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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: Obviously, Xena is a femslasher’s paradise: we’ve been thrilling to hints and innuendo since we began this project. But "The Greater Good" is the first episode where the word "love" is used, if only obliquely. Apparently, according to Renee O’Connor in an interview with the now defunct Dreamwatch, this was the episode where the writers discovered that Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship was exceedingly fertile ground.

And we’ve all benefited from that.

Renay: My question is, why did it take the writers so long to realize that the strongest emotional cave to explore on the show was Xena and Gabrielle's friendship and deepening relationship? Obviously we have the benefit of hindsight, but I'm staying pretty unspoiled for details of future seasons. Even early on it as obvious that their relationship was going to be the core that the story revolved around once we knew enough about their pasts and dynamic with each other. Oh, writers!

Clare: So! Xena and Gabrielle are asked to come to the aid of Lord Seltzer, but they discover that he’s their old pal Salmoneus. (Remember him? From "The Black Wolf"?) They fight off the forces of Talmadeus, but Xena gets hit by a poison dart by a ~mysterious~ blonde. She’s quickly incapacitated, which means two things: Gabrielle has to pretend to be Xena and Gabrielle has to come to terms with the possibility of losing Xena.

Renay: The drama of this episode really hit home for me, even with our comedic friend, Salmoneus, because Xena's listlessness and Gabrielle's fear are so well communicated. Even if you know that everything is going to work out, the way the characters face their very real fears — Gabrielle having to face a future without Xena and Xena worrying over Gabrielle and what the poison is doing — it's pretty rough watching it happen. However, I will never get over the beauty of Gabrielle dressing in Xena's clothes (I'm sure a sexy version of this fic exists somewhere; recs welcome) or pretending to be Xena. The whole thing manages to provide over the top comedy and over the top angst in the same block of time. Perfect.

Clare: Basically, it’s a hurt/comfort fic and I love it. There’s a lot of fun to be had—Salmoneus is a pretty camp character, as you pointed out when we last encountered him, and Gabrielle failing to be as intimidating and powerful as Xena—but the thing that really sticks with me is Gabrielle and Xena negotiating the very real possibility that Xena might die. I mean, at one point, Gabrielle recalls her childhood pony, Tymphani, who got sick and died, and sadly tells Xena, "it’s just what happens with things that you love. Sometimes they just leave you."

She holds up really, really well as Xena sickens, but it’s when Xena "dies" (Xena’s explanation: she had to "go under" to fight the poison’s effects, which is not remotely science, Xena, you can’t just beat up poisons) that Gabrielle just snaps.

Renay: Much like this show has a skiffy relationship with Greek mythology, it's a little iffy on the "science" side of things, too. My takeaway from Xena's last stand before "succumbing" to the poison is that I love that no matter what the situation, Xena manages to kick everyone's butt. Whether it's with a string of fish or dying from a poison from a mysterious assassin (who are you, mysterious poisoner?), she's gonna take out your random flunkies before she keels over. She doesn't even consider letting them take her. She's immediately and always in "take'em down" mode.

Clare: We’ve seen that the main distinction in Xena and Gabrielle’s fighting styles is their intent: Xena does not hesitate to kill, while Gabrielle uses a staff to disarm. But after Xena "dies" and her "corpse" is brought to Talmadeus for him to desecrate, she tears through the camp hellbent on retrieving the corpse to fulfill Xena’s last wishes. It’s satisfying. It’s impressive. It’s true love.


Renay: Shoutout to the other friendship in this episode, the Unsung Hero, Argo! Who helps Gabrielle and at the end downright refuses to be a party to any desecrating shenanigans. GOOD WORK, TEAM XENA.

Clare: Femslash Alert! THE ENTIRE EPISODE. But Gabrielle does kiss the "expired" Xena on the cheek if you need, like, a specific moment.

Supplemental Material

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