people. Yet she was rewarded for this, where he was punished.
I wondered, also, what would have happened if Xena had met Joxer first, and began to develop a relationship with him instead, and Gabrielle had come along two seasons later, and attempted to intrude on that, as Joxer did with her and Xena. Would the fan reaction have been the same? It had always seemed to me that one of the reasons Joxer annoyed Gabrielle so much was that he reminded her of herself in her earlier, embarrassing days, and distancing herself from him was in a sense also an attempt to distance herself from her own humbler origins. A website called “The Xena/Joxer Relationshippers Page,” however, positing a relationship between Joxer and *Xena*, of all things, put a whole new spin on the Joxer/Gabrielle animosity (footnote two). What if the source of tension between them wasn’t Joxer’s attraction to Gabrielle, but rather, the possibility of his attraction to Xena?
Far-fetched as the theory might seem, things began to fall into place. Joxer *was* attracted to Xena first in Warrior... Priestess.. Tramp. He continued to carry out an ongoing relationship with Meg, the Xena lookalike, and eventually ended up marrying her. For quite some time, he attempted to replace Gabrielle as Xena’s sidekick, or to talk Gabrielle into being *his* sidekick so he, presumably, could be Xena’s. In Soul Possession, with the loss of Gabrielle, he even goes so far as to take up her scroll-writing activity and position as “bard.” In Deja Vu All Over Again, it is Xena he has traded bodies with, Xena he’s in a relationship with, not Gabrielle, and the attraction persists even after they all realize who they were in their previous lives. in Soul Possession, Annie still bursts into tears at the thought of Harry, and angrily refers to Mattie as “Harry’s Ho.”
So how, in this reading of the characters’ relationships, does one explain Joxer’s romantic overtures towards Gabrielle? I began to develop theories: Though initially drawn most strongly to Xena, but quickly perceiving her to be utterly larger than life and out-of-reach, Joxer may have subconsciously shifted his affections towards Gabrielle as a smaller and theoretically more attainable version of the Warrior Princess. After all, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” has always seemed like something of an unspoken motto for Joxer. He may simply have translated his feelings of competitiveness towards Gabrielle into feelings of attraction. The feelings of competitiveness, however, continued to simmer under the surface, causing both characters to frequently bicker like children, while Xena remained remarkably serene about the whole matter. In this reading, Joxer went from being Gabrielle’s comedic successor or possible dramatic balance to her shadowy, tragic reflection. He was a foil in the sense that he failed where she succeeded in surpassing her origins, that her gain was his loss, that he represented the dark side of striving to be more than what one was “meant” to be, the lonely reverse alternative to being part of a union forever, which was to be forever alone. He was, in essence, a Gabrielle without Xena.
Hand in hand with this competition theory, I began to see Gabrielle as the primary motivating force behind the Xena/Gabrielle relationship. She was, after all, the initiator of the relationship in the first place, as well as continuing to be its “author” through her scrolls. She was the one who was always making sweeping rhetorical statements about how she and Xena were destined to be together. In particular, When Fates Collide was an episode that stood out in my mind as offering definitive proof of Gabrielle’s commitment to making “destiny” come to pass. In that episode, Xena is willing to give up being with Gabrielle for the sake of duty to Caesar and the greater good of Rome. Gabrielle, however, destroys the whole universe because she can’t be with Xena.
It seemed the ultimate act of arrogance. Granted, that universe may only have been an “alternate” universe, it may have led to the separation of Xena and Gabrielle, the death of Xena, and other undesirable things, it may not have been meant to exist - and yet, it existed, and Gabrielle had no way of knowing, so far as I could tell, that setting fire to the Fates’ loom would simply restore things to the way they had been before. What if it had utterly destroyed everything period, for the sake of one person’s love? Where Xena’s statement was a noble one - “I would rather live without you than see you die” - Gabrielle’s reply was rather less so - “I would rather die than live without you, and I don’t care if I take everybody else with me or not.” I found myself wondering what happened to Joxer’s daughter, the one he credited the Empress with saving. Was she one of his children in the “real” universe as well? Or did she simply wink out of existence with the destruction of that universe, like he did? Was there anyone else who might have lived in the one dimension and died in the other? What was the state of the world at large, in one compared to the other, worse or better off?
It wasn’t just that Gabrielle took it upon herself to decide these matters, it was that she didn’t even consider any of them for an instant. Admittedly, this was a different Gabrielle, but she had the memories of the “real” one thanks to Alti. In destroying the alternate universe, she also seemed to be destroying some part of her younger, original self, the part that would have debated the morality of her own actions, the part that was a bard and wanted to write great works to inspire future generations. At the end of the episode, her remark “Fame - who needs it?” implied as nothing else before had the abandonment of her writing and her youthful ideals, of her entire earlier self in fact, for the sake of her relationship with Xena. Perhaps nothing else had ever mattered to her at all. I think it was meant to be a grand gesture; to me, it seemed petty. Xena’s actions in the alternate universe struck me as much more mature and meaningful.
So this is the mental space I was in when I sat down to watch the series finale. I had come to resent Gabrielle. Soul Possession had left me in a state of despair and prompted the writing of an unsent angry review because it was the last uber episode, the last chance to set things right, and it left Joxer in a worse condition than he was before. At the end of Deja Vu All Over Again, at least, he went off singing. And one could still imagine, after the fadeout, Harry and Mattie going after him and apologizing for just getting so caught up in each other for a moment there, you know how it is when you re-encounter your soulmate, and there could have been an amicable resolution of feelings... but no such luck. Soul Possession made sure we knew that nothing was either resolved or amicable, that Annie was still suffering a broken heart, and it even went so far as to annihilate Annie as a distinct character completely by switching Joxer’s soul back into the “proper” body, since it would obviously never do for Xena and Gabrielle to be together as anything else but Xena and Gabrielle as they had always been. There seemed to be something almost tyrannical about the insistence on maintaining that static pairing at the expense of everything else. I felt particularly irritated by the bit right after Ares left, when Xena went to help Joxer up and started talking to him, and then Gabrielle strode over declaring something to the effect of “Didn't I tell you Are could never keep us apart?”, and completely cut him out of the conversation. She didn’t even look at him. She acted as if he wasn’t there. And she ushered Xena off into the sunset with her, as she seemed to have done in the last five or six episodes, to the point of redundancy, and I gritted my teeth and thought overwhelmingly bitter thoughts about her and the writers.
Which is why it utterly surprised me to find myself crying my eyes out for her in the finale.
Because in Friend in Need, suddenly, there was a different ending. Because in Friend in Need, Gabrielle didn’t walk off into the sunset with Xena. She sat with her, quietly, sadly, and watched it go down. Because she fought so hard, so d*mn hard, with that same absolute, nearly superhuman determination and strength of will, to keep Xena with her, and in the end, she made the even more difficult choice to let her go. It was the opposite of her actions in When Fates Collide. Where in Fates she destroyed the whole universe alternate universe, just to be with Xena, here she gave up the one soul she loved the most for the sake of forty thousand others she had never met. And it was a tragic and noble sacrifice, and it changed my feelings towards her.
The whole episode seized my attention, all the way through, and again and again I found myself seeing Gabrielle in a new light I hadn’t before. Little things leapt out at me. At first, when she said “you’re dead” to Xena, the moment seemed laughable because she delivered the line almost in the same semi-accusatory tone in which one would say “you’re drunk” - which is sometimes about the level of significance death seems to occupy in the Xenaverse - but there was something in the redness of her nose and eyes the vulnerability in her face, even as she made plans to resurrect Xena, which gave a sense of foreboding to the scene. Her ragdollish moptop hairdo had always seemed a little silly to me, but now, surrounded on all sides by dark hair, that scruffy blond head suddenly stood out, made her seem oddly unique and isolated - a strange, lone samurai, a driven and dignified figure, whether pacing her way through the forest in morning’s golden light or standing drenched in the rain at night. Other small details reverberate in my memory. The way all the soldiers (and me as well) leaned forward in surprise at the simplicity with which, in one motion, she put their leader at her mercy. The sound of her cry as she kicked Xena’s ashes up off the nest with her foot and grabbed them in midair, hanging off the side of a cliff. The look of amazement and stirring realization on her face as she caught the chakram. The soft fringe of her bangs during the kiss. And the quietness, the remarkable stillness and understated grief, in those last few moments.
I was so worried, at the crucial point, that she’d plunge the ashes into the water anyways, the forty-thousand be-d*mned, or that she’d kill herself to be with Xena, after all she’d accomplished, throw herself off the cliff maybe, or stab herself as Akemi did, just so as not to go on alone. But she did neither. She did the harder thing. Even as she protested that it wasn’t fair or right, even as she insisted Xena was all that mattered to her, even as they both stood trapped by the obscure rules and rituals of a different culture, a different world, an afterlife which required souls to be avenged in order to attain a state of grace - even so, she made the sacrifice. And she helped redeem not just the forty-thousand, not just Xena, but herself as well. There was a feeling of a wheel coming full circle. Once, Gabrielle had to convince Xena of the necessity of doing the right, the good, the harder thing, and now, it was the other way around. I had a vision of her going on afterwards, traveling through Egypt, a haunted, golden-haired warrior, deceptively fragile-looking, unusually determined, who carried a chakram and talked to ghosts. I hoped she would take up her writing again, writing this time not of Xena’s adventures but of her own and the people she met on her travels. Perhaps she would become a spirit counselor, like that kid in the Sixth Sense. Perhaps she would eventually take a student of her own. Whatever she would go on to do, she suddenly seemed truly heroic, for the first time. There was a whole series yet to be written, and I could see her, where I hadn’t before, supporting the weight of it on her own narrow, dragon-tatooed shoulders. Gabrielle had grown up.
I know there will probably be some people who will hate the ending, hate it passionately and viscerally as if some part of them had been wrenched out, and I’m trying to reconcile my feelings with theirs, in advance. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be the only one to positively review this ep, to see it almost as a gift to the characters, strange as it may sound, the nobility and strength they were given the opportunity to show in this ending. Maybe Joxerites are forever fated to come at things from a different angle than most fans. But I’ve seen my share of series finales in my day, and I think I can say this was a good one. It was handled well. The direction was good, the production values were good, the acting was good, heck, even the writing, for once this season, moved with purpose and energy and precision. If Gabrielle had simply been unable to save Xena, it would have diminished her death, but that Gabrielle *was* able to save her, that the day was won and then Xena had to choose to *stay* dead, and Gabrielle had to choose to accept that, imbued the ending with a tragic power, only deepened by the fact that the events which necessitated such a choice had been set in motion long before either of the characters ever met.
Yet the ending was not merely tragic, because we know Xena and Gabrielle will go on to be reunited again in the future - their separation is a great sorrow, but not a permanent one. At the end of a classic tragedy (in the Shakespearean sense), everyone dies, and at the end of a classic comedy, everyone gets married; thus, thanks to the uber-episodes, the ending of Xena perfectly balanced both classic tragic *and* comic elements because we know both things happen - Xena dies, yet in the last uberlifetime we see them, Xena and Gabrielle are married. Her death was a tragedy and a happily-ever-after all rolled into one. It seemed fitting for a show that had always intermingled the great and serious with the light and absurd. There are those who may feel the absurd has no place in the Xenaverse, but if anything, I thought the poignancy of this last episode was only enhanced by the wry, wistful irony not of dying, a fate which has long since lost it significance in the series, but of having to *stay* dead, because of the arbitrary rules of someone else’s afterlife, and the inconvenient idealism in one’s own heart.
So. Where does this all leave one, as a Joxer fan? Whoosh had suggested in its “Whispers, Murmurs...” section that Joxer might be guest starring in the finale (heck, at one point, *anyone* might have been guest starring in the finale for all that was known about it), so when I scanned the opening credits at the beginning of the first part, I was disappointed not to see him there, but when it was mentioned that “only a ghost can kill another ghost,” and when it began to look as if Xena might temporarily kill herself to defeat Yodoshi, I thought perhaps we might see him in the second part, in an afterlife cameo or something. Of course, a week later, at the beginning of Part II, there was still no Ted in the credits, and so I grumbled to myself and threw up my hands, but by the end of the episode, I no longer had a problem with him not being there. He simply wouldn’t have fit - it was a very personal episode between Xena and Gabrielle, and the pacing was such that there wasn’t room for anything else to be added or taken away. Which is not to say that I don’t still care deeply about the character - only that I no longer resent Gabrielle for the way he was written. I think if he had been watching her and Xena on that mountaintop, he would have been crying too. And I felt a return to my original desire not to see them at odds with each other, but to see all three of them together again.
Soul Possession didn’t leave the polyamorist Xenite much wiggle room, but hope, and fanfic, springs eternal. One always has recourse to a particular fic written by Dharma Bum called, “Untitled Nonperky Nonhappy Story” (footnote three), which offers a unique explanation for why all the events past “Eve” never happened (and which those who would like to erase Xena’s death might like to use as a starting point), but I am somehow reluctant now to sail the River Denile in this way, as it would rob Gabrielle of the dignity and maturity I saw her display in the finale. In any event, in my own mind, the characters will work something out with each other that ends well for everyone concerned. Harry and Mattie and Annie will have a Talk. You can’t live two or three thousand years without learning a few things along the way about how to deal with delicate problems like the human heart. maybe it just takes a while for all that accumulated wisdom to kick in every lifetime - after all, that’s a lot of memories. And in the as-yet unwritten reaches of these characters’ lives, and afterlives, and innumerable reincarnations, I hope most of those memories are good ones, that instead of falling into the same old patterns every lifetime, with each cycle they learn something new about themselves, that even if old injuries and insecurities are sometimes reopened, they always make things up to each other again, behind the scenes where we can’t see them, and that as much as they might miss each other when fate decrees a separation, the time they must spend apart only prepares them better for the times when they will be together again.
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