Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Jane Komarov
Group Therapy Project
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
1503 words

Lo Duca Achieved What the Writers Did Not (01-04)
Lo Duca Played Against the Ordinary (05-07)
Why Even the Music Could Not Save the Episode (08-15)


Lo Duca Achieved What the Writers Did Not

Gave up flamenco dancing for this gig
Joe LoDuca, the man himself.

[01] Writing film music that accurately conveys the world of the story, the emotions of the characters, and the anticipation of action is no small feat. As a composer, I find it is both challenging and an obligation to aide the components of a scene and not hinder it. If anyone deserves praise for the season ender, it is composer Joseph Lo Duca for accomplishing what in many ways the writers did not: consistency and closure.

[02] As a musician, I have always been mindful of the power of Joseph Lo Duca's music while watching Xena: Warrior Princess. Throughout the run of the series, he has consistently illustrated the characters, action, and atmosphere of every episode with incredible accuracy, craft, and heartfelt emotion. In the series ender, Lo Duca seemed to pull out all of the stops, and, in my opinion, filled in gaps where the drama and feasibility of the script seemed to fall short. The most obvious example for me was in now what is referred to as the dreaded "last ten minutes" of the series ender.

[03] With all of Xena's manufactured justifications as to why she must remain dead, coupled with Gabrielle's useless pleas to change her mind, Lo Duca takes this opportunity to convey the root of their emotions: loss, anguish, and desperation, in an elegant, simple phrase for strings, with painful hesitations and accentuations. When Gabrielle and Xena sit down to watch the sun set, the music remains sparse, with soft Koto/harp arpeggios, expressing more of the character's final true inner moments together than any dialogue or fervent glance could ever accomplish.

[04] The segue into the final scene with Gabrielle on the boat was also expertly handled by Lo Duca. His music breathes, thus giving the viewer time to feel. While certainly the ending mood was more upbeat (was it me, or did Gabrielle recover from her loss a little too quickly?), Lo Duca continues to remind us that all is not well in the world of Xena and Gabrielle. Despite the musical depiction of the ocean's undulations, the music continues to be tinged with sadness and a lack of resolution, which is finally heard as Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert's names flash upon the screen in the closing credits. Do not get me wrong, Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor turned in stellar performances. I only point out the incredible command Joseph Lo Duca has over these difficult, truncated ending scenes, that really should have been dramatically much longer.

Lo Duca Played Against the Ordinary

[05] Another wonderful element of Lo Duca's work is that he plays against the ordinary. Fight scenes do not necessarily mean he is going to employ a full orchestration with trumpet fanfare. He is also very respectful of genre and indigenous instruments, using koto and shakuhachi in the finale, along with eastern pentatonic melodies and harmonies.

[06] Character music is important to Lo Duca. Gabrielle's music, which is softer, and more lyrical, is in contrast to Xena's, but their joint music is downright romantic. Take for example Xena and Gabrielle's "fluid exchange" on Mt. Fuji. First, we hear urgent strings with a foreboding brass line as Gabrielle rushes to the fountain, followed by the fireball shot from Yodoshi. As Gabrielle gives Xena strength to fight Yodoshi, the music transforms into a beautiful, albeit brief pastorale. When Xena comes to "life," we hear the Bulgarian Women's Chorus singing a snippet of Xena's warrior princess theme, followed by an arpeggiated harp chord: the threat of the coming sunset, which will bring Gabrielle's loss of Xena. This musicalization of these events is extremely difficult to pull off, but Lo Duca structures it perfectly.

[07] Were it not for these beautiful musical moments, my reaction of tears at the show's conclusion would have been wasted. It was distressing and disorienting enough to watch Xena and Gabrielle let go of one another. Joseph Lo Duca's music added a logic that the story did not.

Why Even the Music Could Not Save the Episode

I don't care whether you like it or not, you're going to camp and that's that!
Music has resolved conflicts in the past, as in this scene from THE BITTER SUITE.

[08] I watched the ender fully knowing what was to come, via some conspicuously placed spoilers online. This was okay. It had been long-rumored that Samurai warriors would kill off Xena. Surely, she would come back to life, though. Moreover, she consciously made the decision to be knocked off. What I did not know was how strong of a reaction I was going to have. After all, this was just a TV show, aired at wacky times across the country, worshipped by millions who watched every action of every character major and minor. How could I have known, a full adult, educated, with a "life" that I would be so overcome with emotional conflict from a fantasy TV show?

[09] I found Xena's death scene and Gabrielle's subsequent recovering of her body and head to be disturbing and without dramatic justification. Xena's cries for Gabrielle while being shot at by thousands of arrows were just like that of the arrows-- piercing. Why did she choose to get herself murdered in this fashion? Was there any honor in it? I do not think so. She even seemed to freak out right before her demise. Why start screaming for Gabrielle?

[10] Xena's justification that she must remain dead to avenge the 40 thousand killed in the fire was contrived. It was an accident. Akemi said the 40 thousand souls were free. That Xena was free. She has suffered enough over the past six years. She has risked her life and been seriously injured over and over again in the name of not only justice, but also penance. Why was this not enough?

[11] Perhaps the main thing that I have kept in mind is that Rob Tapert did what Rob Tapert wanted to do, plain and simple, without apologies. Fine. The finale had beautiful moments, fantastic performances, amazing cinematography, and great music. Why should the last ten minutes define the entire show? Simple. Because Tapert wanted the show to end the way that it did, he obviously wrote backwards from the conclusion and ended up with a big gaping hole, a hole in the hearts of the majority of fans that were bummed out by the finale.

[12] A downer of a finale should not judge six years of a fantastic show. But despite Tapert's righteousness, he should have at least kept the thoughts and feelings of the legions of fans, who have stuck with this show through thick and thin, raised thousands for charity, and supported the careers of lesser-knowns, in mind. A wonderful writing professor of mine once told me that the ultimate thing you can do in a story is to kill the hero, but there are many dangers in doing so. You must be completely consistent in the beliefs and rules of the world that you have created for your hero. To divert will cause chaos and confusion. Despite the genius of Rob Tapert, he did not completely do his homework.

[13] Therefore, we are left without a true sense of closure, of resolution. All as the result of a "little" TV show filmed in New Zealand. While the prospects of a movie follow-up are low, I hope it happens. If it does, Rob Tapert and Co. will have a chance to do what Xena said in the finale, to "make things right".

[14] There will be many overlapping analyses, thoughts, and feelings shared concerning FRIEND IN NEED. I am afraid that I do not have anything unique to say. Nonetheless, I appreciate this opportunity to express my response to the series ender.

[15] In closing, I feel it necessary to say, "thank you" to the entire staff at WhooshXena: Warrior Princess would never have become what it did. You deserve all the credit in the world for your hard work.


Jane Komarov Jane Komarov

Jane Komarov is a classically trained composer and pianist living in New York. While not dreaming of being a musical success, she enjoys dramatic writing, the great outdoors, and the company of her two adorable sheep-herding dogs, Beardie Bailey, and Mini Aussie Morgan, who recently had his dog mitzvah. Jane hopes to someday write the film score for a Sam Raimi/Rob Tapert produced film, or at least help out Joseph Lo Duca.
Favorite line: The lyrics for the Joxer The Mighty Song
First episode seen: CALLISTO
Least favorite episode: SOLSTICE CAROL and WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP

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