On Coffee and Relationships (01-02)
The Subtext Tease of Soulmatedness (03-08)
Trouble in Paradise? (09-16)
Using Band-Aids and Kissing Boo-boos? (17-22)
On Coffee and Relationships
Xena and Gabrielle have been together since the get-go.
 As I pick up a cup of coffee, I get a reality check that the coffee before me is not freshly ground, caffeine satisfying, or unique in any other way. Compare that to Xena and Gabrielle's relationship, and it is clear what a unique and special relationship the Warrior Princess and her bard have. Their lasting legacy represents a greater love that extends beyond main, sub, het, or cyber text.
 Have "the Powers That Be" (TPTB) been fooled again, as they did not realize in the beginning of this show that they were attracting a lesbian fan-base? Instead, they have offered a greater love that a diverse audience does not even realize transcends all mortal definition.
The Subtext Tease of Soulmatedness
 Through season three, the relationship and love thrown about in the episodes called "teasers" left much ambiguity. Season four turned up the so-called subtext, adding a missing ingredient of jealousy.
 The episode CRUSADER (76/408) introduced Najara. For the first time, an equally powerful female fighter was interested in Gabrielle. Taking advantage of a tormenting vision Xena was harboring all to herself, Najara set her sights on the gentle Gabrielle. In a fantastic battle between Najara and Xena, it was Gabrielle who leaped across her fallen warrior's body to make it clear that taking Xena's life would not win Najara Gabrielle's loyalty or attentions. Gabrielle explained there would be no going back from that. When Gabrielle and Xena worked together to defeat Najara, turning her over to the authorities, they also proved their love was not a weakness.
 The events of that episode hung in the air until the India arc, when in the exotic land, Gabrielle was taken over by an evil spirit, Tataka [DEVI (82/414)]. Xena was on the brink of having to kill her friend, the pain of which would obviously be unbearable to her. Next, the long-term destiny for these two was resolved with a trip into their futures to meet their coming incarnations in the karmic cycle [BETWEEN THE LINES (83/415)]. Their souls traveled ahead to confirm their karmas were destined to be together. The show's canon adopted a phrase already in use in fan fiction for almost two years prior. It was a term that replaced the need for defining main-text, sub-text, het-text and cyber-text, with them becoming known collectively as "soulmates".
 The show took a major risk presenting a dual-death for our heroes. IDES OF MARCH (89/421), the true fourth season ender in spirit, played out the vision Xena was shown by the evil Alti in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE II (70/402). They each had died separately, leaving the other devastated, but luckily each came back every time. This was the first time in the show's history where they died together and in such a dramatic fashion as a dual crucifixion. Consequently, the fan emotions were running wild all summer. The fears felt by fans about the deaths of both characters surely were lessened because of the new term, soulmates. That offered an affirmation that even in death, Xena and Gabrielle would never part from each other.
 After the India Arc, the show presented one more visit from Najara. She was the one character, besides Xena, that Gabrielle was in danger of trusting and, thereby being deceived. Najara returned in THE CONVERT (86/418), claiming to be reformed by a man named Eli, mirroring Gabrielle's path of non-violence. At the end of the episode when Gabrielle questioned the need to "shove back", Xena gave her reassurance that she would do the fighting for Gabrielle. That was a clue of changes to come before the season ended as well.
 The idea of Xena always around to handle the fighting was tested in the final episode of season four, IDES OF MARCH (89/421). Xena was struck down by her own chakram, thrown by Callisto. With her soulmate's life on the line now, Gabrielle was also tested and Alti's vision was about to become reality. Make no mistake that the season had plans to prove Xena and Gabrielle's souls were going to be together for the eternity. It was no longer about a physical or a "-text" relationship. They took a major leap, moving beyond and above that into the next realm of an eternal relationship. Sub-text and het-text fans alike could embrace and support this new idea. The episode cleverly closed with angelic and beautiful shots of Xena going to Gabrielle's spirit. Both of them were shown in the penultimate episode of the season to be rising above their fallen bodies on the crosses. Again, their journey was to the next realm of their existence, the after life. The only question remaining during the long Xena Warrior Princess Summer that followed was how they would come back. Making the last episode of the season a story about the reincarnate of Xena and Gabrielle heightened this tease.
Trouble in Paradise?
SIN TRADE was noted for its unusual imagery.
 The new season caught many fans off guard by introducing a new afterlife, a realm that was not Tartarus or the Elysian Fields, places the series had already explored and places many fans expected to see portrayed again. Just as the ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE I (69/401) had seemed too unusual for an opening episode, fans needed time to adjust to FALLEN ANGEL (91/501). This added the need to sort out, once again, the new meaning of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship.
 The creative graphics, costumes, and make-up in FALLEN ANGEL overwhelmed the characters themselves. Also, there was a perceived imbalance in the lengths the characters would go to save each other from hell. Xena leapt without hesitation from heaven to save Gabrielle from hell, but Gabrielle was more conservative in her action to save the demon Xena. Here is where the secure idea of them as soulmates tumbled a bit.
 Seeking the more obvious "they would be together in eternity", the relationship in season five appeared to most fans as weak and often non-existent in too many scenes. Separate scenes were more common in season five, compared to the previous seasons of mostly Xena and Gabrielle shared scenes. This left many fans doubting that TPTB were still even willing to present the wonderful relationship at all.
 A new season following one of the greatest affirmations of the relationship (Season Four), caused dismay and confusion. Fans quickly resorted back to old terminology of sub-text and main-text, seeking signs of one or the other. The never-ending debates of text continued and reached new heights among fans, especially on the Internet. The show suffered through the challenge of Xena's pregnancy and the further challenges that bringing a child into the relationship would cause, and all the while the TPTB tried to maintain Xena's Warrior Princess image by allowing her to fight as often as possible. But character behavior was modified, and Gabrielle did more fighting than ever as she became Xena's protector rather than the converse.
 Xena was left with a challenge of her child being something other than ordinary, considering the unique conception. TPTB created a very tense and risky story for Xena's child, as the child's life signaled the end of the colorful Greek gods. That story made fans feel that the Xena/Gabrielle relationship was being shoved even more into the shadows. The creation of a conflict with the gods added another threat of changing the show's former appearance, tone, and actions, again turning focus away from Xena and Gabrielle.
 Efforts were made to ensure that Xena and Gabrielle were as united as they had always been, but even an episode that as dramatic as LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE (109/519), including having them appear dead, failed to confirm for many fans that they were still a "package deal". The trickery of faking their deaths succeeded in fooling most of the Greek gods, but failed to reinforce the eternal relationship thoughts or the former soulmate idea that gave so much comfort to many fans before. TPTB increased the scenes and involvement of Joxer and Ares during this season, and the majority of fans felt like they were searching for a needle in a haystack to find relationship moments. With an ever-present Ares, the feel of het-text returned only to grow stronger.
 Despite the fact, the relationship still existed and without remembering that Xena and Gabrielle have been destined to be together forever, the conclusion of the season turned again. TPTB gave Xena new powers to save her daughter from the relentless and desperate Olympian gods. The plan to give Xena's child, Eve, a history of evil and carnage like her mother became the primary story in the episodes LIVIA (110/520) and EVE (111/521), leading to the showdown episode, MOTHERHOOD (112/522).
 The episode that concluded season five failed for the majority of fans in its efforts to show that both Gabrielle and Eve were the most important things to Xena. Again, the action of Xena in battle to protect Eve from the gods left the Xena and Gabrielle relationship in its shadow. Standing atop a hillside in MOTHERHOOD (112/522) with an all too brief affirmation of them truly being a family (though I did love "our daughter") did not repair the former security most fans felt of Xena and Gabrielle as soulmates. Doubt remained for about them being strongly bound together, just as always, and still destined to be together for eternity.
Using Band-Aids and Kissing Boo-boos?
 The show has entered the sixth and final season with a large task for the producers to respond to, namely fan complaints from the fifth season. TPTB moved quickly to set a new pace right from the start, reducing the "chance" Ares had with Xena to "one in a billion". To do that, serialization was reinstated to produce three episode arcs with three shows in each.
 The first arc showed the struggles of Ares as a mortal, as well as the changes in the land without the gods ruling from Olympus. The first three episodes also introduced a new ruler of Hell and brought back the Archangel Michael to represent paradise. The show also moved quickly to resolve Xena and Gabrielle's family situations left unexplained after the twenty-five year leap forward in time. Xena's home was found haunted and her mother rescued from eternal torment. Gabrielle learned her family had been murdered by a slave trader, but she also discovered that she now had a niece.
 Acknowledging that Gabrielle had become quite a warrior herself during the prior season, a Gabrielle trilogy was presented to again have Gabrielle question her feelings about killing. The characters returned to their former roles, with Gabrielle, "the Battling Bard of Poteidaia" fighting only in defense and Xena as Gabrielle's rescuer and protector. Xena was back in action to save Gabrielle from vengeance on Gurkhan, an emotional reaction without a plan. Xena would not let Gabrielle sacrifice her life because she had killed an innocent while protecting Xena. The heroic Xena also returned to save Gabrielle and Virgil, Joxer's son, from cannibals, and TPTB took a moment to include Gabrielle wanted her final resting place to be with Xena and her family rather, than with the Amazons. Finally, another mention and reminder of them together for eternity.
 Xena was back and strong as ever, always in battle and along side of her, Gabrielle the loyal companion. Scenes many call sub-text returned with hugs, tears, looks in each others' eyes, and declarations of love once again were exchanged between Xena and Gabrielle, including one sealed with a kiss.
 The third trilogy, known as the Norse Trilogy, addressed even more the on-screen presence of the relationship. Guilt from something in Xena's past sent them both on a journey to the land of the Norse god, Odin, and the colorful Valkyries. By the end of the second episode in this trilogy, Xena had lost her memory, and Gabrielle was now a sleeping beauty being protected in a love-ring of fire that only her soulmate could penetrate. Even flying horses could not keep them apart.
Xena and Gabrielle are like Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty in THE RETURN OF THE VALKYRIE.
 The third episode leapt another year forward where Xena had no memories of her name or who she was, but she continued to have feelings for and visions of Gabrielle. TPTB faced studio censors in their desire to portray a scene where Xena, as herself, kisses Gabrielle. They met the challenge with their clever creative juices presenting a Sleeping Beauty scenario. Here, only Gabrielle's "soulmate" could get past the fire and awaken her. Gabrielle woke up knowing Xena would come for her, and being reunited with Gabrielle, Xena regained the memory of herself. There can be no greater or eternal bonding than to loose yourself completely in the absence of the other. They are bound beyond mortal understanding in life, and, again, the soulmate concept reinforced their destiny to be together.
 There should be no doubt about Xena and Gabrielle's everlasting bond or their relationship, yet TPTB have left just enough ambiguity of Xena's history with Ares, and the debate continues. For many, Xena and Gabrielle's relationship does not need episode reinforcement but remains a major part of the enjoyment of the show. For every expression of doubt, there exists proof that Xena and Gabrielle's love is stronger than separation, turmoil, or even death. Their bond goes beyond the boundaries of life, is destined to continue after death, and is capable of transcending all odds and terms used to describe it.
 The creativity this show has achieved lies in how it has not affirmed beyond all doubt that a lesbian relationship exists, while also not having Xena or Gabrielle in a lasting het-text relationship either. They have left intact the idea that Xena is vulnerable to bad boys who love like fools [(ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (108/518)]. This has helped to keep the ambiguity in place even during season six, while still turning the focus back to the love and wonderful relationship shared between Xena and Gabrielle. Since the introduction of the term "soulmates", their love has transcended a "text".
 What a wonderful creation to have a love that goes beyond text, mortal terminology, transcends good, evil, and definitive interpretation. They have shown us the love between Xena and Gabrielle. That is a love that is indeed for the greater good, special in its own merits of example, and even more special because it still remains mysteriously beyond mortal terms and definition.
Jackie Henry, "Season Five: Subtle Change to Being a Family",
WHOOSH #47 (August 2000)
Jackie Henry, "My Thanks to WHOOSH",
WHOOSH #50 (November 2000)
Jackie Henry. A year older than last time. Tennessee. Graphics & camera operator for local TV Production Co. A XWP obsessed fan who says this is the most creative show I have ever been lucky enough to watch.
Favorite episode: DESTINY (36/212)
Favorite line: Xena: "Watch meI have many skills." TIES THAT BIND (20/120)
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER (03/103)
Least favorite episode: ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113)