"Amphipolis Under Siege"
by Michelle Erica Green

Fighting Over Xena

"Amphipolis Under Siege" Plot Summary:

An army of women dressed in silver attacks guards from Amphipolis. Xena chakrams away the arrows, then fights with the woman leading the assault as Gabrielle protects Eve behind a tree. After Xena cuts the woman's face, the army retreats. Xena accuses Ares of trying to sieze the road to her hometown, but the god pops up and warns the warrior princess that other Olympians have an interest in ending Eve's life. "Athena," realizes Xena when she recognizes the arrows. Meanwhile the leader of Athena's army, Ilainus, visits the goddess, who heals her wound and vows to kill Xena's child.

With Gabrielle and Eve in tow, Xena goes to Amphipolis, where her mother joyously greets them and cuddles the baby. But the town has been surrounded by Athena's vast armies. Ares tries to find out whether his sister will lay off, but Athena is furious. "This isn't a game to make Xena your plaything. Zeus is dead." The goddess believes the people of Amphipolis will give up the child to her without bloodshed once she reminds them of their loyalties. But after the people question Xena about her resurrection and Eli's message of love, they give her their loyalty. Athena pops in to try to sway the town, but Xena's mother begins to sing and soon everyone joins in a rousing chorus, drowning out the goddess.

The town prepares for war, and Gabrielle leads a strike against some Athenian forces. Meanwhile Xena leads soldiers through the city's underground tunnels to surprise them from behind. Ilainus has anticipated this and meets Xena in the middle, telling her she'd love to battle one on one but she has other orders. Then she blows up the tunnels as Xena flees, knocking down a support beam behind her to contain the flames. The ground underneath Gabrielle collapses and flames burst upward, killing most of Athena's troops. Gabrielle picks herself up and orders her remaining soldiers back to the trenches.

After the battle, her friend suggests that Xena slip out of Amphipolis with Eve, but Xena doesn't think the town will be safe until Athena gets what she wants. As if to prove the point, arrows from Athena's warrior women shoot over the buttresses. Later, when Xena examines the wounded, Athena appears to her. The disgusted warrior princess says that of all the Olympians, Athena came closest to having earned Xena's respect, so this opportunistic siege makes no sense. Athena says the fates have decreed that she must stop Eve's destruction of the gods, and refuses Xena's challenge to single combat because the people need the gods. When Xena reminds her that they have Eli's teachings of love, the goddess reveals that she has poisoned the wells, and love won't feed anyone.

As Athena leaves, Eve screams. Xena rushes to her daughter, in the arms of her proud grandmother, who tells Xena that she wants her wild child to know the joy of watching a baby grow up strong and independent. With this in mind, Xena enters Ares' temple, telling him that she is ready to accept his deal. If he helps her defeat Athena, she will be his Warrior Queen. "I'm offering you my sword, and the body that wields it." The god of war is a bit concerned that he'll be a pariah among his relatives, but Xena reminds him that Olympus is doomed anyway. Eve will become his daughter, and he will find his immortality through her. They kiss, but Ares backs away, unsure he can trust Xena although he has never known her to go back on a promise.

Two farmers-turned-soldiers discuss how much easier it would be to give the baby to Athena. Overhearing, Gabrielle warns the civilians that this isn't about Xena's child, it's about the fact that the gods can demand the lives of anyone's child they want, and she won't fight beside someone who'd give up his own baby to rulers like that. Then Gabrielle summons Ares, telling him that she knows Xena has offered him a deal, but will never love the god if he makes her revert to her vicious former ways. Ares is surprised Gabrielle believes her friend would keep that bargain to save her daughter. Gabrielle reiterates that Xena never promises anything she doesn't mean. "Thank you," says Ares, and disappears.

Ares visits his sister, offering to take Xena and Eve to another realm. "Zeus is dead," Athena reminds him again, warning that she will not compromise - Eve must die. The god of war points out that war between themselves will doom the Olympians faster than any prophecy, and Hercules would not have killed Zeus if Zeus hadn't forced his hand. Returning to his temple in a bad mood, he sees Xena's armor lying on the floor. Xena is waiting, wearing nothing but furs. Ares gulps a drink as the warrior princess asks him whether he's ready to seal their deal. Opening his fly, the god crosses the room, and the pair come together.

Yet Xena stops biting Ares' nipple to tell him she hears fighting. Then the wall blasts apart, revealing Xena and Ares in flagrante to Xena's mother. "This is not what it looks like!" exclaims Xena. "Yes, it is!" retorts Ares. Mom laments that Xena chose such a sleazy god instead of Apollo or Hermes, but is more concerned with warning her daughter that Gabrielle is leading an offensive against Athena. Despite Ares' offer to take her and Eve away from it all while the goddess is distracted, Xena insists that she's going to fight her own way, and puts her armor back on.

As Gabrielle fights off dozens of men, Athena tells Ilainus to shoot the bard. Just then Xena approches with the baby bundled in her arms, and Athena calls off the attack. Gabrielle tries to stop Xena, but Xena says she has to save the people of Amphipolis, and lays the baby on the ground, ordering Athena to call off her armies. Athena raises her sword to kill the sleeping baby and suggests that Xena turn around, but Xena wants to remember every detail. Just then Ares pops in, attacking his sister to protect Eve. Gabrielle summons the army, and Ilainus pursues Xena as Athena tosses Ares several yards through the air. The god tells his sister that blood may be thicker than water, but it runs hottest when there's love involved. "You are really whipped!" she scoffs. "Worried about your girlfriend?" Ares says he isn't. "Worried about yours?"

Just then Xena stabs Ilainus, who has been battling her superbly. Athena rushes to the woman, realizing that her wound is too grave to heal. Ilainus asks only for the goddess' promise that she is still her favorite, then dies in Athena's arms. "Take a good look, Ares - we're next, all of us," grates the goddess before taking her beloved away in a shower of light. The armies disperse.

"Did you and Ares..." asks Gabrielle. "Not yet," says the god gleefully. But Xena shows him that the "baby" he saved was only a dummy. "When we were fighting side by side, it was like we were one," he argues, warning Xena that the gods will keep coming after Eve. Xena says she felt nothing fighting at his side. But after Ares promises it isn't over and vanishes, Xena says, "I felt something."

Holding Eve, Xena admits to her mother that she and Gabrielle planned everything - the bombing, the fighting. "What did you feel?" Gabrielle demands. "Maybe a little something," Xena finally admits.


Xena fans can be divided into certain factions: those who adore Joxer versus those who despise him, those who think the first season was the pinnacle of the Xenaverse versus those who think it was much too silly, those who miss Gabrielle's long hair and pacifist ways versus those who like her much better now, those who think Xena and Gabrielle are or should be lovers versus those who are much more comfortable with them as just good friends. I am afraid that the longer I watch this show, I realize I am in the faction that - much as I wish to root for a pacifist princess who believes love is the way - secretly thinks Xena is hotter with bad boy Ares, evil Callisto, tough chick Boadicea, and unreformed Borias than with her soulmate.

I'm ashamed of myself, but I have greatly enjoyed the love scenes between Xena and Ares the past few weeks - and what's worse, I find his protestations of love sincere, even though it's a sick and twisted selfish kind of love. Ares is a lot more exciting than honorable Athena, even though she resembles her huntress sister Artemis more than the traditional patron of Athens. I know there are people throwing up about the Ares romance, which is tinged with incest (the series has suggested he might be her father) and compulsory heterosexuality with enforced maternal obligations, but I still there's something sexy about seeing him brought down to her mortal level and pining for what he can't really have.

I wish I had some better justification, but other than thinking the writers have never done a good job with Gabrielle, I think it comes down to Kevin Smith's fearless nastiness and Lucy Lawless' apparent glee while throwing herself into a situation she must know will disturb a number of viewers. The chemistry between these two is so much stronger than the strained pseudo-romance between Gabrielle and Joxer, and the show confronts that head-on. It humanizes the heroine, in sort of the same way it humanized Dana Scully to have an affair with a tattoo-wearing psychopath. I never worry that Xena can't rise above Ares, and it's fun to watch her dance around him.

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