Amazon in the Family
"Prodigal Sister" Plot Summary:
A decade ago, an Amazon raid destroyed a family: the parents were killed, the daughter kidnapped, the son blinded. But the father had both his children tattooed on the wrist before the war party arrived, and told his son to take care of the sister, since he would always be able to recognize her by the marking.
Hercules meets the now-grown blind boy, Roan, who is sworn to vengeance against all Amazons. Hercules runs into Ephiny, an Amazon acquaintance of Xena's, and learns from her that small bands of outlaw Amazons have been attacking villages, violating the peace treaty. When Roan learns that Ephiny is an Amazon, he tries to kill her, but Hercules stops him and warns him that his sister may by now be a committed Amazon warrior herself. The boy says she'd be better off dead.
One of the bands of outlaw Amazons attacks a nearby village. The leader, Mayhem, insists that they will retake their ancestral lands. Her heir apparent, Siri, loses her best friend in a battle and reaffirms her commitment to the Amazons, her sisters who saved her from abandonment as a baby...or so she believes. When the group attacks the town where Hercules and Roan are staying, Hercules sees the same tattoo on Siri's wrist as the one sported by Roan.
Hercules arranges a meeting between the siblings, but Siri uses it as an excuse to trap the men. She has begun to doubt Mayhem's story that she found her abandoned as a baby, however, and demands a trial by firestakes to find out who is lying. On beams over a fiery pit, Mayhem does battle against Hercules, standing in for Roan. Roan recognizes Mayhem's voice - she's the woman who killed his parents - and announces it in the presence of Siri, but Mayhem declares that it doesn't matter anymore. Hercules defeats her and tries to stop her from falling into the flames, but she refuses his hand, and dies. Then Siri attacks Roan, but the two agree to put aside their differences in the name of the truth, and go to the place where they were last together as children, the site of the battle. Siri, the new leader of the Amazon band, also calls off the war.
I guess it's silly even to try to be politically correct while watching a show like Hercules, but there were little things in this episode which really bugged me. The renegade Amazon tribe was characterized from both within and without as a band of militant feminists; the vicious Mayhem kicked a little boy in the gonads before taking a deadly swing at him, and Siri spouted rhetoric about Hercules epitomizing everything her group despises - specifically, male domination.
Other than the heroine, Siri, these aren't pretty integrationist Amazons like Ephiny, who has a centaur child; they're portrayed as manipulative, violent baby-snatchers who want nothing positive to do with anything masculine, physical or ideological. The suggestion of a passionate bond between Siri and the girl who dies early in the episode seems to be there only to reinforce the image of the Amazons as man-hating lesbians.
Considering all that baggage, I was more uncomfortable than usual with the ethnic overtones - Greek god Hercules and a blonde kid versus a band of warrior women whose tribal rituals seem to be a combination of African and South Pacific tribal traditions. What was the point of emphasizing the women's differences by playing up their culture's rites of war, based on a visual hodgepodge of non-Western customs? I don't recall the other Amazons on this series being so non-Greek. Hercules and Xena seem to be pretty color-blind in casting main characters, but dark-skinned, masked foreigners traveling in groups show up as bad guys more often than not. I doubt it's conscious on the part of the producers, but it gets worrisome at times.
This episode was otherwise unremarkable - rather predictable, with no humor to break the monotony. There was some dreadful acting on the part of the girl playing Siri as a child, and the man playing Roan as an adult - he was convincing enough when forced to draw attention to his character's blindness, but was over the top bewailing his past. I liked Mayhem's voice and manner, so I was very sorry to see her die even though the world really doesn't need a cliche-spouting, man-hating, feminist baby-killer who talks like something out of a Rush Limbaugh nightmare scenario. Siri was a little flat acting-wise, but absolutely gorgeous, with striking blue eyes and well-displayed - uhhh - feminine assets which, well, let's just say that they were not flat. I bet a lot of people wouldn't mind seeing her again.