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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.

Xena: Episode 108, "Prometheus"

Clare: Despite the relatively simple rescue mission, there's a lot going on in "Prometheus." First and foremost, we get a guest spot from Hercules and Iolaus, stars of Xena's mother show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The closest I've gotten to Hercules is seeing Kevin Sorbo in the Dragon*Con parade in high school, although I anticipate an urge to watch it when we close out Xena. (Hercules and Iolaus were, in Greek mythology, lovers, so that slash fandom must be intense.)

Renay: I found this episode legit chilling because right off the bat I was terrified Gabrielle was going to get hurt and was on edge the whole episode. SURPRISE IT TURNED OUT TO BE IOLAUS INSTEAD, WHICH, WHEW. Funnily enough, I sort of resented having Hercules and Iolaus there because it took away from my Xena/Gabrielle adventures.

Clare: Sitting pretty in 2015, Xena has obviously vastly surpassed Hercules in popularity and visibility—according to Wikipedia, their shared and seriously confused ancient? Grecian universe is called the Xenaverse, not the Herculesverse. But Hercules was originally the popular, cool one that everybody wanted to copy, resulting in similar quasi-historical fantasy fare like BeastMaster and The New Adventures of Robin Hood. Xena spun off rather quickly, its first season airing concurrently with Hercules' second season. So, for 1995 audiences, this episode reaffirms Xena's connection with its mother show and gives us an opportunity to contrast and compare the two, instead of being a weird glance into what was dominating television that year.

Renay: I tried watching an episode of Hercules a long time ago because I had a friend who was really into it, which I remembered while watching this episode. SURPRISINGLY WAS NOT IMPRESSED. I fell asleep. I never tried again. So I'm not sure whether he's actively a boring character or if I'm just not into him and his sidekick (AM I A BAD SLASH FAN?). Maybe I would like them more if I watched their show a la A Clockwork Orange so I couldn't escape? Culturally, isn't that weird? I get Xena references even though I haven't seen most the show, because Xena exists in my fannish orbit in a very sticky way. I'm thinking of that gif on tumblr where Xena kicks Jack Sparrow out of the iron throne and claims it—never seen one like that for Hercules. Does this ever happen? A franchise helmed by a man is subsumed by his women-led spinoff? Where else has this happened? That's FASCINATING.

Clare: This is most blatant with the leads and sidekicks being paired off at the end of the episode. Hercules and Xena are very similar, now that she's good: they're powerful, dutiful, taciturn, and wry. Iolaus and Gabrielle are both chatty, charming, and a little goofy. Obviously, it's a formula that works, but Xena and Gabrielle being at the beginning of their relationship and Xena having such baggage makes that formula a little more exciting to me. This episode actually sees Xena's self-loathing rise to the surface, as she grimly determines to sacrifice herself to save humanity and secures Gabrielle's future. (Because Prometheus is the god of healing, apparently? Show, go home, you're drunk. Hilariously, the fire thing kind of makes sense, but the tacked on bit is just bizarre.) We don't see this a lot, but it's such a good, heartbreaking note.

Renay: Their presence here felt weird. The show was obviously treating them like defined characters (because they obviously were!), but to me they were ultimately strangers the episode and direction treated like veterans. I never quite got a handle on the narrative itself because I kept wanting the episode to define them more. Iolaus and Gabrielle piling on the sidekick train was pretty good, though, because it did a lot of character building. I needed way more backstory for this, curse you franchises!

Clare: It’s also weird because Xena is actively fifty to eighty percent ladies on a given day. "Prometheus" sees Hera, who is apparently the main villain of Hercules, as the antagonist, Xena as the heroine, and the oracles as the visiting supporting cast. The episode works without really knowing who Hercules is in the context of his show, because the show's already defined how the love interest situation works—either Xena's old flames turn up or the nearest optimist catches Gabrielle's eye. For me, in fact, this episode felt delightfully inspired by The Legend of Zelda or any old-school dungeon crawler, just genderflipped. And that includes the hilariously awful CGI of the giant bird, complete with stiff, lifeless CGI!Xena.

Renay: The camp in the beginning of the episode with Gabrielle sleeping through everything. I love you, girl, but you need to work on the depth of your sleep cycle. XD

Clare: FEMSLASH ALERT — Xena and Gabrielle saying goodbye. It's hilarious to see Hercules and Iolaus manfully part ways (Herc comes so close to just bumping Iolaus' chin with his fist like a Little League coach) while Xena and Gabrielle are tearfully hugging it out and petting each other's hair.

Supplemental Material

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

Date: 2015-06-18 12:58 am (UTC)
giandujakiss: (Default)
From: [personal profile] giandujakiss
wait wait - does this mean you haven't watched the Xena episodes of Hercules, where they introduce her character??? You totally should. I mean, there's no Gabrielle, Xena's kind of the only woman, but they're really fantastic episodes, especially as they chart her transition from evil to good.

Date: 2015-06-18 01:15 am (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
shamefully, I have not! Are there a lot of them? New project!

Date: 2015-06-18 04:29 am (UTC)
giandujakiss: (Default)
From: [personal profile] giandujakiss
Only 4 all from season 3 i think? The first just introduces Xena. Then there's a three parter that is a bridge to the Xena series.

Wait- no, I got it wrong. There are only 3 "backstory" Hercules episodes, and they're from Hercules's first season. She first appears in an episode called Warrior Princess, which, if you were just watching Hercules, would seem kind of like a standalone. But then she comes back in a two-parter at the end of the season - The Gauntlet and Unchained Heart. I recommend all of them, but especially The Gauntlet.
Edited Date: 2015-06-18 06:17 am (UTC)

Date: 2015-06-19 12:33 am (UTC)
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
From: [personal profile] sanguinity
I was gonna say! Yes, watch the four eps that launched Xena as a spin-offable character.

I never watched Hercules, either, but there are enough back-and-forths between the two shows over the season that I feel like I have a decent sampling of what Hercules looks like? It never really took for me, but it was generally decent enough in a "find out what's going on with X so that I understand the subsequent Xena episode" sort of way.

Date: 2015-06-21 07:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com
Huh! Well… Hercules: The Legendary Journeys is on Netflix… :D

Date: 2015-06-18 02:22 am (UTC)
viridian5: (Default)
From: [personal profile] viridian5
I only watched Hercules when I knew Iolaus was the companion of the week, having no interest in Hercules himself.

Date: 2015-06-18 02:29 am (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
Hercules was special enough to get multiple companions?

Date: 2015-06-18 06:16 am (UTC)
giandujakiss: (Default)
From: [personal profile] giandujakiss
There was an alternate companion, Salmoneus. He's a kind of bumbling, greedy-but-with-heart merchant comic-relief type. (Okay, frankly, he's kind of a weird Jewish stereotype, which always freaked me out). Anyhoo, he appears in some of the 3 episodes with Xena that I mentioned above, instead of Iolaus.

Date: 2015-06-18 01:25 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht

Personally I wouldn't count Salmoneus or Autolycus as proper companions, but they're frequently recurring side-characters that often take on a big part of the narrative. If I recall, they have the same kind of dynamic in Xena, so you'll run into them eventually.

Hercules also had a female companion at once point: Morrigan. I think she lasts for almost an entire season and shows up in one of the later episodes. And there are several characters who get companion status for an episode or two as well.

If I remember right, Xena has pretty much an entire season's worth of two companions travelling with her at the same time later on. Not counting episodes with Joxer.

Date: 2015-06-21 07:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com
I just glanced through Morrigan's page on the HercXena wiki, and she sounds awesome. Do you have an episode you might recommend for someone who wants to see her in action?

Joxer… that name is familiar. Should I be scared?

Date: 2015-06-21 10:32 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
I'm afraid not. I don't know Hercules well enough to pick out individual episodes. Most of her character development is probably in the first couple of appearances, though.

Er, possibly? He's the show's comic relief (read: butt monkey) in pretty much every episode he appears in even if the role he's taking on in it is a serious one. He's got good sides (he's brave, kind and loyal, for example), but the show never lets his character develop much beyond "the comic relief". I don't remember his last appearance being significantly different from his first in terms of the way the show treated him. He's a bit of a love/hate character as well. I find it depended on my mood.

Date: 2015-06-19 04:16 am (UTC)
viridian5: (Rommie blue)
From: [personal profile] viridian5
Yup. Although Iolaus was a main companion, sometimes Autolycus (Bruce Campbell) or Salmoneus were rotated in instead. Sometimes the choice of companion connected to the needs of the plot, sometimes it just seemed completely random.


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