THOUGHTS AFTER LAST XENA EPISODE (01-07)
THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF XENA: WHY IT MATTERS TO ME (08-25)
The Way of the Warrior as an Outsider (08-12)
THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR
AS OUTSIDER, REDEMPTION, EMPOWERMENT, AND LOVE
THOUGHTS AFTER LAST XENA EPISODE
Action aplenty in FIN.
 I was awaiting the episode with anticipation, dread, and sadness. I had read all the spoilers, all the reactions, preparing myself for great sorrow. Now that I have seen it, I can say it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. It certainly could have held its own as a movie. I would definitely put it up there with my other favorite, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or any of the best Hong Kong action films.
 The first scene with Xena being killed was filled with incredible, breathtaking drama and heroism. There has been no period war sequence I have seen, including Braveheart, Ran, and Barry Lyndon, that was more beautifully acted and filmed. It was terrifyingly thrilling. I was proud of Xena's fittingly heroic end. Her last thoughts were of Gabrielle, and she was crying her name as she fought wildly like a madwoman. She may have known she was going to die, but she certainly did not lay down and do so. She was never more glorious or bestial than in her final battle. Although it was painful to see her killed, she was fighting back, not a victim, not like when she was crucified. She was on equal footing with the men on the battlefield. Truly a warrior.
 This opening sequence was worthy of an Emmy, indeed the entire show was. There were other wonderfully filmed sequences, such as the cinematography in the tea house, the eroticism of the silk robes, the body painting, Gabrielle listening to the sounds, Gabrielle riding on her horse looking very heroic, the high wire stunts, and the very professional special effects and editing.
 Renee O'Connor's depiction of Gabrielle listening, fighting, emoting in grief and horror as she saw Xena's body, her faith that Xena would live, her trust in her was all very powerful, immensely eloquent. Also, beautiful. This was the best acting I had seen in six years by O'Connor. Her character finally gelled for me. She became Xena's true equal in my eyes. She had come into her own, from little peasant girl and chatty sidekick to courageous and faithful woman warrior and worthy soulmate. I was impressed by the metamorphosis Gabrielle went through in this last episode. Finally, it was possible that Gabrielle could continue on, and carry her own adventures, perhaps even as a spin-off. Xena could appear as a ghost from time to time to keep it going.
 Xena and Gabrielle's love was obviously genuine in this episode. The incident that got the two characters lips to meet was contrived, but the 'kiss' was real, and not short and quick or hidden or cut away from. It was real. That gave me a little thrill of satisfaction, in spite of the sad circumstances.
 As sad as the episode was, and it was truly felt through Gabrielle's eyes and face, it was fitting. It was a wonderful, tragic, heroic end to the series. Gabrielle had come into her own, and Xena had found her peace. We know they will be together always, in spite of death, and they will be together in other lives, always.
 My thought, after the show ended, despite my tears and sadness, was that now a new chapter in my life, like Gabrielle, like Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, is beginning. Like Gabrielle, I go on alone, without Xena. Yet, also like Gabrielle, I realize I am not ever really alone, but surrounded by the love of those who have gone before me.
THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF XENA:
WHY IT MATTERS TO ME
The Way of the Warrior as an Outsider
 The path of the warrior/hero is one of an outsider. The heroic journey, beautifully told by writer Joseph Campbell, is one where the often-naive protagonist has to leave home in search of some truth and go through adventures and battles until she can come home again. Lucy Lawless felt trapped in some ways by the character of Xena, and yet she admits that Xena is very much a part of who she is. I can understand this.
 When I was in my 20s and living in Provincetown in the late 1970s, I created a persona for myself to cover up my insecurities and fears, and to act out against my religiously repressive childhood. My character was Trashette, and she was an outsider, and, in her own right, a warrior. At that time, gay women were very much into tight gender roles of butch and femme, and I fought against being pigeonholed. I wore vintage men's and women's clothing, makeup, bleached my hair, and designed outrageous costumes for myself. I wore lipstick red chaps, and black crepe dresses, and plaid capri pants.
 I was having fun, being creative, and I was free. Nevertheless, the reactions of others were unpredictable and unforgettable. There was one woman who came up to me and spat "You've never had any pain in your entire life!" Her vehemence and misunderstanding of who I was cut me to the core, Trashette had been BORN of pain! Gay feminist women tended to avoid me or mock me, once going so far as to surround me at a dance in Town Hall, and grope me. I was shocked. I had been assaulted. I could not understand what I had done wrong. People often thought I was a man, because they were used to seeing only drag queens dress so femininely and flamboyantly.
 Ironically, I was lonelier than before. I received letters from women inspired by me, or people who jadedly analyzed what I was doing and "named it" as a psychological phenomenon, never quite understanding the fullness of it. However, when I tried to kill off my character, purging my wardrobe, she would not die. I wrote a column under her name for five years, until I was finally able to take the outer drama inside, where it still rages on today.
 While Lucy Lawless is different in that she did not create her character on paper, she did define the character of Xena forever. No one will be able to play it like her, because, in part, she was being herself. Xena exemplified my inner drama for me, and I suspect Lucy Lawless knows the drama of the outsider as well.
 Xena had a wicked, evil past, and was directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of deaths. Some were deserved, others were not. Over six seasons we saw her struggle over and over again to prove she was trying to do the right thing, to make up for so much loss. While she could not truly make up for all those souls, it was the INTENTION and the will to good that actually redeemed her. She became conscious of her actions, and changed them. This is the true redemption.
 Again, I have a personal illustration. I have undergone past life regression through hypnosis, and am a firm believer in reincarnation through these powerful experiences of other lives. One of the most powerful, and terrifying, was when I learned I had been in the Gestapo in Germany in my last life. My task was loading trains with people to be transported to what I had been told were 'work camps'. Because I had been born into a long military lineage and trained to obey orders, I trusted the judgment of my superior officers. I carried out their orders not out of hatred toward any particular people, but because it was duty.
 In the moment I relived during hypnosis, I was closing the last door of the last cattle car on a train. At that moment, my eyes met those of a little girl. She stared frankly, unafraid, at me, and I at her. Then, slowly, I pulled the door to, and signaled the train to depart. As I looked down the length of the train, I had a premonition that these people would not be coming back. I heard the station flag snap in the breeze, and this seemed to exemplify my life, and my devotion to honor, glory, and duty. Yet, suddenly, I became conscious that what I was doing was not honorable. It was not glory in battle. It was, therefore, dishonorable.
 The entire scaffolding of my life came crashing down before me, and I could not live with what I had done. I ran into the woods and shot myself. As I lay bleeding into the soft moss beneath a green canopy of trees, I realized that the little girl had forgiven me. As I came out of the hypnosis session, I realized that the little girl in that life was my current best friend, ex-lover, and "family".
 For days, weeks, I carried around guilt inside me. I knew that I was not responsible for what I may have done as a Nazi in another life, but the pain of this knowledge was very real. I wondered how I would ever be redeemed. How could I make up for thousands of lives? The answer came to me through meditation and reading that the lives I was responsible for were those I was conscious of. It had to do with intention and awareness. In this current life, in which my friend and I care for one another, and give one another love and support, I am redeemed.
 This experience of mine makes me believe that the redemption issue in the final episode of Xena is the one off-putting note in an otherwise superlative episode. I do not truly believe Xena should have given her life for the 40,000 persons she did not know she had taken. However, taking one life she was conscious of would have been enough to bargain her own life for. Since she had changed her ways, been awakened, had she taken one innocent life consciously? Perhaps others more familiar with the details of each episode could answer this.
 Missionaries all over the world must wish they were as effective at conversion as Xena has been at empowering people. Who can deny the positive impact it has had on peoples' lives, whether helping them confront their own demons, their repressed sexuality, or reexamining what it is to be courageous? Read the myriad tributes on the web! Men, women, young, old, people from all races all over the world, each person has a story to tell. Repeatedly, they write of heartache, loss, and sadness, and how the show changed them. It will continue as long as the show is seen and there is a need for awakening.
 The irony is that the creators and makers of Xena never realized or intended this would be the result of their entertainment. Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor did not sign on for a great spiritual mission to save lives and show women how they can be. They just wanted to act! All life, all creation, is connected. In that way, yes, a television show CAN be divinely inspired. The God/Goddess uses many vehicles to raise our consciousness, whether it is chance encounters on the street, "moments of being" in the middle of a crowded party or bar, magazine articles, television shows, comic books, news stories, and mediums both 'high' and 'low'. The God/Goddess uses these vehicles to reach our souls and make us conscious of who we are and from whence we came.
 This show and its players were used for a higher purpose and they can be very proud of the work they did. Although Lucy Lawless talks of being tired, exhausted, and going through the motions, I want her to understand the import of her role as Xena. Xena, the show, and Xena and Gabrielle the characters worked because Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor BECAME the parts they played. As long as they are true to themselves in the roles they take in the future, they will always have an impact on people's lives.
 Who among us does not desire an intimate friendship, whether it involves sexual love or not? To have a soulmate of either gender who understands you, who would fight for you, who trusts you, whom you are not afraid to fight WITH? How often do we find a love and friendship of this depth, almost mystical, depicted anywhere?
 The relationship between Gabrielle and Xena evolved because of the chemistry and natural affection between the two actors who portrayed them. It is difficult to fake those emotions. A genuineness and authenticity unfolded in front of the camera. I suspect that when the show's writers realized how this relationship played to the millions of fans, they wrote it into the script as more obvious subtext, delighting fans, but in a sense saddling the actors with 'playing' something that was already there. The authenticity of their chemistry spoke to the millions of viewers thirsting to love and be loved in return. This was the true heart and soul of the show and why it succeeded across such a wide demographic.
 Of course, gay women, in particular, would be attracted to Xena. It was not just for the subtext, either. We can identify with the warrior role and the part of the outsider. We know the guilt that sometimes comes with living and loving outside the norm, and the ways we seek for redemption within our own families. We, too, wish to be empowered in a society that does everything it can to disempower and ignore us. We know the tragedy of loving and often having to hide that love. Is it any wonder we came to love Xena and its characters? That the actors and their characters had genuine feeling for one another, that they were attractive and intelligent and funny only added icing to what was an already substantial cake.
 I will forever be grateful that Xena was in my life. When the show first started, I was lonely, looking for love, looking for deeper significance in my life. I got involved with the Xenaverse, fell in love on-line, was betrayed but battled on, withdrew, but never lost hope in the show. My own spiritual journey has taken me miles from where I was, and yet closer to who I am. The love I seek must come from within first. I am in the process of "meeting my soul" as Edgar Cayce put it. Like Xena, I will fight the good fight until at last I am home again.
Wood lives, works, and writes in Eastern Massachusetts. Favorite activities include Lego building, television viewing, and people watching. A sedentary sort and armchair adventurer, she nevertheless manages to find plenty of trouble to get into. Past writings have included a weekly newspaper column and various mundane publications at a local university.
Favorite episode: THE WAY. Although there was a big brouhaha about the depiction of Krishna, I was very moved by this. In addition, THE ABYSS and A FRIEND IN NEED both left me moved and breathless.
Favorite line: Repeated several times, by Xena: "I have many skills."
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS and other Joxer-heavy episodes. I felt he was extraneous.