Group Therapy #283-288
From: Josh Harrison
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2001 11:02 PM
Subject: Submission for August Issue
How do I put my feelings into words? What bit of prose can capture the roller coaster ride the past years have been? The journey has come to and end. Fans around the world are feeling a whirlwind of emotion - from satisfaction to outrage.
As for myself, there have been two main thoughts that have occupied my brain during the past week. First, the storyteller in my head has a distinctive feeling that it ended "right". Yell, scream, and carry on all you want. In my opinion, there was only one way Xena: Warrior Princess could end. Anything else would have left me feeling cheated.
The other thought is one of loss - not heart-rending, ashes-and-sackcloth loss, but loss nevertheless.
Still, I personally feel it was a happy ending. Bittersweet, perhaps, but still happy. After all, Xena finally achieved the redemption and forgiveness she had sought for so long. Gabrielle became the warrior hero she had always wanted to be. Both women experienced a love that spans the ages, a love that ignores the barriers of space and time, life and death.
You don't believe me? Watch the finale again. Xena is no longer a physical presence, but she is with Gabrielle in spirit. Their love continues to exist, despite the absence of one partner. We know that they will meet again in future lives, and their love for each other will remain. Look at the episodes reinforcing this idea - starting all the way back in season two with Remember Nothing.
In the dozens of e-mail messages and comments I have read since the series ended, I have noticed that there are some fans that feel Rob Tapert betrayed them. Not only that, there are those who feel that Tapert betrayed the very heart of the series itself. Their focus falls on a single line at the very tail end of the episode.
Just as Gabrielle is about to pour Xena's ashes into the Fountain of Strength, Xena stops her. She explains that in order to save the 40,000 souls she has just released from the clutches of the foul Lord Yodoshi, she must stay dead. "They need vengeance," she says.
But wait, hasn't the message of the series been that love and forgiveness, not vengeance and hatred, are the answers? Doesn't this final statement by Xena throw that whole thing out the window?
Perhaps. I won't deny that interpretation can be taken from the scene. Personally, I think it was sloppy writing that can be ignored. After all, there have been YAXIs galore in the one hundred and thirty-odd episodes of this series. Can't we turn a blind eye to a single line that just doesn't fit?
I honestly don't expect my analysis to change anybody's mind. The grief some fans are experiencing at the end of this series is profound, and no amount of debate or discussion will salve the honest pain they feel. It is not my intention to make light of these feelings, nor to tell these people (as some have) to "get a life, it's only a TV show." Anybody who recognizes the effect Xena has had on its fans (and on popular culture) should know that some things go far beyond a mere television show.
Despite this realization on my part, and with the saga finally concluded, I would like to put forward an interpretation that may come across as a little bit. revolutionary.
The series opens with Xena burying her armor, trying to turn away from the warrior path she had followed for so long. When she encounters the band of slavers and rescues Gabrielle and the other villagers, she rescues them. Why? I don't think it is difficult for anybody to see guilt as the primary motivating factor. Xena sought to atone for her past misdeeds.
That's an important word - atone. It comes from the Middle English atonen, "to be reconciled". It derives from the compound "at one". Xena was a hero torn between her dark past, and her heroic present. Her quest - the central narrative of the series - was to reconcile those two elements.
As we saw in the episode, Forgiven, Xena was not able to forgive herself. She still felt a great deal of personal responsibility for the evil in the world - despite the tremendous good she had caused. When "brought to justice" for her crimes (as seen in The Reckoning and Locked Up and Tied Down), she did not fight the system, believing that what happened to her was no less than she deserved.
While thinking about all these things, a thought struck me. The love and forgiveness message was not solely intended for others. It was certainly an important aspect of the show's morality, but the one who most needed to learn the lesson was Xena herself.
I think that Xena chose to stay dead because she realized that she had achieved her objective - she had redeemed herself. Symbolically, coming back from the dead would deny her of the forgiveness she had finally given herself. To take up the sword again would say that she had still not done enough to pay for her crimes.
In truth, she did everything she could - she gave selflessly of her life for strangers. Throughout myth, legend, and literature, there is no greater sacrifice a hero can make.
I am sorry to see the series end, but Xena lives on in my heart and mind, just as she lives on in the hearts and minds of thousands all over the world.
Her story may be over, but I hope that my own is just beginning.
From: Sandy Martino
Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2001 12:00 AM
Subject: piece for whoosh
It seems eerily prescient that the day the last episode of Xena: Warrior Princess aired; I accidentally knocked my Xena mug to the ground, shattering it. I was left to watch the episode sipping coffee from my Gabrielle mug, featuring the battling Bard in a fighting stance.
Now, over two weeks later, I am still saddened by the show's ending, though it's getting easier to contemplate. As I listen to the Lyre, Lyre CD, ;track 17, one of the more mournful but beautiful Amazon tunes starts. I usually love that song, but since "Friends in Need" I have to hit the stop button on the CD player when it comes on. It's still too sad to listen to, right now.
Why has this program, and its passing, affected me so much? I consider myself to be better versed than many on matters of television; I have a Master's in Communication, focusing on television analysis. I've worked in television. I wrote my master's thesis on Doctor Who, focusing on characters, symbolism, yadda yadda. Someday soon I'd like to analyze Xena from a similarly detached and academic perspective. Maybe it will help me get over the shock of the end. Someday. At the moment, my analytical side is still losing out to my emotional side, but I want to try to put down my thoughts on the passing of Xena: Warrior Princess, and Xena, the Warrior Princess.
I don't know how much of my reaction is due to the fact that the my favorite weekly escapism for six years is no more, and how much is due to the way that Rob Tapert chose to end it. Part of me wishes that the show had left both leads alive to walk off into the sunset, however trite and ordinary that may have been. The other part of me, the part that is a writer that has always applauded the Xena crew for their ability to surprise and even shock me, says "Bravo, Rob!" "Bravo, Lucy and Renee!" "Bravo to all the writers and everyone associated with the show for your great work!"
To me, the ending gave the preceding six seasons perfect closure. It shows a degree of attention to story development and character development that I have seen in few television programs. Near the beginning of Sins of the Past, the show's very first episode, Xena buries her armor and weapons, before she meets and rescues Gabrielle, and decides to use her weapons and skills to fight for the greater good. This action is repeated in Friends in Need, part one, although now these objects so central to her identity as a warrior stay buried. At this point, I was fairly certain she was going to die, especially since she had already taught Gabrielle "the Pinch", and bid her a teary farewell.
Xena's actual death, to me, was not offensive. Upsetting and surprising, yes, but not offensive. It was perfectly appropriate, given her warrior lifestyle, and the way most of the characters in that episode died, faithful to Japanese tradition. Having decided to kill Xena off, yet again, Rob Tapert needed a way that was different, and even more dramatic, than the numerous ways she had died before. After two crucifixions, he couldn't very well finish off the show by having her die in an ordinary battle. And since the God of War himself had been unable to defeat Xena in the past, no human warriors would be able to accomplish this, unless it was with her consent. Certainly a second rate Samurai couldn't do it. Likewise her decision to stay dead, given how many ways she had found to cheat both the Elyssian fields and the Christian Heaven of her presence, in the past, with Gabrielle's help, it's obvious she would have to have to find a good reason to "stay dead", or it wouldn't seem final. With her ghost's lack of a sword and inability to hold the Chakram, her Excalibur, and this distinctive weapon's apparent transferal of it's power to Gabrielle, I thought that the episode perfectly set Xena up for her next lifetime, as a weaponless leader for peace. It also sets Gabrielle up for her future incarnation, as the young warrior who fights for her. To me, this is the clearest indication that the show is truly done; if a movie were to be made, returning Xena to life, this perfect set up for their future lifetime would be undermined. I couldn't see Gabrielle simply saying "Here's your Chakram back" as she and Xena throw themselves into yet another battle. Xena has moved past the need to fight. It is interesting that her spirit still manifests itself in her old armor. Perhaps it is to provide comfort to Gabrielle. Perhaps she is not really "there", but only in Gabby's mind, and that is how she chooses to remember her. I prefer to think her spirit is actually there, and will remain there, as she promised. Her lack of physical weapons, but presence of armor, seems to indicate that even as a ghost - and in her next incarnation - she is willing to stand her ground and "fight" for what she believes in, but not with physical violence.
The ending of the Warrior Princess might not have been one that any fan who hoped for further adventures, like myself, would have preferred. It was, however, a perfect way to to resolve her karma, set Xena and Gabrielle up for their next lives, and give a break to a hard-working production staff and cast who I am sure want to move on to other things. They have certainly earned that right. For myself, with a touch of humor, I try to imagine Xena and Gabrielle traveling on together, with Xena rendering moral support and the occasionally invisible fighting assist, or bit of ghostly shtick, a character who is a cross between Obi Wan Kenobi and Beetlejuice. All hail to Xena: Warrior Poltergeist, as she was recently called on Chakram. For as they said in episode disclaimer, "Xena was permanently harmed in the making of this motion picture, but she kept her spirits up."
Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2001 12:20 AM
Subject: Group Therapy Issue Submission
I first saw the series finale at the Museum of Television & Radio screening on June 19th. The negative impact was such that I couldn't sleep that night until I wrote an open letter to Rob Tapert addressing what I'd seen, his ultimate responsibility for it and my battered heart. The reference I keep making to "dramatic affect" is in response to his excuse during the Q&A session over why he made the choice to kill Xena. He kept saying that he felt it would have the most dramatic affect to kill the character for the finale. I've since viewed the episode again and find I'm still disappointed and grieving even though I recognize the many beautiful and impactful moments in the finale that must be lauded.
Open Letter To Rob Tapert
I'm writing this having come from seeing the Xena season finale at the Museum of Television and Radio tonight. I'm not sure how to describe what I'm feeling right now-- empty, hurting, silent. There's a silence slowly enveloping my soul, borne on tired solemn beats of heartache I cannot stop. It started the instant she disappeared from Gabrielle's side. I sat there stunned, crushed, shattered.... mere words can't convey how terrible it was. I couldn't even join in the chorus of boos that erupted amid the tepid applause during the credits, as much as I wanted to. When the lights came up I wanted to shout out - "Why did you do that? What gives you the right to do that to us?"
You see, it was worse because I've already been grieving simply from knowing the end was near, and I know how ridiculous this can sound-- moaning over the end of a tele show-- how pathetic. I can hear the list junkies now-- it's not real, they're just TV characters, get a life, blah, blah, blah. But this was a show that touched me as no other, that I dreamt about and wrote about and thought about long after the stories were over. These two characters touched a place inside that no other characters could ever hope to touch again, and it was bad enough that that was over - you had to make sure that it would end, not in joy and a fond farewell, but in loss and regret and pain.
I understand an actors need to move on, I welcome that part of it and look forward to watching Lucy & Renee in whatever future projects they do. I'd accepted that all good things come to an end and that there would be no new adventures to captivate me, no more love scenes to bring tears to my eyes-- yes, there were love scenes aplenty in this show and they didn't need to kiss to make them so-- no more wickedly fun comedies, awesome outrageous fights, no more stories of camaraderie, soul searching and love between two strong, intelligent women that spoke so eloquently to my heart and filled me with gratitude for this utterly unique show. The series was ending, but I could always hold out hope for a change at Studios USA and the possibility of a film. Now, instead of the pain of a loss, that at least carried a seed of hope for a continuance in the future, you've brought a pain filled with desolation for a hope destroyed, a dream that sank out of reach as surely as the sun sank below the horizon in that terrible scene. Since you were leaving us against our will you could at least have left us with joy in our hearts, not pain-- terrible terrible pain. I can't help but think what a callous disregard you have for us fans, all in the name of "dramatic affect".
That the premise of the "dramatic affect" was so lame only rubs salt into the wound. That Xena could redeem her soul by dying for those "unavenged" souls is ludicrous, since the reasoning that doing so was the only way she could change their destiny is false. Their karma determines their next destination, how they had lived their lives-- which wouldn't be changed by someone dying for them. Only Xena's karmic fate would be changed by that act, and that you could argue was your point. Yet, in Buddhism we are taught that the main karmic determiner is motivation, not action, and since Xena certainly had no intention of burning the entire town and killing 40,000 people, the reasoning that she could only pay her karmic debt by sacrificing her own life is patently false. A hundred people could have sacrificed themselves for those souls and it still wouldn't guarantee they'd be "in a state of grace" in the afterlife. Xena could free them from Yodoshi, but only their own conduct while they were living would determine their next evolution. A soul is eternal - it can't be "lost forever" because it isn't avenged.
Buddhism also teaches that altruism is the most powerful motivation in karmic law. A life of altruism is what both Xena and Gabrielle have been living for years - yet that means nothing towards redeeming her soul? There's also the fact that she and Gabrielle saved Higuchi, the very same town, from an attacking army and put out a fire that could very well have destroyed the town again-- surely big points towards paying her karmic debt. Regret, owning honestly the harm you've done, asking forgiveness, are all also steps that count towards paying karmic debt in the same lifetime - all things Xena has done.
What galls the most is that it had already been established that Xena's best destiny was to fight evil, to dedicate her life and her sword to saving lives, freeing slaves, righting wrongs-- making a difference. That is her redemption. The way to pay her debt is through good deeds and right mind. I thought Xena had finally understood and accepted this when Lord Krishna told her that her path in this life was that of a warrior and she should be at peace with that. To change what's already been established, to lose all sense of continuity is a woefully lame choice-- and to send a message that only through punishment, an eye for an eye, can a soul be redeemed is simply wrong and contrary to all the show has been about. Killing a major character for "dramatic affect" is a cheap device that isn't worthy of you or RJ Stewart. It's a common device as well. There's a running joke among X-Files fans that when Chris Carter needs some "dramatic affect" in a major mythology arc episode he always resorts to killing off a major character. So you see, you weren't even being original, much less innovative, which has always been a hallmark of this show.
Ultimately, I wanted Xena to exit in triumph not failure, and not finding a way to free those souls without sacrificing her life was a failure. Instead of Xena triumphant you've left us with Xena the failure. Instead of a lasting vision of two soulmates journeying together through life and love and learning, you've left us with the lasting vision of one brutally punished and the other alone, adrift and grieving. Your parting gift to us is a wretched burden of sorrow and a deep ache of disappointment.
Will I ever watch another Rob Tapert creation? Of course I will. You're the man who's daring vision created this grand show. The man who embraced the subtext and even had the bravery to let it become maintext, who realized that Gabrielle's journey was as important as Xena's, who brought in fanfic writers in the last season; I could go on and on-- and maybe that's why it's so disappointing-- I expected so much more from you.
You see, no matter how objectively I view it now, no matter how much I appreciate the overall quality, be it in cinematography, editing or directing. No matter that the line "If I only had 30 seconds to live this is how I'd want to live them, like this, looking into your eyes." is the most beautiful I've ever heard in any work of art. No matter how moved I am by Lucy & Renee's performances; the fact of the matter is that it hurts-- it still hurts, and I'm left wondering, 2 weeks later, when it's going to stop hurting.
I thank you Rob Tapert for all that went before, for your vision and bravery and irreverence-- but I can never thank you for this.
From: roc law
Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2001 10:13 AM
In response to Mr. Tapert's folly in the final episodes of Xena.
I am saddened, disappointed and dismayed that a single man's contempt for his fans could be conveyed in such a malicious and pointed manner to punish the fandom that made him a wealthy man and supported him through controversy, poor ratings, through thick and thin.
What can one say when the vehicle for all their dreams and aspirations was dashed in all of 80 minutes. The plot holes were vast, that is for sure, but we have always been tolerant of the "artistic license" taken with Xena, but no-one would ever guess the betrayal we would endure in Mr. Tapert's' version of how he felt Xena should end. In the beginning his vision may have held water. He was presenting a Warrior Princess with a seriously evil past to us and if it was not for her chance encounter with the villagers of Poteidaia and her meeting with Gabrielle that we would not have had a series to follow. Sure, it was clever to reverse the role of the hero to allow her to have a past rather than to build it from the ground up. Definitely more meaty. But this is where the analogy stops.
What Mr. Tapert did not factor into his vision of Xena was the strong friendship that would blossom between a sidekick that was put there as a support character ala Batman and Robin and the ensuing power of love that would grow with the audience and the noticeable issue of subtext. What Mr. Tapert did not count on was that this friendship would evolve into a love story of such magnitude that it stole the hearts of all who seriously watched the show and in the end became the reason why so many watched the show, myself included. I have endured through the fight scenes just to watch the amazing chemistry between Renee and Lucy and the life they injected into their respective characters. I don't think Mr. Tapert ever understood the meaning of these characters to his audience.
Mr. Tapert ended Xena as her character was originally written, a tragic character desperately seeking redemption but never allowing herself the luxury of actually achieving it in her own mind. But where this vision ends is somewhere in the 3rd season where Xena finally admits to Gabrielle in One Against an Army that she has done paying for her past mistakes. Every week every episode Xena redeems herself. Her love of Gabrielle grows and their relationship develops into a poignant love story. Each needs the other there is no doubt about that. So it is cold comfort that Gabrielle has to spend the rest of her life talking to a spirit. Just don't even think of Najara and her Djin. This has shortchanged all who have loved this show. I feel cheated, betrayed saddened and disappointed that in this world of violence and hate we could not have had a happy ending. The news is full of tragedy, people's lives are full of hardship, Xena should have been allowed to live as a symbol of hope. Hope is a word the Xena people have been touting for years now why not head it?
As for Akemi, this was a character that never should have surfaced. I can understand Xena dying for Gabrielle but to be so brutal to the audience as to have us believe that Xena was misled, conned etc. by this manipulator is truly punishment. I would have rather had a showdown with Alti, a character already in existence. To present us with yet another hard done by from Xena's past was too much, and to have us believe that Xena would love her so strongly after only a few weeks and have her die because of this passing character almost makes me scream for Gabrielle.
As for Xena and Gabrielle being lovers all I can say is that if I had a love so strong, so beautiful, so loving I would consider its natural path to follow and they should have been allowed to do so as well. One last kiss was not enough. The issue of gender should never enter into it.
Perhaps Mr. Tapert just spat the dummy and decided that all of the fan pressure he had endured over the years just needed to be punished and that he did. Or maybe he did not recognize that his character had outgrown his original vision and the vision had just simply changed.
From: Brian Andriolo
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2001 9:37 AM
Subject: last episode essay
I have been a fan of some great T.V. shows in the past, but Xena will go down in history as my favorite. I have never been so moved by a series ender—so moved in fact that I decided to write down my thoughts and submit them to the website, something that I have never done before and will probably never do again for any other show. That should express to you the strong impact Xena has had on me.
The final episode of Xena was a memorable, fitting end to an amazing series that was second to none in its portrayal of friendship, love, and loyalty. The episode had everything that true fans could have hoped for: drama, comedy, great harness scenes, teary scenes of friendship and loyalty, and of course, deep sadness. If Xena and Gabrielle had walked off into the sunset, then the whole premise of the series (doing what’s necessary for the greater good) would have been cheapened and I would have been very disappointed. I was waiting in anticipation for something to surface from Xena’s past that she couldn’t “make right” without recourse and this episode provided it in incredible fashion. She was finally faced with what was inevitable for her—a no win scenario--something she couldn’t fix without paying the ultimate price. Because of her clouded past, her obsession with retribution throughout the episode (and series), regardless of the consequences to her, was both understandable and all-consuming. Over the duration of the show, she was always able to rectify her past atrocities and move on in life with little or no personal punishment or recourse. The Ring Arc is the perfect example of this.
The biggest irony of her death is the fact that I thought it would come about while trying to rectify one of the deliberate acts of suffering she caused in her past. However, it was brought about as the result of a tragic accident, one that she wasn’t even aware of when it happened and one that was mostly out of her control. She was doing probably the first noble deed of her life out of respect (or love) for Akemi and 40,000 souls inadvertently got trapped in the middle. I found this method of death very fitting for her and my one thought at the end of the episode as I was rubbing the mist from my eyes was “WOW, how awesome an ending was that!!!”. Unlike the anticlimactic and unmemorable ending of Hercules, this ender will occupy my mind (and VCR) for a very long time.
To me, this episode had several emotional scenes that made it unique and special. Some of the best ones were Xena’s “if I had only 30 seconds to live” scene with Gabrielle; Xena continuing to mow down Yodoshi’s army even with several arrow wounds (great visual effects by the way); Gabrielle, at the fountain of strength, deflecting Yodoshi’s fire ball; and of course the ensuing lip lock between Xena and Gabrielle.
However, for me the most emotional scenes of the episode involved Gabrielle and her unswerving loyalty and love for Xena—her determination to recover Xena’s dead body (and head!), the fact that she had the stomach to burn Xena ’s body into ashes, the aforementioned scene at the fountain of strength, and her willingness to scale a cliff to recover Xena’s ashes without regard for her own safety.
The emotional scene that took the bacon, however, was Gabrielle’s throwing of the chakram and watching in astonishment as it hit its target and then deflected back to her. The emotion she expressed in her lines “Dignity, huh. Like you showed my friend” pushed me over the edge and further expressed how deep her love for Xena is and her determination to bring her back. Put all that together with the great background music and sunset scenery and you have one of the best scenes of the entire series.
I’ve now been dwelling on this episode for a few weeks now, which is what I’ m sure Lucy, Renee, and Robert wanted. They left me with a feeling of deep sadness, yet also with a feeling of deep fulfillment. The series went off into the sunset with a big bang and I’ll have an unfillable void in my heart this fall when it really hits me that there is no more Xena.
Thank you for six outstanding years!!!!
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2001 6:58 PM
Subject: Understanding Akemi/Xena's bond/Xena's quest for goodness/
Most people, after the finale had many questions. Why did Xena feel so strongly about Akemi if they were only together for a short time? Why was Xena crying? If you want to understand this, you must go back to when M'Lila saved Xena from the Romans. M'Lila knew that Xena was a good person, and Xena knew that's why M'Lila saved her.
When the Romans killed M'Lila, they took away that hope she gave to Xena, they crushed it leaving Xena to take her anger out on the world. Xena left a path of destruction from Greece to Chin, where she met Lao Ma. Lao Ma was much like M'Lila, trying to bring out the good in her. But it was also taken away when she killed Ming Tzu. Lao Ma brought back that light which Xena had forgotten. Xena traveled to Japa, where she met Akemi
Now this is where we are at, Akemi is saved by Xena because of her compassion and her beliefs that Xena will be her teacher one day. It was obvious that Xena wanted to bring out the good in her. But when Akemi betrayed Xena to avenge her family, Xena was saddened. Even when Akemi betrayed Xena, Xena still did not want to kill her. Xena heartbroken. She didn't know if anyone could be her friend like that again. Akemi was not someone who had power like Lao Ma (but Lao Ma is still cool :) ....not like M'Lila who was in a life or death situation (she's cool too:) but someone who liked Xena because she did. This is why I think that Xena in "Adventures in Sin Trade" was a bit more evil.
But the series has another reason why Xena liked Akemi so much. Akemi was just like Gabrielle. Xena saved Akemi from an evil warlord, and Akemi became fascinated by her, it is with Gabrielle. It was just that Akemi died, and Gabrielle didn't.
Through the time period when Xena was "evil", she met many people who tried to change her, and ended up giving her a gift. Borias gave Xena the gift of love, the love that would change Xena in a compassionate warrior. M'Lila gave the gift of hope, hope that Xena could change. Lao Ma gave her the gift of Peace, to try to help Xena ease her pain. Akemi gave Xena the gift of friendship, she was one of the first real friends Xena had while she was evil. Cyane gave Xena the gift of the warrior. Alti gave the gift of greed, Alti made Xena to want to become the Destroyer of Nations. Hercules gave Xena the gift of redemption. All of these people helped Xena along the way towards becoming a warrior of good. Gabrielle was the most important figure in Xena's life. She gave the gift of love, friendship, peace, and hope.
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