LOVE AND REDEMPTION IN XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
By Gail Futoran
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
A Fan In Need (01-03)
It is a Love Story! (04-09)
No, It is a Story of Redemption! (10-12)
Nuh Uh, It is Kick-B*tt Action! (13-14)
It is All of the Above Plus Gabrielle's Cope (15-18)
Epilogue: The Honeymoon Suite (19-26)
ONE AGAINST AN ARMY:
LOVE AND REDEMPTION IN XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
A Fan In Need
OAAA is a classic hurt/comfort tale.
 ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313) is a favorite of many fans. It was a feel good episode for fans in need of a pick-me-up after the outstanding but depressing MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311), and the stunning but emotionally draining THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), which was hard to grasp without a Tarot reference book. ONE AGAINST AN ARMY made up for the bad things that happened to Xena and Gabrielle in THE DEBT (52-53/306-307) although we know that particular rift was not fully mended until FORGET ME NOT (63/317).
 ONE AGAINST AN ARMY was a "normal" episode following several abnormal episodes, such as Gabrielle killing her own daughter and contemplating suicide [MATERNAL INSTINCTS], Xena and Gabrielle trying to kill each other [THE BITTER SUITE], and then Xena and Gabrielle singing at each other [THE BITTER SUITE]. ONE AGAINST AN ARMY was a regular adventure with each hero doing what she did best, and doing it better than ever before in extreme circumstances hitherto unimaginable.
 ONE AGAINST AN ARMY was the prototypical Xena: Warrior Princess episode, the center or balance point of the series, because it focused on the main themes of the series more than any other episode before or since.
- XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS was about the journey of two women who loved each other deeply as shown in thought, word, and deed.
- XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS was about the redemption of a former bad guy, one leather- and bronze-clad babe named Xena.
- XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS was about a female fictional hero in an era (ours, not hers) when "action hero" was defined outrageously and she still managed to outdo all the boys.
- Last, but not least, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS was about Gabrielle's evolution as a character and in particular her role as Xena's conscience.
It is a Love Story!"Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you."
-- Xena in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
Xena promises Gabrielle she will always be at the Bard's side.
 The love that was explicit in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY was a natural progression from earlier episodes and supported a number of relationship-heavy episodes that followed. For example, in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124) when trying to resuscitate Gabrielle, Xena pleaded "Don't leave me!" saying it four times. Her need for Gabrielle was palpable even then, but it still took her a long time to say, "I love you" and mean it.
 In DESTINY (36/212), Xena found peace in death but something was left undone, and that was her life with Gabrielle. It was Gabrielle's words that brought her back, words that echoed Xena's pleas in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSEVoice of Gabrielle: "Xena, I know you can hear me wherever you are. I know you always told me to be strong. I can't be, not now. You can't leave me. I know it's not your time. I can feel it in my heart. I just feel this emptiness that I've never known before, and it scares me. Xena -- above all -- just remember your destiny. Remember it and fight. Just fight to come back. This world needs you. I need you."
 In ONE AGAINST AN ARMY Xena was prepared to abandon Athens to the Persians to save Gabrielle's life.Gabrielle: "…there are things in life worth dying for, things that hold a higher meaning than our own existence."
Xena: "Not your existence."
Gabrielle: "Why? Because I'm your friend?"
-- ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
 In ONE AGAINST AN ARMY Xena did not appear to have a choice. In LEGACY (117/605) she did.Xena: "Gabrielle, in everyone's life, there's something that goes beyond the greater good. That's what you are in my life. I wasn't about to let you die out there if there was something I could do about it."
 The next lines are an eerie reversal of roles in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY.Gabrielle: "What if it was my choice?"In LEGACY, Gabrielle chose to die but Xena would not allow it. In ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, Xena chose to save Gabrielle but Gabrielle would not let her.
Xena: "Especially if it was your choice."
 It was in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY that the relationship solidified, the love could no longer be denied. In ONE AGAINST AN ARMY as in the series as a whole, from SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) right through to A FRIEND IN NEED II (134/622), it was through love that Gabrielle convinced Xena to do her duty. It was through love that Xena finally accepted her path of redemption.
No, It Is a Story of Redemption!"I'm done paying for my past mistakes."
-- Xena in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
 Xena's path at the start of the series was to be a do-gooder to make up for all the evil she had done in the past, and we did not even know how much evil until later in the series. There were hints in the Xena trilogy that introduced the character on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys [THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), THE GAUNTLET (H12/112), UNCHAINED HEART (H13/113)], and more hints in DESTINY (36/212) and THE QUEST (37/313), but nothing like THE DEBT where Xena killed soldiers who had surrendered and intended to murder a child (Ming T'ien). In ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402), Xena killed a number of Amazon leaders using skills enhanced by Alti and committed other atrocities.
 Yet the deed for which she was finally condemned to permanent death was one which was entirely unintentional, only slightly her fault, and of which she was not even aware until nearly 40 years later. The message from FRIEND IN NEED II was that nothing could pay for Xena's evil past except death, yet in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY there was the belief in the maxim "do good and you are good", and that redemption was possible even for a war criminal.
 No one held a gun to Xena's head and told her she had to risk her own neck and the neck of her dearest to save a bunch of people who would as likely hang her as cheer her. After being kick-started by a few mentors along the way, such as M'Lila, Lao Ma, Cyane, and Hercules, Xena decided on her own to change her ways. She pursued her new path with every ounce of every one of the many skills she possessed. ONE AGAINST AN ARMY showed her determination, her endurance, her focus, and her many skills as much as any episode has ever shown them, before or since.
Nuh Uh, It Is Kick-B*tt Action!
Xena doesn't give up."I won't accept defeat. There are always choices."
-- Xena in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
 To the credit of the stunt coordinators, the stuntees, and not least of all Lucy Lawless, Xena has always stood with the best of the male action heroes. In ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, she outdid herself: single-handedly defeating 300 soldiers with fists, feet, and steel without using Lao-Ma-powered mental skills. True, she did it by a bluff, and it was outrageous, yet Lucy Lawless, the staff, and crew pulled it off. There have been many wonderful fight scenes throughout the series but none that did it better. When Xena was knocked to the ground was the only time in the entire series when I actually became worried that she might be seriously harmed. When she got up in a break-dancing move, I cheered. After that, I never doubted her ability to survive the worst the bad guys could dish out, at least until FRIEND IN NEED II when the "bad guy" was a sweet manipulator named Akemi.
 The action in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY had two defining moments. First, in the loft, about to leap into the fray, Xena's face was a mask of steely determination. She was leaping to her death. She knew it and the audience knew it. However, the audience also knew she would keep fighting until there was nothing left to fight with. The second example was when she caught an arrow and stabbed the spy because it was a chance to save Gabrielle's life. Her murderous glee at that moment of giving the spy something of what her beloved experienced is memorable.
It Is All of the Above Plus Gabrielle's Cope"The first thing is the greater good. You taught me that. You taught me that there are things in life worth dying for, things that hold a higher meaning than our own existence."
-- Gabrielle in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
 The sweet bard dealt with an arrow in her shoulder, a warrior princess who had not figured out you snap the arrow off short before pulling it through the wound, poison, a spy who tried to kill her, visions, no makeup, and a bad hair day to show that she was the heart of the show. Xena had the determination to redeem herself, but it was Gabrielle who kept her on the right path. Xena without Gabrielle would be, at best, a hollow shell apt to revert to evil given any reasonable excuse. See Hercules: The Legendary Journeys ARMAGEDDON NOW II (H73/414) for a glimpse of Xena without Gabrielle to guide her. See WHEN FATES COLLIDE (130/618) for a Xena who was never betrayed by Caesar and did not meet Gabrielle until much later in their lives. Empress Xena could do, and apparently did, much good. Nevertheless, to be who she was destined to be required that she become Gabrielle's partner, not Caesar's. That lesson learned, she willingly died rather than continue to live a lie.
 Would we have believed Gabrielle's sacrifice at the end of SACRIFICE II (68/322) if we had not seen what she was capable of offering to the greater good in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY? Would we have believed the Gabinator (Gabrielle attacking Roman soldiers in defense of Xena at the end of THE IDES OF MARCH
[89/421]) if not for her actions in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY?
 WHEN FATES COLLIDE owed much to ONE AGAINST AN ARMY. Could Katherine Fugate have written a Gabrielle who hard-booted the universe to be with her Warrior Princess if not for Xena's earlier willingness to sacrifice her own life to obey Gabrielle's wishes, and Gabrielle's willingness to sacrifice her life to save Athens? Would we have believed Xena's sacrifice at the end of FRIEND IN NEED II if not for Gabrielle teaching her about love, and never better than in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY?
 Let us not forget the one idea that links all the threads: Gabrielle and Xena will be together throughout eternity. BETWEEN THE LINES made that idea explicit but it was present in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY. As Xena said to Gabrielle before going into the fight: "Until the other side. We'll be together then."
Epilogue: The Honeymoon Suite
Xena carries Gabrielle to a safer location."But you're my source, Gabrielle. When I reach down and do more than I'm capable of, it's because of you. Don't you know that by now?"
-- Xena in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
 Everything important that was said and done before and after ONE AGAINST AN ARMY aired linked back to it. Love? Yes, it was a love story.Gabrielle: "I want so much to be like you."
Xena: "And I want to be like you."
--ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
 Redemption? Yes, why else would Xena fight 300 enemy troops rather than take her beloved off to someplace safe? Action? Yes! Xena convincingly defeated 300 soldiers, first physically then psychologically.
 It was Gabrielle's finest hour. Whereas warrior was the first thing that defined Xena, it was one of the last things that defined Gabrielle. "You're my source, Gabrielle" linked directly with "It's hard to be alone" from SINS OF THE PAST and "But if there is a reason for our travels together it's because I had to learn from you enough to know the final, the good, the right thing to do" from FRIEND IN NEED II. Too often during the six-year run of the show Gabrielle was shown as just the sidekick, perhaps neglected less in Season Four and Season Six than any other season, but even then she was often underused -- the perennial lament of the Gabrielle fan! Not so in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, Gabrielle suffused the episode.
 The Rift Arc showed Xena fighting her destiny, to be a warrior for good no matter what the consequences, including the betrayal of her closest friend and the murder of her child. ONE AGAINST AN ARMY showed a Xena who finally accepted her destiny. In the next episode, FORGIVEN (60/314) she was able to say to Tara with confidence: "You want to do good? Do it! Then you'll be good." She learned her lesson because of Gabrielle, and because she, Xena, chose to learn.
 However, the Rift Arc was also about Gabrielle becoming someone other than the silly sidekick. The Rift Arc and ONE AGAINST AN ARMY set the stage for Gabrielle's spiritual journey in Season Four, and her new definition as warrior bard at the start of season five. Who was Gabrielle at the end of FRIEND IN NEED II? A warrior with chakram? Yet that is not at the core of who she was. Who Gabrielle was appears in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY: the only person Xena listened to, the only person who could sweet-talk the tiger into jumping through the morally correct hoop, the only person who defined love as the way and helped Xena stick to her path.
 ONE AGAINST AN ARMY was the fans' reward for sticking through the Rift Arc. THE DEBT married me to the show, while ONE AGAINST AN ARMY was the honeymoon. ONE AGAINST AN ARMY was the distillation of all that preceded it, and it predicted everything that came after, even FRIEND IN NEED II.
 There have been many wonderful episodes since ONE AGAINST AN ARMY and many wonderful episodes preceded it. The relationship-focused themes of Season Four and Season Six were not possible without ONE AGAINST AN ARMY setting the stage.
 ONE AGAINST AN ARMY showed us the powerhouse team that these two women were. Even if the team was shattered at the end of the series, it continues in fan fiction. That is as much the legacy of ONE AGAINST AN ARMY as anything else. A writer who can capture Gabrielle and Xena as they were in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY is a writer who knows who these characters are.
Gail Futoran, "Joxer: Defender of Subtext" WHOOSH 55 (04/01),
I have been a SF/fantasy fan for nearly 50 years, and a feminist for almost as long. I am retired from college teaching but interacting with other XWP fans provides intellectual stimulation as well as fuel for various "obsessions". These include rose gardening dominated by "theme" beds where roses represent various XWP characters. Our Tonkinese kittens are named Lao Ma and Ephiny. I have made two month-long trips to New Zealand (1998, 2000), an intention I formed in the 1960s but did not act on until XWP reminded me of the beauty of the country and the friendliness of the Kiwis. My husband does not share any of my obsessions, but he is supportive.
Favorite episode: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
Favorite line: Xena to Gabrielle: "You gave my life meaning and joy, and you will be a part of me forever." SACRIFICE II
First episode seen: late Season One
Least favorite episode: THE KEY TO THE KINGDOM