Flex Those Pecs (01-04)
The Most Delicious Warrior (05-07)
Without His Powers (08-11)
Resistance is Futile (12-15)
Not What It Looks Like (16-19)
Even in Death (20-21)
Flex Those Pecs
Even the God of War gets peckish from time to time.
 I read the news that Kevin Smith was dead on Whoosh! just before typing my weekly Alias episode commentary. I was stunned and saddened at the news, saddened for the loss to his family, but also saddened for the loss to us all of Ares, God of War, a truly memorable character in the Xena pantheon.
 Kevin Smith played that character for six seasons on Xena: Warrior Princess. From warrior to farmer, friend to lethal enemy, Ares dominated and delighted in every episode in which he appeared. What a man! Smith as Ares is -- yes, still is -- manhood personified: gorgeous and unbelievably sexy. He sizzles!
 When I read the news that Kevin Smith had just died, what immediately flashed into my mind was not his face, or even his body. What popped into awareness was a remembrance of Smith/Ares flexing his left pec muscle. He did this with whimsy and wit in OLD ARES HAD A FARM, for the benefit of Greba, the "neighbor lady." This snapshot of Smith's left pec I remember now like a "good-bye" wink.
 Funny what comes into one's mind when someone dies. This small, almost trivial, remembrance becomes touching and vivid, frozen in time. This is Ares, Kevin Smith, and beneath those pecs beat a heart long appreciated and applauded. Flex those pecs, Ares.
The Most Delicious Warrior
 "You are the most divine, delicious warrior," Ares says to Xena in THE BITTER SUITE, as he swings his throne chair around to face her. He is surrounded by soldiers, and half sits, half sprawls --characteristically casual -- one leg slung over the side of the throne. He strokes his sword suggestively. This guy is hot. Ares, so artfully and skillfully played by Smith, is droll and graced not only with a terrific baritone voice, but he could be speaking of himself when he says, "divine, delicious warrior."
 Ares lives. Kevin Smith does too, through Ares, through all the episodes filmed, and now on video. Those of us who only knew Smith as Ares can still see him, alive, well, and "delicious" any time. Episodes can be replayed. All actors -- and politicians too, even ordinary people long dead -- caught on film, still live.
 We lose nothing in death of what we have, only in what could be. For fans, that means no future roles from Smith as Ares. By extension, Xena: Warrior Princess revival prospects are dimmed. Xena without Gabrielle, I could imagine; but Xena without Ares? That could never be. For me, the loss of Smith is more than the loss of an actor and a man at the height of his powers. The loss is mine for "more."
Without His Powers
Ares tries to look like a powerless peasant in ARES FARM.
 Like Minya in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER, "I expected more from the God of War," years more. Minya also says of Ares, "Without his powers, he's just another man." But, Ares can never lose his powers. On film, Ares lives forever, and through him, Kevin Smith, the man.
 In the same episode, Smith as Ares, says, "I still got it." Then, he jiggles his fist like he is about to throw dice, and heaves a fireball at the heels of a fleeing army general. A flash of razzle-dazzle and special effects punctuate his throw. This is the Ares we all know and love.
 This is the same Ares who comes and goes in a shimmering flash. Only Xena knows when Ares is about to appear, much to his consternation. "How do you know?" he asks again and again. So too do I, in my remembrances. Like his character Ares, who lost his immortality in Xena: Warrior Princess, only to regain it again, now too Kevin Smith, who lost his immortality temporarily through "life", now regains it again in death.
 Whether we knew Smith personally or only through film or media, Kevin Smith is a part of our lives forever. Death is a thread dropped from life's enormous tapestry. The thread may be gone, but the memory lingers on. Or, perhaps the thread is not gone, but merely concealed, hidden on the other side -- out of sight, but not out of heart or mind.
Resistance Is Futile
 Alive or dead, everyone who touches our awareness, for however long or short a time, becomes part of who we are. That includes Smith. That includes Ares. That includes us all. Though we can physically be lost to others, we cannot -- any of us -- be lost to consciousness, the collective consciousness of us all. For as long as we are remembered, we are not dead.
 We are more like a Borg collective on Star Trek: Voyager than we may sometimes care to admit. Individuality only has meaning in terms of the whole, the experiences of all of us experiencing each other. When someone dies, we weep as much for ourselves as the person dead. We weep for the "roles" that person plays in our lives, and for the loss of more portrayals. Yet, resistance is futile.
 Death, and the sense of loss, is the same, whether for actors, friends, or relatives. Everything we know about other people comes to us through the filter of our feelings, beliefs, and expectations -- the images we create. The image is what we know and not the person. And images cannot die.
 For those of us who knew Kevin Smith only as "Ares," Kevin Smith is dead. Those pecs we see in OLD ARES HAD A FARM flex no more in life. Yet, in film those pecs are immortal.
Not What It Looks Like
 Xena and Ares, half-naked on a couch, kiss passionately in AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE. When her daughter and mother unexpectedly walk in, Xena says, "This is not what it looks like." To which Ares responds, "Yes, it is."
 If life is not an accident, how can death be? Our lives all have timelines. That, at least, near-death experiences reveal. For some still alive, in excruciating pain, or suffering from irreversible injuries or illnesses, death can be, as Ares says to Xena in THE BITTER SUITE, "viewed as a gift." Questions are asked. Growth happens. But, in THE BITTER SUITE, Xena has only killed the "illusion" of Gabrielle.
 "Words of wisdom," Ares said. "When in battle, keep your head," sings a soldier in THE BITTER SUITE. Good advice. Kevin Smith still lives, and Ares too. That is the "illusion" for this Illusia we call life. Those terminally sick or devastatingly injured may be, for all we know, healed and vibrant after death.
 That was true of my grandfather. Shortly after his death, he visited me in a dream. He died in the middle of the night, while I was asleep. Though my grandfather was nearly ninety and in poor health when he died, in my "dream," he was little more than thirty. He said nothing, but he looked radiant with joy and vitality. He smiled and smiled and smiled.
Even In Death
 When the phone call came to tell me my grandfather was dead, I felt no loss or sadness. Instead, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that "things are not always what they seem." I was thirty years old myself when my grandfather died. For awhile, we were the same age. When I die, perhaps we will be the same age again. I will look forward to that.
 Ares is immortal, so too is Kevin Smith. In the remembrances of us all, Kevin Smith and Ares live on. Though the words are spoken by Xena to Gabrielle in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, the words could as well be spoken by Ares, or Kevin Smith, to us all: "Even in death, I will not leave you." And so it is.
Adriane Saunders, "Did Xena Have To Die?" WHOOSH #59 (08/01)
Who is Adriane Saunders? Adriane is a commercial artist and writer, who--though an American--lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her background includes visual arts, radio broadcasting, public speaking, bodybuilding, fitness, mountaineering, and meditation. Adriane's spin on life is simple: "Show up and follow the clues." Adriane also writes for Whoosh weekly episode commentaries for Alias, ABC-TV's new hit show about a double agent.
Favorite episode: IDES OF MARCH
Favorite line: Xena: "I have many skills," said from time to time throughout the series, usually deadpan.
First episode seen: DESTINY
Least favorite episode: FALLEN ANGEL