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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: Happy Christmas, kids! It’s the holidays and time for one of Xena’s favorite activities: playing fast and loose with Christian mythology!

Renay: *puts on some jingle bells on*

Clare: "A Solstice Carol" finds Xena and Gabrielle in their very own rendition of "A Christmas Carol," as they enter the kingdom of King Silvas on Winter Solstice. King Silvas used to love Winter Solstice, until his wife left him. Now, celebrating is forbidden, much to the dismay of Senticles (that is some next level Asterix et Obelix terrible punnage, Xena) a toy maker turned King’s clerk. Xena and Gabrielle make friends with some orphans (like you do) and decide that it’s up to them to save the orphanage from being closed—on Solstice Eve!

Renay: I LOVED SENTICLES. I give the writers of this episode the official Lumberjanes Pungeon Master badge for their excellent work. (If [personal profile] justira were involved in these recaps, I'm sure this is a definite three emoji tomato scenario for them.) All he wanted to do was make kids cool toys! His boss is a jerk.

This is like the Greek mythology version of superheroes, because of course they find some orphans to care for on the Solstice.

Clare: Orphans are a necessary resource in fiction. Which, because I’m a terrible person, is reminding me of that episode of The Venture Brothers where Dr. Orpheus is horrified to learn that Dr. Venture’s VR machine runs on orphans.

Renay: I'm out of practice with my Christmas imagery a bit, but I'm guessing, based on the Epic Battle later on that peppers us with pop culture references that wouldn't be invented until the 20th century, that this is not how anyone Greek would have celebrated the Solstice? Just a guess.

Clare: Yeah, it’s an ungainly mish-mash of Christmas and Christian lore that’s a pretty fair approximation of the dignity and respect Xena affords history and mythology. As nerdy Christmas fare goes, this is not something I’d break out around the holidays with my little werewolf nieflings—no, that honor goes to The Muppet Christmas Carol.

But it’s fun enough. Instead of supernatural apparitions, King Silvas is visited by Xena doing her best impressions of the Fates Clotho and Lachesis, letting us get to see Lucy Lawless be wonderful. I am so endlessly charmed by how the show lets Lawless—and Xena—play other women.

Renay: Gabrielle also gets to pretend to be his wife and befriends a cool donkey, Tobias, who is one of the best characters in this episode. I sort of wish they had let Senticles bond with the donkey a little, and given him, as some point, for some reason, antlers. I mean, they tosses everything else in! WHY NOT REINDEER?

Clare: What a hill to die on, Xena. I also loved the reveal that King Silvas’ wife isn’t dead, as Xena and Gabrielle assume, but just left him.

Renay: Yep, that threw me for a loop. Because of course you would assume she had died, because that's how these things work. But nope! On this show, women are like "I'm not gonna put up with your CRAP!" and just leave the dudes to be bitter and grumpy on their own. Too bad this grump went too far. I do enjoy that it was the wife that scared the crap out of him because he assumed she was the Fate showing him solitary death.

Clare: But the best part of this episode, by far, is that Xena and Gabrielle meet the baby Jesus as he and his parents (don’t worry, the baby Jesus is not traveling alone) travel to Bethlehem. Gabrielle gives them their donkey. What is time? What is historical context? Who even knows.

Renay: I admit, with a little embarrassment, that I did not see this coming. I should have seen this coming. Well, the writers get an F for historical accuracy but an A for writing two characters who do this and make it 100% in characters for them to be this generous.

This is my favorite fanfic version of “The Christmas Carol”, after the Muppets, which is 100% superior to all adaptations of this story that exist (Sorry, Xena).

Clare: Femslash Alert! Xena gets Gabrielle a replica of her favorite childhood toy for Winter Solstice. Gabrielle protests that she didn’t get Xena anything, in the tumult of the holiday, and Xena promises her that "you are a gift to me."

Supplemental Material

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

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