If I could be like Xena

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Xena: Season Three

I’ve gotten a little behind in my Xena reviews. We’ve started in on the final season, when there was no longer any pretending about Xena and Gabrielle’s couple state – heck, even the Valkyries in the the Norse Cycle, recognized Xena and Gabrielle as soul-mates, when one Valkyrie protected Gabrielle’s body as an eternal flame that could only be cross by her soul-mate, Xena, to restore Gabrielle to the living and undo the damage that Xena wrought.

I think that it’s true, if you go looking for something, you tend to find it – and Xena was wonderful as a tease for lesbian with just enough plausible doubt to keep the censorship forces at bay.

It’s funny/sad to think about how hard that show had to work in the pre-L Word days to hide the central relationship of the show in plain site in order for people to focus on the show and not get hung up that it’s a show about a lesbian couple.

Season Three

Episode 1: The Furies

Ares convinces The Furies to drive Xena insane as part of his plan to get Xena back, but even crazy Xena is too clever for him – and it’s her love for Gabrielle that keeps Xena fighting.

Episode 2: Been There, Done That

Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer are trapped in an endless repeating day, until Xena figures out how to prevent True Love between a Romeo and Juliet being lost in a town erupting in a blood feud.

In any episode where Xena or Gabrielle come close to death or actually die, we see their true relationship – complete love and devotion beyond death, nothing comes between them.

Episode 3: The Dirty Half Dozen

Xena provides an opportunity for four prisoners slated for execution to redeem themselves by doing a good service by stopping a warlord that Aries has provided magical Armour for.

Xena, as much as she wants to be a force for good in the world, many times over the series, had to draw on her dark side to carry the battle – and her commitment to good deeds, is largely down to wanting to be worthy of Gabrielle’s love.

Episode 4: The Deliverer
Episode 5: Gabrielle’s Hope

Xena’s hatred of Caesar takes the duo to Britannia; where Xena helps Boadicea  against Caesar and Gabrielle falls into the clutches of a religious cult, looses her blood innocence by taking an innocent life and becoming the vessel for the evil god Dahak’s offspring, who Gabrielle names Hope.

And, with many lesbian couples, it’s hard on the non-biological parent – and Xena demands that Gabrielle kill the baby. Kidding – Xena knows that Hope must die to prevent Dahak from entering the world, it’s not because Xena has issues not being the baby daddy. Lesbians are blended family tolerant, but offspring of evil gods, changes the perspective a little.

The important thing that comes back later is that Xena lost sight of what was going on with Gabrielle because of her hatred for Caesar – if they hadn’t gone, if Xena hadn’t left Gabby to her own devices, if Gabby could have listened….

These episodes sets up all the future relationship unraveling.

Episode 6: The Debt: Part 1
Episode 7: The Debt: Part 2

Leaving Gabrielle behind, Xena travels to the Kingdom of Chin to assassinate an evil ruler to ensure the good done by Lao Ma, the woman who put Xena on the path to The Way.

Furious that Xena would abandon their shared path of good, Gabrielle makes a deal with Aries to get to Chin first, planning to stop Xena from murder and mostly, to find out what Lao Ma had that Gabrielle didn’t.

These episodes add more fuel to the break up and hatred that is rising between our girls.

Episode 8: The King of Assassins

A Xena light and humour episode after all the darkness, Gabrielle, Autolycus, and Joxer stop Joxer’s identical appearing but completely bad ass brother Jett, a cold-blooded assassin, from assassinating Cleopatra.

In this episode, we also discover that the Might Joxer song began as a childhood taunt – Joxer the Tidy instead of Joxer the Mighty; giving us a glimpse that Joxer’s delusions of competence are a childhood dream of belonging – and you wonder how much better his life would have been, had he settled down with a trade – because in season six, we find out that he ends up married to Meg and operating a tavern – a Xena and Gabrielle Hard Rock Tavern, but a tavern nonetheless.

Episode 9: Warrior… Priestess… Tramp

Xena and Gabrielle discover another Xena-lookalike – this time, Leah, the Hestian Virgin Head Priestess and that Meg impersonating her, but this time, Meg’s been duped into thinking she’s doing good by taking over for a priestess that she’s been told has run away.

This is one of my favorites and it’s certainly the most raunchy episode ever.

Between Leigh chastising Xena and Gabrielle for not being virgins – even Gabrielle’s protest of being married has no impact; as, Leah replies, we all have our little excuses.

Meanwhile, Xena impersonates Meg impersonating Leah and has a battle with the bad guys while the Hestian virgins are confessing to sexual feelings and encounters with garden vegetables.

Also in this episode, a bawdy brothel version of the Joxer song.

Episode 10: The Quill Is Mightier…

A miffed Aphrodite charms Gabrielle’s scroll so that anything written comes true, more or less. More less than more.

Gabrielle tries to write a fictional adventure of her own, sending Xena off for a spot of fishing – Xena fishes a lot in the series, catching fish by hand more often than by pole. If you get where that’s going….wink wink nudge

The highlight is when Joxer, full knowing the scroll shapes reality, brings three Naked Go Go Gabrielles.

Episode 11: Maternal Instincts

Xena and Gabrielle travel to the centaurs’ lands and visit Solan.

Gabrielle’s not dead daughter, Hope, returns Callisto back into the world and kills Solan with poison.

Xena and Gabrielle rage at each other over the loss of their children and at each other in a power struggle of relationship dominance and recrimination for errors in judgement. Everything that’s been pulling them apart finally succeeds.

Episode 12: The Bitter Suite

Predating the Buffy Musical episode by three years, Xena and Gabrielle face their betrayals in an alternate world of Illusia – a magical and musical place.

The most brilliant episode of the series, it dealt on an epic operatic scale the betrayals of the past episodes; subverting the usual roles of the support casting – Callisto instead of being a crazy murderer is a crazy singing guide to Illusia.

Only the most dead inside of person could not be affected by the declaration of purest love and forgiveness that Xena delivers to Gabrielle and Solan.

Episode 13: One Against an Army

Who needs 300 Spartans when just one Xena and an injured Gabrielle can hold off the Persian army of100,000 strong?

Episode 14: Forgiven

With Gabrielle and Xena completely a couple, sidekick wannabes start to show up – seeking to separate the two. Oh, and recover the Urn of Appollo which gives people second chances by purifying them of past deeds.

I never thought of it then, but this is something that seems to happen in Lesbianworld – you form a couple and all your friends want to be in a couple just like you – and the easily way to get that is to poach someone already in such a couple. Seriously, it’s messed up and it’s wrong – if you can steal one of a couple, then they weren’t that much of a couple to start with and it’s not a solid foundation for your own couplehood status, by poaching, you’re basically saying we’re together until one of us is lured away. And you start knowing who’s stealable and who doesn’t respect boundaries.

Episode 15: King Con

A humour episode wherein Joxer is beaten by thugs who operate a gambling  palace to steal back his winnings; which Joxer had lost to con artists.

Xena forces the con artists to make things right by helping to shut down the gambling palace. The con artists have a side bet where one is trying to get Xena to kiss him – but unlike other episodes where men are temptations, there is no sense at all that Xena is falling for this inside con game.

As funny as some of the episode was, and the cons inside cons, it fell down for me at the begining – after all – who is going to gamble, given that the house normally wins coupled with a gambling palace that has no qualms about beating or killing you to regain what you’ve won from them.

Gambling is about winning, no matter how remote the odds and probabilities – but even the most dedicated gambler is not going to patronize a place that literally beats you.

Episode 16: When in Rome…

Xena keeps her wits about her in this Julius Caesar encounter while Gabrielle learns why Xena hates the Romans and their political machinations. Gabrielle causes the execution of a Roman.

Episode 17: Forget Me Not

Tortured by the things she has done and suffered in the last months, Gabrielle decides to come to the temple of Mnemosine, the Goddess of Memory, where she could forget all the bad memories along with her good memories – including Xena.

Episode 18: Fins, Femmes and Gems

Aphrodite has her pet thugs deliver a stolen diamond to her temple at Parnassus, and distracts Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer with am obsession potion – making Xena obsesses with fishing (again!), Joxer with an ape man legend and Gabrielle with herself.

The Story of Gabrielle, a musical series classic!

Episode 19: Tsunami

Xena the Poseidon Adventure  – trapped on an upside down and sunked ship, Xena has to figure out how to escape a watery death while preventing her fellow trapees from killing each other to conserve air.

Episode 20: Vanishing Act

When an enormous statue commemorating Peace is stolen from a seaside village, Autolycus fears the loss of his title of King of Thieves and recruits Xena to help him steal it back.

Episode 21: Sacrifice: Part 1
Episode 22: Sacrifice: Part 2

One of Gabrielle’s friends, Seraphin, is about to be sacrificed to bring forth a goddess. Xena and Gabrielle stop the sacrifice, fearing the goddess to be Callisto when it’s Hope, whose rebirth would be another attempt for Dahak’s entrance in the world.

Hope, appearing exactly like Gabrielle, prepares with Ares the sacrifice which will bring Dahak into our world.

Callisto, frustrated that Hope won’t give her the longed for oblivion, joins Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer, on the condition that Xena kills Callisto in a manner where there is no afterlife.

Xena: Season Two

Click here for Season One Review

Xena and Gabrielle, as obvious as the affection and attraction was in the first season, the second season is when the show really began to grow and play in the Xenaverse.

Despite the episodes where Gabrielle and more rarely, Xena’s head is turned towards a man, more often, it’s because of the god’s messing about or as a distraction to something else in the episode that wants to be less noticed than are they lesbians or not?

Yes, Xena and Gabrielle were a couple from the beginning and were a couple in any meaningful sense of the term – always returning to each other, even from death.

Episode 1: Orphan of War

Xena reveals her deepest secret to Gabrielle: Xena has a son – Solan.

Episode 2: Remember Nothing

The Fates change the world to one in which Xena never lifted a sword in defense or anger, but only for as long as Xena can resist the sword – in this episode, Gabrielle is a bitter slave, because Xena wasn’t there to rescue her, but naturally, she saves Gabrielle in the alternate world.

Nothing stands between them, not even alternative selves.

Episode 3: The Giant Killer

Another of the under the radar religious episodes, Xena helps David defeat her friend, Goliath. Xena and Gabrielle are back burned during the episode.

Episode 4: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

This episode turns up the teasing of the lesbian audience, by turning Xena and Gabrielle into Baccus following vampires, putting the bite on each other.

It’s as if this was the nod to the lesbian fans by throwing us a nibble – watching now in 2011, it is not entirely clear when Xena and Gabrielle were sexual, this is the last episode where it’s possible that they weren’t yet having sex, because they certainly were a sexual couple after this episode.

Episode 5: Return of Callisto

Gabrielle’s childhood sweetheart, Perdicus returns and separates Xena and Gabrielle with marriage. Fortunately, destiny has other plans, Callisto escapes from prison in time to slay Perdicus and return Gabrielle to Xena.

I remember the kiss between Xena and Gabrielle following the wedding to be really racey, and it probably was in 1996. It seems chaste in 2011.

Episode 6: Warrior… Princess… Tramp

A favorite episode that reunites Xena with her Princes Diana doppleganger and introduces a second doggleganger – Meg – the one who never got a break and is getting by as best she can, which is mostly to play duplicate patsy to the episode’s bad guy. Meg comes into her own in the final season.

This episode has Meg running a bawdy house where Joxer is a regular, and features the first true musical number of the show when the brothel babes sing a rousing and non-warrior version of Joxer’s theme song.

While there’s not much action for Xena and Gabrielle, this is one of the bawdier episodes with Hestian Virgins doing untraditional things with vegetables and what we hope but know isn’t a petting zoo inside the brothel.

With sexcapades like that, mere lesbianism is so pedestrian.

Episode 7: Intimate Stranger

Callisto escapes the afterlife and changes bodies with Xena, so the running theme of this story arc that saw Lucy Lawless in hospital following her horse fall – was could Gabrielle still love and remain with Xena, even though she was in the body of her worst enemy?

Love conquers all, even death and body transfers.

Episode 8: Ten Little Warlords

Xena is trapped in Callisto’s body until she can restore Ares’ godhood so he can make the body switch.

Episode 9: A Solstice Carol

Xena and Gabrielle retell the Dickens classic Christmas story, reimaged in a pagan solstice context, throw in the Santa Claus origins and a splash of born in the manger for good measure.

We don’t know, it could have happened that way.

Episode 10: The Xena Scrolls

The first of the “descendant” stories. Set in 1940, the descendants of Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer located Gabrielle’s scrolls and keep Aries from getting loose in a world at war.

For a playful reversal, Gabrielle is a female Indiana Jones and Xena is a slightly repressed librarian type.

Episode 11: Here She Comes… Miss Amphipolis

One of the best and edgiest episodes.

Xena enters a pagent for peace as Miss Amphipolis (her home village) and Gabrielle poses as her sponsor. Gabrielle chastises the other sponsors – all warlords – to treat their girlfriend/contestants as equal partners – while Xena teaches the other contestants to be their own women.

Episode 12: Destiny

Xena returns to the site of Callisto’s village ruins, confronting her path to becoming the Destroyer of Nations and her past encounter with Julius Caesar. While Xena’s comas provides the back story for upcoming episodes, Gabrielle struggles to save Xena’s life by bringing her to a remotely located healer, who is unable to help Xena.

Episode 13: The Quest

Gabrielle’s attempst to take Xena’s body home is complicated by would-be thieves, Amazon dynasty squabbles, and Xena’s attempts to return to Garielle by possessing Autolycus.

This episode had the first true love kiss between Xena and Gabrielle and set off a firestorm of does it count that they kiss in the spirit plane, but it was Autolycus’ lips in real life.

To which I say, it was a kiss between Xena and Gabrielle, who loved each other – because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have kissed at all, regardless of who’s body Xena was present in.

It wouldn’t be the last of the great love teases.

Episode 14: A Necessary Evil

Xena and Gabrielle take on two mortals turned goddesses who are determined to destroy them. Love is a great motivator to conquering all.

Episode 15: A Day in the Life

After the high stakes and excitement of the previous episodes, this episode provided a glimpse into the every day life of Xena and Gabrielle, and it shows what an integrated couple they were – fighting over chores, teasing each other over the mundanities.

Of particular interest are the bathing sequences, but more than that, the introduction of fannish characters within the Xenaverse.

Episode 16: For Him the Bell Tolls

A Xena light episode, Gabrielle resolves some Aphrodite hijinks that turned Joxer into a Xena class warrior.

Episode 17: The Execution

Gabrielle and Xena rescue a warrior from a wrongful execution.

Episode 18: Blind Faith

Temporarily blind, Xena rescues Gabrielle from a plot to see her married off and buried with the King.

This episode is one of several where a gay man character is on hand to teach all about queenliness – in addition to being the sole representative of everything civilized and cultured.

Episode 19: Ulysses

Another episode that I normally skip. The show gets it’s Greek on with the classic Ulysses tale, but is another throwaway episode of Xena being attracted to a man she will never leave Gabrielle for, but are periodically done to preserve the appearance of heterosexuality for the network or for the censors.

Episode 20: The Price

Xena as to think like Evil Xena to save a beleaguered Athenian outpost under siege; putting her at odd with Gabrielle’s desire to care for the wounded.

Episode 21: Lost Mariner

Xena rescues Gabrielle from the the cursed ship of Cecrops.

Episode 22: A Comedy of Eros

The baby of Cupid & Psyche, on the loose with Daddy’s love-bow, complicates Xena’s attempt to stop Draco from attacking a temple of Hestian virgins.

We are again teased when Gabrielle is struck by a love arrow and the action slows down for every agonizing moment of Gabrielle seeing Joxer, not Xena, and falling in love.

Hi comedy and jinks ensue with Xena in love with Draco in love with Gabrielle in love with Joxer, who returns her love with true love.