Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Christina Anderson
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
2730 words

What Is It All About, Xena? (01-02)
In the Beginning (03-05)
Ironies (06-07)
Justice (08-11)
Redemption (12-14)
Final Images (15-18)
Gabrielle Is Completed (19-20)


What Is It All About, Xena?

Initially unavailable in stores, Gabrielle's recordings soon became unavailable period.
Xena and Gabrielle in the early days.

[01] Much has been made in the past few weeks over the tragic end to Xena: Warrior Princess. While some fans loved it, an overwhelming majority of fans hated it. Whether you loved or hated it depends largely on what you saw the series being about.

[02] A happy ending was never something I took for granted with Xena. Neither Xena nor Gabrielle were flawless paragons. Often their actions were questionable. They were simply two people doing the best they could in a world where morality confronted them in ever-increasing shades of gray. The relationship that grew between them was a sub-plot. It was a relationship and love that grew because of and despite the fact that these were two people who were polar opposites, trying to learn from another in order to make themselves whole. From my point of view, Xena was primarily a dark, often tragic tale about a warrior seeking redemption for an evil past and a once innocent young girl that traveled with her, sometimes much to her detriment. Perhaps that is why I am in the minority as someone who loved the finale.

In the Beginning

[03] In order to understand the circumstances of the finale, we first have to consider the beginning and ask ourselves what this show was about. What was the primary motivation for the character of Xena? Clearly enough, it was redemption for her past deeds. Now we must examine what Xena's definition of redemption is.

[04] SINS OF THE PAST is an interesting introduction to Xena and how she considers her quest for redemption. Initially, Xena considers redemption something that must be gained from without, i.e. she will achieve redemption when others recognize her change of heart and forgive everything she has done. This is why she goes home to Amphipolis. She is hoping that if her own people can forgive her, the first people in a long list of many that she has wronged, she will be set on the road to redemption. However, her own townspeople regard her with suspicion and animosity and go so far as to attempt stoning her to death in revenge. External forgiveness, Xena realizes, is not something that she will probably ever achieve. Therefore, she decides that although she can probably never redeem herself, she will act as if she can:

Cyrene: "I don't think anything'll ever take away the shame and sorrow you've brought on your kinsmen."
Xena: "Probably not. But I'm gonna spend the rest of my life trying."

[05] Thus begins Xena's true quest for redemption. Redemption is not something that comes from without but from within. Once she is able to forgive herself, she will be redeemed. From the beginning, while her actions are noble, her motive is a selfish one. She is not fighting for the greater good out of an altruistic impulse to defend the weak. She is fighting because that is her atonement for past sins.


[06] Xena spent a good part of the series confronting her demons from the past. Each time it came back to haunt her, Xena was able to admit her own culpability. Callisto, she publicly admits in A NECESSARY EVIL, was her own creation. Had it not been for her and her army invading Cirra, Callisto would have turned out very differently, a fact the Archangel Michael affirms in FALLEN ANGEL. She admits it was her actions that turned Ming Tien into a monster. She accepts responsibility for the fate of the Northern Amazon's in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE. Nor does she bother to try to defend herself against charges of murder in LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN. Her only justification for the "murder" of Thalassa is a remorseful "I killed her because it suited my purposes". Xena made Grindl and she bears a certain amount of responsibility for Lord Belach. One by one, she was able to conquer, come to terms with and atone for what she had done.

[07] With FRIEND IN NEED, we are meant to see a long list of ironies at work. Irony that the fire at Higuchi was begun simply because Xena was doing a selfless and humane act by honoring the wishes of Akemi by bringing her ashes to her family's burial place. This is the only time that we have ever seen Evil Xena perform a selfless act and so it is ironic that by performing this act she, however inadvertently, committed "a greater evil than she ever thought possible". Xena had spent the years trying to atone for her past and it is now an "evil" that she never knew she committed, nor ever intended to commit, that she considers the worst of all. You have to love the irony.


That'll teach him to send me to my room!
Akemi does not yet grasp the full consequence of her actions. Or does she?

[08] This episode made much of the concept of the double-edged sword of justice. Akemi was bound by a code of honor to avenge the murder of her family. To not do so would have been a dishonor. However, by acting in what was considered an honorable fashion, she has dishonored herself because she has killed her father.

[09] Xena's judgment of herself has always been swift and harsh. For Gabrielle, Xena's past has always been beside the point. In SINS OF THE PAST, Gabrielle's father is aware of Xena's reputation and asks her to leave the village. To Gabrielle, Xena's reputation is irrelevant. She is judging Xena solely on the fact that she saved Poteidaia. Later in Amphipolis, Gabrielle attempts to save Xena from a stoning with the defense that Xena is a changed woman. Gabrielle's brand of justice has always been a much softer approach. She does not believe that the result of justice should be revenge. For her, justice is a means to reform.

[10] Both Gabrielle and the viewers would have been happier if Xena had been able to accept Gabrielle's idea of justice. But that would not have been true to Xena's character. In LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN, Gabrielle argues that although Xena did admit to murdering Thalassa, the good acts she has performed since then should be taken into account, a defense Xena will not even consider. In the end, Gabrielle asks Xena if she will finally forgive herself. Xena's response is "that's not for me". In PATH OF VENGEANCE, Xena again scoffs at the idea of forgiving herself. Would it then be believable for Xena to not accept responsibility for the deaths of the 40,000 and the need for their deaths to be avenged? No. It would have betrayed the character and cheapened every act of atonement, the very thing the series was about at it's heart.

[11] The circumstances, the whys and wherefores of the burning of Higuchi and the subsequent deaths of the 40,000, can be debated for an eternity. Any viewer can logically argue as Gabrielle did that the fire was "a horrible accident". What Gabrielle or we the viewers think about Xena's role in the conflagration is completely irrelevant. Gabrielle resigns herself to the fact that although she does not think Xena is responsible, to argue the point is useless. She knows that it does not really matter because Xena believes that she is responsible. Is it fair? Is it right? In Xena's mind yes it is. For the past six seasons, the task presented to us as viewers and for Gabrielle is to accept Xena's brand of justice when applied to herself, not apply our own.


[12] Xena's quest for redemption has always been a selfish one. There has always been an ulterior motive. She is not a hero simply because she believes it is the right thing to do. She is a hero because it is the only way she knows to achieve atonement. She demonstrates this very clearly in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY when faced with the decision to either save Gabrielle's life or make a stand against the Persian Army. Xena declares that she is through paying for her past mistakes and opts to save Gabrielle rather than fight. Clearly, she is not standing against the Persians because it is the right thing to do. She is standing against them because this is another act of penance she has to perform. Gabrielle has to remind her that defending Greece against a Persian invasion is the right thing to do.

[13] In ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, Xena's is willing to sacrifice the Greater Good in order to save Gabrielle's life. In LEGACY, Gabrielle points out that Xena saved her despite the Greater Good. Xena tells her that in everyone's life there is something that goes beyond the Greater Good. That is what Gabrielle is to Xena, she is non-negotiable when weighed against that. Xena's instinct is to act selfishly and choose Gabrielle over the Greater Good, despite the consequences.

[14] Many fans have been angered over the fact that by Xena choosing to remain dead she was giving up Gabrielle. However, I maintain that by giving up Gabrielle Xena had finally performed a truly selfless act. She had redeemed herself, purified herself because she chose to give up the one thing that ever really mattered to her: Gabrielle. This, she tells Gabrielle, is why they were together. Xena had to learn from Gabrielle the right thing to do. That was the key to redemption all along. Now that she has learned, she must make that final step towards redemption: selfless sacrifice. Moreover, while Xena had to learn from Gabrielle, Gabrielle had to learn from Xena.

Final Images

Um, who's driving this thing?
Gabrielle is alone at the end of FIN.

[15] Many fans find the final image of the series, Gabrielle the Warrior standing alone on the deck of the ship, a disquieting one. For me this was the logical conclusion for Gabrielle, what was meant to be all along.

[16] As I stated earlier in this essay, Xena and Gabrielle were together because both had to learn from one another, to complete one another. Fans have made much over the fact that it appeared that Xena and Gabrielle were swapping roles this season. This was demonstrated best in TO HELICON AND BACK. Unlike A GOOD DAY and AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE where Gabrielle leads the battle only during Xena's absence, Gabrielle now becomes the leader, the one who devises a military strategy (where she credits Xena as being a good teacher), and leads the troops into battle. Gabrielle becomes harder, more pragmatic, making life and death decisions quickly because the burden of leadership now rests on her shoulders, just as it always had with Xena in the past.

[17] In addition, we see Xena becoming more like Gabrielle. This is the first time Xena has been subordinate to her. Xena is the one who pulls Gabrielle off Varia and is the one to offer a sympathetic explanation for Varia's treachery in trying to kill Gabrielle. Xena is the one who is concerned about the fate of the wounded while Gabrielle argues that the wounded will only slow them down-a striking contrast to the positions both women took in regard to care for the wounded in THE PRICE. It is Xena who proposes that Bellerophon end this "cycle of killing", eerily reminiscent to Gabrielle's line in CALLISTO about ending the "cycle of hatred". This time it is Gabrielle who becomes infected with rage and is about to kill a man that is unarmed and in retreat, in much the same way Xena did in THE PRICE as Gabrielle attempted to stop her. Xena is now the one to remind Gabrielle that the battle is over and that there is no need to continue killing.

[18] In hindsight, I can see that it has not been a swapping of roles between Xena and Gabrielle. Instead, they are learning from one another, taking qualities from the other that, for better or worse they themselves lacked. Xena is learning diplomacy, compassion, and that discretion is often the better part of valor. Gabrielle is learning how to be a warrior and far greater than that, a leader. She is accepting the responsibility of both roles, a responsibility she had always managed to fend off on Xena in the past. In order to preserve the lives of the people that she leads, Gabrielle realizes she must put aside her Pollyannaish view of the world for a more pragmatic approach, as Xena has.

Gabrielle Is Completed

[19] In FRIEND IN NEED, Gabrielle finally comes completely into her own. Not once does she doubt or question herself and what she must do. Moreover, she finally has the answer to a question she posed to Xena back in LEGACY. How do you know when you should disable someone or kill them? Xena's answer is to trust your instincts, something Gabrielle clearly did not do. Gabrielle faces off against the Samurai three times. The first two times she defeats him by disabling him. However, the third time he confronts her, the sun is setting and he is intent on not allowing her to revive Xena. Time is quickly running out and she knows what she must do. By deciding to kill him then, she has her answer and jumps the final hurdle to becoming a warrior. To symbolize her birth as a warrior, Gabrielle throws the chakram for the first time. It finds its target and returns to her. It has accepted a new master.

[20] Just as Xena learned from Gabrielle, Gabrielle has now learned everything Xena knows, just as she wished to in SINS OF THE PAST. Is she better off, happier now than she was before she met Xena? That is debatable. For the entire six seasons, Xena herself had her doubts about Gabrielle choosing to walk a path with her. However, it was Gabrielle that finally realized in WHEN FATES COLLIDE that without Xena, her life was empty, meaningless, and incomplete. Despite the pain and the sacrifices she had to make by being with Xena, this was where she was meant to be all along, making herself whole by gleaning from Xena all the qualities she herself lacked. Her journey with Xena is complete because she is complete. Now it is time for her to begin her own journey, one that her life with Xena has been preparing her for all along. The journey of a hero.


Christina Anderson Christina Anderson

I'm a native New Yorker (a 'Lawng Guylander') that was on the six year plan for college where I studied Theatre with a concentration in stage management, also getting my feet wet in acting, stage and lighting design and playwriting. Theatre has always been my first love but it just did not support my two other great loves, eating regularly and paying the rent. So practicality won out over idealism and I consider myself very lucky that I was able to find an interesting and challenging career in Television Programming. Other interests include my crazy but lovable Dalmation-he's my version of Argo, anything to do with American history and Ancient Rome, writing novels for my own personal enjoyment, and of course Xena-a show I considered a bunch of "chop socky crap" for the first two seasons before I actually sat down and watched it.
Favorite line: Another tough category to narrow down: Gabrielle: "Now, forget the monster, it's a big noise-making thingamajig--like him!" TEN LITTLE WARLORDS; Joxer: "Ah! Ah! Great white monkey Xena come for Princess Gaea!" FINS, FEMMES & GEMS; Gabrielle: "A life of journeying has brought you to the farthest lands--to the very edges of the Earth." Xena: "And to the place where I'll always remain--your heart." FRIEND IN NEED II
First episode seen: FINS, FEMMES & GEMS
Least favorite episode: KEY TO THE KINGDOM, and TSUNAMI

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