Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Myra Hope Bobbitt
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
1451 words

Author's notes:

The Five Stages of Death and Dying were developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and published in the following work: Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, M.D.: On Death and Dying, Collier Press, 1997 (reprint).

THE STAGES (01-06)




Ow!  I bid by tung!
Gabrielle can't believe it either.

[01] What?! That cannot be right, I had better watch the whole thing again...


[02] Good God, what went wrong? That episode stank! What happened to the carefully-crafted epic arc that I know and love, and how could they kill off a character that has been supposedly "redeemed" many times over by as many different religions, and how on earth did Xena wipe out 40-friggin-THOUSAND people? What the h*ll were TPTB (the powers that be) thinking? What about feature films, or spin-offs, or guest appearances on Andromeda?

[03] Who is responsible? I will show them a warrior princess...


[04] ...If we send enough letters, maybe they will bring her back?


[05] I had better drown my sorrows by reading the Whoosh! episode commentaries for all six seasons.


[06] How long has it been, a week? Two weeks? I am still depressed!


[07] Should we have seen it coming? When Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor were asked about the final episode in their Pasadena Convention appearance, Lawless said, cryptically, "live by the sword, die by the sword". O'Connor added, "Xena comes full circle". We did not realize then what a monumental spoiler they had dropped-- the prophetic words described the ending of FRIEND IN NEED II () precisely. Xena's final duel to the death was in her original costume, with thrilling acrobatics and a classic backwards-under-the-elbow-hip-stab deathblow. Xena went back to her roots and offed the bad guy in classic style.

[08] Then she died. Did she have to?

[09] I became a fan in Season Three. I switched on the television one Saturday and saw what hooked us all: two women side by side in swords-and-sorcery fantasy garb battling demons real and imagined. They were arguing, working out conflict in a dreamscape, and later they even sang love songs... to each other! From that moment-- the middle of THE BITTER SUITE, in the middle of the third season-- I was hooked.

[10] Of course, it was the MIDDLE of THE BITTER SUITE. At that time, I was not aware of Whoosh!, the episode guides, and the vast Xena fan network, so it was not until summer reruns that I saw the entire episode of THE BITTER SUITE from its ugly beginning. That is a haunting scene: Xena enraged and out-of-control, grabbing her soulmate and brutally abusing her before trying to hurl her off a cliff. It was wife-abuse for the sole purpose, I now know, of ending the Rift.

[11] I am glad I missed it on the first go-round. I would have run screaming.

[12] The reason I bring it up is this: That scene was our warning shot. It was a gross miscalculation of scale and the effects of violence on an audience. Xena's dying at the end of the final episode may resonate with poetic justice for some, or have revenge-culture relevance, or may surprise all of us who expected something more, but in the end her death is nothing more than another colossal misjudgment.

[13] My theory on why TPTB killed off the most exciting, inventive, mysterious and compelling hero of all time?



Taking the direction to 'cut' a little too far
Perhaps all this unpleasantness could have been avoided if Akemi hadn't bumped off her old man.

[15] We should have kept in mind that the show's creators, like all artists with an inroad to the pulse of a culture but a desire to please as wide a market as possible, are liable to commit more than one.

[16] Writers R.J. Stewart and Rob Tapert (and Stephen Sears, before he left) created a strong warrior in body, soul, and mind. The episodes these guys wrote showed astounding respect for Xena and her relationships and, in my neophyte opinion, were the finest, most expertly packaged battle stories in the series. Theirs were the stories that wear out my VCR in replays.

[17] That said, in the final episode my boys set out to kill off their main character. That was the big mistake, and a host of little ones cascaded in behind it. To pull off Xena's martyrdom -- and, paradoxically, to please the fans at the same time -- they threw in too much new information. In FRIEND IN NEED we saw too many new friends and fiends, spent too much time dwelling on new "old news", and spent too much time with Xena and Gabrielle separated by Gabrielle's fool's errand. TPTB did not have to break their Xena formula - they decided to and then forced it.

[18] Bushido, the Japanese way of the samurai, demands suicide as right penance for crimes of honor. Why would Xena follow the code of Bushido all of a sudden, and why would 40,000 souls depend on her doing so, when Callisto and others did not? Were the 40,000 dead people all Japanese samurai? Was Xena ever in Japan long enough to kill that many people? Is Borias suffering the same fate as Xena? Bad decision, guys.

[19] In addition, this bugged me: R.J. made subtext into text to try to buy us off. That is not his forte. The scenes just did not flow. I was insulted to see love dialogue shoehorned into the story to placate me, particularly once I realized the rest of the story was building up to Xena's permanent death. To me, the most explorative loving moments in the episodes were, as usual, the ones communicated by the actors, as with Gabrielle's fierce, "Harukata, don't you come near her!", and by the cinematography, especially the tattoo scene.

[20] I read a third-hand quote that referred to Xena as a "mass-murderer on an epic scale", implying that she deserved to die as penance for her crimes. I will not share my feelings about the death penalty. This particular mass-murderer, this warrior, was not written to deserve permanent death. She was breathing proof that with time, energy, an adoring bard/fan/legacy, and a strong right arm, it is possible to right wrongs you have done and to do more good in the balance. Liz Friedman said of heroes that "Superman is the hero we hope is out there. Xena is the hero we hope is inside us." If Xena is the worst of us made good, are we also, ultimately, irredeemable? I am very troubled by that implication.


[21] The episode was so ill crafted relative to the rest of the season, and so unlike these guys' previous work, that I totally disconnected from the drama. I had to watch the episode two more times before I understood that, yes, it was all just a poorly timed mistake in judgement.

[22] Xena: Warrior Princess in six seasons is a great story about a troubled warrior and her strong lover, traveling the world righting wrongs and struggling to figure out the evolving world around them. With Xena and Gabrielle, the show's creators managed to connect me to a real, Joseph Campbell-style, mythical hero's journey that enabled me look at my own world from a hero's point of view.

[23] I am bitterly disappointed that our journey together ended so badly.


Myra Hope Bobbitt Myra Hope Bobbitt

Myra Hope and her sidekick, Paula, have been Xena fans in one way or another for 32 and 33 years, respectively. Myra Hope collects books by Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon, studies Uechi-Ryu karate, and, like Xena, has a healthy respect for the power of softly-spoken words and a Big Stick.
Favorite episode: THE PRICE. We find our heroes in the middle of their journey, haunted by the past but in the end, saved by their respect for each other's strengths. Also, Gabrielle is a total cutie-pie in this one!
Favorite line: Yikes, I have to choose? Probably the now-famous exchange between Joxer (as Prison Guard) and Xena in WHEN FATES COLLIDE: Xena: "Unlock it." Guard: "But Caesar said..." Xena: "...to enrage the Empress 'til she beats the tar out of you?" Guard: "No, I must have missed that. I'll open the door."
First episode seen: THE BITTER SUITE, post-Drag.
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS -- what was THAT all about? -- and, sadly, FRIENDS IN NEED I and II.

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