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: When I was a kid, my parents bought me this LEGO set called "Sphinx Secret Surprise." They bought it because I was crazy for Ancient Egypt as a little kid, but it was part of the Adventurers theme (as different lines are called in LEGO parlance), which was an homage/rip-off of Indiana Jones. Since I had no clue who Indiana Jones was, it sailed over my head. Even when I acquainted myself with the trilogy later, there was something vaguely mid-nineties about the whole proceedings, despite being produced and released in the eighties, all because I associated it with putting together this LEGO set.
While I sold all my LEGOs ages ago (although I kept a solid selection for Wolfboy and Little Fang), I still have the sphinx and the sarcophagus. They stand proudly stands proudly next to my curated collection of lady LEGO minifigures including a Warrior Woman minifig who looks suspiciously like Xena.
All of that is to say that seeing an Indiana Jones-inspired episode of Xena from 1997 made perfect sense in my head. Flashing forward to 1940 from… let’s go with ancient times?, Dr. Melinda Pappas joins Dr. Janice Covington on a dig for an artifact that will validate Janice’s father’s thieving reputation—the Xena Scrolls.
Renay: Even though I have never seen an entire Indiana Jones film, once this episode started I was stoked. Also, I loved The Mummy, which I guess was my generation's Indiana Jones (even though I never had any themed LEGO sets), and there's just something about adventures from that time period.
Although I feel like no Gabrielle in any timeline should be given access to a gun that large, especially if she's feeling grumpy.
Clare: How great is it when your show writes its own AUs? I mean, I guess it’s technically not an alternate universe when your identical descendants keep finding each other across space and time… sorry, I think I’ve got something in my eye.
Renay: Listen, I need to know immediately if the writers of this show were snooping through early fannish zines, mailing lists, and online discussion boards. Because this is the plot that shipper dreams are made of and I have Suspicions about where they got their ideas from. I know at least one Xena fan from my teenage years who wrote Xena fanfic and they had the "reincarnated Xena and Gabrielle find each other in modern day story" written—twice. Never in the 1940s, but you'd have to expect the writers would add their own spin to cash in on other pop culture.
(Xena's been going in on the pop culture references and I love it.)
Clare: First and foremost, while my heart yearns for (but knows it could barely withstand the white hot heat) of Xena as Indiana Jones, I loved that Xena—well, Mel—was the quiet, femme Southern belle and Gabrielle—well, Janice—was the loud, butch swaggering archeologist. Switching up that dynamic just made me swoon.
Unfortunately, "The Xena Scrolls" is Season Two’s clip show, which means that there’s lots of people reading the scrolls and flashing back to the show proper. There is a good gag with Janice assuming that she’s Xena’s descendant at first, and then Callisto’s, but… well, it’s no "Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards" in terms of clip usage, know what I mean?
Renay: Myself, I forgive it for being a clip show for the excellent framing device. Even just a few scenes of Mel!Xena and Janice!Gabrielle was worth it to watch a summary of recent adventures. This is one of the episodes I watched twice, due to Life Shenanigans making me lose my notes, and even on the second playthrough I was super charmed by the acting—Lawless's on point acting, and rough and tumble Gabrielle being hardened by life.
Clare: And Joxer? Well, he finally did it. I finally laughed at one of Joxer’s jokes.
Renay: I marking the date of this, because I found Joxer actually delightful in the episode (less delightful...does this mean he finds Xena and Gabrielle across all their lives?). But I am SHOCKED, SHOCKED! that you laughed! Is this the beginning of your inevitable softening towards our resident Comedic Relief?!
Clare: It’s the visual gag of "Jacques" wandering off screen and then popping up behind Mel and Janice for absolutely no other reason than comedy. I JUST LOVE LIVE ACTION VISUAL GAGS, OKAY. It’s why I enjoyed 22 Jump Streeta hair more than the first. I still despise him—the "contemporary" scene at the very end of the episode did him no favors in my eyes—but… I laughed. You get that, Joxer. But I still hate you.
Renay: Look on the bright side: at the end, the dude is pitching a show about Joxer and the bigwig is like, "Tell me about this Xena instead…" SORRY JOXER.
Femslash Alert! Clare: The clip used to tell Janice that she’s Gabrielle’s descendant is from "Altared States"—the bit where a very high Gabrielle squeals over how beautiful Xena is. It was femslashy then and it’s femslashy now.
Much like Xena herself, Renay and Clare have powerful allies in their quest.