Whoosh! Issue 16 - January 1997

DAGNINE:
DRAMATIC ADVERSARY OR COMIC RELIEF?

WHOOSH Special
By Beatriz E. Woods
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1500 words




The Man (01-03)
Personification of the Evil of an Entire Race (04-05)
Xena's Adversary (06-08)
Comic Relief (09-14)
A Witty Guy (15-19)
Biography



Dagnine:
Dramatic Adversary or Comic Relief?





The Man


AA batteries not included?!  What a rip!


Dagnine basks in the glow of the Ixion Stone.
Luckily he uses SPF 35 regularly, regardless of the weather!


[01] Like many of the warlords that Xena encounters, Dagnine is a previous acquaintance of the Warrior Princess. He appears in the second season premiere, ORPHAN OF WAR (25/201), and holds a special place in Xena's heart by being a former member of her old army. "He was a very capable warrior," Xena recalls to Gabrielle in the episode's prologue, but she admits, "even I wouldn't turn my back on him."

[02] Dagnine possesses extraordinary skill. That Xena never employed or dealt with second-rate warriors is credible testimony, and also, coming from her, being "capable" is far from faint praise. Aside from his fighting abilities, Dagnine also is conniving and diligent, for "he won't give up," even though the centaurs may drive him off.

[03] In her conversation with Gabrielle, Xena eventually reveals his purpose, and her own: "Dagnine's here for the Ixion stone...I came to stop Dagnine."



Personification of the Evil of an Entire Race


[04] But the character of Dagnine himself is much deeper than these bare facts. He clearly has high ambition for power and strength, equal to the Xena of old, for he is after the same item she was ten years ago, the Ixion stone. "So what does this stone do?" we may ask, along with Gabrielle. Xena explains, "Ixion was the father of the centaurs. When he had the choice of making them either wicked or noble, he chose noble. All their evil is captured inside a stone," to which Gabrielle correctly concludes: "So whoever has the stone, has the power of Ixion's wicked creation." Later, Xena clarifies that "Whoever owns it can become that centaur," and Dagnine's high ambitions become horribly clear -- to personify the evil of an entire race.

My natural hair colour?  I'm lucky to have
*hair*!


Thersites took quite personally the distinction between Assasination and Murder.


[05] Obviously any villain would desire such a tool, but Dagnine is also motivated by an inferiority complex stemming from at least as far back as his tenure in Xena's army, though possibly much further. When he and Xena reunite after nearly a decade, he stutters a bit when she claims that he has not changed at all. He feels the need to prove himself more mature, and shows her an impressive battle scar gained from the wily assassin Thersites, whom we recall as a rather tough opponent from A FISTFUL OF DINARS (14/114). Then he points out, "And I'm smarter -- a lot smarter," implying that his former general had thought little of his mental aptitude.



Xena's Adversary


[06] By the time of ORPHAN OF WAR, Dagnine has discovered Xena's fatal flaw and weakness, her son Solon. When Xena refuses to leave at Dagnine's command without the boy, Dagnine reminds her that he holds Solon's life in his hands. Dagnine adds, "I'm the one who has the power now, Xena. You are at my beck and call."

[07] From the Hercules episodes and others referring to the warrior's past, we know that she ruled her army with a cruel fist. From Dagnine's manner, undoubtedly he had been her punching bag and borne the brunt of her tyranny more than once. He now takes pains to point out that, unlike before, he is the one calling the shots -- and he clearly enjoys every moment.

[08] Dagnine is a painful reminder to Xena of everything she used to be: power hungry and ruthless; the subject of betrayal by Borias; and, a mother without her child. Because of Dagnine's efforts to find the Ixion stone and her nature to stop such a catastrophe, she is brought back to the scene that is the source of so much pain.



Comic Relief


Don't mess with me!  I can always become a rock
star!


Dagnine is stressed out by Xena.


[09] Xena has to face her past again making the episode rather poignant, and in this area, another function of Dagnine's character comes into focus, that of comic relief. It is his wit that makes him most memorable, and lightens the somber atmosphere of Xena's struggle to face a son who hates her.

[10] Dagnine's first actual appearance follows the argument between Xena and Gabrielle regarding the former's decision to give up her son, quite a tragic dialogue. On the scene change, Dagnine sweeps in sneering, "I'm paying you for your incredible eyesight, seer, but even I know Xena's there." Instantly the mood is lightened, and when the seer marvels that Xena can sense them at such a distance, Dagnine crossly rejoins: "Yeah, yeah. She could do that when I was in her army -- it's so irritating."

[11] Even in these caustic statements, Dagnine's tone of voice is more witty than grim. The impression is heightened by the background music. At the beginning of the dialogue a ponderous bass typical of a villain's theme is followed by Dagnine's more droll statements with a higher, playful portato that conveys a similarly mischievous ambience. Although the scene is short and the music subtle, the overall effect is quite powerful.

[12] There are other times when Dagnine's comic relief surfaces, a notable instance being the reunion scene in his tent described above. In this scene his humor alternates with the serious overtones of their meeting and balances his insecurity. Perhaps his culminating scene in this sense occurs just after the reversal of the plot, when Dagnine obtains the stone and readies the spell to transform himself.

[13] The scene is dark, and tragic for the heroes, but even on the brink of his triumph Dagnine's lines are rather amusing.

DAGNINE
Everything. All the strength and discipline of Ixion's creation is right here. With this I'll sweep the world like a rampaging wind. I'll kill Xena. I'll kill Hercules. I'll take Athens! [Pause] I've got so much to do, I'll have to make a list.
SOLDIER
Sir -- if this doesn't work --

DAGNINE
If this doesn't work?? One of you gets my tent, the other gets my horse.

[14] The concluding sentences of both statements are spoken with a subtle humor which makes the comic relief all the more effective, especially at this point in the episode.



A Witty Guy


All the best villains use whitening
toothpaste!


Dagnine appreciates a good joke -- especially his own!.


[15] In Dagnine's last stand, he leaves off humor and falls to his need to prove himself to Xena. Xena understands his motivations, and when Kaleipus is concerned that Dagnine will just take the stone and run, she assures him, "Oh, Dagnine will be here. I didn't exactly make things easy for him when he was in my army."

[16] Dagnine's emphasis on his upper hand during their meeting in his tent, and the fact that he is now an evil, magical creature lulls him into a false security that he can defeat his former tormenter. Xena first taunts him by the memory of the way she treated him, "All those beatings you got at my orders," but he claims that such psychological ammunition will no longer work with him.

[17] In the end, his desire to stress his superiority proves to be his downfall. He insults Xena, asking her if she's frustrated, "Perhaps that someone so beneath you is now your master!" Their fighting becomes fierce, and Dagnine's final verbal blow hits Xena so hard, that the backlash kills him: he murdered Borias, "stuck [his own sword] in his back" -- not even fighting him honorably. His bragging of this deed -- the one that Xena was accused of and made her son hate her -- spurs her to break free from the evil centaur and she shoots the killing shot from the giant crossbow.

[18] Dagnine finally succeeded in shocking Xena with his cunning, but instead of dumbfounding and rendering her easy to destroy, she focused her anger at the revelation, and destroys him.

[19] Throughout the episode, Dagnine's character is developed by Xena's knowledge from ten years past, his desire for the Ixion stone, but most of all in his own words and actions. He is insecure to the point that his longing to prove himself destroys him, and although he is the villain and we rejoice at his ruin, his quirky humor still appeals to us. Dagnine serves an important function beyond that of Xena's adversary, that of comic relief, as his offbeat wit lightens what otherwise would have been an overwhelmingly somber atmosphere.

Centaurs is as Centaurs does!


Dagnine, transformed by the Ixion Stone.




Biography

Beatriz E. Woods Beatriz E. Woods
I am an undergraduate student at St. Mary's College of Maryland, double majoring in English and History. I like to read, play the piano, and watch my favorite TV shows over and over - currently X:WP and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Favorite episode:THE GAUNTLET (H12/112)
Favorite line:Xena: ""You're Gabrielle. Bard, Amazon princess, best friend. Nobody made you who you are, it was already there. The question is, who would I be without you?" THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303)
First episode seen:UNCHAINED HEART (H13/113)
Least favorite episode:CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104) and MORTAL BELOVED (16/116)



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