COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by KSZoneW
TAROT STUFF [commentary] by Jerri Andreasen
02-09-98. This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.
Weird. Very, very weird. I enjoyed Bitter Suite, and enjoyed it more after the first viewing and my brain wrapped around this idea (which may not be a good sign for casual Xena viewers). I don't want to see it done every week, and you'd have to convince me to see it done every season, but it was a fun change of pace. When XenaStaff gives something a try, every one of them gives it 100% effort. The whole production crew - set design, art direction, special effects, costuming, you name it, had a FIELD DAY. They may have all been ready for the loony bin by the end of it, but they get heaps of credit for the boldness of this episode regardless of how people react to it.
Let's look at this from a practical standpoint first: why a musical episode? It makes sense, actually: this had to tackle deep emotions and deal with a lot of soul-searching and angst. Done in script, it would have cloying and slow, with almost non-existent action and lots of grim emoting. Even in song, that forgiveness business was high on the cornball factor. But breaking into song and dance lets the writers get away with a lot of emotions and themes that otherwise would have been syrupy and stilted, and a trip to the non-reality side covers a multitude of story and emotion sins. So, a musical it is!
Was it only a matter of time before Xena slipped into warlord mode given all that had happened? And this slip was more like a swan dive. Xena fought the Amazons with glee, whipped Argo as she rode (!! - there's something we haven't seen before), and flattened Ephiny and Joxer. All in the name of vengeance. Fighting the thirst for revenge has been one of the themes of XWP; it was a quest for revenge that took Xena into being a warlord in the first place. She counsels people against seeking revenge (think of Goliath in Giant Killer, or Melas in Callisto). But Xena gives in to vengeance this time, and ouch, what a nasty vengeance.
Gabrielle's one tough cookie for having survived that horse-dragging, let alone being able to stand up and fight afterwards.
Give Joxer credit; he doesn't accomplish much, but he stood up against Xena to protect Gabrielle. Too bad he was a fly for Xena to brush away, but at least he had the heart to try.
Ephiny thinks that Gabrielle is in the purification hut over Hope's death. But Callisto got right to the heart of the matter. It's her disillusionment with Xena that's the problem. Even when Callisto gets Gabrielle to scream that "Yes!" she hates Xena, what Joxer hears outside the hut is "No!" Gabrielle is fighting the anger and hatred to the bitter end (sorry, couldn't resist the pun). It takes a long horse-dragging and the sight of Xena totally lost to her violent side that finally draws the real "I hate you!" out of her - and pitches them over the waterfall. And that's when the cosmic timeout gets called and Xena and Gabrielle are sent to their corners.
Illusia does NOT center on both Xena and Gabrielle. Yes, Gab has issues she has to - and does - deal with in the course of the show, but it's Xena who's the center of it, and on whom rests what happens. When Callisto introduces Illusia, she says that going through it is Xena's choice, her last chance at stopping before she sinks totally into darkness. "Gamble the worth of you on the rebirth of you," and Callisto tells Xena that "The darkness that rots you has brought you to this." It's only after Xena decides to spin the wheel and accept Illusia that Gabrielle surfaces and the learning begins.
So Xena and Gabrielle go through some peace negotiations via the School of Hard, But Very Musical, Knocks. Take a look at the steps they hit; all in all, not a bad recipe for reconciliation.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: Xena and Gabrielle are led by their guides (Callisto and Joxer) to everything they wish they could have been without the other: Xena at the head of an army with Ares by her side, Gabrielle snug in Poteidaia surrounded by people who love her. Once again, evil calls Xena by name: it seems that armies chanting her name is one of her favorite things. Whenever she's being tempted back into warlord mode, it comes with her name being called. Gabrielle's name is chanted, too, in a happy sing-song by the village of Poteidaia. Seems to be ideal to both of them.
Xena's return to an army has its obvious problems with brutality, violence, and blood. They urge her on: "Vengeance can be such a hoot," which is, of course, the whole problem that brought her here. Gabrielle's return to Poteidaia has its problems, too. These people are the lotus eaters: "Vegetate until you die!" they proclaim. Gab's wishful thinking has as many problems in it as Xena's does.
So both still have trouble, still have guilt, even given what they want. They get madder, and their choruses urge them to taking out their anger in a very physical way. As Gabrielle is handed the scythe by one villager, the flowers she had been holding are yanked away by another. So much for peace.
The heroes reach each other and get to work through some issues - with fatal results for Gab. Callisto is the one who asks Xena whether she feels any better now that she's killed Gabrielle. Psycho Barbie is now the poster child for the lack of fulfillment that revenge brings. With the shock of the deed, and when Xena realizes that this may not be such a great bargain after all, Callisto and Joxer disappear. Their jobs are done; now Xena and Gab are left alone to work things out.
LET'S GET TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER: Xena and Gab have to give up a lot of resentment: they aren't allowed to talk about "you always"es and "you never"s. They have a direct issue to deal with: the situation with Hope and Solan, Gabrielle's lie, and Xena's vengeance.
FIND SOME COMMON GROUND: They start really talking when they're willing to share how much they're both hurting and how badly the attack by Dahak, Hope's birth, and Solan's death has destroyed them. They have open some channels now, but when Xena and Gabrielle slide back into blame and anger, Dahok makes his appearance. And Xena, despite the bickering, tries to save Gabrielle. Hey, it's a start.
DECISION TIME: "This is where it started" - Gabrielle and Xena get pulled back to the beginning of the trouble, Dahok's altar. Ming T'ien, Ares, Caesar, Kraftstar, and Callisto are raised from coffins; they're the dead that won't die. Guilt, bitterness, and hate keep them alive long past when they should have been buried. Leading the charge for Xena and Gab's torment are their own dark sides. The evil Xena has all-black eyes just like she did in Dreamworker. This time, we get an evil Gabrielle, too. She's also capable of hate and betrayal, waddayaknow.
The ghosts and the evil doubles lose their power when Xena, about to get whacked by the hammer, calls out to Gabrielle; she worries about her more than her own pain. Now they get a new chance to put aside recriminations and work on healing each other instead of bitterness.
OH, AND ONE MORE THING: They have one small issue left: the matter of Xena's lie about Ming T'ien. Not just because he's still a problem between Xena and Gab, but also because he exposes Xena's hypocrisy. In all her righteous anger at Gabrielle for lying to her, for betraying her trust, she had put aside the small fact that she was guilty of the same thing. By this point, though, T'ien is small potatoes. Xena and Gab are quick studies: Xena 'fesses up, Gab forgives, and on they go.
Here's a playlist of the songs and my thoughts on them. The titles are my guesses only; I have no idea what song titles we're going to see when this gets released to CD.
"ILLUSIA" - Callisto's introduction to Illusia, with the help of a bizarre chorus. Quite a catchy tune - I've had it going through my head for days now, drat it all. Callisto looks like Little Miss Muffet singing nursery rhymes in the midst of a kaleidoscope explosion of colors. And doesn't Callisto have some fun vamping it up with Xena? Just slap a "jungle gym" sticker on the warrior princess and call recess!
"JOXER THE MIGHTY" - Joxer's introduction. Again?? We have seven other new songs; couldn't anybody come up with SOMEthing new for Joxer to sing? OK, I liked the "slightly nude" line and giggle. But let's let the joke rest, people - please?
"WELCOME HOME, XENA/WELCOME HOME, GABRIELLE" - There's a few movements to this song as the warriors and the villagers welcome Xena and Gabrielle and then shove them toward the door to work out some issues with each other with the help of sharp, pointed instruments. I thought the song was thoroughly so-so, with Ares' solo telling Xena how hot she is being the high point. Nice "why thank you" hip shimmy - soak it up, Xena!
"MELT INTO ME" - The Xena and Ares tango. Wow. Great song, fantastic costume. Don't miss the bone printing on Xena's blood-red dress. A hot, sexy dance around Gabrielle's cooling body, with Ares offering to take Gab's place as "your strength and support." What an image. And Xena's tempted, until the final dip brings Xena alongside Gab and reminds her of what happened all over again.
"HURTING INSIDE" - Xena and Gabrielle find their common ground. Not a bad song, and the ending degenerating into a shouting match was a good idea, but could have really used some better dialogue.
"HATE" - My vote for the weakest song of the episode. The chorus does Dr Suess.
"LOVE WILL BE OUR GUIDE" - The centerpiece of the episode. This is the crux, when the emotions get hit head-on, and Xena and Gabrielle make the decision to not be ruled by their anger. Who would have guessed that this would happen while Xena and Gab were in mirrored positions on crosses - Xena vertical, Gab horizontal. This is the first duet of the episode; when Xena and Gabrielle decide to reconcile, their voices merge, too. It's a great musical image. Very Andrew Lloyd Webber-ish, and just as good as gettin' ya right here even when the lyrics are cornball as all get-out.
"FORGIVE ME" - Xena's final solo and reconciliation. My main beef with this song: Gabrielle needed a verse and a chance at that chorus, too. Granted, Xena was talking about Ming T'ien, but it wouldn't have been bad for both of the ladies to have gotten a crack at saying 'Sorry about this whole mess.' Doctorate theses could be written about the symbols used in this episode. I'll point out some of the highlights I saw of things that were being referenced.
LOONEY TUNES/CARTOONS: Callisto's exuberant "This is Illusia!" line from the center of the circling red disk looked straight out of a Looney Tunes intro. I half expected her to yell "And th-th-that's all, folks!"
TAROT: Tarot card imagery was EVERYWHERE. I'll mention one: When Joxer appears and pulls Gabrielle from the water, he's swinging from the tree in the classic position for the Hanged Man. Check out what the Hanged Man is supposed to represent: "Suspense, life interrupted, change. Wisdom in occult matters. Sacrifice for wisdom, inner search for truth, change in your point of view." The symbolism heavy enough for you?
THE WIZARD OF OZ EXPLODES ON ALICE IN WONDERLAND: The introduction to Illusia had the bizarre technicolor and effects that reminded me of shows like these. But my favorite goofball moment was the talking dog. That scratchy, high-pitched voice squeaking out of Toto cracked me up. (Speaking of Toto, did anyone else notice that the shot of the dog barking at Ares' castle was almost a duplicate of Toto barking at the witch's castle?)
BIBLE/CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS: Do I even need to mention the cross (and Gab's similar position on the altar) or the donkey Gabrielle rides for a triumphal entry to her city? But even more direct was lyrics like "Forgive those you who'd harm you, do good to those who hate." Almost a mirror of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount when he tells people to "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you."
CLEANSING WATER: Water washes away conflict. Illusia is reached through water (and nasty, tear-into-pieces drowning), they pass through a waterfall to make their final peace with each other, and they end up, not in a hot tub for once, but in the rolling surf. (No subtext here, kids, move along, back to your homes...)
So, the big question in my mind: Who did this? Who set up Illusia and sent Xena and Gabrielle there? Callisto's introductory song mentions the fates and destiny - maybe the Fates, still kind of warm and fuzzy toward Xena for saving their temple? Maybe Solan, which is what Gabrielle suggests... but where did he get that kind of power? Maybe Callisto: she shows up in the vision to Gabrielle BEFORE they hit Illusia, and acts as Xena's guide. Big problem: why would she want to help Xena? Last option I can think of: maybe Dahak set it up, hoping that Xena and Gabrielle would kill each other and feed off each other's hate enough to make him strong-n-powerful, in which case his plan backfired and Xena and Gabrielle didn't make it home so much as escape. I don't really buy any of those explanations. Whoever it was has some serious power; not only to make all that weirdness happen, but then to deposit the two women safely on the beach with Gab now in her travelling clothes and without a trace of the horse-drawn beating she took from Xena when it all started.
The Rift is dead, long live the Rift. Looking back over the whole meta-plot, I like the idea very much. All relationships, especially one as close as what Xena and Gab share, go through tough spots. It's good to pick up the snowglobe and give it a shake from time to time. I loved that the Rift built on multiple issues and slow burns, not on a single, stark argument out of nowhere. It was based on ambiguity; there was no clear right or wrong. Both Xena and Gabrielle were right about some things, wrong about others, and had motivations and intentions mixed up with actions and thoughts in a confusing mess that, darn it, is just like life. Thank goodness the writers gave our intelligence enough credit to make Xena and Gabrielle's issues complex. I did have a problem, though, with how it was timed - it was too broken up, too spread out. It's taken three and half months for this story to be told, including breaks for reruns and unrelated episodes ("Uhmmm, Leah? Meg? What about Hope?"), and that was too strung out.
02-09-98. This commentary is by KSZone.
My "Job Well Done" chants go out to Universal. This episode was something else. I never expeceted very much from the Musical when I first heard about it. I expected an hour of songs and pointless stuff, however it ended up being one of season 3's finest episodes and one of there most expensive ones. Before I can really comment on "Bitter Suite" I must do a little talking about the rift so far.
The entire rift begain when Xena and Gabrielle went to Celtic Britan to fight Julius Caesar. They also helped Boadicea, who Xena turned on about 13 years before. Gabrielle met Khrafstar, a evil cult leader who acted like a good guy, but tricked Gabrielle into killing for the first time and her kill led to Dahak, an evil god, coming into the known world. Dahak implanted his child in Gabrielle and she gave birth to him. But, Hope, the babys name, killed someone and forced Gabrielle to flee with herm, because Xena wanted to destroy it. Gabrielle let Hope flow down a stream and hoped she would turn out good, even though she grew very fast and was out of Gabrielles stomach in 1 day. Xena and Gabrielle went to China [Chin] but Xena's needing to get even with Ming Tien led to Gabrielle turning on Xena. Xena killed the evil emperor Tien and lied to Gabrielle, who did not like Xenas job in China. They returned to Greece as good friends but Callisto and Hope where together and Hope killed Xenas son Solon, and his uncle, the centaur Kalepius. Gabrielle gave Hope a elixer, which killed her. Gabrielle wanted to appologize to Xena but Xena was too torn still and had every right to be pissed after what Gabrielle had done and everything that took place in the last few months.
In "Bitter Suite" everything that went down since "The Deliverer" episode was concluded. I did enjoy this episode but thought sevral things could of been done diffrent or changed around. One scene which I did enjoy [Sorry if it sounds sick and demented] was Xenas attacking Gabrielle. I really blame more of the rift on Gabrielle than on Xena. Gabrielle made many wrong choices. She never had to accompany Xena to Britan. Xenas not to blame for Dahak and Khrafstar and all the evils. Khrafstar has Gabrielle under his wing the minute she saw him tied to the harness. He would of made her kill, even if she stayed behind in Greece. Thats the kind of of guy he was. Xenas going to attempt to gain revenge on Caesar and reconcile with Boadicea, was her choice and she did rush to the temple to save Gabrielle, instead of fighting the Roman army.
The choice for Xena to want to kill Hope was something Gabrielle had the right to object, but a thing that she should of not been quick to judge. After all, the times are full of Gods, magic, monsters, freaks, and Myth. Hope was growing in Gabrielles stomach as the noon came and by late noon, Hope was delivered by Xena, and the next morning saw Hope grow and crawl already. Take that into effect and the fact that the Banshees wanted Hope, and that an eclipse took place in mid-day, I would have to say that perhaps Hope did kill Goewin and the other knights. Had Gabrielle and Xena took Hope along, its very possible that Hope would of still been evil and would have perhaps killed her own mother and Xena, for her evil father. Dahak merely planted something in Gabrielle, which took the form of a child. Perhaps a demon was already created and Dahak transfered it into gabrielle. I agree with Xena. Gabrielle should of been more careful. She should of not lied. The whole event which led up to Hopes birth and the incident in the Dahak temple would of made me want to kill the baby as well. In "The Debt" episodes, Xena pays her debt to Lao Ma and takes Ming Tien out of power.
Was Gabrielle right for turning on Xena ? She was nowhere right. Gabrielle does not like Xenas murderous actions at times, but this time was diffrent. Its as she hated Xena for Hope and wanted to stop xena from killing. Ming Tien proved to be very evil and as the prisoners told, he killed her mother Lao Ma and many familys including children ! Xena did create Tien but she returned to finish the monster, however Gabrielle wanted to decide diffrent. I felt bad to see Gabrielle dress in oriental clothes and talk friendly with Ming Tien. Xena should of told Gabrielle the truth and that she killed Tien, because Gabrielle might have understood, in this case it was Xenas fault, but this had nothing major to do with the biggest part of the rift.
In Maternal, Solon dies thanks to Hope and Callisto. Hope uses her powers to execute Solon and Gabrielle makes the decsion to poison Hope. Hope died as well and Gabrielle made the error, in my view, of begging for forgivness to early. Perhaps if she waited, things might of been better. While Hope was still alive and came back hours after the burial fire [HTLJ Armageddon Now I and II], Gabrielle was upset. Xena was even more upset and clearly had the right to blame Gabrielle. Did she blame herself? I think she did. Who should she have blamed to most ? I say Ares and Gabrielle. Ares could of stopped the Dahak incident but he stood aside and acted like a jackass and expected Xena to believe him, which she couldnt after all Ares wanted Xena to execute her mother ! [The Furies episode] Would you trust him ??? I probally wouldn't. Gabrielle could of trusted Xena, after all that the two have been through, perhaps risking something for the Greater Good would be the best.
Could Hope have been good ? No way. Hope was a symbol of evil and Gabrielles soft motherly side refused to look past the baby, to see the devil and monster within the baby, which could of just been a disguise. Dahak knew what he was doing and perhaps played everyone for fools when he had the clever plan to have his "ultimate evil" take a form of a child. In Ancient Times, demons where everything and Gabrielle should of relied on some of her barding to know that heros like Hercules always run into demons and monsters. Its the motherly instinct that defeated her and made her choose wrongly. Xena did give Hope a chance but felt she was doing right to protect Gabrielle, which she tryed hardly too do. When Xena attacked Joxer and the amazons, she was fighting her rage out and when she tied Gabrielle to her horse and dragged her all over Greece, she was getting even. Gabrielle survived and Xena was shocked. I really dont think Xena wanted to kill Gabrielle. She wanted to teach her "Tough Love" but her rage got the best of her. Xena did not look good as she prepared to press Gabrielle into the river, and I think Xena would of killed herself, had she dropped Gabrielle. Gabrielles hating of Xena was expected, after what Xena did, and the fact that Xena could of probally stopped Gabrielle from pushing her into the river, may have been a sign that Xena wanted to die to be with Solan and tell him the truth, if Hades had not done so. Was the "dragging scene" wrong ? I dont think it was wrong at all. Xena was upset and I really wished at times during the rift, that Xena would smack Gabrielle and teach her a lesson. She Xena go too far this time ? You decide.
The friends arrive in Illusia and there guides fit perfectly. Joxer was a good guide for Gabrielle, because he always loved and cared for Gabrielle and never would hurt her. He could of killed her in "Callisto" and learned blood lust and maybe of become the warrior he wanted to be, but he could not and saved boths lives, and thus proved himself honorable and a friend. Callisto was a good guide for Xena. Ares was perfect for the instigator. He works well with Lawless. I thought Lilla was a real bitch in this episode and the villagers really wanted Gabrielle to kill Xena, just as the warriors wanted Xena to kill Gabrielle. Xena killed Gabrielles illusion and faced Gabrielle in a singing argument. They hated each other but worked to find a way out. The whole singing thing in Illusia was cool and something unusual.
Now I will start commenting on some scenes that could of been done diffrently. I liked the Dahak temple thing but would of made it more intense. I'm sick of everyone saying that Xena caused all of this by bringing Gabrielle with her on her tirade to destroy Caesar. As I said earlier, Dahak would of gotten Gabrielle either way. Xena had every right to finish Caesar and also went to help Boadicea, regardless of what was said. Xenas heroic deeds make her amend her past and in this case, she wanted forgiveness from Boadicea and a chance to kill Julius Caesar. The scene where Dahaks fire monster drags Gabrielle into the chakrum hole should of been this way: As Gabrielle is sucked in and Xena runs to leap in, Khrafstar kicks Xena back and Caesar helps the cult leader attack Xena. Boadicea comes from the walls and fights the villans of Xena, Xena wants to help Boadicea now since she walked out in Britan but Boadicea tells her that she can always help later and must not allow before to happen again. They shake hands and Xena jumps into the hole to save Gabrielle. The other scene I would of improved would have been the whole "Forgivness Song Thing". One forgiveness song was good and Xenas song to Solon was long overdo, since she sortof promised to sing to him in "Orphan of War". But I got sick of Xena's constant "sorry shtick" and thought Gabrielle should of said sorry for not trusting Xena more and turning on her in China. I thought the scene with Ming was done well as well. Mings expression showed that he wanted Xena not to cross the waterfalls and become friends with Gabrielle again. Xena crossed and Ming was done and hated the fact that his reign of terror over Xena was over. I think Xenas mistake was lying to Gabrielle in China. Had she been honest and told Gabrielle the truth, Gabrielle may have understood and excepted Xenas choice, even though she disliked it in a way. The scene between Xena and Solon was well done and would of been done, less perfect, if it was done any other way.
Who created the world of Illusia ? Was it Ares, Callisto, or even Joxer ? I believe Steven L Sears stated that Solon made Illusia, but it could been fun to explore other options. I guess Ill do so while Im at it. My other choices would be Hercules, Dahak, and Zeus. Hercules was traveling into limbo and fighting Callisto in another time period as Illusia was seen by Gabrielle and Xena. But since the Armageddon episode, which takes place between MI and TBS in the timeline, was right after the burial fire in Maternal, its possible Hercules was in his normal time and job when he got the news of The fall, from possibly Joxer or Ephiny, and used some kind of godly power or maybe he convinced Hades to work some magic. Hercules would of been hurt to see what went down since he helped Xena to fight her darkside and changed her to good from evil. If he created Illusia than it would of worked perfect into the whole storyline. Dahak creating Illusia to mend the friendship together ? No way. He would of done it too break it apart more, if he created it. Dahak probally thought that sending the friends through there nightmare might actually have seperated them more and allowed Hope to kill Hercules, and than reign supreme as the friends where stuck in a nightmare and he ruled to world. Zeus ??? Its simple. Zeus is a wimp for the King of the Gods. If he created Illusia than it would of been so he could have two friends together, and they could fight Dahak's army, so he could keep Greece under his relm. Selfish intentions none the less. The other choice would of been Lao Ma, or maybe Marcus or even M'Lilia.
The special effects and songs where very good. My favorite song was either the "Callisto Comedy" or "Peace/War song" which was very intense and dark. I got sick of all the "forgiveness" songs. The one for Solon was very good. The "Song of the Archrivals" was okay but I paid more attention to the react of Caesar breaking legs/Meridian stabbing incident on the floor. The animals singing was comical and made me laugh a little. Callisto was way diffrent in this episode [What ever happened to that catfight in the straw ?]. Hudson did a great job. Kevin Smith also did a welldone job as Ares and everyone was good. Even the dog and all the extras. I could careless about Julie Moran. Who does ! The set for Illusia was good and I feel it may have something to do with the Alterno Universe from "HTLJ's Stranger in a Strange World" episode. My pick for best co-star was Ted Raimi. Before we saw Joxer of Ilusia, we saw the normal Joxer and he was diffrent. No silly jokes or mistakes. Joxer was serious and willing to die for Gabrielle, who does not care for him. Joxer did not clown around and took a big chance. He was willing to die for Gabrielle and surprised me by carrying Gabrielle out of the amazon hut. This is a guy who seems to have trouble carrying a sword at times. Perhaps Joxer is finally coming out and will soon tell Gabrielle how he feels. I hope Gabrielle treats Joxer with alittle respect and thanks him for trying to save her. I liked the Joxer seen in this episode. He was serious and did not act stupid or goofy. I hope they mature Joxer more and have him have serious days, but they still need to have some comical momments. I never was a major Joxer fan, although he thought his characters was good and did not hate it, but now I think hes becoming more important and may finally turn into the person he dreams to be. Perhaps Joxer works more in dire straights and times. The ending was intresting. The sunset symbols two things. The first is "the set of the hatred between friends" but it can also mean "the going down of the hate but the coming up of darkness and future hate". You choose. Future episodes will tell what happens.
Thats about all theres to coment on. I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars. Its for anyone but younger fans may not enjoy the first 10 minutes of so. The second half hour was more intense. I would say the teenage following will enjoy this one. They will probally hate the touchy songs but will enjoy the action and effects. Growing kids and teens will enjoy the way Gabrielle and Xena look when first arriving in Illusia. Hormones may run wild for some. This episode was very well done. I can't bash anything about it. Welldone work. Im tired after writing this whole thing. I think I'll lay down and go though my own Illusia. I welcome all comments and will answer anything that is emailed to me.
These comments are by Jerri Andreasen. 02-17-98
In the synopsis and commentary on "The Bitter Suite", there is more tarot imagery than is mentioned. One important one, particularly as it's misidentified a couple times, is Callisto's appearance as The Fool. She is not dressed as Little Miss Muffet, but as the fool, down to the eyeball bag on a stick and the little dog (take a look at the Rider-Waite tarot deck). Later, after Xena has killed Gabrielle, and Callisto asks if it made her feel better, she appears as Justice (note that she's holding a sword, wears a crown, and has the scales embroidered on her clothing) -- I don't know if it's also a reference to Nemesis, but it's definitely the Justice card (and quite appropriate at that point). The spinning wheel is from the Wheel of Fortune card. The whole card is finally completed when Gabrielle's face appears in the upper left corner (in the place of the angel that's on the card). I'm also wondering if Xena's outfit is from a card -- she's seen sitting in a throne at one point, and looks a bit like the Queen of Pentacles, but I don't know why they'd choose that card -- I could see using the Queen of Swords, maybe...
You're correct that Joxer is introduced as the hanged man. Gabrielle somehow reminds me of the Empress once she's dressed. Ares, wearing a crown sitting on a throne, and holding a sword, must be the King of Swords, and Xena, in warrior garb looks just a bit like Death. As she and her army march forward she's drawn in a carriage pulled by two Sphinxes -- the Chariot card. Joxer, when he pronounced Gabrielle dead, reminds me of a card, but I'm not sure which one (maybe the Hermit?). And, of course, next comes Callisto as Justice.
The lightning bolt that hits the tower and sends Xena and Gabrielle to the black and white hall place is the Tower card (the card shows a lightning bolt hitting the domed roof of a tower, and two people falling). Xena and Gabrielle stumble into the black and white hall, which reminds me of the High Priestess card (it has two columns, one black, one white). Ultimately, they end up at Dahok's altar. The ghostly figure with the trumpet lips calling the six figures out of the coffins is reminiscent of the Judgement card, which depicts an angel with a trumpet calling the dead from open coffins.
Maybe there's more, but that's all I can find. It would be interesting to as a tarot reader to tell us what fortune they read into the episode.
I must admit that I'm a bit dubious of the Xena as Queen of Pentacle, Gabrielle as Empress, and Joxer as Hermit reference. I'm not sure they're correct, but those outfits just seemed too stylized not to be *something*.
Now if only I could work The Lovers card in there somehow... ;-) (Hey wait! They *did* both arrive in Illusia naked! Maybe...)
You can see a Java animation of most of these cards (major arcana only) by clicking here.
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