Whoosh! Issue 60 - September 2001

By Christine Flora
Group Therapy Project
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
2685 words

Spoiled But Ready (01-02)
Story? What Story? (03-06)
Gab Fans Beware! (07-12)
Feelings (13-16)
Moving On (17-18)
The True Legacy (19)


Spoiled But Ready

"Stories are equipment for living."
- Kenneth Burke
Gabrielle appears to be listening to another unfamiliar piece of Xena backstory, but she is in fact thinking 'Mmm, donuts!'
Gabrielle is unaware of what is in store for her early on in the episode.

[01] As I prepared to watch the series finale of Xena: Warrior Princess, I found myself having mixed feelings. This would be the last time I would see a new episode of a show I had been following for years. It was the last time to hear the opening theme song, except in a rerun, on tape, or by chance on someone's cellphone ring. It was the last time to discuss a fresh new episode with fellow souls who also had an inclination to do so. Yet, I also was ready for this particular journey to be over. As with the majority of the episodes of the series, I sat down, alone, in my living room, ready to let the wash of images transmit their message to me.

[02] Luckily, or unluckily depending on your viewpoint, I was spoiled as to certain aspects of the show's ending. "Spoiled" in fan speak means that before I could see the show, I had found out by various means what several specific plot points were going to be. Therefore, I knew that Xena would die despite reports and speculation to the contrary. This in and of itself was not important to me. Xena had died before, many times before, and so had Gabrielle, for that matter. So had many other characters on the show, including the supposed "immortals" who bit the dust during the fifth season carnage that was the well-intentioned, sometimes visually extraordinary, but often times ill executed "Twilight of the Gods" arc. Death is a tongue in cheek, irreverent part of the show that is accepted and perpetuated, even celebrated, throughout the community we call the XenaVerse. The writers and producers of the show especially cultivate it. The big news this time was that Xena was going to stay dead, D-E-A-D, for good, without Gabrielle. The other big news was the way she was to die.

Story? What Story?

[03] I am not a fan of Eastern "chop socky" films. I have not watched them except for an occasional trip taken with several of my friends who are into them. The symbolism of, the parallels to, the theft -- um -- I mean homage to this genre and the historical significance of them within this episode is completely lost on me. I appreciate learning about new cultures and to their credit the show has traversed many lands and peoples and brought them to the screen. I also can appreciate the beauty of the cinematography, the poetry, and in general, the thoughtfulness and artistry that it takes to produce them. However, when I start noticing this, the technical aspects of a scene, the framing of the shots, and the editing, it does not bode well, as I am obviously no longer engaged or transported into the story. Instead, I am aware of the construction aspects of the show. That is the case with the series finale. Being lost in the story is foremost for me, and these episodes fell far short of my expectation on that count.

[04] I had many "WHAT?" moments during this episode, especially in the first part of FRIEND IN NEED. "WHAT?" moments are when I am so lost in what is going on, "what" is meant by "what" is being said, and generally things are happening that for me don't seem to be in character. Essentially, I am thrust out of the story. For example:

  • Xena rescues a young woman she does not know from a thieving Japa warlord while Borias has refreshments, treks many miles through wilderness with a timeout for visiting with dead relatives and to steal a kick *ss sword, only to watch cluelessly while Akemi, prattling on about the suffering of her mother and sister et al, kills her father and then asks Xena to behead her. WHAT?

  • Then she beheads Akemi. WHAT?

  • Then a "distraught" Xena shaves off all her Rastafarian dreg curls, dresses up as a geisha girl that would make Tammy Fay Baker look good, and in a drunken stupor sets fire to a village condemning all of their souls for which she must now come back and save from a belching, air sucking demon. WHAT?

  • Then arriving at the same village years later Xena asks Gabrielle what she would do to save the village. WHAT?

  • They flip and fly through the fiery streets of the city ala Li Mu Bai only to land on top of a water tower that Xena splits open with her chakram. WHAT?

  • Xena shows Gabrielle how to do the pinch only so that she can tell her that she loves her and wants to spend the last thirty seconds of her life looking into Gabrielle's eyes just like that. WHAT?
I was certainly with Gabrielle by this time. I did not understand either.

[05] This plot has great potential. A mystical place and another new land of the dead to explore with all of its customs and practices to break and manipulate to the hearts content. What it failed to do was engage me emotionally. I never became involved with the story. I never became sympathetic to Akemi's plight, whether in the past or in the present. I never believed Xena's emotional involvement to Akemi. I did not buy why, if at all, Xena should be so distraught at her death. Nor did I sympathize with the souls of the town that was burned. This was Akemi's mess, not Xena's. Xena had plenty of other deaths and suffering weighing on her soul that would and could blow this away. Because of this, Xena's decision to stay dead was a meaningless token without any supporting build up. For that reason, the final death of Xena was pointless and unbelievable.

[06] Our duo had been killed before and it had meant something. This time it did not mean anything. Death, real death, is savage. True, many times death does not seem to make sense, but in this case, all it was, was merely pretty pictures and no heart.

Gab Fans Beware!

I need a Midol.  NOW!
Gabrielle, like many fans, becomes increasingly frustrated as the events of FIN unfold.

[07] As a fan of Gabrielle, I should be cheering in the aisles as Gabrielle finally is shown in the light of the hero that she has always deserved. Certainly, the character of Gabrielle has gone through multiple metamorphosis over the last six years of the series. The samurai warrior is a long way from the peasant girl who was simply "chatty food" and a tag along from the first season. Although she has had her heroic moments throughout and has undergone a wide confluence of character development, she still has been used primarily as a plot device.

[08] Ironically, it was due to these somewhat plot "must haves" that the character of Gabrielle has journeyed down some of her most heroic and engaging paths. For example:

  • Amazon Princess by Rite of Passage
  • Amazon Queen
  • learning the staff instead of the sword
  • losing her blood innocence to bring Dahak into existence
  • having a child
  • facing certain death in order to slow down the Persians so that the Athenian army could advance and prepare
  • taking a dive down into a lava pit
  • shunning the path of the warrior for her own path
  • facing her own death by crucifixion
  • leading a Grecian army against legions of Caesar and Pompeii's in order to drive out invading foreign forces from her homeland

[09] Despite Renee O'Connor's ability to perform and fully sell Gabrielle's prowess repeatedly throughout the run of the series, it was merely several episodes before the series ender that a young, inexperienced Amazon successfully kicked Gabrielle's b*tt and required Xena to save the day. Gabrielle also doubted her path of the warrior as she led the Amazons into battle against Bellerophon. Obviously, much had happened between then and now "off camera" in order for Gabrielle to become so proficient, at least in Xena's mind.

[10] What twist led Xena to set about to fully teach Gabrielle her vocation? This same woman prayed when Gabrielle was so consumed by hatred and thirst for vengeance. Has Xena been teaching Gabrielle, "off-camera", all these long years? Certainly merely by being around each other lends itself to self teaching, however, we have never before seen Xena teaching or mentoring Gabrielle except in RETURN OF CALLISTO.

[11] A long running theme of the series has been Gabrielle's blood innocence, Xena's reluctance to showing her fighting and how to use a sword, and the struggle that the pair continued to wage against this sort of "corruption" of Gabrielle. The idea appeared to be that love over hate and violence would and could prevail. On one hand, I am cheering for Gabrielle as she is kicking major Japa b*tt, but I am also mourning her ultimate conversion, her supplication. I have mourned the loss of Gabrielle's adolescent innocence before much as I look back on my life and mourn the innocent young girl that I once was. It does not make it any less bittersweet though.

[12] Though I did luxuriated in the different nostalgic moments peppered throughout these two episodes, if there is a true gem to these episodes, it is Renee O'Connor's performance throughout. While I am no doubt biased in my assessment of such, and can say that I have been spoiled over the last six years of seeing this young artist grow and consume her craft, her performance throughout these episodes was a veritable treat to watch and savor. It is a strong performance to launch her next journey. Brava.


[13] A success that this episode can claim from me is that it made me feel. Although considered a success, it is nonetheless an empty one. It made me feel, despite all the shoddy storytelling and hype over heart. I felt no empathy for Akemi's plight, or Xena's final seeking of redemption through what she apparently saw as an appropriate sacrifice for those souls. It did, however, make me feel the aching loss of Gabrielle for her beloved partner, her family, and especially for her own soul.

[14] This poignant part of the finale mirrored my own sense of loss and mourning for the series. That it had no substance, no true meaning, and no real basis made it crueler. Sadly, I do not believe walking off into the sunset would have felt any better, as that would have been a cheat as well. Making matters worse, it was at this point I had my most potent "WHAT?" moment.

[15] What was the story that I had been watching over the last six years? What about the path of redemption through deeds toward the Greater Good? What about love and forgiveness over hatred, revenge, and violence? That at the end of it all, the Greater Good would be served and the sacrifices would be worth all of the trials, tribulations, and the pain? That a life spent in such pursuits was a worthwhile endeavor?

[16] These were not the final messages that were shown to me. Perhaps it was merely a reaffirmation of the cruelty and injustice of life that we all experience. It certainly was not what I had been seeing on the show all these years or had put my faith into.

Moving On

I wonder how much I can get for this on ebay?
Gabrielle sails off with Xena's ashes.

[17] Before I watched the finale, I had given some thought to how I felt about the show ending. I considered what it would mean to me and to the community of fans and friends that had been a part of my life for so long. I especially pondered it at odd moments during the convention in Pasadena California a month before. It was there that I realized that it would probably be the last time I would see most of these people who had shared this unlikely obsession with me. I was sad. Additionally, as an officer on a popular if somewhat eclectic email list, I had discussed the same with those I administer the list with. There were promises that the list would go on, that fandom would go on, etc. I had further discussions with others, but until I actually sat down to see the final episode, I did not appreciate the impact. Up until that time, it was a philosophical discussion. With the finale airing in front of me, it smacked me right in the face. It struck me a good one, a proverbial one-two punch. I had been in denial and bargaining through the fifth and sixth seasons. Except for a few episodes per season, they had held little substance for me. I continued with fandom however, still expending my energies to it. Now Xena was dead and how she died, not the method but the reasoning, effectively killed any further interest in it for me. I thank the Xena staff for that because it essentially and surgically freed me to take those energies and use them elsewhere.

[18] The series will always hold a fond place in my life, I think. Gabrielle will always be in me in some fashion or another, as I continually draw on her strengths, the lessons I learned, how she inspired me to "find the peace in myself, and share it with the world" among other things. I will draw inspiration from the hard working and giving people associated with the show, especially those I have met. However, I am putting it away for now. Like that favorite childhood toy that has been put away and forgotten for a time. Perhaps when some time has passed I will be ready to look fondly at those pictures, those stories again, an old friend visited again.

The True Legacy

[19] While I might complain about the shortcomings of the finale, while I might complain about this episode and that episode ad nauseum, the true gift has already been given. Despite how the show ended and despite what I think or feel about it, the true legacy of all of this -- this wink of an eye, only a TV show thing, the thing that the media and most people do not get and will never get, know, or understand, including TPTB [the powers that be] it seems -- is the community of people that the show has brought together. The communities and fellowship, the human compassion and charities of spirit, and the love shown among seemly divergent but still kindred spirits, is our connection to each other in this hurly burly world. This connection makes this journey and any other journey worthwhile. There will be individuals that will never understand and that is the greatest sadness of all.


Christine Flora Christine Flora

Christine has been a computer professional for the last sixteen years running the gamut of experiences and countries in various positions. She currently works as a program manager where she daily battles budgets and perilous deadlines, wrestles business requirements into design specs, pounds errant programming code into submission and puts up with bumbling Joxer-type vendors all in the pursuit of the greater good for her users. Her passion as a writer has taken more of a mainstream turn recently though it's her freelance work as a web developer and designer that has been the most creative for her lately. Hobbies include music, sailing, tennis, and seeing how many languages she can learn how to say "diet coke" in.
Favorite line: "Find peace in yourself and share it with the world." IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE. Gabrielle: "I'm great. I can't see, but I'm good." Xena: "Try using both eyes." ALTARED STATES
First episode seen: THE DELIVERER (yeah... tell me about it!)

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