On Earth As It Is In Heaven
"Fallen Angel" Plot Summary:
In the snow, Amarys mistakenly takes Joxer for a Roman and attacks him. He quickly explains that he's a friend of Xena and Gabrielle's. He confesses that he has been having nightmares about them. "Their troubles are over," Amarys says sadly, showing him their crucified corpses on the Roman crosses at the bottom of the hill. As Joxer falls prostrate, Eli remarks that Joxer must have loved them very much. "I'll take the bodies back to Greece," Joxer says, declaring his intentions to bury them next to their families even if the Romans try to stop him.
Up through the snow into a realm of heavenly light, Xena and Gabrielle sit in white togas on a boulder suspended between Heaven and Hell. Light shaped like a mandala appears above them, and angels fly towards them. Laughing, Xena and Gabrielle are taken up, but demons rise from the pit below and seize Gabrielle. As Xena tries to reach her friend, a demonic Callisto stops her. They fight as Gabrielle screams Xena's name.
The Archangel Michael intervenes, rescuing Xena, but telling her that her friend has been taken to Hell. They can go after her as long as she resists eating the fruits of Hell which will cause her to become a demon. But Xena won't wait. Telling Michael that she has already been to Hell and back with Gabrielle and that their souls are destined to be together, she leaps towards the pit. Michael catches her, insisting that if she intends to rescue Gabrielle herself, she must first undergo a purification ritual to earn her wings.
In Hell, Gabrielle calls for Xena but finds Callisto instead. The demon tries to tempt Gabrielle to eat. She resists until numerous minions force the food onto her face and into her mouth. Covered with blood-red pomegranate juice, Gabrielle sprouts horns and accuses Callisto of secretly wishing for her family's death at Xena's hands.
Back on Earth, Amarys kills the Roman guards, allowing Eli and Joxer to cut Xena and Gabrielle's bodies down from their crosses. Amarys cuts off a lock of Xena's hair, promising to honor her memory. She then blames Eli for Xena's death because he tried to make Gabrielle walk the Path of Love.
Leading Xena to a cave, Michael tells her that to enter the ranks of the archangels, she must enter. "What's in there?" asks Xena. "A choice," Michael says simply. Inside, Xena sees flames on one side and a flood on the other. While the angels wait, she comes out afire. Michael tells her she has come through the fire of purification, then immerses her in the water of cleansing. She emerges with her soul clean, wearing a pair of wings as well as the armor of heaven. She's an archangel.
Michael explains to Xena that her soul is in danger. If Gabrielle has become a full demon, the only way Xena will be able to save her is to sacrifice her own soul and take her friend's place in Hell for eternity. Following the archangels to Hell, Xena engages Callisto in battle as Michael abducts the half-demonic Gabrielle. Callisto tells Xena that because of her she will never stop hating and she will spend eternity seeking revenge for what Xena did to her family. Shattered and tearful, Xena refuses to accept this, and touches Callisto, filling her with light. The next time we see the warrior princess, she is a full demon, rousing the minions of Satan to storm an unjust Heaven.
Back in Heaven, Michael throws Gabrielle into the waters of purification, and she comes up clean. But when Gabrielle asks for Xena, Michael tells her that her friend gave herself up to save one of the damned. Shocked, Gabrielle meets Callisto, now radiant and innocent - the person Callisto would have become had Xena not killed her family. She can remember none of her evil deeds and weeps when she learns of them. Gabrielle is sickened. "Xena is in Hell and she is in Paradise?," she says. "You call this justice?"
"Xena calls it justice," Michael points out gently. He has bigger problems,though. The archangel Xena, now an archdemon and possibly as strong as Michael himself, is leading the troops of hell against heaven.
When the angels prepare for battle, Gabrielle tells Michael that Xena will come for her and suggests that she should be involved. Michael tells her that she cannot hope to save Xena. The best she can do is dismember her so that she will not spend eternity as a powerful demon. Gabrielle wants to stop Xena any way she can.
First, however, Michael insists that Gabrielle undergo purification. He takes her to the cave where she meets Callisto. "You are evil to the core," Gabrielle hisses. The new, innocent Callisto who doesn't remember what Xena did to her family says that she has known the love of Heaven once before, in her childhood. Dumbstruck, Gabrielle embraces Callisto. Michael baptizes Gabrielle, telling her that forgiveness has made her as pure as the water, and she gets wings.
When the demons arrive, Xena finds Gabrielle and asks her to join her in Hell. Saying that their love transcends good and evil, she begs not to have to walk through Hell alone. "Lay down your sword," says Gabrielle, insisting that if Callisto could be redeemed, so can Xena. The warrior demon refuses, so she and Michael battle as Callisto watches in tears. Gabrielle flies high toward Heaven to lure Xena, and they fight.
Amarys tells Joxer that they will never reach Greece with the bodies and persuades him that they should be buried where they are. While he reluctantly agrees, Eli prays aloud, crying that the way of love was wrong for Gabrielle and their deaths are his fault. "What good is the Way of Love if I can't protect the ones I love? What am I supposed to do?" he pleads. In Heaven, Callisto hears and is filled with light. Her angelic form appears to Eli, telling him that he was right all along - love is the way. "Go to them," she orders.
As Eli prays over the uncovered bodies, Gabrielle falls from high in Heaven to the battleground. The demonic Xena picks up her broken body, preparing to plunge into Hell. As Michael screams and Gabrielle begs her friend to stop, the angel Callisto joins Eli on Earth, touching the bodies. Mid-fall, Xena and Gabrielle's souls vanish from the war in Heaven. Below, they awaken.
A radiant Michael tells Callisto that it is time for her to be rejoin her family. While the prodigal daughter returns to her loving parents, an exhausted Gabrielle tells Xena that they are going to be together for eternity. Xena nods, Eli weeps, Joxer touches Gabrielle's face in astonishment, and all are reunited in Heaven and Earth.
Before I say anything else, I want to point out that I'm not a Christian, I don't watch Touched By An Angel, and I hate sappy movies, so I'm not quite sure why this episode moved me to tears twice - when Gabrielle forgave Callisto, and when Callisto was brought back to her family. This wasn't a "good" episode. It had tremendous continuity and structural problems, and the ending maked no sense at all. But that doesn't make a dent in its emotional impact for me.
This show started out with a revisionist but consistent universe based loosely on Greek and Roman mythology. Now it's been infiltrated on all levels by Christian myth. And I do mean myth rather than religion. These angels come from the Apocrypha, not the Bible, while the demons come from Milton and later sources. I am sure there will be some viewers who simply can't take the angels and despise the episode for that reason. I was willing to accept them as part of this new mythology, and the overt Christian images (baptism, Heaven and Hell) worked well with the theme of redemption. Because Callisto has been such a complex villain all along and because Xena was so complicit in her corruption, it has never been easy to see her punished and tormented while Xena walked away free. This was an extremely satisfying ending to her arc and a tremendous opportunity for character growth in Xena as well. Whether the latter will happen, of course, remains to be seen.
Eli's character also had a huge moment of transformation in his personal Garden of Gethsemane. He was actually touched by an angel, but I'm not clear where he stands now on the road to Calvary. He allowed Amarys to kill the Roman guards by the crosses without a word of protest, he questioned his role and his path. Now he has brought back the dead, an event which should tie him to Xena and Gabrielle for life. Where does he go from here (other than the obvious place...Jerusalem)? I enjoy the rewriting of early A.D. history, so I hope we see him again. Our historical records are sketchy and legend-infested enough that we don't have a clear picture of how the Roman gods died out. It's interesting to watch it first-hand as a literal event.
The effects in this episode were wildly uneven. Gabrielle and Xena's flying fight scenes weren't anywhere near as impressive as Hercules and Xerxos' in "Be Deviled" this week. Some of the glowing angels looked as cheesy as Hallmark cards. There were lots of Renaissance images in Heaven and lots of Clive Barker in Hell. Ironically, there was absolutely no difference in the way Good and Evil fought. In keeping with Milton's Paradise Lost, the angels' wings looked virtually identical. Michael reiterates this in the story by pointing out that the angels and demons are identical except for their affiliations.
Theologically, I have been and continue to be interested in the absence of God in these and the Hercules episodes with Michael from last season. Oh, the Guy In Charge gets mentioned occasionally, but it's entirely unclear what His role is and why He has a stake in any of this, especially since, as far as we can tell, Zeus and Co. are still taking credit for creating the human race. Callisto's Lord is even vaguer, not bothering to put in an appearance when the coveted Xena joins his ranks. Is this the same creature which appeared to Hercules this week in the body of his dead wife, tempting him with an apple, or are there many different devils at work?
The fact that I have questions is not a criticism, still... I just hope we get some answers over the course of the year which are neither simple nor hokey. Tired as I am of Christian symbolism being dragged into everything from mall holiday displays to movies like The Matrix, it is interesting to think about what the Christian mythos would have been like had its central characters all been women, just as it is to wonder the same thing about Greek and Roman mythology.