Xena Warrior PrincessSeason:
October 4, 1999Screencaps: Miroir dArc
, Mikes Xena ImagesDate Reviewed:
October 21, 2012
I've always loved Xena's chakram. Such an awesome weapon deserves an awesome backstory. Or at least, having an episode named after it. That's just one of the reasons why I love this episode.
The other is because Ares is back! (I also love Xena's journey of seeing a new side of her when she does not have her darkside, and other things like Gabrielle's new fighting skills and protectiveness of Xena etc) It's been far too long since we've seen him. You don't realize how much he's missed during a season until he shows up again, with an all new look and somewhat all new attitude. Maybe it's the fact that he's been gone for an entire season (well DejaVu doesn't count...) that makes him even more appealing. Or maybe it's just that he looks even sexier than ever before...
At the risk of turning this review into an Ares review.... he is one of the big reasons why I love this episode so much. That first scene really does make me stop 'cause I wasn't expecting him to be back, and I wasn't expecting him to look so different (re: hot
). His conversation with that other war god Kal (which really begs the question: a war god of a different culture? country? Because the Olympians are prominent in these parts) is quite interesting. Ares is and clearly always will be focused on Xena (wouldn't you be after an entire season away??) and actually seems possessive of her ("So let's just cut the crap and while you're at it, you stop tryin' to snatch Xena. Force doesn't work with her. Never has-- never will. So, uh-- stop it."
). He doesn't want anyone else honing in on his territory, his woman
(whether she's really his or not is irrelevant, he's still got dibs and by his rules, is the only one who's allowed to try and recruit her). He and this Kal are clearly up to something, and from Ares' part, he's only talking to him in order to get what he wants. He'd never form any kind of alliance without getting something in return.
Ares is aware of Xena's death though it doesn't seem to affect him at all--and he's even quite skeptical about the fact that she "rose from the dead" as if he believes that either 1) death could never defeat her or 2) that she somehow find a way out of it all, herself, and rose herself from the dead. He seems unsure to take this "Eli" seriously as a powerful man who can bring back the dead. He seems willing to easily underestimate Eli.
The most interesting point of their conversation, however, is this: "Are you still mad about me stealing the dark chakram? That was years ago!"
So some important things have come into light 1) that the chakram Xena owns is special (more than we already realized given it's amazing abilities) and that there is much more to it than we know; and why is it called the "Dark Chakram"?; 2) that Ares and Kal have some kind of history from who knows how long ago; 3) and Ares stole the chakram which leads me to believe fairly certainty that the only reason Xena has the chakram is because Ares gave it to her (or she otherwise got it from him). Which also means that she and Ares knew each other in the past contrary to what The Reckoning
leads us to believe (that she's never seen him before). It leaves a lot of questions without answers, but I find these points very intriguing, real food for the imagination.
One last point I enjoy from the first scene: "No, I think we both know why I'm here. So, you take my advice. Back-- off."
Ah, Ares' "possessiveness" of Xena shows itself a second time and he just reaffirms how much he'd be willing to fight Kal (based on looks and tone of voice alone) if he got in Ares' way or tried to take something that belongs to Ares... It's quite interesting how interested he is in her, almost to the point of a protectiveness (at least as "protective" as the God of War could be about a warrior he wants back as his warrior queen.) To me, this is a different side to Ares that we've not seen. Maybe it's similar to his dealings with Agathon in A Dirty Half Dozen
and the looks and help he gives to Xena, but somehow, it does feel different...
That poor monk.... Now we realize that there are two chakrams, and one that scorches you dead if you try to touch it when you're not "pure" enough. Intriguing... In some ways, it seems this chakram is more deadly than the so-called Dark Chakram... Or maybe true purity can be more potent than evil....
The fact that Xena comes back without a darkside is really interesting. While I love the symbolism that her lightside and darkside are connected to the chakram, and because the chakram is broken and not whole, Xena isn't either, literally speaking having that be the reason she has no darkside doesn't make much sense. For one, if this is the Dark Chakram, then I would think that would mean that Xena would have lost her good side as a result of it being broken (that actually would have been really cool to see--the release of EvilXena when she comes back from the dead and, oh, it really would have worked because Xena was a demon just before she came back... possibilities!) The other reason it doesn't literally work is because, while the chakram is special, Xena's goodness and darkness are within her, and some mystical power doesn't keep her together.
My theory for Xena's loss of darkness is that when the angels and the God of the heavens brought her back to life through Eli, they had attempted to somehow reverse what had been done by DemonXena in hell. Maybe they'd worked to erase that from her memory so that she would not know what she had been and in doing so, accidentally erased too much and completely wiped her of her darkside, leaving her an innocent woman that's completely aware of evil but has never felt it before. And I love, then, that it will later take the merging of the light and dark chakrams (not just fixing the dark chakram that was broken in two) to make her whole, in mind, body and soul. That's a really clever way of dealing with it, not to mention the new and improved chakram that she gets.
I love Gabrielle's new outfit. Her sais are cool, too, but I just don't understand how she can be so good at wielding them from the first time she uses them. She just came out of a long stint of pacifism and then going bazerk on a bunch of Romans--now she's perfectly skilled at using two small dagger-like weapons at close range, with magnificent kicks and spins and thrusts that could be worthy of Xena? Where has she been hiding these skills all these years?
Xena's temporary new outfit is interesting, too, how "peasant" she looks. The beads in her hair, the sandals and skirt and non-fitted top (which is pretty--one of my favorite costumes) really conveys the innocent nature that she has now found herself in. It's interesting to watch her not acting herself, shying away from a fight and being a background figure. I guess it is good that Gabrielle is so good with the sais because she steps up when Xena can't, protects her and becomes the dominant one. It is a nice change for Gabrielle after that long pacifist phase but even more than that, it shows a very grown-up woman who can take charge on her own and protect and care without Xena. After 5 seasons, this is the Gabrielle that I think has finally come into her own, can now fully stand toe-to-toe with Xena. I wouldn't mind if she had her long hair back but....the short is here to stay.
This episode shows a lot of growth and revelation by Gabrielle, too. Apart from being a skilled fighter when Xena can't fight for herself, one of my favorite conversations is when she speaks to Eli about how she knew, deep down, that the way of Love was not for her. She tried it but in the end, it wouldn't have worked out long-term. I'm glad to see her admit that. Her pacifist journey was important to the development of her character (no matter how annoying it could be at times, the way it was handled), it's nice to see Gabrielle realize that she was trying too hard to follow a way that would never work for her. She has a good heart but her skills and her mind can best be used when she's there with Xena on Xena's path, doing good in the way that she had always done. She had to get over a huge hurtle when everything came crashing down when Hope was born--it two her two seasons but I think she's finally found her place.
And Eli, too, knew that Gabrielle's heart wasn't fully in it--he wanted to convert her because he cared about her but, in the end, he knew it wasn't right either.
Joxer had some revelations in this episode, too, which in some ways kind of came out of the blue but when you think about them, you realize it's been building for a while. Joxer has always (well, since about mid-season 2, I believe) had a crush on Gabrielle which has always been quite sweet because Gabrielle just viewed him as loveable brother. It's interesting to see him actually say he loves her, first to Eli and then finally to Gabrielle. He spends much of the episode trying to find a way to tell her, even goes to the innocent Xena for advice on matters of the heart (is it because she's Xena and she knows Gabriele inside and out? Or is it because Xena's lost her darkside and therefore, might be more easily able to give love advice than when she's a hard warrior?)
The best part is that Xena's already fully aware that Joxer loves Gabrielle--she's known for some time, I'm sure, and it's just taken Joxer a really long time to either realize it or to get up enough courage to make it known. I know it's because he saw her dead and then resurrected is what changed things for him (awwww...)
There are some revelations for Ares, as well, but I think there are ones that are not fully known by him. I just find the bath scene particularly interesting (even more interesting is that he fully overhears the conversation between Xena about "unconditional love"--foreshadowing?) and responds to Xena's "kiss the girl" comment in his usual suave way. The scene is sensual, for sure, and there are a lot of feelings there swirling around (particularly on Ares' part). He's gentle with her but he's also trying to seduce her into doing what he wants which in some ways, should leave a bad taste in my mouth but for some reason, doesn't.....
He'd seen her in the scene earlier in the temple when Kal captured Xena and took her to the temple to force her to get the chakram of light. Ares wasn't too happy about it and released Xena from Kal's clutches (I love his flourish of the wrist as he zaps the maniacals right off her wrists! --- very much the same as he did in The Reckoning
with the when she was chained up). And then he simply let her go and fought Kal so that Xena could escape. All so that he could have her all to himself (in the Warrior Queen sense--or was there more?
Then when he appears in the bath and Xena notices him, she does say that she knows him but I really do think that's a rather loaded "know". I think she somehow senses a bond of history between them, not just a simple recollection that she's seen him in the earlier scene when he saved her from Kal.
The massage of her shoulders (though it's more of a gentle rub--extremely sensual if you ask me) and his smooth talking is meant to impress her, get her back into thinking that he's everything that she needs and so much more--to be his warrior queen. (love his line: "It's all about you and me, Xena-- not Kal, not even Zeus. Just the two of us-- bringing peace
") He hasn't brought that up in a long time, does he see this as a "second chance" type opportunity now that Xena's innocent and can easily be manipulated? Or does he view her innocence as a "second chance" for them in a relationship because she 1) doesn't know about all the things he's done to her in the past and 2) she doesn't hold the resentment toward him like she's often known to do.
I'm inclined to believe it's more of the later because an innocent Xena wouldn't do much good as a Warrior Queen when she has no recollection of hate or anger or war, or even the ability to fight. That type of Xena isn't of much good to Ares in his position, yet he's still extremely drawn to her which I think is the most fascinating point about this episode. Could be that there's more about Xena that draws him besides his warrior side--something so much deeper.
I do love when she innocently stands up naked in front of him and he's at a loss for words. He's not hesitant to kiss her, however, and who knows how far that would have gone if Gabrielle had not walked in. Xena may be innocent to evil but she's not innocent to life so even if it had gone as far as them having sex, I don't believe it'd be a violation, at least not completely. Xena would have been aware of herself and what she was doing--it's just that her normal reflexes to push him away are not there.
The most interesting thing about Xena's newfound innocence is that she questions herself still maybe even now more than ever. But it's not whether she's doing the right thing and battling with a darkside as Warrior Xena always would, it's about whether bringing back her darkness is important. Why not go through life as a peaceful person (kind of like what she would have become in the future that Between the Lines
It's great that Gabrielle is the voice of reason to Xena where Xena has always been to Gabrielle many times before. Their conversation is one of my favorites probably in the entire series especially because it comes from Gabrielle who's always been about peace and love and not wanting to perpetuate violence even though she's learned that sometimes the only answer is to fight:Xena: "I can make no sense of this. Whoever you are-- _whatever_ you are-- that brought me back like this, I need to know why. I don't know how I'm supposed to be, but-- the others say that I'm a warrior-- that I kill so that innocent people may live. They want me back the way that I was. Do you? Is that your plan? Send me a sign. How will I know what's right unless you do?"
Gabrielle: "Xena-- are you praying?"
Xena: "I can't help wondering if we're doing the right thing. Restoring this darkness, my violence-- can that really be good?"
Gabrielle: "I think it's vital. I know that sounds strange, coming from me. I think you have to know the darkest part of yourself-- to be whole."
Xena: "But this way, I harm no one."
Gabrielle: "But Xena, what about the people who harm others? Xena, you have this balance of lightness and darkness. Without both of those-- the very best in you is defenseless."
Gabrielle's learned, too, that Xena's darkside makes her who she is as much as her goodness makes her who she is. That can be said of Gabrielle, too--she'll always be peaceful inside but when it's right to fight, that's when one must stand up.
I do have to wonder about this Calib and how closely he and Eli were. He had scrolls that told about the history of the chakram? Information that only someone extremely pure would be able to get the chakram of light off the alter without being killed by fire (guess that's why Xena ends up being the only one able to--because her darkside has been stripped leaving her a completely innocent "shell"--much more pure than anyone on earth, maybe even as pure as an angel.... There's an idea!). And the fact that it can kill gods... hmmm. Eli says Calib was an old friend, I wonder if the idea that he knew about a weapon that could kill gods could be seen as foreshadowing to later events in season 5... There are interesting parallels there that I think would be good to deal with in later reviews.
I love the final confrontation in the temple. Ares and Kal have teamed up (again, for Ares' purposes only--he'd defeat Kal if he wanted to) and Xena and the others are held up inside the chakram temple (again, why is this temple in Roman territory? I don't picture the chakram as a Roman weapon especially since there was the same design depicted on the palace of Lao Ma in the Debt; it must be of oriental origin).
Xena's unable to kill with the chakram of light when she pulls it off the alter--without getting a single burn! A weapon with the power to kill gods but Xena cannot do so because she is too innocent to even defend herself.
Joxer always has horrible timing as he chooses the one time when Gabrielle really would not be able to give him her full attention for him to tell her that he loves her. I mean, it's dramatic but so unfortunate. In some ways, Joxer deserves better than that and springing it on Gabrielle was only going to bring about disappointment. I guess that's the way of love sometimes.
As much as Ares disregarded Eli's abilities at the beginning of the ep, it's quite interesting how much Eli makes Ares cower (on the inside) when they finally meet face to face. It's like this unseen force coursing through him when Ares touches him--a force that Ares would probably never understand but clearly knows it's either not good or more powerful that even Ares. It seems to me that he gets a similar expression when he goes up against Dahak in Sacrifice I, facing a flame of fire brought by the deadly god. Eli's god isn't evil, I'm certain, but it's a more powerful force than even the Olympian gods and Ares senses that. You don't often see the God of War back down--but when you do, you know it's something big and important.
I love that Ares uses one final opportunity to get to Xena after Xena kills Kal with the Chakram of Light (which really devastates her in a way that you wouldn't normally see in Xena). I don't feel that Ares is at all worried that Xena will use the chakram on him, as well, though I am sure that Ares is not mourning the loss of Kal. He's suave and wants to tempt her to give him the chakram (yeah, that's a good idea--let Ares take it so that he cane FINALLY be top god and obliterate everyone in his path! The days of him wanting that seem behind him, though--that doesn't seem like the Ares I see now; maybe he'd just want the chakram of light so that the other gods can never come after him
, protect his own skin and all that).
Yet even in this state, Xena is smart and doesn't want to give into Ares. When she picks up the now newly fixed Dark Chakram off the alter (cool how placing it back on its spot on the alter fixed in like it had never been cracked in the first place!) and puts the Dark Chakram and Light Chakram together, joining them above her head to create a new, Yin Yang Super Chakram.... That's super cool, just the look on her face as she grabs the newly formed chakram and we see that old twinkle in her eye that we know that the real Xena is back in town, awesome moment. Ares, too, knows she's back and I think he's kinda happy about that, too (as much fun as Innocent Xena would have been had he gotten her to do what he wanted, there's no denying that the real Xena is so much better).
The fight scene is one of the best! That new chakram is so super cool especially the way it can split into two and have one half ricocheting in one direction and the second half ricocheting in the other! I mean, I love the old chakram and I will always miss it (it was, by far, the prettiest) but this one can do so much and really fits Xena, too--now she can kill twice as many! When she jumps and flips, catching the chakram as it returns to her and each piece joins again, and she flips over in front of the alter and faces Ares with the chakram to his throat is a priceless move. That gleam in her eye--he knows she no longer has the power to kill him and he just takes her move so casually as he often does when she's around (there is always this game between them when they're in a room together).
She's regained her memories and her darkness and knows that she should never have the kind of power that the Light Chakram gave her (the power to kill gods is kind of irrelevant, it's simply a metaphor for her, as a person or mortal should never have the power to take a life). Yet Ares knows that they will see each other again soon and leaves with his trademark flash. You can never miss that...
I'm glad that everything works out well in the end. Things will probably be more uncomfortable between Gabrielle and Joxer but at least she knows how he feels--and he's such a gentleman about it, saying that she doesn't need to say anything, she feels what she feels and he needed to get it out. Xena's back to her old self (though still in that red outfit--are her original leathers gone? Probably in Roman hands) and she thanks Gabrielle from bringing her back to her old self. A nice way to end, them walking off back toward Greece after a long time away.
It would have been nice to deal with such things as where did the chakram come from? When did Xena get it? Why are there two and why is one called the dark and one called the light? They're great questions but we never receive full answers, leaving me somewhat disappointed. This episode would have been awesome as a 2-parter, with flashbacks to show us more details. Alas, they had to leave it to our imaginations on the full story...