The Conquest of Britain
"The Deliverer" Plot Summary:
Xena and Gabrielle rescue a man from Brittania who's being taken into custody for Caesar. The man, a believer in the One God, tells Xena that Boadicea is recruiting men to drive the Romans out of her land. Though Xena betrayed Boadicea in the past and fears that the other woman warrior will not trust her, her hatred of Caesar leads her to join in the struggle.
Gabrielle becomes close with Krastar, the monotheist, who tells her of his conversion when he was about to kill an enemy and was filled with compassion instead. The two are taken prisoner together during a struggle with Caesar's men; Xena rescues them mid-crucifixion, and Gabrielle goes with Krastar to his temple. Meanwhile, Xena and Boadicea agree to let bygones be bygones, and prepare to battle Caesar's legions.
At the Temple, Krastar is siezed as a ritual sacrifice by apparent infiltrators, but when Gabrielle kills the priestess who appears to be trying to sacrifice Krastar, she learns to her horror that it is her own innocence desired by the Dark One, the real focus of the initates of the Temple. Xena comes to her rescue, but not before Gabrielle is suspended in fire and tormented by the powers of the evil god.
This episode was a lot more interesting when I thought Gabrielle was about to become a Christian than when it turned out she was merely to be the pawn in a nasty god's power play. There were rumors all summer of an impending rift between Xena and Gabrielle, and the idea of Gabrielle, who's already a force for goodness and peace, becoming a convert to a religion based on brotherhood and love (which is how early Christianity is always oversimplified in science fiction television, like on Star Trek's "Bread and Circuses") had real merit.
Of course, it also would have created an impossible situation for the producers, namely how to keep the Amazon Princess within the world of the Greek gods after an encounter with the teachings of Jesus, without offending members of the audience...so I guess it makes sense to leave Christianity alone, although Xena's reference to the God of the Israelites makes clear that she's familiar with some form of Judaism, and the setting in the era of Caesar makes it possible that she's living in the time of Christ as well.
On the other hand, thinking about history, geography, or mythology while watching this episode could only cause a viewer to have fits. Xena apparently traveled from France to central England by sea in a matter of hours, and the historical Boadicea of the Iceni, who was not technically even a Briton, led her rebellion against the Romans after Caesar left Gaul. Moreover, Stonehenge got a lot younger than it is. So if gods want to run around using Greek names in the era of the Romans, and if Xena can live through the Trojan War and Roman imperialism in a couple of years, then I guess we should assume that time obviously works differently in their universe.
I note these things only because they seemed obtrusive in this episode. Usually, Xena has a light touch; I guess the producers wanted a change of pace by tormenting Xena and particularly Gabrielle over a number of episodes, but I can't say I really enjoyed it. I found this entire episode to be heavy-handed, both in terms of the War Is Hell buildup and the Evil Kills Innocence theme. I'm attached to Gabrielle the way she is. Renee O'Connor was moving in this episode, and the directing had great scope - it managed to make the army and the devil genuinely frightening.
Still, this isn't the sort of Gabrielle arc I had hoped for. I wanted to see her grow by teaching others her compassion; this is, after all, a show where people get maimed and killed on a very regular basis, so one can hardly complain that we get too much empathy, in fact Gabrielle is its only champion much of the time. Sometimes I want her to get a little backbone - as she quotes Xena saying, you can't let people take advantage of you. But I'm really not interested in exploring her dark side, on this show where Good and Evil tend to be pompous entities with very little subtlety. This episode just wasn't much fun, in a dramatic sense in addition to a ha-ha sense. Even Ares lacked his usual sense of humor, though I did like him materializing with Xena's sword running through him.
I do hope Boadicea sticks around; she's a very strong character, and one of my favorites from history. Next week, in part two of the arc, Gabrielle apparently learns that she's pregnant with Damien from The Omen, Part II. I hope it isn't as heavy-handed with the cliches about darkness and doom as it looked in the preview, the way this week's installment was.