Whoosh! Issue 78 - July/August 2003

By Xiomara Suro
Content © 2003 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2003 held by Whoosh!
2074 words

Why Write About a Cancelled Show? (01-02)
Why Attempts at Replication Have Failed (03-06)
Why the Flaws Were Both a Strength and A Weakness (07-12)
The Theme of Darkness (13-20)
The Theme of Commitment or Lack Thereof (21-27)
The Analysis Never Ends (28-30)


Why Write About a Cancelled Show?

[01] For six years, people have talked, argued, and written many things about Xena: Warrior Princess. A year after it was canceled and relegated to syndicated reruns, many things are still been said about the show. It never ceases to amaze me, the power of this show.

[02] If so much has been said and written, then why am I writing about this show and its characters instead of going out for a well-deserved motorcycle ride? Perhaps because the characters on this show are riveting and magnetic. Maybe because the show opened a window to stories that were previously hidden from us. Perhaps because the show was the catalytic force that showed the world the total power of women. Maybe because its characters were flawed and portrayed by two very excellent actors. Or just perhaps because it was a heck of an entertaining show. Whatever the reason, many of us are still watching, crying, buying, reading, and writing about this show that so marvelously captivated us six years ago.

Why Attempts at Replication Have Failed

[03] This show was the driving force that allowed shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Angel, Witchblade, Alias, and others to be brought to television. Yet, although this show was the predecessor of so many other shows, there was something special about it. In addition to the writing, acting, and directing, which was superb, the key to the success of this show was its main characters. They were flawed characters, one with a very dark past and one who started as an innocent, which innocence was later tarnished and even lost.

[04] These characters are not like Buffy, who was destined to be the Slayer, because in every generation there is a Slayer. She is the one chosen to fight to protect the world, or at least her small neck of the woods, from vampires and demons.

[05] These characters are not the biologically enhanced characters of Dark Angel, in which the title character was programmed to have the super strength that she uses to fight for right in rebuilding the world.

[06] These characters did not gain their strength from a magical gauntlet provided to the title character as in Witchblade, in which the gauntlet selected her because she had special powers and abilities to fight against evil. The strength of Xena and Gabrielle came from within themselves, from who and what they were, and from what they believed to be right and wrong.

Why the Flaws Were Both a Strength and A Weakness

[07] The most important thing about our characters, Xena and Gabrielle, was how flawed they were. They were not all good or all evil. They had long stretches of gray. Not everything with them was totally black or white. Although they really tried to get that perfect balance, they could never accomplish it.

[08] Even in their best times, the darkness that surrounded Xena could be felt and seen in her eyes, in her smile. At the same time, that extra touch of light could be felt in Gabrielle's voice and seen in her genuine, clear smile.

[09] Yet, for all Gabrielle and Xena had going for themselves, something always bothered me about it all. Xena had these narrow-minded ideas about herself. She dug her heels deep into the fact that she had this dark past, an evil-infected past that she had to overcome. However, it was that evil-infected past that gave her the strength and the ability to see beyond the trees to the forest to find different avenues to solve a problem and fight for what was right.

[10] Although, at first, this narrow-minded vision was refreshing and allowed for many interesting things to happen, by the end of the series it became a bit overdone as Xena gradually changed throughout the lifetime of the series.

[11] And change Xena did. That first image we see is of Xena killing her second in command in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys' THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109) and then saying that Hercules tried to kill her and had killed her companions. It is such an introduction to what we get to see later, when we get a good look at the truly evil Xena.

[12] But that is not the same Xena who later on holds Gabrielle's hand in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313) and tells Gabrielle that they will be together even in death. And that Xena is miles away from the Xena who holds Gabrielle very tightly in her arms, as a very feverish and hallucinating Gabrielle talks to Xena as if Xena was her daughter in THE ABYSS (118/606). And that Xena was many, many miles away from the Xena we see in the last shot of the series, in A FRIEND IN NEED (134/622). This Xena who, as a ghost, softly kisses Gabrielle and tells her they will always be together. There was a tenderness and softness in this Xena that was not there when the series first started. The last Xena had an ease to be soft, but still strong, and to be vulnerable without being weak.

The Theme of Darkness

[13] From the start, our hero was very flawed, a hero who changed so gradually and easily in front of our eyes that many times we did not even notice the changes. The tones of gray gradually became more pronounced and she was not so dark anymore. There was a distinct light within her darkness. By the end, the light within her darkness emerged to fill her soul with color. Gone was the complete darkness.

[14] I remember in WARRIOR…PRINCESS (15/115), Diana was trying to put a red ribbon on Xena's dark leathers, Xena told her, "I like dark." But that is not what we see at the end. There is no total darkness. In the end, Xena was a totally transformed person, and her light was stronger than her darkness.

[15] But, Xena was not the only one who grew in this series. Gabrielle's growth was more noticeable. We saw her change in front of our eyes from that bright eyed, naïve young woman to a very strong, self-assured, and even somewhat dark woman.

[16] Yes, there was darkness in Gabrielle. Her darkness was there from the beginning, but we did not want to see it. Better still, it was overshadowed by the darkness that radiated from Xena.

[17] Gabrielle's darkness was very subtle. Examples are statements not finished as in CHARIOTS OF WAR (02/102), or pride taking over as we saw in ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113). We saw that Gabrielle just got up and left Xena behind because her pride as a bard had been injured and her ability as a bard had been questioned.

[18] Yet, this is not the only time the dark side of pride took over Gabrielle. It happened again in THE PRODIGAL (18/118) where Gabrielle felt she could not fight as well as Xena, so she packed up and went.

[19] During the run of the show, we saw Gabrielle battle her pride and her jealousy. Pride and jealousy run deep in Gabrielle, just as deep as Xena's darkness runs in her.

[20] Manipulation is another trait that plagued Gabrielle throughout the series. She was so good at it that she was able to manipulate Xena do to what she wanted Xena to do, for example, going to India on a quest for peace and fulfillment. This led them into more danger and almost to their deaths.

The Theme of Commitment or Lack Thereof

[21] The one thing that bothered me the most from day one about Gabrielle was her lack of commitment to Xena. This was obvious in episodes like THE DEBT (52/306, 53/307), CRUSADER (76/408), and THE CONVERT (86/418), just to mention a few.

[22] During the run of the series, we see a wishy-washy Gabrielle when it comes to her commitment to Xena. In LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407), at the end of the episode Gabrielle professes to Xena that she will be always with her. Then in CRUSADER, Gabrielle is very willing to leave Xena. All of a sudden, she is bothered by Xena's darkside, her violence. This same violence has saved them both on countless occasions. Not even Gabrielle wants to accept the subtle changes in Xena.

[23] In FALLEN ANGEL (91/501), Xena fights to keep them together while Gabrielle, at the drop of a hat, without any argument, is willing to set Xena up for destruction.

[24] It is not until the last season that we see a total, complete commitment to Xena from Gabrielle.

[25] Commitment to Gabrielle was the strongest thing Xena had going for her. She was committed to her bard. From DREAMWORKER (03/103) and on, we see that commitment throughout the run of the series. Even after Gabrielle has betrayed Xena in THE DEBT, where Gabrielle goes as far as to slap Xena, Xena still holds tight to their friendship.

[26] Xena tells Amarice in IDES OF MARCH (89/421) that what Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets. She could not have said it any better.

[27] Do not get me wrong. It is not that there was no commitment from Gabrielle to Xena. Gabrielle was very committed to Xena. It was the frequent deviations from that commitment that bothered me. These deviations again go to show how flawed our heroes were. It was those flaws and those human qualities that made these characters so real and so palpable to us.

The Analysis Never Ends

[28] Xena and Gabrielle visited our homes weekly and let us enter their fictional world, which in many ways we made our world. Their fictional locations joined the place of our realities. Their many weaknesses became reflections of us.

[29] After all is said and done, the final curtain is lowered. Yet we are still here, analyzing, construing, looking, and trying to find answers to questions once asked and, by many, answered, of a program that is gone, but will never be forgotten.

[30] This demonstrates the durability of this great program. So, instead of going out to ride my motorcycle, I decided to stay home on a sunny day, have some coffee, and, again, write about my favorite show.


Xiomara Suro. A View of Xena: Warrior Princess. Whoosh! #42 (March 2000)
Xiomara Suro. A Pregnant Action Hero: What a Concept. Whoosh! #58 (Jul 2001)
Xiomara Suro. Why This Ending. Whoosh! #59 (Aug 2001)
Xiomara Suro. The Xena Oxygen Marathon. Whoosh! #64 (Jan 2002)
Xiomara Suro. Did We Say Violence? Whoosh! #68 (May 2002)
Xiomara Suro. Friend In Need Revisited. Whoosh! #70 (July 2002)
Xiomara Suro. Xena and Buffy. Whoosh! #75 (January/February 2003)

Ms. Suro also writes reviews for the Whoosh! Episode Guide.


the author Xiomara Suro (Beboman) was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She retired from the military and a ten-year stint as a Coast Guard Special Agent, went to hide in Nevada, and worked for a time in a casino, in the surveillance department. After a few years of watching others playing, she decided that was no fun, so she left the casino life behind. Now she just works on writing short stories, poetry and trying to get her romance novel published. She also enjoys taking long motorcycles rides in the company of her husband "Wolfman." She is the mother of two and the grandmother of two.

Favorite episode: WHEN FATES COLLIDE (130/618), ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402), IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124), and A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
Favorite line: Xena: "Gimme, Gimme" A FRIEND IN NEED I (133/621); Xena: "Be Nice" THE GREATER GOOD (21/121)
First episode seen: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) (after a bad spill on a Harley)
Least favorite episode: GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305), MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311), and IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)



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