Whoosh! Issue 28 - January 1999

IAXS project #071
By Tracy Dale
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
This edition copyright © 1999 held by WHOOSH
1411 words

Introduction (01)
Moral Compass (02-05)
Gabrielle's Code (06-14)

Gabrielle As Xena's Moral Compass

Xena: "You talk about trying to find your way, but to me, you are my way."

Gabrielle: "How can I be your way when I'm lost myself?"


Caught talking in class, Xena and Gabrielle are told 'eyes front, no nonsense!'

There is still a bit of that rift sentiment hanging around

[01] Xena and Gabrielle utter the above words at the end of A FAMILY AFFAIR (71/403), and they perfectly illustrate where the two companions are emotionally and morally as the fourth season begins. Finally reunited after the turmoil and heartache of the rift, they are struggling to find their way again, searching for meaning in what they do. As Xena says, she has been looking to Gabrielle to be her compass, her guide, and her way. At this point, Gabrielle is just trying to pull herself back together.

Moral Compass

[02] For much of the first and second season, the concept of Gabrielle as Xena's moral compass is established. We see, time and again, that Gabrielle is the one who can reach Xena when she starts to go over the edge. This is illustrated in the scene in TIES THAT BIND (20/120) where Gabrielle literally holds Xena at bay with a pitchfork when Xena tries to attack a group of villagers who she believes has hurt her father. In essence, Gabrielle tells Xena that she is doing what she had seen Xena do many times, stand up to an evil warlord. This time, though, the warlord happens to be Xena.

[03] In CALLISTO (22/122) we see one of the strongest examples. In the campfire scene, when Xena and Gabrielle are discussing Callisto, Xena makes the comment that if something happened to her mother, or Hercules, or Gabrielle, she might "do just the same thing", i.e., become like Callisto, aching for revenge. Gabrielle says, forcefully, "Promise me, if something happens to me, you will not become a monster."

[04] There are plenty more examples of this dynamic. In THE PRICE (44/220), Gabrielle helps stop a war through her gesture of kindness. In RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205), Gabrielle cannot bring herself to kill even the villain who murdered her husband. In FORGIVEN (60/314), Xena tells the young, confused teenager, Tara, that when she is not sure of the "good" thing to do, she asks Gabrielle, because Gabrielle's first instinct is usually the unselfish one.

[05] Perhaps it is natural that Xena would project this part of herself, her "goodness" onto someone else. Especially someone who starts out as young and innocent as Gabrielle does. Perhaps Xena sees Gabrielle as that part of herself that she lost along the way, her humanity and her innocence. Since the early episode DREAMWORKER (03/103), we see Xena drilling Gabrielle that she should not kill and should not lose that innocence. "The moment you kill," she tells Gabrielle, "everything changes. Everything"

Gabrielle's Code

Gabrielle steps on a nail

Gabrielle emotes

[06] Xena speaks proudly of Gabrielle's code, her decision not to kill, in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124). So much of not only Xena's view of the bard, but Gabrielle's view of herself, becomes tied to her precious blood innocence. Gabrielle begins to see this as an integral part of who she is and why Xena cherishes her so much.

[07] Yet, what happens when, due to the violent lifestyle they live and the trickery of the evil god Dahak, that blood innocence is lost? Furthermore, not only that, but that Gabrielle is told by losing her blood innocence, she has "allowed" evil into the world? Both women, and the relationship they have nurtured so carefully, are shattered. The equilibrium is off. Gabrielle is left not knowing who she is. As Gabrielle falls further and further off the pedestal Xena had put her on, Xena becomes lost as well. The tragic consequences of what Gabrielle thought was an act of love, saving her child's life, leave us wondering if they will ever be able to salvage what they once had.

[08] In truth, no. Things have changed forever for these two characters. The last half of the third season was for some, deeply disappointing, partly because of this. Many kept watching, hoping to see some recognition by the characters that things were not going to be fixed over night, that they had learned something from their experiences. I did not see it and neither did others. At the end of third season, things started to come back to haunt them, to the point where a distraught Gabrielle, not seeing any other option, hurled herself into a pit to save Xena and to stop her daughter Hope.

[09] The end of the third season shows Xena and Gabrielle in a certain amount of denial. They doggedly try to pretend, over and over again, that things have not changed, that everything will be OK now, really. THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) may be a good first step, but it certainly does not heal all the wounds that were inflicted. The two characters need to rebuild, and find a new and better way of coping. The old ways are gone, they will not work any longer (if they ever really did). Yet, as we begin the third season, there are some hopeful signs for our Warrior Princess and our Bard that maybe, despite all the pain, this is leading them to a healthier place.

[10] In ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402) Xena has a very critical line. She is about to go find Gabrielle, and she stops, knowing that there are people she needs to help first.

"I can't Gabrielle, I can't. You know nothing would make me happier than seeing you again. But I just realized what it was you gave me- a light of my own. There's something I've got to do- something you'd want me to do."

[11] This is such a big step for Xena. She acknowledges the goodness inside herself and looks inward for the answers. Perhaps she is finally at a point where she can see some light in herself, and not just the darkness. This is good for Gabrielle, too, because it frees her from the burden of always being Xena's conscience. It allows her to acknowledge and deal with her own dark side without so much self-loathing. It allows her the freedom to search for her own way, and not just be "Xena's way".

[12] Whether Xena acknowledges it yet or not, much of what Gabrielle became is because of her influence. Gabrielle starts out enthralled by the adventure and maybe even the violence of Xena's life. She is fascinated at first by swordplay. Even her sparing of Callisto's life is probably due largely to feeling she would be letting Xena down by giving in to her dark side. What makes her decide not to kill Callisto is remembering what Xena and Perdicus have said to her, and their admiration and love for her non-violent ways. This pressure on Gabrielle not to fail is perhaps part of what made things go so terribly wrong in the Rift.

[13] The world Gabrielle and Xena live in is a bloody and violent place. She is traveling around with an ex-warlord-turned-hero who, in a sense, invites trouble wherever she goes. Was it inevitable that she would loose her blood innocence? Who knows? Was it wise to pin so much on the hope that it would never come to that? Probably not.

Hey!  Drop that sandwich!  I'm talkin' to YOU!

Gabrielle does her Roman Soldier impersonation

[14] Gabrielle is, at heart, a nonviolent person. She hates the pain she sees inflicted on others, and the idea of taking a life is heartbreaking to her. She will never enjoy fighting or killing. Will she learn to forgive herself for doing it when necessary? That is a critical question. If she cannot, and if she continues to suffer as much as she has been, then maybe this is not the life for her. It is this question, this doubt, which the two women struggle. One can see hope in the fact, however, that they are both, at least, acknowledging the question. In episodes like CRUSADER (76/408), A GOOD DAY (73/405), and A FAMILY AFFAIR (71/403), we see that they are still searching for the answers. However, as Xena said to Gabrielle at the end of A FAMILY AFFAIR:

"How we look for them [the answers] doesn't matter, as long as we look for them together- you and me."


Tracy Dale Tracy Dale
Biography Native Californian, born in Mountain View, CA in 1970. Went to Graduated with a B.A. in Humanities from San Jose State University in 1996.
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "I'm not the little girl my parents wanted me to be" SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
First episode seen: THE QUEST
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS
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