Whoosh! Issue 26 - November 1998


IAXS project #503
By Erin Hunt
Copyright © 1998 held by author
1580 words

In The Beginning (01-03)
THE DEBT (09-10)
Conclusion (14)
Post Script (15-16)

Gabrielle: Benedict Arnold Or Hidden Heroine Of The Rift?

Good. Now let's test the reflexes on the other knee...

Gabrielle is starstruck in SINS OF THE PAST.

In The Beginning

[1] In the beginning, the Xenaverse was a fairly simple place. Xena was the dark leader, and Gabrielle was the innocent, faithful companion, the shining ray of light in the darkness of Xena's mind. There was a certain amount of duality in these characters. Gabrielle was the student, yet in some ways, she was Xena's teacher. The dual roles fostered an interdependence that elevated their friendship to a higher level than anybody had reason to expect. It was good. Fans responded in droves. They knew this was something special.

[2] With the coming of the third season, things ceased to be so simple. The creators of the show insisted that the characters had to change and grow. What they attempted was a full scale destruction and reconstruction of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. While it was a risky move, and certainly not entirely successful, fan reaction must have been a shock. The general consensus was that Gabrielle had betrayed her traditional role as student and failed to trust enough in Xena's judgment. My reaction was just the opposite: that it was Xena who had failed in her role as student. The fact that almost all of Gabrielle's decisions had dire consequences may have partially obscured this.

[3] The duo's cherished interdependence had recently been threatening to bleed over into co-dependence. The Rift was apparently meant to restructure their relationship, to allow Gabrielle to take a stronger leadership position and Xena, a stronger student position. Its method was to ask a very important question, "Which is more important - loyalty to a friend or loyalty to your most cherished beliefs?"


All right, you take the bard, I'll take the horse, and we'll
call the whole thing even.

Xena isn't amused when she finds prisoners led by Caesar's men in THE DELIVERER.

[4] This episode is of interest primarily because it highlights the current unbalanced state of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. In the opener, Xena and Gabrielle come upon a group of chained men being dragged along by a few soldiers. The soldiers claim the captive men are criminals and go on their way. One of the captives shouts that they will never submit to Caesar, and Xena immediately frees them. She makes no attempt to determine whether or not they really are criminals. Because they were captured by Caesar's men, Xena automatically assumes their innocence. Gabrielle does not challenge that assumption either. Why should she? With the exception of occasional overt acts of brutality, Xena is "always right".

[5] After being captured by Caesar, Gabrielle tells fellow captive, Khrafstar, "Don't worry. Xena will save us". Gabrielle has her place in the relationship. She's the "better half", while Xena is the brains and the brawn.

[6] Later on, Gabrielle becomes fascinated with the "one god" of the cultists and decides to make a break with Xena's disdain for divinity by joining them. The result is that Gabriele ends up killing for the first time (actually, killing personally for the first time). She has a rather odd reaction to an obvious act of self defense: she becomes convinced it was murder.

[7] The problem is two-fold. The most obvious part is her feeling of failure for falling off the pedestal she had allowed Xena to place her on. Her blood innocence was the symbol of all that she was supposed to be. She knew her place as an amorphous "good influence" who was supposed to keep Xena away from the "dark side" by the sheer dint of her purity. What she was, rather than what she thought and did, was supposed to be the most important thing. Killing, even in self defense, "spoiled" all this by spoiling her worldly innocence. Xena, for her part, perpetuated that idea by failing to even consider self defense as a possible explanation for Gabrielle's "murder". There was no in-between for a symbol of purity like Gabrielle; there was only accident or murder. The second problem may have been a sneaking feeling that if only she had listened to Xena, this would never have happened.


[8] What did Gabrielle do in GABRIELLE'S HOPE that was so bad? She refused to murder a baby. She was told that it was not a baby at all, that it was a demon, a monster. Gabrielle, true to her beliefs, demanded proof. When she did not get it, she chose to lie to her best friend to save a life. She demonstrated that she was willing to put her integrity before loyalty to her friend.

THE DEBT (52,53/306,307)

Can't Warrior Princesses read? I distinctly put a 'Do Not 
Disturb' sign on the door!

Xena is surprised, to say the least, at what's under the covers in THE DEBT.

[9] Gabrielle had a difficult choice in THE DEBT (52,53/306,307). She could trust in Xena and take her word for it that the impending murder was somehow "justified", or she could try to save a life. Once again, she opted for the preservation of life. There was no real alternative to exposing Xena. Nothing else Gabrielle is capable of doing could have stopped her. Her belief in the fundamental wrongness of murder meant that turning a blind eye to Xena's actions was out of the question.

[10] At the end of Part 2 (53/307), Gabrielle felt great pain over the hurt she caused her friend, even though she had to have known that she had done the right thing. We do see a small lapse in that she seemed to feel, in retrospect, that she should have found some "other way" to handle the problem. Still, her intentions were pure. Were they the acts of a traitor or a remarkably good person?


[11] MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311) was where Gabrielle's beliefs were put to the most severe test. Hope reappeared, and Xena once again started demanding that she be killed. There was still no real evidence that Hope should die, so Gabrielle refused. As a result, Xena's son Solan was killed by Hope. This was extremely unfortunate, because it obscured the fundamental issue at the heart of the episode.

[12] Xena wanted to perform a summary execution (an explicit violation of Gabrielle's trust in the "good" Xena) and showed no concern whatsoever for the fact that the child she wanted to run through in cold blood was Gabrielle's daughter. Gabrielle responded in exactly the same way she always has, by acting as the voice of Xena's "conscience". Afterward, she took responsibility for her part in Solan's death (sending Hope straight to Solan was undeniably stupid, even if saving her was not). Xena did not take any responsibility for her part, further burying the moral dilemma core of the story in an avalanche of negative consequences.


Got 'er! There's no WAY she could do anything like kick me in the head now.

Post Gab-Drag, pre Illusia, in THE BITTER SUITE.

[13] Xena finally acknowledges her betrayal of Gabrielle in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), although it is never made entirely clear exactly what she is apologizing for. She is forgiven, and the conflict wraps up on a rather vague note.


[14] Far from being a Benedict Arnold, Gabrielle stood firmly for what should be done and what had to be done. Loyalty to friends was secondary. In the end, Gabrielle kept Xena more or less on the straight and narrow. These can all be considered heroic qualities. Readers of this article are free to draw their own conclusions, but to this Xenite, it is clear that Gabrielle was the unacknowledged heroine of the Rift.


[15] Since the writing of this article, certain episodes have put into doubt that the intention of the Rift was even partially to put Gabrielle in a stronger, more equal relationship with Xena. The conceptual waters of THE DEBT (52,53/306,307) have also been muddied further by making jealousy one of Gabrielle's primary motives for stopping Xena's one-woman execution [see FORGET ME NOT (63/317)].

[16] Still, I stand by my opinion that the Rift should have been used to bring Gabrielle into a more mature state of equality with Xena, and that her actions were far less blameworthy than those of the Warrior Princess.


Erin Hunt Erin Hunt
I first became a fan of Xena when I saw the first season finale, IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? I'd seen a few other episodes before that, but had thought of it as just a cheesy action show with some novelty value in watching a woman kick butt. IS THERE A DOCTOR... blew me away. Everything just "clicked", and I not only understood the appeal of the Xena/Gabrielle relationship, but the show's dramatic, comedic and pop culture potential. I'm a fan of a mother/daughter type relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, which I mention because my interpretation seems fairly unusual. Most people see either a sororal or subtextual relationship.

Right now I'm studying to be a computer programmer and will probably specialize in productivity and multi-media programming. In some parts of the 'Net, I'm known as "Jadzia Dax".

Other programs I enjoy are Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The X-Files, which fits in with my tendency towards speculative fiction in reading material.

Favorite episode: CALLISTO (22/122)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "So you're saying that today is actually yesterday for you, but for us today is today because we can't remember that yesterday is today, right?" BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207)
Least favorite episode: THE TITANS (07/107)

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