Xena Preview

Xena title cardAs you can probably guess from the title and the image on this post, I’ve decided to make Xena: Warrior Princess the subject of my next TV review every Wednesday. Xena’s been on my short-list for a while now, but I’d hesitated to go ahead with it because there are a lot of episodes (134) and that’s a pretty big commitment, especially if I didn’t like the show. Luckily, the show is brilliant and I absolutely love it, so I’m happy to finally review it. My history with Xena is short, but rather interesting.

I never watched Xena back when it first aired. I was 23 when Xena started in 1995 and it seems like the sort of show I’d be predisposed to like: sword & sorcery, Greek mythology, plenty of ass-kicking and scantily-clad womenPoseidon threatens … what’s not to like? But I think I may have seen an episode or two of Hercules and wasn’t too impressed. (I also remember trying to get into Sinbad and just not connecting with it.) So, I probably assumed Xena was just “Hercules with women” and never bothered to check it out. Man, was I ever wrong. Xena is such a great show … the writing is profound and subtle at the same time, the actors are perfect in their roles, and the show just gets better on repeat viewings. As soon as I started watching, it instantly became my favourite show of all time.

As I said, I never saw Xena back in the Nineties and over the years, I never bothered to check it out. But earlier this year, the Sci-Fi Channel here in Canada started re-running Xena every weekday, two episodes per day. I had Xena with her swordbeen thinking about reviewing Xena here on the blog, so I figured I could check it out on Sci-Fi to see if I liked it or not. If I did, I’d review it, if not I’d find something else after finishing Veronica Mars. Now, I’m the kind of guy who can’t watch anything from the middle; I have to watch from the beginning, or it doesn’t work for me. When I first noticed Sci-Fi was running Xena, it was already into the third season (or thereabouts), so I thought I’d wait until it finished and started over again from Episode 1. (And at ten episodes a week, it wouldn’t take all that long.)

But there was still that nagging doubt in my mind about “What if I don’t like the show?” So when the Sci-Fi run got to season 6, I decided to checkGabi lifts Xena's sword out a few episodes, just to see if I liked the show before committing to watching the entire run. As I said above, I loved the show and was instantly hooked. Even without any context from the first 5+ seasons, I thought the show was great and knew I wanted to see every episode. So I just had to wait a couple weeks until the first season rolled around again and I could watch the whole series straight through. But then I did something unthinkable …

Yeah, I watched the series finale.

Now, I’m not the kind of guy who’s bothered by spoilers; I’ve probably known details about half the media I’ve consumed before ever watching it,Callisto on a ladder and that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment. So, knowing what happens in the finale didn’t spoil the rest of the episodes for me, but it did kinda colour the way I saw them. Certain lines or situations (“Promise me that you’ll never die on me again.”) have extra meaning when you know what’s ultimately going to happen. But as I said, I ended up loving the show and most of the episodes even though I knew exactly what was going to happen to Xena and Gabrielle in the end.

So, that’s how I came to choose Xena as my next TV review. Just so fellow Xenites have an idea where I’m coming from, I’ll answer some of the usual questions up front. I’m definitely a Texter; I think Xena and Gabi do fall in love and have a romantic (and physical) relationship, and I’m 100% infirst campfire scene favour of it. I’m not a fan of the Xena/Ares stuff, mostly because I don’t think it fits Xena’s character. I could see the evil Xena going for Ares, but the good Xena wouldn’t, and Ares himself basically admits (in Looking Death in the Eye) that he could never accept Xena’s good side. I am a Joxer fan (which isn’t necessarily the same as being a Joxer apologist) because I think he adds to the show—when he’s written right—and he gives some much needed comedy relief once Gabi becomes more than just the goofy sidekick. And speaking of Gabi … she’s my favourite character in the show. I know some people don’t like her Joxer in Callisto(the word “annoying” comes up a lot … even Renee said that about the early appearances), but I think Xena (the show and the character) couldn’t exist without Gabi. Gabi is Xena’s heart, her soul, her moral compass, and Xena wouldn’t be nearly as compelling without her. That’s not to discount all the great supporting characters (hero and villain) like Joxer, Callisto, Ares, Eve, Cyrene, Amarice, Aphrodite, Ephiny, Autolycus, or Minya. But for me, it’s the relationship (however you define that word) between Xena and Gabi that sets the show apart from all its imitators; the Xena/Gabi pairing is the true star of the show and it just gets better as the series goes on. I’ll talk more about these things as I review individual episodes, but I just wanted to set out the framework here so you get an idea where I’m coming from.

As for the reviews themselves, I’ll be keeping to my usual schedule, one episode every Wednesday, consisting of a synopsis of the episode followed by my analysis. The synopses probably won’t be as deep as they have been in previous reviews because there are already so many great review sites with in-depthXena catching her chakram synopses (and even transcripts), so there’s no point in me just re-hashing stuff that’s already out there. I’ll be concentrating more on my own impressions of each episode, trying to get into why I love the show so much and maybe pointing out some interesting things I noticed in the episodes. Naturally, there will be spoilers like crazy, including spoilers for episodes that I haven’t gotten to yet. One of the great things about Xena is that the overall series ties together so well and the characters have such great arcs, which means I can’t analyze episodes in a vacuum … I have to take a gestalt approach and look at the entire series when analyzing each episode.

As always, comments are encouraged; I’d love to get a dialogue going in the comments section. I know Xena elicits strong feelings in fans but I’m always willing to listen to other points of view as long as everyone stays civil. We are all Xena fans here, after all … or soon will be. So I hope you’ll join me next week, when I’ll be doing my reviews of Sins of the Past … one of my favourite episodes. (Just in case anyone cares, an ordered list of my favourite episodes is below.)

  1. One Against an Army
  2. When Fates Collide
  3. Kindred Spirits
  4. Sins of the Past
  5. Remember Nothing
  6. A Family Affair
  7. The Price
  8. Intimate Stranger
  9. The Quill is Mightier …
  10. Return of Callisto
  11. A Day in the Life
  12. Old Ares Had a Farm
  13. The Ides of March
  14. Locked Up and Tied Down
  15. Amphipolis Under Siege
  16. Callisto
  17. Motherhood
  18. The Quest
  19. Crusader
  20. Eve
  21. Warrior…Princess…Tramp
  22. A Comedy of Eros
  23. The Bitter Suite
  24. The Ring
  25. Endgame
  26. Is There a Doctor in the House?
  27. Forget Me Not
  28. Looking Death in the Eye
  29. Many Happy Returns
  30. The Abyss
  31. Been There, Done That
  32. When in Rome
  33. Hooves and Harlots
  34. Between the Lines
  35. Blind Faith
  36. A Good Day
  37. To Helicon and Back
  38. The Play’s the Thing
  39. Warrior…Priestess…Tramp
  40. Maternal Instincts
  41. Who’s Gurkhan?
  42. Sacrifice Part II
  43. Return of the Valkyrie
  44. The Greater Good
  45. Antony and Cleopatra
  46. Dreamworker
  47. The Reckoning
  48. The Prodigal
  49. Livia
  50. The God You Know
  51. The Xena Scrolls
  52. Lost Mariner
  53. Tsunami
  54. Devi
  55. Little Problems
  56. Fins, Femmes and Gems
  57. The Way
  58. Eternal Bonds
  59. Key to the Kingdom
  60. Seeds of Faith
  61. Paradise Found
  62. Takes One to Know One
  63. Lyre Lyre Hearts on Fire
  64. Punch Lines
  65. If the Shoe Fits
  66. You Are There
  67. Forgiven
  1. Chakram
  2. Gabrielle’s Hope
  3. Mortal Beloved
  4. Dirty Half Dozen
  5. Succession
  6. The Convert
  7. Ties That Bind
  8. Send in the Clones
  9. The Royal Couple of Thieves
  10. A Friend in Need Part II
  11. In Sickness and in Hell
  12. The Furies
  13. Sacrifice
  14. Them Bones, Them Bones
  15. Destiny
  16. A Solstice Carol
  17. Last of the Centaurs
  18. God Fearing Child
  19. Prometheus
  20. Warrior … Princess
  21. A Fistful of Dinars
  22. Animal Attraction
  23. Ten Little Warlords
  24. Legacy
  25. Fallen Angel
  26. Path of Vengeance
  27. The Debt Part II
  28. The Deliverer
  29. Adventures in the Sin Trade Part II
  30. The Rheingold
  31. Deja Vu All Over Again
  32. The Execution
  33. The Debt
  34. Adventures in the Sin Trade
  35. A Friend in Need
  36. Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards
  37. Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts
  38. A Necessary Evil
  39. Daughter of Pomira
  40. For Him the Bell Tolls
  41. Married With Fishsticks
  42. King of Assassins
  43. Orphan of War
  44. Death in Chains
  45. The Path Not Taken
  46. Past Imperfect
  47. Death Mask
  48. Here She Comes … Miss Amphipolis
  49. Coming Home
  50. Cradle of Hope
  51. Back in the Bottle
  52. Altared States
  53. Ulysses
  54. Purity
  55. Dangerous Prey
  56. Vanishing Act
  57. The Haunting of Amphipolis
  58. Heart of Darkness
  59. Chariots of War
  60. Black Wolf
  61. The Titans
  62. Giant Killer
  63. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
  64. Lifeblood
  65. Soul Possession
  66. King Con
  67. A Tale of Two Muses

I’ll go into more detail on my reasoning for why my list shakes out this way after I’ve finished all the reviews (and the list may change by then … it’s already evolved a number of times since I first started ranking the episodes months ago). And if you see one of your favourites way down on my list, bear in mind that I love Xena so much that even an average episode is a seven out of ten for me, so basically anything above number 115 or so on my list would be at least a 7/10.

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