HIS GROWTH AS A CHARACTER,
AND HIS INFLUENCE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF GABRIELLE
IAXS Project #275
By Ed Baker (Oshram@aol.com)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
 While there can be little argument that Xena is the chief influence on the continuing development of Gabrielle as an adventurer and hero, there is another person who deserves much of the credit, at least initially, in setting Gabrielle on her road to becoming the woman she is today: her late (and all too brief) husband, Perdicas.
You are invited to the joyous nuptials of ...
 Although the character of Perdicas has only appeared in the three XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS episodes SINS OF THE PAST (#01), BEWARE OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (#12), and RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29), he has had a profound impact on one of the primary characters of the show. Although Perdicas may never return (but then do not forget that death means little in the Xenaverse), his influence will most likely be felt by Gabrielle for the rest of her life.
 We first encounter Perdicas in SINS OF THE PAST, it is after Xena has rescued the people of Poteidaia from the clutches of the warlord, Draco. Perdicas has only one brief scene, acting mainly as a backdrop to Gabrielle's unnamed father. He mimics everything that her father says, and has no real personality of his own. It is no wonder that Gabrielle says of him, "Did you see the man they want me to marry?" Perdicas hardly makes an impression on the viewer at all in this episode. He is merely another hapless villager, and Gabrielle's reaction reinforces this portrayal of him.
 Even at this early stage, however, there are others who point out his good qualities. Xena herself says he "seems like a gentle soul," and Gabrielle's sister Lila says, "He loves you, you know." Even Gabrielle admits that he has some merit, saying, "It's not the gentle part I have a problem with." Unfortunately for Perdicas, she then adds, "It's the dull, stupid part."
 The Gabrielle we meet in SINS OF THE PAST is hungry for excitement and adventure. She knows she does not fit in as yet another village girl in Poteidaia, and she tells this to both Xena and her sister. She is eager to escape the life that is 'planned' for her, and feels trapped by her impending marriage to Perdicas.
 In a way, Gabrielle's yen to seek adventure with Xena can actually be attributed to Perdicas. Gabrielle is a bright, energetic woman with plenty of imagination and spirit. Perdicas, as portrayed in SINS OF THE PAST is dull. He must have known that an outspoken woman like Gabrielle would never really be happy with someone as placid as he. Perdicas should have realized that Gabrielle's happiness would require much more effort on his part than would be necessary for the average village girl. Perdicas simply did not have the intensity necessary to attract Gabrielle's attention back from Xena. Had Perdicas been a little more dynamic, and a little more heroic, Gabrielle might not have been so taken with Xena. Gabrielle practically gushes at the warrior princess in the first scene in the little house in Poteidaia. Further, Garbrielle might not have dreaded her marriage to him and she might not have been so willing to leave her life behind to follow Xena on her travels. Granted, the main reason she did so was her innate desire for excitement; but had Perdicas seen this, stepped up a little and tried to fill that void, Gabrielle might have been more satisfied with him in the first place.
 If Perdicas had shown some spirit and been more assertive, Gabrielle might have had more of challenge in making the decision to leave her life in Poteidaia behind. If Perdicas had just been a little more dashing and a little less dull, she might never have *wanted* to leave Poteidaia. So, while he may not be Gabrielle's prime motivation for leaving her home town, Perdicas' lack of spirit and lack of strength help create the conditions for Gabrielle to strike out on her adventures with Xena.
 When we next meet Perdicas, in BEWARE OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS, he is a changed man -- literally, he is played by a different actor. Apparently Gabrielle's decision to leave has had an effect on him, and he has wandered east across Thrace and the Hellespont to Troy. Not only has he become more travelled, but he has risen to some rank in the guards. He is not a foot soldier, but at the very least a 'platoon' leader, if not higher. Although it is unlikely that they would know every soldier, Deiphobus and Paris both know him by name.
Gabrielle and Perdicus have a little heart to heart
 Perdicas has matured since his last appearance and has made significant progress in the attractive qualities of spirit and heroism. It is important to point out that Gabrielle herself is the primary factor in his change. When they first get a chance to talk, Perdicas tells Gabrielle that he "wanted to be in a place where people were fighting for love." When Gabrielle replies that she was the one who told him the stories about Troy (citing her own influence over him), she adds, "You're not a soldier, you don't belong here...You ought to go home before you get hurt." Unlike the Perdicas we meet in SINS OF THE PAST, who would have taken this comment with a shrug, Perdicas stands, grabs his helmet and says, "You can't tell me what to do any more."
 And we have not seen all of the new Perdicas. Gabrielle later implies that Perdicas is doing all this for her -- being a soldier, fighting in Troy. In essence, she claims that a large part of his maturity has been attained with the goal of impressing her. Perdicas quells that notion with a simple reply; "I'm not a lovesick kid any more." As he re-takes his place among the guards, Gabrielle's attitude towards him shifts. "What if something happens to you?" she asks. "What am I supposed to do then?" Not only does she (at last!) reveal that she actually has feelings for him, but she gives him a chance to return to the old Perdicas -- the gentle Perdicas -- by asking a question intended to elicit a tender response. But Perdicas is not a simple farmer any more. He moves toward the battlements and says, "Write a story about me," -- a line we would expect someone like Xena to say. Perdicas has obviously grown up.
That Gabrielle will kiss anyone!
 More important to Gabrielle though, is that he has grown a backbone. Perdicas has become is his own man. He too wants his share of adventure and excitement. He is no longer content to be the 'dull, stupid' Perdicas, and this attitude has an impact on Gabrielle. She sees him in a new light as he joins his soldiers, grabs a crossbow, kills a Greek archer, and stops a new advance, demonstrating his bravery in protecting his men and their city. The other men turn and congratulate him on his prowess. Perdicas has become a fully developed man, a hero, and he has crossed the line far enough so that Gabrielle becomes interested in him again. If Perdicas had been this impressive in Poteidaia, Gabrielle might have remained with him. Yet it was necessary for him to mature independently, and he does, in fact, mature rapidly. In the space of a year he goes from a well-meaning dullard to a hero in his own right. This transformation has a major impact on Gabrielle's life.
 Although Gabrielle later confesses to Xena in RETURN OF CALLISTO that she "fell in love with him at Troy," we clearly see (even if Xena did not) Gabrielle's attitude toward Perdicas change during her time in Troy. She goes from being a protective friend ("Go home before you get hurt.") to woman who is clearly captivated by her ex-betrothed. While Perdicas has his own life now, he is very glad to see Gabrielle. They talk tenderly to one each other and she spots him watching her from the battlements during a lull in the fighting. Even Xena seems to approve of this new Perdicas ("He's a good soldier.").
Perdicus cares, he really does
 This change in attitude culminates in a brief scene where Perdicas takes Gabrielle aside and tells her that leaving Poteidaia was the right thing to do. He admits that he was not ready for a relationship with her and says regretfully, "If only we could have been more honest with each other." Perdicas, although he has traveled to Troy and expanded his horizons, knows that his relationship with Gabrielle is the best one he has ever had. Although he realizes that their marriage in Poteidaia would have been a mistake, he still wants her in his life, or at least his future, in some way. His newfound charm with her is revealed by her reaction. She tells him, "I can't be much more honest than this," and then she kisses him.
 It is obvious to the viewer that they are in love, and that Perdicas has won the girl of his dreams. Still, there is something missing -- something that keeps them apart. Neither is completely ready to abandon their wandering or their personal development for the other. They both have at least a few more steps to take on separate paths. Even Xena is a bit surprised by their separation ("I thought Perdicas would be joining us for a while..."), but Gabrielle realizes that they both have a little way to go before they are ready for one another ("He's made other plans.").
 At this point, Perdicas and Gabrielle could probably have settled down, yet each has other things that are more important to them. Gabrielle has Xena and Perdicas still has to finish finding himself. While his new warrior incarnation is extremely attractive to Gabrielle, he must regain the gentleness that Gabrielle found appealing in the first place. Once he has redeveloped his softer side, he will be ready for a gentler life with Gabrielle; and only after Gabrielle is again the focus of his world will he truly be ready to settle down.
 This appears to be the case the next time we meet him in RETURN OF CALLISTO. Perdicas tells Gabrielle, "I haven't stopped thinking about you. I had to see something. Your face." There can be no doubt that Perdicas has reclaimed his center. He has balanced his newfound strength with innate compassion. As before, his development has a profound impact on Gabrielle. She is already in love with him, but this new sense of balance is all that is needed to make Gabrielle take that extra step.
Perdicus played the sympathy card, and won
 Still, it is not a snap decision on her part. When Perdicas tells her that he wanted to give up, but that the vision of her face gave him hope, she is softened, drawn to him. But when he says, "I love you. If you'll take me, I want you to be my wife," Gabrielle can't react at all -- she has to leave because she is too overwhelmed by the offer. Perhaps she is overwhelmed because all of her dreams regarding Perdicas have come true. He is no longer the dull, stupid farm boy she left in Poteidaia, but a fully grown man, with a life of his own and a wealth of experiences to share with her. At last, Perdicas can bring something to their relationship, offer her himself in return for her. Their initial relationship seemed to be one sided -- all Gabrielle -- but this is clearly not the case now.
 Gabrielle later admits to Xena that he is "sensitive, and kind," and that she has "never been more comfortable around anyone," (except, of course, Xena herself). It is during this exchange that Gabrielle seems to be asking for Xena's blessing on the marriage, as if she would not leave her best friend for Perdicas without it. Certainly she values the relationship that she has with Xena, but I believe that the reason she will not desert her is because Gabrielle is drawn to the person who needs her the most. She knows that Xena needs her in a spiritual sense (the campfire scene in CALLISTO, #20, comes to mind), and that part of Xena's healing and continuing "goodness" depends, at least for now, on the "light" that Gabrielle provides -- her innocence, her positive nature, and so on. Gabrielle is in love with Perdicas, and he with her, but she cannot ignore Xena's needs.
Hey! What's Joxer doing in here?
 It is only when Perdicas breaks down in the middle of the battle with Callisto's men that Gabrielle resolves to accept his offer. Having been assured by Xena that marrying Perdicas is all right with her, Gabrielle changes her mind about the marriage only after Perdicas eschews fighting. "I can't do this any more," he tells her. "If you won't come with me, it doesn't change the way I feel about you. I love you more than anything, but I'm done fighting. I'm going home." When he says this, on his knees, over a dead man that he's just killed, his need for Gabrielle is shown to be greater than Xena's need. He will need her light, her ability to heal the souls of others. Gabrielle is no longer torn by the decision. Perdicas has the greater need for her, and she must go to him.
 Only when he has come full circle is Perdicas completely attractive to Gabrielle. He goes from being totally dependent on her to being able to live without her and is at last able to admit that he needs her to go on. Yes, Perdicas could survive without Gabrielle, but his offer of marriage indicates that he does not wish to go on without her, in contrast to their separation at Troy when he had "other plans" but told her "I know we'll meet again". Gabrielle, seeing both his strength and his need for her, agrees to be his wife. He started her on the road to adventure, and, in his development as a man, he has now taken her from it. He can now be in a relationship with her as her equal. He needs Gabrielle, but he can also take care of her. If he had only matured sooner, he could have shared years with Gabrielle instead of a single day of wedded bliss.
Marriage has its perks...
 Naturally, their happiness is fleeting. Gabrielle cannot yet be taken from the path of wandering. Still, in the short time they are married, Perdicas is able to teach Gabrielle one last lesson: "I know what love is now," she tells him on their first morning together. "It's life...everything is united by love alone." Of course, this lesson will be severely tested by Callisto, but is reinforced by Xena, especially in her moving prayer for Gabrielle's soul. It is the supreme irony that shortly after Perdicas forswears violence, he is consumed by a person who knows nothing else -- a monster who could live a dozen lifetimes and never achieve the growth and understanding that he did in a little over a single year.
...and its downsides
 His death is his last influence on Gabrielle, who initially wishes nothing more than to join him in death. At this point, Xena steps in to save her from that path. It is not what Perdicas would have wanted. The fact that -- even momentarily -- Gabrielle would rather die than go on without him, that she would consider abandoning her ideals, is testament to the strength of her love for him and how deeply he touched her. Gabrielle must continue on without Perdicas, but he will always be with her, and his influence will always be felt in her heart.
Perdicus, he dead