Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Xena Warrior Princess: The Titans, Prometheus, Death in Chains

We hit maximum camp in these next three Xena episodes, with what is generally considered one of the show's worst episodes, the show's first crossover episode with Hercules (which involves the usual tinkering with Greek mythology) and a strange fairy tale-like episode about the personification of death (the general storyline of which pops up in folktales around the world).

The Titans
Well, that was ... lame.
It's a shame the first Gabrielle-centric episode had to be this, as it's difficult to even understand what the story is meant to be about. First we're dealing with Xena capturing some thugs, then Gabrielle awakens the titans and goes on a crazy power-trip, then the jig is up and we're watching a meaningless love triangle between three one-shot guest stars, and then Xena is trying to save the world's dumbest kids who run into a titan's cave to escape the titan and...forget to run out again?

Geez, just pick a storyline and stick with it!
There were a couple of funny bits, like Xena's "wrong!" comment and her assurance that Gabby could stall for time (Smash Cut to Gabby in the midst of a story) but other than that...really not sure what the point of this one was.
This was a fun one, mainly because of the cross-over gimmick and the opportunity to see the four main characters of this franchise working together. They pick up on some of the issues that were left over from Xena's appearances on Hercules, and the reconciliation between Xena/Iolaus (the handshake, his words to Gabrielle) is surprisingly touching.
The setup was also interesting; taking the myth of Prometheus and twisting it a little to fit the circumstances. It's an effective moment when Xena realizes that humanity is losing the gifts of fire and healing (though a little nonsensical – just because humans forget Prometheus's healing techniques doesn't mean the body can't naturally heal itself, right?) and the scene with the oracles is also good.
It was definitely more of a Hercules episode than a Xena one.
But mostly it's fun seeing our four heroes team up for an adventure (though where on earth did Hercules and Iolaus spring from in the MIDDLE OF A BARN? Did they fly through the windows or something?) and the tension between Hercules/Xena over who would sacrifice themselves made for an interesting moral argument between two characters who are practically defined by their self-sacrificial natures (though there were about a million ways they could have side-stepped the problem – I thought they'd end up giving the sword to Prometheus so he could free himself).
But however fun crossovers are, I think that any permanent union between the two couples would be a bad idea (character-wise, at least). Hercules and Xena are too different and deal with things in completely different ways, though I like the idea that maybe in the back of their minds they have this dream that if they live that long, they'll meet up again in old-age and live out their golden years together.
And it was a nice touch to end the episode with Hercules/Iolaus waving goodbye to Xena/Gabrielle – I got a real kick out of watching the men mournfully watch the women head off on their adventures.  
Death in Chains
This episode was comprised of an interesting premise handled in a completely clumsy manner, but which still had its moments. The idea of an individual holding death ransom and then realizing the terrible consequences of immortality is a very, very old story, so I foresaw pretty much every plot-twist the episode had to offer, but it was still a story worth exploring.
Kate Hodge was possibly not the best choice of actress to play death-incarnate – Celesta should have been spooky and ghostly, but instead came across as a chick on a conveyor belt (which I swear I could hear grinding away beneath her). 
Death incarnate is, like, so over this.
But the bigger problem with introducing the embodiment of death is simply that it's such a huge concept on a show that has death as a frequent event, which opens up too many questions as to where exactly this entity fits into that. Is Celesta floating around every time somebody on this show dies? This episode establishes that it's not only the dying who can see her, but also perfectly healthy people standing in the vicinity. So how come we've never seen her before (or, I suspect, ever again?)
It just seems like a profound bit of world-building that nothing will ever come of.  
The band of thugs was more amusing to me than they should have been. There seems to be no end to these leather-clad, black-toothed hooligans just roaming the countryside, and these ones looked remarkably delighted at their gaping, bloody, mortal wounds. Shouldn't they have been in terrible pain? Everyone else was. Wasn't that the point of the story? That death had to be freed or else the sick and wounded would suffer forever? Okay, whatever...
I also liked Talos more than I thought I would. He was Gabrielle's requisite Boyfriend of the Week (we've had half a dozen of these guys already) but unlike her other temporary love interests, I got the sense that had they been given the chance, they could have actually had a future together. Maybe. Perhaps I only think that because I knew he was a goner.
Still, I was surprised to find myself just a wee bit sad that he had to die, and got the sense that he had more of an impact on one of the main characters than any of the others thus far. He was important to Gabrielle's ongoing theme of storytelling and the ever-close proximity of death in her life.
To put it another way: he probably won't ever be mentioned again, but if any of the one-shot guest stars we've had so far were to be name-dropped, I wouldn't be surprised if it was him.
One of my clearest memories of watching Hercules as an eleven/twelve year old was thinking that Hades was really cute. And he didn't disappoint. But geez, why does he send Xena to rescue Celesta? You're a GOD. Go do it yourself.
Miscellaneous Observations:
I loved that after all the trouble Talos and Gabrielle had in reaching her to convey their crucial bit of information, of course Xena knew not to touch Death. DUH!
That sick old lady never got her drink of water. Talos and Gabrielle totally just left her there.
I thought it was a nice touch that we could continue to hear the rat squeaking, even after it had been crushed. Though why it sounded like a budgie and not a rat is anyone's guess.
The chakram got used as a chainsaw. What.
I actually thought the scene at the end with Celesta floating around, gently touching the thugs to death was quite effective and well-shot.
I'm beginning to feel sorry for Gab just wandering around next to Argo. Can't they get her a horse too? But at least she's got a new outfit.

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