Marching Towards the Ides
"Endgame" Plot Summary:
Ephiny leads the Amazon nation into battle against invading Romans. The queen is killed protecting a very young warrior, Amarys, who later tracks down Xena and Gabrielle during a fishing interlude. When the young Amazon hails Gabrielle as her queen, Gabrielle says, "I'm not the queen unless Ephiny were..." Learning of the disaster, the women rush to the Amazon village, where the dead are being cremated and the wounded tended. Xena learns that Caesar's friend Brutus was commanding the legion that attacked in the highlands, but that after their retreat, Pompey's men attacked to kidnap women to sell as slaves so Pompey can raise money for men and weapons to use against Caesar.
At Ephiny's side, Xena vows that she will not let the Amazon nation fall, taking temporary leader Shelapa and young Amarys with her to trap the Roman. Though she drags Brutus back to the Amazons behind her horse tied with her whip, she will not let Amarys kill the man - inspiring Amarys to make an attempt which gets her locked up. Xena tells Brutus that the only reason he's alive is because she needs to know where Pompey is; she uses the Touch to get him to tell her, then reluctantly releases him, though Shelapa thinks Gabrielle should sentence the Roman to death. In their prison, Amarys taunts an unmoved Brutus, but Xena frees her to go on a mission against Pompey's men. Gabrielle has also decided to free Brutus so that he can bring a message of peace from the Amazons to Caesar, which Amarys finds scornful, but Xena says she hopes the younger woman will learn to look beyond the end of her sword for answers.
Xena brings Shelapa and Amarys to encounter Pompey's man Carmus. They make enough of a racket to alert the army to their presence, but when Xena is captured, she suggests Carmus let her go so she'll go easy on him. "You and what army?" he scorns, as Xena summons the Amazons who quickly subdue all the men but Carmus himself. Amarys wants to kill him, too, but Xena reminds her that they need the man to go to Pompey so he'll realize she's coming after the imprisoned Amazons. They take the survivors back to the Amazon camp, and Pompey - as expected - turns his army around to attack in the morning.
Brutus insists that Caesar is a man of peace who will restore the Republic to Rome, accepting Gabrielle's peace treaty on Caesar's behalf. But in the morning, the Amazons discover that not only Pompey is approaching their lands: Caesar's army is coming to attack as well, planning to run right through the Amazons to get at Pompey. Brutus suggests that Xena turn him over to Pompey since Pompey will ransom him and leave the Amazons alone, but Xena believes Pompey will kill Caesar's right-hand man, and sends him back to command Caesar's forces. Brutus does so, sending the army to attack Pompey from the side while the Amazons have his men engaged. Pompey is warned by Carmus that Caesar's men are approaching but refuses to withdraw from his assault on the Amazons, whose instructions are to hold the line until Xena can confront Pompey.
Xena traps the former Triumvirate leader but he says that if Xena kills him, Caesar will have absolute power over the troops of Rome. "You may hate us both, but we can't destroy the world if we're trying to destroy each other," he reminds her. Xena nearly agrees to let him live in order to maintain the balance, but when Pompey sneaks up behind her, she slices off his head. Later she gives it to Brutus, who has ordered Caesar's men out of the land of the Amazons. Xena suggests that if Brutus wants to stay alive, he should keep her name out of his account of the battle when he reports to Caesar. Brutus insists again that Caesar is the best hope for a Roman Republic - and his friend - but Xena reminds him that Caesar once called her friend, as he did Crassus and Pompey. One day, the warrior princess warns, Brutus will have to decide whether he's Caesar's man or his own.
Brutus gives Caesar the head of Pompey...and Gabrielle's peace treaty, which the leader of Rome promptly burns. "If they're not under my control, they're a threat," he announces, then says he heard a rumor Xena was with the Amazons and demands to know whether Brutus saw any evidence of his nemesis. "Not that I'm aware," Brutus replies, for which Caesar thanks his "loyal friend." Back at the Amazon village, the women dance around Ephiny's funeral pyre, while Gabrielle gives the crown to Shelapa, saying the young woman will make a better queen. "When you need to make a decision, think of Ephiny and do what she would do." Amarys asks to accompany Xena and Gabrielle since she doesn't fit in with the Amazons. "You're a kid," Gabrielle exclaims, to which the girl responds, "Right, and you're a warrior," noting that Xena ran her sword through Pompey when it counted. Xena says that Ephiny did not die in vain since the Amazon nation has been saved, and holds Gabrielle while she cries.
A very strong episode to start the arc which will conclude this season, "Endgame" introduced several strong new Amazons and permitted Gabrielle to lead a battle despite her vow of nonviolence. Is it hypocrisy to vow nonviolence but allow one's best friend to crucify Romans and kill their leaders? I don't think we're going to get any good answers to such philosophical questions, but I do have to say that Amarys is a refreshing change of pace. She sort of reminds me of Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though we have no reason to believe she has a dark side - just a wild side that life among a strict Amazon sect which executed enemies and dissidents alike didn't quash.
Can't say I'm sorry to see Pompey go, as he was just as icky as Caesar, but boy do I hope we get to see Brutus kill Julius before this series concludes. He was an interesting character here, though his decision to ally with Xena and Gabrielle seemed awfully quick, and how stupid must he be if he thinks Caesar wants a Republic when the man recently tried to invade Ireland? Well, we all know from Shakespeare that Brutus doesn't survive Caesar for long, and I don't think we've met Antony or Augustus on this series. I have to admit that I rather like the Roman episodes even when they make a mockery of any version of recorded history: the rise of empire is fascinating to watch.
Next week Callisto returns - or at least Hudson Leick returns, and gets snuggly with Caesar - and apparently we will finally get to witness the reality of the crucifixion scene with which Xena and the viewers have been tormented all season. I suppose hoping it's quick and painless is sort of pointless; I just don't know if I can handle the inevitable parallels between Gabrielle on the cross and Jesus on the cross, not for religious reasons but because the saint routine wears really thin for me. When your people are being sold as sex slaves, I don't think you wait around for your unreformed best friend to bail them out.
At least Gabrielle knew better than to try to remain the Queen of the Amazons. I must admit that while I didn't particularly like the story of Xena, Alti, and the destruction of the Amazon nation in "Adventures in the Sin Trade," it gave Xena's motives for avenging Ephiny a lot of resonance. I wish she'd said something about her own culpability in the decline of the warrior women, and the guilt she must be feeling. And I'm sorry to see Ephiny go - I always enjoyed her on this series and on Hercules. At least it's obvious that people in this universe don't stay dead any better than people on Star Trek.