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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: I’m moving the Femslash Alert to the very top of this discussion because I’d explode if we waited until the end to wail on it like the Enterprise in contested space. Because this episode? Did I say that "The Greater Good" was a hurt/comfort fic? I was lying, because "Is There a Doctor in the House?" is. THEY MADE OUT, FRIENDS AND COUNTRYWOMEN! If inventing CPR to save your dead girlfriend counts as making out, which totally does.

Renay: No, "The Greater Good" was hurt/comfort fic and this episode is the sequel that everyone demanded from the author after loving that episode. I'm glad to know after the disappointments of the last episodes, the writer are back on point delivering us amazing femslashy goodness. I forgive them for saving it all up for this episode so we could both be OVERJOYED. I squealed at my iPad, no joke.

Clare: "Is There a Doctor in the House?" is actually a really fitting season finale for the first season. I’m more used to contemporary television, where the season finale wraps up a lot of loose narrative ends and sets up the next season (or at least its premiere), but Xena is more open-ended than that. So what this episode does is highlight how much progress we’ve made on major character arcs and themes. What’s the best way to find out how much Xena has grown as a person? Throw her into a war zone.

Renay: Although I agree that this ended up being a great end to the first season, it started out pretty confusing for me for some reason and it took me a long time to get my bearings. And then it took me a bunch of time to figure out where they were going to go with all the pieces they had put in place. I wouldn't normally complain, but I felt extra lost starting this episode (so much so I watched it twice). I'm spoiled by modern television with its arcs and nicely tied up plot lines. I suspect some of this is the nature of TV at the time, too. Less threads meant that people who hadn't seen previous episodes could easily drop in. Oh, the time before the four day season binge!

Clare: Instead of being a ruthless warlord, we see Xena a healer, applying the knowledge she learned on the battlefield to save lives and, in one case, deliver a baby. (A horrifying half baby, half centaur puppet.) It’s not easy and it’s not magical, but it’s something she can do and do well. I was almost surprised by that; I think I’d sort of subconsciously assumed that Gabrielle would be the better healer, because heteronormative gender roles often get mapped onto same-sex couples. But she’s not, and I think it’s important that she’s not. Xena’s knowledge is practical and hardwon; Gabrielle’s knowledge is much more intuitive.

Renay: I loved Xena's knowledge of medicine. It never occurred to me that it would be given to Gabrielle, maybe because I'm so used to Xena knowing how to manipulate bodies during fights. But even though she's not part of this battle, she's still an aggressive fighter as she works to save people, and make strategic decisions about the ones who can't be saved. It's not only the healing she learned transferring over, but the tough choices about who lives and who dies, too. I thought it was a nice touch that she came in and immediately put herself into the leadership position. She may not be a warlord any longer, but whatever makes her a good leader hasn't gone away at all, and she's using it in much better ways.

Clare: The episode also pits our girls against Marmax, the Mitoan (you are just making things up now, show) general. Over the course of their conversations together, Xena is able to convince Marmax that violence is not the answer and that there’s a better way. After a whole season, it’s nice to see Xena be able to counsel her peers and make a difference without drawing a sword. (Okay, she does draw a sword to set a broken leg. Whaddya want?) I really liked Marmax as a character and I was delighted to see him and Xena part on really good terms. FRIENDSHIP!

Renay: I loved watching Marmax change over the course of the episode (although Xena does poke him a bit in order to put him in the trenches, so to speak, so maybe she draws a sword twice). I haven't looked to see if he comes back, but I hope so. The actor did a good job showing that he was committed to the war, but also that he was fatigued with it even if he still thought there was a way to resolve the fight through more conflict. Nothing Xena and he talked about felt heavy-handed, or preachy, and in a few cases he came around not because of something Xena said, but because of Ephiny and her baby. Not that Healing Childbirth should be a new trope or anything, but I liked that he started to see the Thessalians as people.

Clare: It was really nice to see Ephiny again, who, as a refresher, fell in love with and married Phantes, the suspected murderer in "Hooves and Harlots." I completely forgot her husband was a centaur or, frankly, who her husband was, so I was SHOCKED to find out it was a centaur. No wonder he got killed off; no money in the budget for that, when we can spend all our dollars on HORRIFYING BABY CENTAUR PUPPETS.

Renay: Also, I did not see the half baby, half centaur thing coming because I had forgotten about Phantes for some reason and was like, "a cute baby is coming, yay!" (because we all knew this baby was going to be born as the crisis resolved, because who doesn't love a giant metaphor?).

Clare: I’m just wondering how this is going to play out long term in the Xenaverse, now that we know humans and non-humans can procreate. Ephiny and Phantes were headed to Athens, which is more tolerant, but… how tolerant is Athens? Will we see more of this going forward? Will I have to see that puppet again in a context that is not my nightmares?

Renay: So I shouldn't send you screenshots of this scene via email? Paste them to you in slack? Print them out in high resolution and mail them to you at your house? Because to me it sounds like you need to give this puppet a chance!


Renay: It is a fantasy show that has shown a relationship to science that can best be described as "squiffy" and at worst as "LOL", so I'm going to assume that cross-species mating is a Thing and it could happen at any time, and prepare myself for future puppets.

Clare: All joking aside, I did really love that Ephiny and Marmax got a scene where she tells him that she doesn’t despise him for what he’s doing. It introduces a wonderful complexity to how the characters understand violence: it can be a necessary evil, in their world, but it has to be wielded correctly.

Renay: Anyway, Ephiny is a great character, and I liked her bonding time with Marmax. In my head he becomes the godfather to the centaur baby, because in this universe it can be possible to move on from past differences!

Clare: Gabrielle also comes very, very close to death in this episode. I really love that Gabrielle is wounded off-camera. One, I don’t have to see Gabrielle get attacked, and two, it really highlights just how sudden that must have felt for Xena—she doesn’t even know Gabrielle left the building. Lawless plays the scene where Xena just loses it over Gabrielle’s lifeless body so well that I was tearing up. We’ve come such a long way from the pilot! LOVE IS REAL, EVERYBODY.

Renay: As soon as Gabrielle headed outside I was screeching, "NO THAT'S A TERRIBLE IDEA DON'T DO IT TELL XENA WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?" Well, probably she wasn't thinking about asking permission, because someone was in danger, and somewhere in the mix was definitely her knowing Xena would forbid it. Even though we know she doesn't die (once again, glad we're not in the 90s) it's done so well by the actors it's hard not to get emotional. They love each other so much! This couldn't have been more perfect, except if there had been real kissing. BUT I'LL TAKE IT. *hugs the show to her chest*

Clare: And off to season two we go!

Supplemental Material

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

Date: 2016-03-02 11:21 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Xena grinning)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Yay! If I avert my eyes from the terrible human-foal puppet, this episode is GREAT. So much femslash!

Also, science* and Actual Human History have no place on Xena. It's more of a centuries-crunched-into-several-years alternate history. At best.

*NGL, Xena's bold defiance of basic Newtonian mechanics in her stunts is one of the many things I adore about this show.


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