Whoosh! Issue 59 - August 2001

By Mil Toro
Group Therapy Project
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
3814 words

It is Over Folks (01-02)
Full Circle (03-06)
Death of A Hero (07-13)
Why Did Xena Die? (14-17)
Plot? What Plot? (18-22)
Final Statement (23-24)
Is This A Movie? (25-26)
The Future (27)


It Is Over Folks

I'll stop calling it High-Goochi if you'll stop saying 'Gebrielle' in that annoying kiwi accent!
Xena and Gabrielle talk strategy.

[01] I watched the series finale with much trepidation. I had read the spoilers and knew what was coming but that did not make it any easier. In fact, I am glad I had read the spoilers because the sledgehammer to the stomach made it a little easier to take. A little.

[02] Nothing can fix this ending. Not a follow up movie. Not any of the lame-*ss*d explanations that Rob Tapert and R.J. Stewart gave at the Museum panel. Not attempts by valiant fan fiction writers. Not the old episodes where Xena is alive and well. Not even the knowledge that Xena and Gabrielle reincarnate and end up together in future lives. This is beyond fixing. This is Rob Tapert's final statement about the show and we all have to live with it. Xena is dead but so is loyalty.

Full Circle

[03] Did the show and Xena's journey really come full circle? Maybe, but only if you start from SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) and jump directly to FRIEND IN NEED (133-134/621-622). According to the final statement of FRIEND IN NEED, and essentially the ultimate statement by Rob Tapert on this series, the other 131 episodes in between the first episode and the last episode meant absolutely nothing. In other words, they cheated. They went from 001 degrees to 359 degrees then to 360 degrees. That is not "full circle", that is taking a lazy and dishonest shortcut.

[04] I always have considered the show to be about Xena's journey to redeem herself for the "sins of her past". That there was a way to find redemption if you dedicated your life to the Greater Good. In SINS OF THE PAST, she befriended Gabrielle who showed her that she believed that Xena could succeed even if there were bumps along the road. From that point, the journey was about finding redemption through the Greater Good with Gabrielle at her side.

[05] What of Gabrielle's journey? Was Gabrielle's ultimate goal to succeed Xena as the Warrior Princess? It is true that in SINS OF THE PAST, Gabrielle told Xena to "teach me everything you know" and told her sister Lila "I want to be just like Xena" but as the character evolved throughout the series and as late as TO HELICON AND BACK (127/615) near the end of the 6th season, it was clear that Gabrielle was not a warrior; a fighter maybe, but certainly not a warrior. Each battle she went through ripped out yet another piece of her soul. She did not have the heart for it. By the end of FRIEND IN NEED with Gabrielle succeeding Xena as "the grrl with a chakram", it almost implied that Xena: Warrior Princess has always been about Gabrielle's journey.

[06] That would have been well and good if they had actually showed it *narratively*, but they rarely did on the show. One can count on one hand the number of episodes that were told from Gabrielle's perspective [THE QUEST (37/213), THE PRICE (44/220), THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER (56/310), et al.], yet 90% of the episodes were told from Xena's perspective and of course, Xena was almost always right.

Death of A Hero

[07] In a movie when the hero dies, it is tragic but yet an effective storyline. The plot can be full of holes, the character motivation questionable, the writing can be sloppy, and the special effects can be cheesy. However, people are only investing 2 hours in a movie. They are not attached to the character and the emotional investment is not as great, so the stakes are not as high. You can go to a movie not knowing the hero is going to die and spend the entire movie not wanting the hero to die, and yet the hero tragically dies anyway. Still, you can end up forgetting about the movie a week later. A movie has a beginning, middle, and an end all in the space of around two hours. There is not much of an emotional investment. However, a long running 6-year TV series is vastly different than a 2-3 hr movie. People have a long-term investment in a show that shares a piece of their lives for an hour each week for six years. People have become attached to and relate to Xena on a personal level. Some on a very deep personal level. She has been a part of our lives for six years just as much as she has for the creators.

[08] So, who owns Xena? Is she merely Rob Tapert's creation and he can do with her as he wishes? Perhaps, but once he shared her with us, something magical happened-- something magical that rarely happens, but when it does, it is akin to a miracle. It was that Xena became "ours" too. "Ours", as in the fans, and "ours" as in the heirs of our culture. At this point, Tapert had a triple threat. He not only had the challenge of being true to his own vision of the character, but he had to deal with the judgment of the fans, and also was going up against the "character" of Xena, who no longer was under his complete and unilateral control. Xena had become a force of her own. Tapert had his vision, Tapert had the fan's expectations, and finally Tapert had to grapple with the independent being of a character itself who had become a popular culture icon which was moving into the greater territory of myth and legend.

[09] Did Tapert do justice to all this? In my opinion, he did not. Ultimately, the Xena he was to decapitate -- not to mention defile her body in death and have her best friend/lover find her stripped and naked left hanging bloody like a side of beef while forced to find her head -- was not the Xena that he had, many years ago, created by scribbling on a piece of paper. The Xena he killed was the Xena that had become an archetype.

[10] Did he have a responsibility to honor the character because the character had become adopted by the world? That will be debated for years, maybe decades. However, it does explain why the series finale outraged so many fans and casual viewers. Nothing can change the fact that Xena has become a world phenomenon, not just Tapert's private little action figure, and with that transcendence comes responsibilities if you want to "do justice" for the character.

[11] As to the ending, my first preference would have been if both Xena and Gabrielle had lived. Second would have been if both of them had died. Nevertheless, my worst fears happened. I have always hated the idea of Xena and/or Gabrielle going on in this life without the other. I personally do not care about future or reincarnations because in DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN, BETWEEN THE LINES, and THE XENA SCROLLS all had Xena and Gabrielle not knowing who the other was until their bodies were "inhabited" by the souls of Xena or Gabrielle from Ancient Greece. What is the point of being reincarnated and not knowing who your soulmate is? I would have preferred for both of them to live on together in this life or both of them to die, but not one without the other.

[12] Furthermore, by looking at the last aired seven episodes, one can get the impression that the producers were preparing us for this horrific ending. They aired: SEND IN THE CLONES, THE LAST OF THE CENTAURS, WHEN FATES COLLIDE, MANY HAPPY RETURNS, SOUL POSSESSION, FRIEND IN NEED I, and FRIEND IN NEED II.

[13] LAST OF THE CENTAURS, SOUL POSSESSION, and MANY HAPPY RETURNS tied up some loose ends. SEND IN THE CLONES, WHEN FATES COLLIDE, and SOUL POSSESSION had Xena and Gabrielle in future incarnations or in an alternate reality. I even wondered about all the alternate/Uber episodes at the time the schedule was released. However, with 20/20 hindsight, this was supposed to console us that Xena does not *really* die and leave Gabrielle, but that they live on in future. Again, I say what difference does that make if they do not know they are each other's soulmate. SOUL POSSESSION is supposed to be consolation that Xena and Gabrielle find each other in that episode and Xena ends up in Annie/Lucy's body. However, if the story had just been about Annie and Mattie, maybe I could have gone for that. Unfortunately, Ted Raimi and Kevin Smith are in that episode as well, so it really ruins it for me. It is no consolation at all. Besides, by trying to pretend that FRIEND IN NEED never happened or rearranging the episodes so that FRIEND IN NEED is not the finale only lets Rob Tapert off the hook. He would not have to take responsibility of making the wrong call for the series finale because we changed the ending for him. However, I just cannot do that. FRIEND IN NEED was made. It is his final statement on this show.

Why Did Xena Die?

[14] Nonetheless, I can understand Tapert wanting to kill off the character at the end of the series. I do not agree with it but I understand him wanting to make that choice for some kind of dramatic "bold" statement. But please, if you must do something like that to the hero of a long running TV series where her status amongst fans all over the world has been revered and has become larger than life in the culture around them, then please, do it for a reason!

[15] There was no believable reason that Xena had to die in this episode. In fact, a better part of the last half of FRIEND IN NEED II was devoted to the hope that she would be brought back to life, with Gabrielle doing everything in her power to do so. However, it was all for naught. At the last second, Xena tells Gabrielle she cannot come back because... because... nothing! Nothing she said made any kind of sense. The 40,000 souls were freed when she killed the Ghosteater. Akemi even tells her that she was redeemed as were they all. So, why did she have to stay dead? Somehow, she was still responsible because they died supposedly because of her. I do not agree she was responsible but that is not even the bloody point! In a religious/spiritual/moral sense, since when is the "murderer" responsible for the *afterlife* of the people they kill? Xena had done her duty by freeing their souls, redeeming them and herself, according to Akemi, but now she had to pay with her life to make sure they found peace and vengeance? Excuse me, but would that not be based on what each individual had done in their own lives when they were mortals?

[16] This exact same situation presented itself in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE. Xena wiped out a whole Amazon tribe by her own hand, not by an accident. She went to the Land of the Dead, discovered that Alti had trapped all the Amazons and they could not be laid to rest, so Xena decided to help them. Why? Because she was the one who was responsible for their deaths in the first place. Moreover, it was no accident. She killed them all with her own hands. Not only that, she *enjoyed* it so if there was any reason for Xena to pay for her crimes, that was it. ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE at least had a better set up than FRIEND IN NEED because it appeared that Akemi was responsible for the deaths of those 40,000 souls and Xena was merely an accessory to the crime through manipulation. She was set up.

[17] In ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE, Xena again entered the Spirit World to defeat Alti and released the souls of the Amazons to go to the Land of the Dead, their afterlife. Now why did she not stay dead then? Because Xena had done her duty and had redeemed herself. Well, almost, the Amazons were still dead. That is not the point. The point is, based on that stupid-ridiculous-last minute-underhanded-out of left field-total cheat of a plot device in FRIEND IN NEED, Xena should have been forced to stay dead in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE too. There was at least a more solid foundation as to why she was responsible for those Amazon souls. If there had been more of a valid reason in FRIEND IN NEED and it had been played out well, I might have even bought into the concept. Maybe. I still do not agree that the one responsible for your death is also responsible for your soul in the afterlife after you free their soul from a ghosteating monster. That is just ridiculous.

Plot? What Plot?

Don't ask me, I just came for the sushi!
Borias is always nice to see, but what did his presence accomplish in the finale?

[18] If you are going to kill off the main heroic character of a long running TV series like Xena, the plot had better be tighter than Gab's Abs. It was not. It was sloppy, nonsensical, and incoherent with threads left hanging all over the place. For instance, why did Xena trust Akemi about *anything* after the way she manipulated Xena in the past and basically boxed Xena into a corner where the only honorable thing to do was kill her, then take her ashes to be buried where she was confronted by that angry mob. Yes, Xena did start the fire, but she used her fire-breathing skills in *self-defense*. This is even a much different situation than the episode CALLISTO where Xena's army was *marauding and pillaging* when a fire broke out. However, Xena and her army committed an aggressive act of war that makes her ultimately responsible.

[19] That is not what happened in FRIEND IN NEED. It was clearly self-defense when an angry mob attacked an unarmed woman. Akemi was much more responsible for the devastating fire than Xena. She is the one who killed her own father, not Xena. That act of patricide caused the angry mob to attack Xena. Why is Xena responsible for those 40,000 souls for what would be considered "accidental manslaughter" not cold-blooded murder like Akemi?

[20] You also have to wonder why that mob was chasing Xena in the first place. If Akemi's father was so despicable that he wiped out every member of his own family, according to Akemi, and in death he became the monster Ghosteater, does it not stand to reason that in life he was also a monster? He was rich and lived in a palace, so his horrific crimes would most likely have been known by the general populace. So, why were they so angry that Akemi committed patricide? She just killed a despicable man, who no doubt had been terrorizing the common folk, so would she not have been a hero even if it was her own father?

[21] Who exactly was the Ghosteater when he was alive other than Akemi's father? According to Akemi, all we found out was that he killed her entire family. However, that was his family too so what was the real story? Did he flat out murder them all or did he simply abandon them leaving them to starve to death while he lived a rich life in the palace? If he outright murdered them, which is what we probably are supposed to believe considering the bare thread plot, then it stands to reason that a man like that had committed other similar crimes and the villagers would have known about that. You do not become a ferocious Ghosteater if you were a saint if your mortal life. The villagers should have been *praising* Akemi as a hero despite the patricide, rather than trying to murder an unarmed woman who wanted to give "the hero's" ashes a proper burial. Obviously, I am missing something about Japanese culture here but the episode should have done a better job of explaining these things.

[22] However, how can Akemi be trusted in any of this? I can understand EvilXena might have been forgiving of the way Akemi underhandedly manipulated her into doing her bidding, i.e. getting the sword, teaching her the pinch, killing her father etc. However, why was the present day Xena not more wary? Why did she take Akemi's word as gold? Was her loins still stuck at 19 years old? Why did she not question Akemi's motivation to come back to "Japa"? Why did she not question why it took Akemi 35 years or so to ask Xena for help? In addition, why did Gabrielle not doubt Akemi after hearing her story? Not once was it questioned by any of the characters that Akemi might not be trustworthy, even the monk and the Ghostkiller who supposedly knew her backstory. It would have made a better story if Akemi's motivation had been she needed Xena to defeat her father in the spirit world and then trapped Xena once she was there for her own selfish reasons.

Final Statement

[23] What was Tapert's final statement about Xena? That vengeance wins out in the end. That no matter what Xena did in life to make up for her past sins, she still had to pay with her mortal death. That Xena giving up her soul to redeem Callisto meant nothing. That Gabrielle's perspective that it was possible to end the cycle of hatred through love and forgiveness was just a naive girl being stupid. That even though Callisto vowed to continue to hunt Xena down and kill everything she loved, Xena thought her life was worth saving because it was "the right thing to do". That Borias' son was worthy of being redeemed and to continue in this life even after he had killed off an entire race, the Centaurs. However, none of that applied to Xena. In the end, vengeance wins because Xena says she has to stay dead because the 40,000 souls needed to find peace and must be avenged (!).

[24] Rob Tapert and RJ Stewart admitted at the Museum of Television and Radio panel that they considered Xena a "war criminal" and had to die in the end. Then what was the point of the series? Obviously, there was none except that killing and vengeance will always win the day. Nothing was going to stop Tapert and Stewart from killing Xena in the end because they said they knew how it was going to end ages ago. Lucy Lawless has been vilified in some quarters for going along with this travesty of a series finale since she is the Executive Producer's wife and plays the title character. However, one attendee got the impression from certain statements that Lawless was opposed to the idea of killing Xena at first. A self-proclaimed instinctual person, Lawless should have listened to her first instinct. If that is the case, then I assume nothing she or Renee O'Connor could have said would have made a difference. Tapert and Stewart had their minds made up long ago and that is all there was to it. However, if you are going to kill off the main heroic character of a long running TV series, you had better do it right. They did not. They failed miserably.

Is This A Movie?

Like the Baldwin brothers, Kenji's elder sibling is in better flicks
Crouching Xena, Hidden Gabrielle?

[25] Some fans have said you should watch FRIEND IN NEED as if it were a movie, not the final statement of a long running TV series. How can I do that? Especially when the episode is directly tied to the pilot episode and the same actors are playing the same roles and have been for the last 6 years. That is yet another mental gymnastic maneuver I am required to execute in order to make FRIEND IN NEED palatable. I refuse to do that. If Tapert wanted to make a two hour movie, and it seems to me he was trying to make a poor man's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, he should have made a theatrical release, or in the very least, had the decency not use the characters of Xena and Gabrielle.

[26] Was it the fact that Xena died that I detested FRIEND IN NEED so much? No, not necessarily. As I stated above, I would have preferred that they either both lived (my first preference) or both died. In other words, Xena and Gabrielle would still be together. If Xena alone had to die, I could have even been convinced of it if they had told me a believable story. However, it was the grisly *way* that Xena died and most importantly *why* she died. She died for no good reason and the poorly constructed plot just did not hold water.

The Future

[27] Xena: Warrior Princess could have been a franchise for the ages a la Star Trek. However, I doubt the producers ever really knew what kind of magic they had and their exploitative/cavalier attitude towards the fans will cost them dearly when all is said and done. The incredibly insensitive image of "Japa" being torched by a primitive "nuclear bomb" in FRIEND IN NEED is symbolic of what happened with the making of the episode. Rob Tapert torched the franchise, the characters, and the fans all in one fell swoop. In the end, his final edict seems to be "see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!"


Mil Toro, LYRE LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE Music CD. Whoosh #49 (October 2000)

Mil Toro, Convention Thoughts. Whoosh #57 (June 2001)


Mil Toro Mil Toro

I am a converted Canuck. I was born in New York City, raised in Philadelphia, lived in Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and now for the last 15 years, in Toronto Canada. My job as a banker pays my bills, but writing is my true love, and I have written a few Xena stories and skits. They can be found through my website at - One in A Mil Xena Page http://webhome.idirect.com/~lucyfer/index.html
Favorite episode: THE DEBT (52-53/306-307)
Favorite line: Xena: "I like to be creative in a fight, it gets my juices going" Gabrielle: "Can we cook with your juices?" A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
First episode seen: THE PRODIGAL (18/118), but the one that got me hooked was IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Least favorite episode: FRIEND IN NEED (133/134-621/622)

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