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Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Clare: Callisto! How I’ve missed you! I never get sick of the show exploring Xena’s backstory and the balance of the weight of the atrocities she committed against the work she’s doing now, and Callisto is a perfect catalyst for that. We talked a little about what could have happened if Xena’s son had grown up wanting to be a warlord in her old image, and Callisto is a bit like that—but on purpose. All she wants is revenge and death, for both Xena and herself. She deliberately makes herself a constant, moral challenge to Xena, and I find that fascinating.

Renay: During this appearance, the show went the extra mile to make Callisto even darker as a villain right from the get go by executing all the people she couldn't personally use to continue her Make-Xena-Suffer quest. I love the way the actress inhabits the role and manages to up the creep factor every time she and Xena meet. She's one of the best villains we've had on the show.

Clare: Also, Callisto is the kind of woman who continually backflips out of frame and has chariots handy if she needs to escalate a boss fight, so I respect her.

Previously, Callisto got locked up but good, although that doesn’t seem to be bothering her at the moment. She escapes from prison, acquires a besotted second-in-command and army, and sets about her usual Xena-destroying ways.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle’s old flame, Perdicas (you remember Perdicas, he had the... hair!), shows up out of nowhere to ask for Gabrielle’s hand in marriage. (Gabrielle’s first reaction—CHECK WITH XENA.) After the dynamic duo face Callisto in battle, Gabrielle decides to accept his offer.

The Netflix description for this episode only describes Perdicas as Gabrielle’s fiancé, so when Gabrielle decided to settle down with him, actually marry him, have sex with him, and talk about the strapping girls she’ll bear him (implied, as she wishes to name her firstborn daughter Xena), I was SHOCKED. When was this dude going to get roasted?

Renay: Ah, talk about plot moving character instead of the other way around. At first I was dubious about this choice, but since I know we have many more seasons of Xena and Gabrielle adventures the writing was on the wall for good old Perdicas. Could the writers have spelled this guy's doom any harder? You know when the actor opened the script and read the first page, he was like, "Well, I'm fucked." Don't worry, dude! You might be able to come back if they go to the Underworld!

It was a nice touch to show Gabrielle willing to settle down and return home when Perdicas admits he's tired of fighting, tired of waging war, and tired of violence. Gabrielle, for all her increasing improvement in fighting, still tilts more toward Perdicas's position than Xena's. This makes what happens to her and Perdicas all the more gutting.

Clare: And then Callisto murders Perdicas to make a point, and Gabrielle just falls apart. We’ve talked before about how Xena flips a lot of gendered tropes due to its majority female cast, and this is a great example: Perdicas gets completely fridged so we can focus on Gabrielle’s pain—and how Gabrielle’s loss hurts Xena, because Xena needs her to be a shining beacon of hope in this dark world. This is more or a less a direct quote from Xena’s prayer to whatever powers that be to keep Gabrielle safe and pure.

And that’s how this episode becomes a major episode in Gabrielle and Xena’s relationship, from Xena having to face living without Gabrielle while also trying to affirm her love for her, Xena dealing with Gabrielle taking her to task for never teaching her how to fight to kill, to Callisto knowing that the best way to destroy Xena is to kill her… friend.

Renay: Xena's continued desire for Gabrielle to retain her innocence keeps coming up. The prayer Xena makes (that Gabrielle overhears) is heartbreaking, because Xena needs Gabrielle to be this particular force for good, a piece of Xena's conscience, and someone who connects Xena to the rest of the world. I suspect this is only the first event of many we're going to see that's going to force Xena to adjust the ways she pulls support from Gabrielle. I have no clue how much forward planning the writers did with a show like this in the 90s scene where binge-watching wasn't a thing, but I have a sinking feeling this is a thread that they're going to keep pulling until they make a fracture that can't be healed with a hug.

Clare: The ending slayed me, by the way, with Xena taking no action to save Callisto after they get defeated by quicksand. I thought for sure she had to—she had to!—but she kills her by omission. It’s the first time we’ve really seen Xena coldly and calculating take a life outside of battle, and it’s because she knows Gabrielle wanted Callisto dead and that the world would be better off without Callisto. And it’s clearly not fine with Xena, but it’s a choice she makes.

Oh, this show.

Renay: I admit that this was the part that left me reeling. I expected, somehow, that Xena would save her and then after slide a knife into her heart. The choice she makes, to not save Callisto, but to stay, watch, and witness the choice she was making, was both...a relief and horrifying? Obviously, Callisto is dangerous to Xena, Gabrielle, and the wider world, but I still don't know how I feel about it. Is the way they wrote it better/worse? Would her killing Callisto outright have been better/worse?

This episode left me with a lot of emotions.

Femslash Alert! Clare: Xena and Gabrielle at Gabrielle’s wedding. Xena makes Perdicas go hang out with Joxer so she can tell Gabrielle how much she loves her, hugs her, and KISSES HER. Is this the first time they’ve kissed? Like, purposefully?

Renay: I can't remember another time and my femslash klaxons were on full blast. Yes, show, please give Gabrielle a quicky heterosexual wedding and then linger on the long farewell kiss between the real couple. Thank you for your service.

Supplemental Material

Much like Xena herself, Renay and Clare have powerful allies in their quest.

Date: 2016-12-01 05:34 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Close up of Gabrielle looking straight into camera, determined, blood on her face (Xena: Gab determined)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Oh this episode! (Sidebar: I've been off DW for a while and I'm so pleased you've resumed Xena!)

I looove that the wedding focuses so much more on Xena and Gabrielle than on Gab and Perdicus. Like you say, the writers know who the real couple is. That farewell scene is in just about every Xena/Gabrielle vid I've seen. :)

Oh this episode. Gabrielle and Xena are both invested in Gabrielle as a moral compass, and Xena sees Gabrielle as a shining beacon of hope and innocence. But the rub is that life with Xena makes it untenable for Gabrielle to keep that up. She faces too much violence, too many difficult choices. This is such an important aspect of Gabrielle's character development and their relationship. The writers give a lot of respect to this tension and play it out beautifully over the seasons. There are missteps in how they write this issue in the future, but overall it is one of my very favourite things on Xena, and in fact in television as a whole.

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