Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Adriane Saunders
Group Therapy Project
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
1881 words

Where Oh Where Did Our Hero Go? (01-04)
Anything Goes in the Xenaverse (05-08)
Why Do We Love Xena So Much? (09-14)
What About the Friendship? (15-20)
Is Xena Really Dead? (21-22)


Where Oh Where Did Our Hero Go?

That'll teach those Nutforumers!
Xena, hero.

[01] Is Xena dead? Has Gabrielle packed in her scrolls? Who is the hero here? Baffled. That was my initial reaction to the finale, both parts.

[02] Part I dumped Xena as the hero, and changed the theme of the whole series from exploring a friendship between equals to that of teacher/student, and finding a replacement warrior for a soon-to-be retiree. When did Gabrielle learn to do somersaults 20 or 30 feet in the air? Did I miss a few shows? The last time I saw Gabrielle even try a somersault was in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, seasons back, and she sprained her ankle. Since then, nothing. Oh sure, now that the writers of the show "mention it", I can recall bits indicating Xena was teaching Gabrielle moves, and she could hardly have traveled with Xena 6 years without learning anything, but no where was Gabrielle underlined as a "trainee" to replace Xena in the "hero pantheon".

[03] Part II cut Xena entirely from the "active hero" list and fast-tracked Gabrielle to the top. All this was accomplished by Xena going off on one of her half-baked "let me die to save everyone" programs, without consulting Gabrielle, who could probably have offered any number of more creative suggestions. Gabrielle used to be a bard, after all. Thanks to Xena's rather incomprehensible death in the final episode, Gabrielle trades in scrolls for a chakram. Weird.

[04] Yet, in spirit, the very incomprehensibility of the final episode is true to the Xenaverse. For, in Xena's world, anything goes. Nothing really has to make sense. Everything is subject to change.

Anything Goes in the Xenaverse

[05] Anything goes in the Xenaverse. That is why we love the show. That is why we love Xena. Xena is like us all. She does not always make any sense, either in her actions or her reasons. Her life, like ours, is not always explainable, or even understandable, and, in the end, one death is probably as good as the next and likely not permanent anyway. Xena, and the Xenaverse, is just as real as "real life". Life is. Xena is. Celebrate that. Whatever the story, celebrate the final episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.

[06] As art or entertainment, Xena's final episode is first rate, the action and acting gripping and believable. The cinematography is breathtaking, especially the attack scene where Xena dies. In the end, the final episode left me feeling not "loss" but instead, a huge appreciation for the whole series, and for everyone involved in the creation and development of Xena: Warrior Princess over the years.

[07] As the show ends, I say cheers for the journey these past 6 years. I say cheers for the characters, for Xena, Gabrielle, Lao Ma, Callisto, Borias, and for every terrific character and portrayal on the show, for the stories and all the "envelopes" pushed.

[08] The love between Xena and Gabrielle, the two "forevermore" friends, has not only deepened over the years in all of us who love the show, but that love has deepened us all. Such is the effect of a great friendship. Such is the effect of a great show.

Did Xena Have to Die?

[09] From the beginning of the series, until the end, both Gabrielle and Xena grow as people. At the end, however, only Gabrielle grows. Gabrielle is no longer the "sidekick", but now has become her own woman--whole, independent, powerful. Xena, on the other hand, goes backwards. At the end Xena ceases not only to be "the" hero, but to be even "a" hero. She becomes less than she had been, or can be.

[10] Xena is stuck again in the mindset that started the series, atoning for "sins of the past". You would think she was Catholic, she has so much "stuckness" around her "sins", real or rumored. "Sin" is also an archery term, which makes Xena's means of "death" particularly apropos in this, the "final" episode. In archery, "sin" means to have "missed the mark", not anything bad, simply inept or ineffective.

[11] Unlike Gabrielle, who flies true, and, at the end, hits her stated "target", which is to learn everything Xena knows, and become a warrior, Xena abandons even her basic principles. Gabrielle's journey, at the end, is complete, because she is. Xena is neither complete, nor completed. Rather than "graduating" from her own delusions or misperceptions, Xena comes full circle, back to where she started in SINS OF THE PAST.

[12] What happened to the Xena who believes in herself and her own power? What happened to the Xena who takes control? Makes no sense, in the last scene of the series of the show, for Xena to lose herself, dump her fundamental beliefs, and adopt--in fact, wholly embrace--doctrines, which include ritual death and sacrifice, beliefs of a culture not even her own! Xena is Greek, not Japanese!

[13] If Xena's "about face" was for the sake of a Lao Ma, a character of extraordinary depth and breadth in THE DEBT, that might be not only believable but also understandable. In the presence of a master like Lao Ma, anyone might heave out a few beliefs. But for Akemi? For a manipulative, deceitful, and rather characterless brat? Give me a break! Not even a god could "dumb down" Xena that much!

[14] Did Xena learn nothing from her life? That in the end she gives away belief in her own power to triumph, to begin, and begin again? Perhaps Xena ought to rise, phoenix-like, quite literally, from her own ashes, remember herself and re-embrace her own perceptions of the world.

Why Do We Love Xena So Much?

[15] Why do we love Xena so much? Perhaps because Xena's "superhero" status comes not from her being larger than life, but from being as large as life. To be the hero that Xena is, throughout the series, does not mean we have to be better people than we are. It means only that we have to be who we are--fully, who we are. What more accessible hero can there be than that? Xena does good not because of who she is, but despite it. That is real courage. That is the "courage [that] will change the world" as mentioned in the credits before every episode. Everything Xena knows how to do, we can learn. Gabrielle did. Xena is not the best in us, or, the worst. Xena is us, all that we are, and can be. That is why we love her so much. Through her, we love ourselves, just as Xena did through Gabrielle.

What About the Friendship?

[16] There has been much commotion over the years about "subtext". Whatever anyone's belief or persuasions, "meaning" can be read into anything. That is why newspaper "Horoscope" columns are so popular. However, reducing Xena and Gabrielle's friendship to a "do they or don't they", or "are they or aren't they" level diminishes not only the friendship, which, whatever the answers, is much more than that, but the women themselves. These women are complex, ever changing, human beings who love and with only occasional glitches trust each other. Their friendship adds meaning not only to their own lives but to all ours too, as observers and "participants" in their journey and exploration of an ever-deeper connection between two human beings.

[17] A friend asked me once why I liked the show, Xena: Warrior Princess, so much. I said, "The friendship". This is the first real friendship on TV since Steed and Mrs. Peel from British TV's The Avengers. For that show too, "do they or don't they" was wondered.

[18] Whatever is included, however it is expressed, friendship is much larger, more important, deeper, and certainly more long lasting, than sex. There are two forces at work in the world, love and, no, not sex, but fear. Much that arises in fact from fear is often attributed to love, like attachment, exclusivity, dependence, separation, jealousy, etc. All these arise from a belief in "scarcity", which is fear, not love.

[19] Love does not create "attachments". Instead, love celebrates wholeness, interconnectedness, growth, and change. In real friendship, we are more of who we can be, or are. We are the best we can be. Gabrielle understands this, and in the IDES OF MARCH, says as much, holding the dying Xena in her arms. "You brought out the best in me, Xena." [Note 01]

[20] In real friendship, a friend's choices are honored, even when those choices conflict with our own wishes. Gabrielle clearly honors Xena's choice to go along with Akemi's afterlife retribution program, though why Xena believes anything a proven liar and manipulator such as Akemi tells her is unclear. Whatever. Gabrielle honors Xena's choice to "stay dead", when, at the last moment she draws Gabrielle's hand back from putting the ashes in the Fountain, in the attempt to bring Xena "back to life".

Is Xena Really Dead?

Only her hairdresser knows for sure
Xena can survive almost anything.

[21] No, of course not. That is impossible. Xena can never die. An "idea" cannot be killed, especially an "idea whose time has come". That is what Xena is. Xena is a force ever alive and well in mass consciousness, in the culture-at-large.

[22] Recently, I passed a couple of small children playing outdoors, two boys, nine or ten years old, arguing which of them was going to "get to be Xena". In our world Xena is less a "pebble in the stream", sending out ripples, than a "boulder". In the reruns and in our own recall, and in her "effect" on other shows in the media, now and in the future, those effects will flow around us evermore. Xena lives in our hearts and minds, and in the "reruns". She may be gone, but Xena can never be forgotten. Xena: Warrior Princess. Thank you from us all.


Note 01:
The IDES OF MARCH episode is my own personal favorite Xena episode. Those seconds where Gabrielle, in a heartbeat, switches from her "way of love" to the "way of friendship", becoming a "killing machine" to try to save the injured Xena, is among the most riveting moments I have ever witnessed on TV.
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Adriane Saunders Adriane Saunders

Who is Adriane Saunders? Adriane is a commercial artist and writer, who--though an American--lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her background includes visual arts, radio broadcasting, public speaking, bodybuilding, fitness, mountaineering, and meditation. Adriane's spin on life is simple: "Show up and follow the clues."
Favorite episode: IDES OF MARCH from Season 4. (See Note 01 .)
Favorite line: Xena: "I have many skills," said from time to time throughout the series, usually deadpan.
First episode seen: DESTINY from Season 2. Coincidentally, Xena was dead in that episode too.
Least favorite episode: FALLEN ANGEL from Season 5. A "perfectly good" villian, Callisto, was "redeemed"

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