Whoosh! Issue 68 - May 2002

By Michael Walker
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
2191 words

Xena Is Dead (01-04)
Xena Is Mourned (05-09)
Why Xena? (10-20)
Now That The Dust Has Cleared (21-23)


What is the way of the warrior?
The way of the warrior is death.
--Shao Tzu, warrior philosopher

Xena Is Dead

Whoa!  She *is* tall, even without a head!

Gabrielle sees the headless body of her friend.

[01] Xena is dead. Let us all take a moment and say it together. Xena is dead. Yes, her clone is running about the present day with a copied Gabrielle. Yes, her reincarnation has set up shop with her soulmate's descendent. Yes, she has died before. Yes, Buffy died too -- but then Ms. Gellar has a contract for another two seasons and an ex-boyfriend whom the 'powers that be' owe a supernatural resurrection, check out the Angel episode "Trial." Renaissance Pictures has sold the sets, closed their New Zealand offices, and said goodbye to the cast and crew. Yes, Lucy Lawless is alive and kicking, and while she draws breath, there is always the hope of a TV movie or feature film. This is probably the only time the show's fans wish ill to the star in the hope she will come crawling back! For after all, Lucy Lawless is Xena. Yes, I know that strictly speaking Hudson Leick, Ted Raimi, Renee O'Connor, and Renee Schuda

[who played a young Xena in FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318)] were Xena too. Nonetheless, Xena is dead.

[02] A samurai warrior filled Xena with arrows and decapitated her. Xena's body was cremated and Gabrielle did not resurrect Xena because of Xena's request to save 40,000 souls. Xena lives on only through her deeds and in Gabrielle's heart. To paraphrase Ally McBeal for her lost love, Xena is "dead, we loved her and she is going to be dead forever". The specter, which appears on the boat with Gabrielle, is no more real than Billy appearing to Ally or Sheridan watching the sunrise with Delenn. Xena is not going to follow Gabrielle around like a Quantum Leap style hologram for the rest of her life. To quote Commander Adama of Starbuck, "Don't you think I loved him like a son? But there is no going back. Not now! Not ever!" Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.

[03] I am a Metropolitan police officer. I have seen life in the raw. I have walked into a house and pushed aside a hanging body so that I could check to see if he had murdered his family before killing himself. I have taken a road traffic accident victim to a hospital with his shattered femur protruding two inches like a spear through the flesh of his thigh. I have had a drunken ex-paratrooper walk into the station, hand me a bloodied knife, and tell me the voices in his head have been telling him to kill his brother again. I have attended autopsies and held a pair of human lungs in my hands. I know what happens when an express train strikes a fleeing mugger and we only find a third of his body mass, or a despondent soldier puts his rifle barrel in his mouth and pulls the trigger. I have looked into the eyes of real rapists and murderers and seen the shark-like blankness there, the deadness in their hearts that stops them considering the feelings of any human beings other than themselves.

[04] Afterwards I would go for a cup of tea and a big fry up, because it did not mean anything to me. Life has made me hard. Yet, I cried for Xena.

Xena Is Mourned

No marshmallows at hand when you need them.

The first time Joxer is killed in BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, he is given a dignified funeral pyre.

[05] None of this compared to sitting in the audience at the Chariots of War convention. Having just spent the afternoon with Karl Urban in a dress and Hudson Leick practically naked from the waist down (do not ask), I felt I had had my money's worth. Watching Xena at a convention is a wonderful experience. Everyone gets the in-jokes and laughs together. During a montage of Joxer clips all the guys cheered when he finally kissed Gabrielle during FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS and a disturbing number of women cheered when he died in BEEN THERE DONE THAT. Shame on you ladies!

[06] I approached the screening of the final episode with trepidation, deliberately having avoided knowing the outcome. Forget 'edge of the seat' when I parachuted. I never felt the same kind of anxiety as I felt in the room at that moment. I was swearing at Gabrielle under my breath during the last five minutes. ("Dump it in the fountain you stupid b*tch!") But it was not to be. They played with us to the last and then it was all over. Elvis had left the building.

[07] I did not think anything could top Callisto's anguished reaction when she tried to save her family in ARMAGEDDON NOW but ended up killing them herself -- a scene that epitomized the awful paradox of her character. Its only possible rival was Hercules' monumentally tragic slaying of his father Zeus in MOTHERHOOD, without a doubt Kevin Sorbo's finest moment. I had not seen anything yet.

[08] People were weeping. I wanted to, but a lifetime of male peer pressure, grammar school, and the military forbade me to do so in public. As I left, a hotel guest not attending the convention chatted to me about what was happening. I tried to explain, tried to make her understand "Like the last episode of MASH" but the words could not convey the reality of what had happened. On the bus to the airport, I talked to a fellow conventioneer who was dabbing her eyes and sniffling like crazy. It was her hayfever, she said. Of course it was. Strange how it stopped once we got talking.

[09] For good or ill, I had just watched a momentous event. It was wonderful but now it was over. Xena had completed her journey and Gabrielle was continuing hers. Through all the sham and drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world.

Why Xena?

[10] When I started watching Xena, I was at a low point in my life. I had just left my dream career, the Navy, and was stuck in a job I hated. My original reasons were the same ones I had watched Wonder Woman for: a great looking woman in a ridiculous costume. I vaguely knew of Hercules but had considered that a childish Power Rangers style kids show that trampled on Greek mythology. The ad for Xena that convinced me was the one where she suited up to the tune of Meredith Brooks' hit "B*tch", the voiceover declaring that this was the best reason in the world to wear leather.

[11] The lyrics of the song are actually very appropriate.

She's a b*tch, she's a lover,
she's a child, she's a mother.
She's a sinner, she's a saint,
she will not be explained.
She's a witch, she's a tease,
she's a goddess on her knees.
You know you wouldn't want it any other way.

[12] It was THE RETURN OF CALLISTO that put the hook in me. Hudson Leick was incredible, but when Xena let Callisto die, I realized this was more than just a westernized version of Monkey/She Ra with a playmate of the year providing some eye candy and lesbian teasing. From then on, I embraced this wonderful, life enhancing show. I even tried watching Hercules but eventually gave up and just concentrated on the crossovers and the fabulous modern day episodes.

[13] But why did Xena have to die? Iolaus and Hercules got to walk off into the sunset together, Hercules is still around posing as Kevin Sorbo and we are informed that Iolaus lived to be one hundred years old. Why could Xena not have lived to enjoy the world her courage created? Because Hercules is only a good show, that is why. Xena is simply better.

[14] As fans, we are a little too quick to forgive her. Callisto at her worst is nothing compared to the Xena we saw in THE DEBT. When Hope and Ares offered Callisto the world, she turned them down where Xena would have leapt at the chance. All Callisto wanted was revenge, to sate the gnawing, aching hunger that ate away inside of her. But nothing ever would, not Solan's death in MATERNAL INSTINCTS, not Gabrielle's in SACRIFICE, not her own or even Xena's. Xena, by contrast, does not fixate on Cortese or Caesar in the same way. Circumstance may have shaped her but she chose conquest as her own path. Had Xena not been reformed, Callisto would have been the hero, but Xena's conversion puts her in an impossible bind.

[15] I reject the idea of Xena as Christ figure, beyond having a God for a father and their shared trait of being crucified and resurrected. Christ was sinless and took the sins of the world as his own. Xena had plenty to atone for. It is tempting to compare her to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character Angel, but again this is misleading. Certainly, they are both brooding, dark haired, and looking for redemption, but Xena had a large degree of free choice in the matter and took great pleasure in her actions. Angel was Don McLeans' archetypal 'lonely drunken teenage buck' undergoing a period of Prince Hal-like teenage rebellion who had the misfortune to catch the eye of the wrong girl in the tavern one night. Xena always knew the consequences of her actions. Xena had a soul.

[16] Therefore, they killed her.

[17] We do not feel sorry for Xena. She is finally at peace. We do not feel sorry for Gabrielle. She understood. That is why she did not pour the ashes in the fountain. It would have meant that the last six years and all the good Xena had done were for nothing. We do not know if they were lovers, but that does not matter. What matters is that they loved each other. Who cares if it was physical or not? It is like complaining that we do not know if Bogart's character was arrested at the end of Casablanca, if Verbal Kint really was Keyzer Soze, or if Total Recall was all a dream. We can believe what we want to.

[18] Yes, we feel sorry for ourselves and that we must go on in a world without this wonderful character and the pleasure and inspiration she gave us. So are we going to shake our fists at the sky and curse the god of Eli for making the world as it is? I feel this would be ungrateful, the ultimate case of looking the gift horse in the mouth. Equally, let us stop resenting and threatening Rob Tapert, a great guy who made a very brave decision symptomatic of the kind of innovation Xena gave us. Clip shows that were not just people sitting around saying 'remember when', pseudo-documentaries, comedy, tragedy, drama, and turning a broken pelvis into an opportunity to let the supporting cast have a ball. Making a series that can step outside its narrative boundaries and make fun of itself before plunging without a ripple of contradiction back into dramatic context. Playing hard and fast with myth and history but doing so with such delight it just does not seem to matter.

[19] It does not surprise me that Buffy swapped bodies with her nemesis Faith and has a musical episode. Or that Seinfeld had a backwards episode or that we have had Buffy, Sheena, Dark Angel, Sinbad, The Lost World, and The New Adventures of Robin Hood. Xena was a truly tough, powerful female character, very different from any of Charlie's Angels or even Diana Prince.

[20] So, let us leave Rob alone or he might just send his missus around to sort us out! What do you mean 'I wish'? Shame on you!

Now That The Dust Has Cleared

Failing to heed the adage 'Go before you go', Gabrielle finds the one shipboard restroom occupied while she has a strong urge to pee

Gabrielle sails off into the sunset, alone, at the conclusion of the series finale.

[21] Like a certain X-Files genie, let us not think of what we have lost. Let us pour ourselves a good cup of coffee and think of what we had, what we have, and the legacy Xena has left us. It was never a show that gave us easy ways out. It did not end with a freeze frame of the cast laughing at some corny joke nor was the clock magically reset and the status quo resumed. It was about life in all its glory, death, and love -- the three all but indivisible. Yet, overall it gave us a message of love, eternal, unflinching, and all encompassing.

[22] We loved you Xena.

[23] We loved you and you died and left us all alone. We were angry and hurt and wanted to know WHY. Yet, we still love you. That will never change. Our love is eternal, unflinching, and all embracing. Xena is dead. Accept it. Accept her.


Michael Walker, "What Now?," Whoosh #66 (March 2002)


a man of mystery Michael Walker

A man of mystery.



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