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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: Gabrielle has really come into her own, hasn’t she? I mean, we’ve been watching Gabrielle develop her fighting skills over the last twenty-two episodes, but this is the first time, I think, that we really see her confidently charge into battle alongside Xena. I mean, we’ve seen her waste dudes because Xena was (temporally) dead, but this is different. This is new. And I really like it.

Because what I really love about Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship is that they’re equals. Toris initially thinks that Xena is warping Gabrielle’s impressionable mind, but he soon realizes that he couldn’t be more wrong: Gabrielle is brave and true in a way that Xena needs. And, in turn, Gabrielle needs Xena to ground her. So I am a sucker for any reminder of that. And this episode has them in spades.

(Also, how adorable was Gabrielle training with that little girl? So great.)

Renay: You've summed up what I think the writers wanted us to get out of this episode, because it creates a scenario in which Gabrielle can fight more equally with Xena at this point in her training. Because this part of Xena's past isn't targeting Gabrielle in any specific way. It's my one complaint: the show often damsels Gabrielle a lot so Xena has to struggle and save the day, often learning something about herself or herself as it relates to having a close friendship. And this episode, with Gabrielle coming to the forefront with her fighting skills, was so much better than watching her knock Joxer around for cheap laughs. It takes her seriously and I was a big fan.

Clare: This episode introduces us to two characters from Xena’s origin story: Cortese, the warlord who attacked her village and turned her into the woman she is today. We’ve just watched an episode with Callisto where Xena did the same thing to her, but Xena doesn’t make a link between the two. Which is a shame, because what a great way to tie into Xena’s redemption: she’s not only turning her back on being a warlord, she’s actively breaking a cycle of violence that begets violence.

Renay: Okay! I wondered, after I finished the episode, why the writers didn't make more of a connection between Cortese and Xena, because it would've been perfect.

Clare: RIGHT?!

Renay: I actually spent the whole episode waiting for Gabrielle and Xena to have a Quiet Moment where Gabrielle brings up Callisto and they have several minutes of gazing at each other while Xena confesses to Gabrielle and then renews her vow to her changed ways. There could even be a hug. I can't believe the writers missed such a basic opportunity for smoldering. I want to go back in time and rewrite this episode myself. It would have been SO GREAT.

Clare: We really need a time machine sometimes.

We also meet Toris, who I initially thought was going to be revealed to be Lyceus, the brother we left dead in the pilot episode. However, Lyceus is Xena’s younger brother; Toris is her older brother. But he still does feel a little like her younger brother, because she’s got so much experience on him. (I may be projecting here; I’m a younger sibling by such an age gap that this scenario is impossible in my family. I am also not an ex-warlord atoning for my past atrocities.) It is kind of nice to see Xena mentoring someone and actively trying to turn them away from the path that led to the worst years of her life while also respecting their agency.

(Also, Toris looks like Noel Fielding. And never shows up on the show again, bye, Toris.)

Renay: You're sure you're not an ex-warlord?

Clare: Haha!

Renay: You're sure. 100% positive? Just checking.

I like how in this show people sort of stay dead so far? It's a nice change from other shows I watch, to be honest. So at this point in the series we've "met" Lyceus (dead), Xena's mother, Xena's father (not actually, but for completion's sake), and her older brother who, I agree, is a little clueless for being the older brother. His aggressive, "LET'S GET DEAD!" attitude didn't work out for him in the end.

Literally the only one of these encounters I enjoyed was the one with Xena's mother. So it's good news for me that Toris never comes back. I'm sure he did fine out there. Probably.

Maybe it was just me, though, but I found Cortese to be sort of clever, but not actually that terrifying. Which, perhaps, is the point. He doesn't need to be terrifying to wreck lives and put people on terrible paths that they'll then have to spend the rest of their lives atoning for. Thanks for nothing, Cortese, except maybe thanks for hooking Gabrielle and Xena up since I guess that wouldn't have happened without your vicious lack of consideration for human life. I don't know how to feel about this guy being the source of Xena's fury still. I might have to think on it a little more, but this much is true: trauma changes us all in drastically different ways.

Clare: Oh! I actually really love that idea, that mundane and everyday violence is still terrible and atrocious.

We also get a glimpse into Xena’s system of morality, which she’s still working through—she says it’s all in her head. But, to Xena, killing in self-defense or the heat of battle is different from premeditated murder. I look forward to seeing that develop over the course of the series.

Renay: I suspect this differentiation is going to come to a head where Gabrielle is concerned since she generally fights to disarm and incapacitate, not kill, even when attacked. I'm sure this won't be heartbreaking at all when it develops.

Clare: No heartbreak at all!

Clare: Femslash Alert! I didn’t catch anything this go round.

Renay: The writers really dropped the ball on this one, I've gotta say.

Supplemental Material

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

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