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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: Did everybody have a good summer of 1996? I hope you did, because the second season of Xena goes from zero to sixty in no time. Back in ye olden days, before Netflix and chill (ask your parents), season premieres had to be able to appeal to both regular viewers and reel in new viewers. (I mean, they still have to, but it was imperative back then.)

What makes Xena a compelling television show? Well, there’s Xena’s ongoing quest to to atone for her sins during her past as a ruthless, near-genocidal warlord. There’s snarky but kind Gabrielle, now with added bo staff action. There’s their beautiful love affair friendship. And then there’s the bizarro kind of Greek myth world they inhabit and its hysterically bad special effects.

So we’re off to the races with an episode about Xena’s ~secret~ son, born during her warlord days, who has spent his lifetime hidden away in a centaur village now under attack from one of Xena’s ex-soldiers. LIKE YOU DO.

Renay: I didn't see this twist coming at all. And I was torn in two, like, "SHE HAS A WHAT? WTF WRITERS." and "OMG TELL ME MORE!" at the same time. I'm getting used to the curveballs about Xena's past the show throws us, but I would have never had predicted this. When I saw the title, I was convinced it was going to be about Xena saving a sad orphan. TURNS OUT SHE CREATED THE SAD ORPHAN INSTEAD.

Clare: OH SNAP!

Giving Xena a secret son feels like such a cheap move, but I have to hand it to the writers and Lawless herself—they sell it, largely because Xena makes the decision to let Solan believe that his mother is dead. So instead of the story being about Xena torn between her desire to be a mother and her need for redemption, we get Xena revisiting her past and coming to terms with the fact that she gave up her child. Despite Gabrielle’s advice to tell him the truth, she treats the decision she made a decade ago as writ. Xena has to live with the consequences of her actions—all of them.

And that’s ultimately the heart of the show: Xena doing the hard work of becoming a better person by consistently and actively choosing to do the right thing, even and especially when it’s painful for her.

Renay: I thought the interactions between Xena and Gabrielle this episode were particularly good. Not that I'm going to say I want to watch them fight, but I enjoyed watching them have a disagreement and come back together and make up, acknowledging they can still disagree on an issue while valuing each other as friends to support the other during hard times.

Even though Gabrielle had specific opinions over what she thought Xena should do, I love that she chose to leave Solan ignorant at this time so he could have a normal life disconnected from her complicated past and future. I see where Gabrielle was coming from, but I kept wondering how it would change Solan's nature knowing Xena was his mother? How would it change how he lived in his community? Would he choose a different, more violent future?

Clare: I think it could have gone either way—either Solan trying to atone for his mother’s sins (which would be very cool) or Solan using his mother’s legacy to become Warlord Xena’s heir (also very cool).

Renay: All their scenes were so heartbreaking, though. They all did such a good job. I was in tears during the end.

Clare: Ugh, this show is so good. Did I mention Xena punches a monster centaur in the nuts? If you want wire-fu, you got it; only Xena can be so amazing as to actually jump out of a chokehold into a backflip. Whatta babe. The action is lots of fun this episode, and I can always appreciate Xena cackling in delight as she escapes baddies with her kiddo in tow.

Renay: I love the campy 90s stunts this show gets up to, and I agree this episode had some top-notch stunts and Amazing 90s-Style Graphics. This episodes was so 90s. 90 FLAVORS OF AMAZING. My favorite scene was when Xena was lifting Solan, who is trapped in a spiky metal cage, with a very slim rope like it wasn't a thing. And as a bonus she does an impromptu gymnastic routine which takes out a few baddies. MY HERO.

Clare: The villain this week, Dagnine (is that the masculine of Daphne?), is a little lackluster at first, but once he gets his hand on the magical Ixion stone (it turns you into Ixion’s evil centaur, a phrase you have to pronounce in whole), he perks up with some camp joie de vivre. I particularly enjoyed "I'll kill Xena. I’ll kill Hercules. I'll take Athens! I'll be so busy! I should make a list."

Renay: Dagnine's my favorite Cackling Villain we've had in awhile: the list line you mentioned was great, but also love what he represented for Xena, too. Her mistakes aren't just destroyed villages and survivors with PTSD but also men made into monsters she created who carry on on a path she's left behind.

Clare: Absolutely! Xena is an aspirational evil figure to many, and she has to negotiate that part of her legacy.

Renay: And generally I don't like when the villains triumph, but on this episode I was so glad so I could see the expressions on Dagnine's minions as he transformed into Ixion's evil centaur. One of those dudes was really sad because it worked and he didn't get Dagnine's horse like he promised if the mystical juice from the Ixion stone didn't work to get him super centaur powers. Of course Borias hid the stone in his sword! OF COURSE THE SMALL CHILD WAS CARRYING IT AROUND THE ENTIRE TIME. I'm kind of sad Borias was dead, because he seemed like a swell guy.

Still loving how this show values verbal conflict resolution over everything else whenever possible, except in the case of Ixion's evil centaur, when only a giant spike through the midsection will do. What a start to season two.

Femslash Alert! Clare: Not much this week, as Gabrielle and Xena talk mostly about Solan, but, during a battle scene, Xena hurls her chakra clear across the village to save Gaby. GOOD.

Renay: I would also count the smouldering present when they promise to be FRIENDS FOREVER. Those were some serious intimately shot scenes. SHIPS HAVE BEEN LAUNCHED FOR LESS.

Supplemental Material

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

Date: 2016-03-31 04:16 pm (UTC)
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hawkwing_lb
So I spent the just-passed bank holiday weekend rewatching S1 Xena and the first couple of episodes of S2. I am REALLY FOND of "Orphan of War," considering I did not actually remember much about it from the first time I watched it. (Dagnine apparently has a hell of grudge: it sounds like Xena disliked him even back when he worked for her. :P )

The whole parenthood thing gets a bit of play later on, as far as I recall. (I remember S2 best, because it has my very favourite episode of all television ever in, "A Day In The Life," which though it confuses its Greek nus with its upsilons manages grammatically, if not orthographically, correct Greek in its title cards. That will tickle me forever.)


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