Wednesday, May 4, 2016

31 Day Xena: Warrior Princess Challenge, Day 4: Favorite Season One Episode

Happy May the Fourth, my lovelies!

Today brings me to the portion of the challenge in which I annoy you with my favorite episodes! The reasons why they are so close to my heart vary - they're fun, emotional, well-done, etc. - but don't necessarily have to be the best (although they sometimes are perfect examples of what makes the show great). So without further ado, here's my pick for the first season.

Via Pop Classics
"Death in Chains" is just so, so good, and it's one of the early Gabrielle-centered episodes that doesn't irritate me. Well, it does a little bit because OMG Gabrielle and Xena fall for dudes so quickly in the first couple of seasons, but I'll get to that in a second. The central plot isn't one that hasn't been done before or since - Death, for whatever reason, is kept from doing its job and hijinks ensue* - but it is one of the few shows that immediately shows the repercussions of such an act. And the bad guy? He isn't really even a bad guy; King Sisyphus just doesn't want to die, so he captures Celesta, the goddess of death (something else I'm going to address in this post), to keep this from happening. The episode definitely has a bittersweet ending, with Xena freeing Celesta from her bonds but ensuring that Telus, the young man Gabby is so drawn to, will pass on, but I love that, even as early as Season One, the series' creators are very clear that the world is rarely in black and white.

So, the romance. This is a show with women as leads, so they naturally must meet a dude and fall in love with him, like, instantaneously but be forced to part because the story (and the continuation of the series) demands it. I mean, it's similar to lots of television; Star Trek gave Captain Kirk a new love interest every chance it got, and by the next episode, she was nowhere to be seen because he'd already banged her, so you know, she was expendable. The difference here, though, is that Xena and Gabrielle are always emotionally invested in the men and are devastated (see above picture) when it ends, or at least sad** because they are women. I can't say that any of Hercules' episodes dealt with things that way; then again, his wife was murdered by Hera, so ... Anyway, it is just highly disappointing when a show that is as feminist as Xena is backpedals in this way.
Via Wikipedia***
That being said, however, there are so many awesome feminist moments in this episode. First, Queen Karis (above) completely undermines her husband's actions and helps Xena in her quest to bring back the consequence of death. She loves Sisyphus but knows that his behavior is immoral. Kind of like how, while I love Three, I would totally turn him in if he committed a crime (about which the HusFriend is aware). She understands that to keep her husband alive would require the sacrifice of everyone else, forcing the sick to endure pain and the fatally injured to never feel that sweet release. So she takes matters into her own hands. I also adore the fact they gave the role of Death to a woman. In Greek mythology, the god of death is Thanatos, a dude, so Celesta is wholly original. She's not violent or cruel, even when dealing with "bad" people, like the mercenaries that are banished to Tartarus (Ancient Greek mythology's version of Hell, for the uninitiated). That final scene where she's escorting Telus, who is suffering badly from some unexplained illness, is quite touching and beautiful, even peaceful. And King Sisyphus doesn't get punished severely for chaining Celesta up, which seems to be something that any other god would be a bit more peeved about. I wouldn't be as forgiving, for sure.

Anyway, there's that! Now I get to go scour the city of Louisville for an apartment. Yay?


* I'm not a big Family Guy fan for plenty of reasons, but I do enjoy the episode where Death breaks his foot and Peter goes around doing dumb shit. 
** This is usually the case with Xena. In just the second episode, she finds a widower with kids and is all but prepared to settle down with him except that she's a wandering warrior and he's a pacifist and ... it's complicated, y'all. 
*** This is actually from a Hercules episode, which completely takes the character of King Sisyphus developed in "Death in Chains" and says "SCREW YOU" to the audience, but whatever. I'm just glad they used the same actress instead of using a younger model, which is actually the point of the episode from which this picture hails. META.

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