Thursday, January 26, 2012

Xena Rewind: Stage Two

(I'm going to be talking about to talk a lot about the show Xena: Warrior Princess. If you don't want it spoiled don't read. But at the same time let me say that I've seen the entire series before so I'll be trying to not spoil future seasons. I apologize in advance if I do.)

Its been a while but I finally finished S2 of Xena. So here goes.

I have to say that S2 really pushes home the point that revenge, redemption, attonement, hatred, and love are central themes to the series.

First we learn that Xena actually has a son. Born during the days when Xena was a violent warlord waging a campaign against the Centaurs, she was able to trust on Centaur warrior with her son to raise as his own son under the premise of wanting to protect young Solen from the dangers of her life and in hopes that he would not follow in her foot steps.

This season also marks the return, and death of Callisto. After breaking out of prison (Xena captured her in S1) she continues her vendetta against Xena and those she loves. This time her target was not the warrior princess herself but her companion Gabrielle, well actually Gabrielle's husband. The death of her husband is a true test of her commitment to nonviolence, which she pretty much failed by way of going after Callisto after promising Xena she wouldn't. A final confrontation left Xena and Callisto in a quick sand pit, in which the former allowed the latter to simply drown.

And I do mean she let her drown. I wonder why she did it. Maybe Xena thought Callisto, the innocent girl that was twisted into the violent woman that would cause so much pain, was truly beyond hope and healing. Maybe Xena wanted to avenge the death of Gabrielle's husband without having to see her friend go through the pain of doing it herself (remember Gabrielle has never killed while Xena has kill hundreds). Who knows, but she does in up wracked with guilt over it a few episodes later.

A few episodes later we are given a real big glimpse into Xena's past. It is revealed that she took her first steps to becoming feared killer after defending her home village of Amphipolis. From there she went on the offensive, guided by the belief that she and hers would never be threatened like that again. For a time she was one among many petty bandit leaders but one event changes all that. She manages to capture a young Roman officer who talks her into not only trading him for ransom but also agreeing to join forces with him. During this time Xena also learns the pressure point techniques that she becomes so efficient with later. (Yes the whole, "I've cut off the flow of blood to your brain...." routine? Xena made a slave teach them to her.) Hoping to gain a powerful ally in this young Roman officer Xena naively accepts, only to be double crossed and left for dead. The young slave comes back and rescues her, whisking her off to a healer high upon a mountain. While recovering the healer's hut is ambushed by Roman soldiers that managed to track them down. The slave dies protecting Xena and that slave's death was the trigger moment. This was the point where Xena went from no name bandit to a ruthless warlord that would cut a path of blood and violence so wide that even the god of war himself would take notice.

(Quick note: If you want to get the full story on Callisto I recommend watching the S3 episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys "Surprise" BEFORE watching the S2 Xena episode "A Necessary Evil".)

Mind you this was just what happened in the main story of the season. There were plenty of episodes that were pretty much self contained. But if anything else please watch the episode "A Day in the Life". Its supposed to be a normal day in the lives of Xena and Gabrielle (forever called X&G). Complete with giants, a cowardly general, a love struck village man, and rabid fan of Xena. Oh and Xena uses a piece of one of Gabrielle's scrolls for toilet paper. In my opinion one of the funniest episodes of the entire series. And fuck Benjamin Franklin and his kite and key experiment.

Now with more of Xena's past shown and Gabrielle starting to come into her own we are seeing the series starting to shape up a bit. Now let's take a closer look.

Season 2 brought us four men of color. One is actually Draco from the pilot episode. Second was a slave trader that was trying to buy a group of captured virgins from Draco. The third was a nobleman that was forcing his girlfriend to participate in a beauty pageant (yes I said beauty pageant but we'll get back to that in a bit). The fourth was a sailor, cursed both with immortality and banished from setting foot on land, that had given up on love. Two villains, a jerkish boyfriend (who does see the error of his ways), and one man who was not just evil (I would say more lost than evil). More of them over S1 but still lacking I say. But from what I recall this is about as best it gets until about S4. And hell white guys are doing much better either. Autolycus is still Autolycus and Joxer is still Joxer, other than that pretty much all villains.

About gay characters. First off there was a man that came up who MIGHT have been gay. He was commenting on how a man looked good and chased off after him at the end of the episode and he was in what I think is a stereotypical role of teaching Gabrielle how to be a "proper lady". I'm pretty sure that one possibly gay man doesn't really cut it. And speaking of homosexuality S2 is when the "are they gay?" moments really pick up. I mean in this season alone we see X&G take a bath together, almost kiss via Xena's soul in Autolycus' body, and in the last episode Gabrielle is hit with a love arrow and just barely avoids looking at Xena, which would have made her fall in love with her at first sight. She ended up seeing Joxer.

Remember that beauty pageant episode I told you I'd get back to? Well one of the women in the episode may not have been an actual woman. The reason I say may was because (from what I recall) it may have been a man in drag or it may have been a person with a male body but ID'd as a woman (I think that might have been a man in drag though).

So as you can see its still pretty much two white women going around beating down bad white men (and the occasional bad man of color and bad white woman).

Don't be afraid to speak up.