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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 122, "Callisto"

Clare: Renay, do you think Xena and Gabrielle finally made out between this episode and the last? You know, in the throes of "I'm so happy you’re not dead"? Because their dynamic in this episode is so much more affectionate and emotionally honest. I am loving it.

Renay: If this coda doesn't exist by another fan writer, it's a horrible oversight and I should write it, right? It can open with Xena being impressed by Gabrielle and Argo's closer relationship and then devolve into feelings from there. Y/YYY?

Clare: "Callisto" introduces us to two characters who will become a big part of the Xenaverse: Callisto and Joxer.

Callisto is a fascinating moral dilemma for Xena: sure, Xena’s atoning for the sins of her past, but she straight-up murdered Callisto’s family. I mean, sure, there’s a little leeway with it being a fire that accidentally swept through a town she was raiding, because even Evil!Xena had standards, but the blood of Callisto’s family is on her hands. So here is someone who cannot forgive Xena—and has decided to take revenge by ruining Xena’s reputation before killing her.

(I did read the "As a villain, you were awesome; as a hero, you’re a sentimental fool" line as kind of a meta jab the show was taking at itself.)

Renay: It's a complicated problem, because it's hard to dismiss Callisto's grievances when they're so on point. Xena's villainous past, whether it had a standards agreement or not, caused irreparable harm to Callisto. The viewer can't just say, "Oh, well, Xena is good now, and she's atoning!" because it's true, but it's likely too little, too late for a lot of people whose lives will never be the same due to her choices. Both Xena and Callisto manage to be sympathetic in their own ways, and it forces the viewer to really consider the nature of being held accountable for actions and what form it should take and who, exactly, gets to decide what the consequences should be.

Clare: Unfortunately, I do get the feeling that Callisto is meant to be a little off. Actress Hudson Leick, who portrayed Callisto, has referred to her as a psychopath. I don’t know much about the character, beyond her rare appearance on Fandom!Secrets (Fandom!Secrets: where Clare learns about other fandoms!), but I get the sense that a lot of fans read her as mentally unstable. I think her suicide ideation—she wants Xena to kill her—plays into that. I don’t think it’s an inherently wrong choice—after all, Callisto, is suffering from some wicked PTSD—but I think it does unintentionally absolve Xena of some guilt for what she’s done. And the whole point of Callisto as a character is that Xena is guilty. She can redeemed, but her past can’t be forgiven. Callisto is a living, breathing example of that. Her pain is important.

Renay: Funny enough, I also read Callisto as mentally ill, but I didn't read that absolving Xena of some of the guilt? Either way could be right, but I definitely came out of the episode wondering if her suffering from PTSD and whatever else was actually just another thing on the list of horrors Xena inflicted that she can never take back. She didn't deliberately kill Callisto's family, but she created the situation in which a girl could be forever changed and never get past what happens to her to move on in a healthy way. Her choices and actions led her to that moment, and Callisto's instability (which then threatens tons of others) is on her hands, too. Which only makes it all sadder.

Clare: That’s a really good read on the situation. I guess I’m just worried that some viewers might go “well, she’s just crazy!” and dismiss her legitimate grievances against Xena and how she complicates Xena’s redemption. I’m excited to see her develop.

Moving onto our other new important character… how do you feel about Joxer? I kind of… don’t like him. It is satisfying to see Gabrielle beat the living daylights out of him and still try to inspire him to become a fisherman, but he’s kind of bland comedic relief so far. Unfortunately, Joxer will return and end up being pretty significant to the story, which—well, I hope I like him better next time.

Renay: I found him sort of bland and distracting to the main plot line. In general I don't tend to mind the comedic characters they line up for us, but here I really wanted to fast forward through his scenes. Also, Gabrielle beating him up as comedic relief felt a little insulting to her given her skill level. This is what the writers want to give her to do?? Okay. Watching the scenes with Xena and Callisto, which could get extremely uncomfortable, was way better than having to watch Joxer be a punching bag. Maybe he'll improve.

Clare: Right? Gabrielle can do much better comedy than just beating a dude up.

How about that climactic ladder scene. I occasionally unwind by watching Did You Know Gaming?, a video series that’s all about video game trivia, and I watched an installment just before watching this episode. So I couldn’t help but see how this scene could translate into some wicked cool level design. It’s inventive, it’s clever, and it’s a little cartoony, which is great for Xena.

Renay: I haven't been both super amused/tense with an acrobatic since Xena's fight with Draco earlier in the season. It manages to be both goofy and serious at the same time, which is great. I just enjoy watching Xena solve problems and puzzles, too, and still manage to do her thing at the same time. Weren't there Xena video games made? Maybe this exists.

Clare: I’m intrigued, yet horrified.

Femslash Alert! Clare: Gaby tearfully asking Xena not to turn to the side of evil if anything should happen to her. They both stare portentously into the dying embers of a fire whilst cuddled up to each other.

Supplemental Material

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

Date: 2016-02-04 01:25 am (UTC)
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hawkwing_lb
Somehow, I managed to miss that you have a whole series of TALKING ABOUT XENA!

Oh, Xena. Oh, so good.

Date: 2016-02-14 06:43 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
It's just so good. All over.

Date: 2016-02-04 03:24 am (UTC)
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
From: [personal profile] sanguinity

I have nothing productive to add to this convo, beyond shouting CALLISTO. Because CALLISTO. CALLISTO CALLISTO CALLISTO

Also, it took Joxer a long, long time to grow on me. It happened, eventually, but I should really go back to these early episodes and see what I make of him then, given the Joxer feelings I have now.

Date: 2016-02-14 06:43 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
I'm glad to know that Joxer clicked eventually for you; it makes me feel a little more kindly towards him.

Date: 2016-02-04 04:34 am (UTC)
viridian5: (Rommie blue)
From: [personal profile] viridian5
As a viewer, I saw Callisto's mental illness as a result of what Xena's actions did to her and her family, so it didn't absolve Xena for me.

Date: 2016-02-14 06:43 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
That's a really good read on the situation.

Date: 2016-02-04 06:25 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
What [personal profile] sanguinity said!

It took Joxer a long time to grow on me too and a large part of why is because as the series goes on it fely like the narrative insisted on trying to treat him simultaneously as comedic relief/a joke and a serious character with a good bit of character growth.

Also Callisto had a fascinating character arc (imo) when I watched the show and, if I recall, it goes out of its way a few times to show that Callisto's mental illness is a direct result of Xena's actions.

Date: 2016-02-14 06:44 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
I'll keep an eye on him. Thanks for letting me know!

Oh, good! I'm really glad that the show discusses it.

Date: 2016-02-14 07:27 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
I am too! It tries to do a lot of interesting things with Callisto and I'll be really curious to see what you both make of her narrative arc as it progresses. ^_^ Though I should also note that it's possible the episodes I'm thinking of are actually part of Hercules. She has a couple of cross-over episodes with it. If you both find that you like her story, it may be worth looking those up as well. (Or at least asking someone with a better working knowledge of the shows about them. >>)


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