Introduction: So Far, So Good (01-04)
More Than Just a TV Show (05-08)
Vengeance Has Never Been the Answer (09-13)
The Bottom Line (14-15)
THE SERIES FINALE:
WHAT THEY GOT RIGHT AND WHAT THEY DID NOT
Introduction: So Far, So Good
Kenji explains his tale of woe and the plight of 40,000 or so souls.
 Unlike many fans, I am not angry that Xena died a warrior's death. A few episodes allude to the fact that Xena expected this. The most notable is her statement in THE PRICE (44/220), where she stated that she would die as "a warrior, with a sword in my hand". In fact, of all Xena's deaths, her demise in battle in the opening moments of FRIEND IN NEED II (134/622) is the closest to that warrior ideal.
 I did not enjoy the image of her headless body. In fact, I tossed and turned all night after watching FRIEND IN NEED II, trying to get that disturbing image out of my head. However, she did go down swinging and with Gabrielle's name on her lips. Some people have complained that The Powers That Be overdid it. Xena was shot with arrows, beheaded, and cremated. The last by Gabrielle, following a plan to bring the warrior back to life. Well, no one ever said that Xena was easy to kill.
 While I am no fan of Gabrielle being left alone at the end, it has been clear that she would be able to move on. Gabrielle has always been more emotionally resilient than Xena. Compare Xena's reactions to Gabrielle's "deaths" in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124) and ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69/401, 70/402) to Gabrielle's reactions to Xena's "deaths" in THE GREATER GOOD (21/121) and THE QUEST (37/213). While Xena practically falls apart emotionally and will not give up until she has Gabrielle back, Gabrielle expresses her heartfelt grief, and does her best to fight bravely forward, almost as a tribute to Xena. Gabrielle wears her grief like a delicate cloak, where Xena's cloak would be torn to shreds. This does not mean that Gabrielle loves Xena less. They have simply expressed two different human reactions to losing a loved one.
 There were many good things about the series finale, things that many people have mentioned. The acting by the leads was some of the best in the entire series, some of the costumes were beautiful (Xena in red, Gabrielle in blue), and the camera work did have a movie quality to it. Moreover, Xena did get a hero's end, which is actually in keeping with traditional myth. Even the mythological Hercules, not the TV or cartoon one, died at the end of his story.
More Than Just a TV Show
 There are a few niggling points that I cannot let go of. They mostly stem from the apparent reality that The Powers That Be (Rob Tapert and RJ Stewart) never have wanted to take responsibility for the fact that their silly little TV show turned into something much more. For many fans, Xena turned out to be much more than a scantily clad, sword-wielding warrior babe. I have a strange suspicion that that is all The Powers That Be have ever wanted her to be. The fact that people, women in particular, came to see Xena as a larger than life hero and a cultural and feminist icon, seemed to irritate them, or bring out their rebellious streak.
 Had they spent more time surfing the Internet or reading Whoosh, their perception that Xena is just a lesbian icon would be shattered. She is that and much more. There have been countless stories of people who have been in the throes of illness or despair, and they got some kind of strength from watching Xena overcome the odds week after week. Others have decided to learn more about the ancient world, Greek mythology, or world religions. I cannot count how many times I have pulled out Edith Hamilton's Mythology, Tao Te Ching, or world history maps to figure out just where Thrace would have been, for example. Still others found the motivation they needed to make life-altering decisions. Of course, there are plenty of fans that have enjoyed the show because it was consistently more interesting than almost anything else on television.
 So, did The Powers That Be have any obligation to think of the Greater Good -- what Xena has meant to the very diverse fans all these years - rather than their desire to simply make the finale they wanted to make? In a word, yes. They actually could have done both, allow Xena the warrior send-off she deserves, and satisfy more of the fans. A little more thought on their part would have done the trick.
 Even if they wanted to keep the flimsy motivation for Xena to want to save the souls of Higuchi from Yodoshi's grasp, and even if they wanted to keep in the plot points that prove Xena was manipulated by Akemi from the moment they met until the moment Xena died, and even if they liked the inept Ghost Killer (he does not die himself to kill Yodoshi and when he finally gets close enough, he does not factor in the Fountain of Strength?), all that could have been forgiven if the last 10 minutes had been done right.
Vengeance Has Never Been the Answer
 Actually, most of the last 10 minutes were very well done. My quibble is with the reason Xena gives for needing to stay dead, to avenge the 40,000 souls who burned at Higuchi. Gabrielle spoke for many of us when she said "but that's not right" and "I don't care". She honored Xena's wish, as the sun was nearly setting, which, given the time frame, was mostly in character. However, this reason was nothing more than a technicality. Worse, it went against everything the show has stood for.
 From season one episodes like CALLISTO (22/122) though such season six episodes as THE PATH OF VENGEANCE (126/614) and LAST OF THE CENTAURS (129/617), an overriding theme of the series has been that the cycle of vengeance and hatred will never be broken except by forgiveness and love. The 40,000 souls, lead by Akemi, could have used a dose of love and forgiveness, and directed it at Xena.
 Another theme has been how Xena has continued on, inventing herself every day, trying to atone for her past. We have seen her overcome by the guilt of what she had done in her past in episodes like DESTINY (36/212) and LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407). In THE IDES OF MARCH (89/421), Callisto tried to play on those sentiments to trick Xena from her "way" of the warrior. However, Xena said, "You know that guilt you're counting on, I've put it behind me." Sure, we saw flashes of it through the next two seasons, but guilt was not her overriding motivation anymore. Until the last 10 minutes of the entire series, that is.
 Rob Tapert has been quoted as saying he felt the series enders brought the show full circle, and that he did not want to take the easy way out. I am not sure he met his stated goals. Full circle to him means what, that Xena should die for her sins, just like she was planning to do in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)? Hmmm. Full circle would have been Gabrielle arguing more strongly for Xena to live again, defending her against the ignorant mob of souls, just as she defended Xena against her townspeople who were ready to stone her in that first episode. Not taking the easy way out means killing one hero, the cultural icon, and leaving the other hero alone to fight another day? Not taking the easy way out would have been to create an upbeat ending without making it cheap and maudlin.
 Xena and Gabrielle are soulmates. Xena even introduced Gabrielle to Akemi with that word in the series finale. Some acknowledgement of what they learned in India, that they would meet repeatedly in future lives, would not have been out of place here. More importantly, though, is that Xena's martyrdom should have been for a truly worthy cause, something actually worth leaving her soulmate alone. She did not need to die for Gabrielle to continue on her own hero's journey. She had already become a warrior and a leader in her own right. However, if she did have to die, it just as easily could have been for an atrocity she intended to commit, or for some cause, that would affect Gabrielle and their world in a positive way. As it stands, it seems that Gabrielle is the only one who suffers.
The Bottom Line
Gabrielle isn't happy with some parts of the finale either.
 Therefore, while the finale succeeds on many levels, this one thing at the end does taint it. I do not dispute that the final scenes were heartbreaking. Nevertheless, maybe, The Powers That Be broke the spirit of many fans as well. Hard core fans (there are lots of them) have given their all to this show that became bigger and more important then Rob Tapert and RJ Stewart ever knew or admitted. Xena choosing to stay dead because of a technicality, rather than choosing to return to her soulmate is like a sucker punch. I felt it too, but I am not ready to give up on the show. It has satisfied much more than disappointed.
 I would like to think that, someday, Rob Tapert and RJ Stewart will fully realize the impact their sometimes casual attitude regarding logic and storyline has had on the most devoted fans of the show. I truly hope that the finale was not simply an excuse to fit Xena into some obscure Hong Kong action flick that Rob Tapert admired. I also hope that the fans who feel betrayed by the series finale can heal and remember all the joy the show has brought them over the years.
Bonnie Tryonoviech is an associate editor at Whoosh!
Bonnie was born and raised in Connecticut, leaving after receiving her BA in English to live for a year and a half in Chile. Back in the US, she moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she was a travel agent for 6 years. She is currently a programmer/analyst at a company that provides technology to the travel industry. Her first TV obsession was the Emma Peel episodes of The Avengers. She enjoys surfing the net for all things Xena (favorite sites are Whoosh! And The Tavern Wall), reading Sue Grafton mysteries, and canoeing the lakes of Utah.
Favorite episode: So many to choose from, but just for the sheer joy of it, A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
Favorite line: Xena: "Go home! There are thousands more like me!" ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313); Xena: "Gabrielle, if I only had 30 seconds to live, this is how I'd want to live them, looking into your eyes." FRIEND IN NEED I (133/621)
First episode seen: After seeing bits and pieces of several episodes, the first one I think I saw from start to finish was INTIMATE STRANGER(31/207)
Least favorite episode: I can't make it through KEY TO THE KINGDOM (78/410) without falling asleep, or MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515) without changing the channel, so I guess those would qualify.