Xena and Gabrielle Never Lose Hope
"A Family Affair" Plot Summary:
An old man wanders through the woods calling for his dog, Pluto. Suddenly a monster attacks first the dog, then the man. Elsewhere, Joxer sits by the well where Gabrielle died, remembering her fall as he tosses flowers in. Suddenly an arm shoots out of the hole...but it's Xena, come to tell Joxer that Gabrielle is alive. She guesses Gabrielle would have gone home to Poteidaia once she realized her friends were gone. In Potedeia, the two quickly find Gabrielle, who kisses Joxer on the lips so that he passes out as Xena and Gabrielle embrace.
Joxer wanders off to let the two women bond, but quickly returns with news: he has found the dead man and dog. Gabrielle says there have been several animal killings recently, but this is the first person murdered. She takes Xena to her home, where her family is cool to Joxer and icy to Xena; her father condemns Xena for seducing Gabrielle away with her heroics. Xena sets a chicken out as bait for the spike-covered monster, which attacks her while Gabrielle stands by passively. It follows them to the house, but the rising sun drives it away. Xena whispers to Joxer that the monster is Dahok's grandson, the Destroyer; it never touched Gabrielle, which means that the woman they are with is not Gabrielle after all, but Hope.
Hope takes Gabrielle's sister Lilah on a walk, hoping to lead her to the Destroyer as lunch, but Xena catches up with them and saves Lilah from falling from a bridge. While Hope goes to a nearly cave to check on the Destroyer, which she won't permit to hug her because of its deadly spikes, Xena tracks her. Joxer sees Hope and tries to attack her, but she captures him; Xena also pulls her sword, but realizes at the last moment that it's the real Gabrielle she's been following, not Hope. They have a tearful reunion during which the younger woman explains that she awoke in a hospice and couldn't get a message to Xena that she was alive. She is shocked to learn that Hope survived. Meanwhile Joxer awakes to find himself hanging from a tree as breakfast for the Destroyer.
Xena tries to talk to Gabrielle's parents, but Hope has gotten there first and claimed that Xena attacked her. While the parents demand that Xena leave them alone, Hope pulls weapons from the wall and threatens Herodotus and Hecuba behind their backs so that Xena can see her intentions. After Xena flees to free Joxer, Lilah goes into the barn and finds her real sister, who explains that the woman inside the house is not herself. Then Hope enters, laughing about the "family reunion" and insisting that her mother never loved her, but Gabrielle flees out a window before Hope can hurt her. Meanwhile, Xena is fighting the Destroyer and has nearly been defeated when Gabrielle enters, pretending to be Hope. She tells the Destroyer that they will kill Xena together and pets it, shuddering, to distract it as Xena plunges her sword into its back. Hope comes in, screams, and the Destroyer, believing its mother to be its grandmother Gabrielle, stabs her through the heart with one of his spikes. They die together, embracing.
Gabrielle worries that it's still not over - it may never be over - and tells Xena she feels lost, but Xena says that when she feels lost herself, she remembers that her path is with Gabrielle. They agree to look for answers together, and embrace.
In terms of the arc which has been going on since last season, this episode was a letdown: I always assumed that the child of Hope and Ares would be a lot more frightening on a metaphysical level than the Destroyer was, and that Hope's death would be a lot more gruesome, or at least more difficult for Xena and Gabrielle. It seems rather a waste to have offed both these characters so rapidly, so I rather hope that Gabrielle is right and it's NOT over yet, much as I disliked many aspects of the Gabrielle/Hope storyline. One big loose end which needs to be tied up is Ares: I can't imagine he's going to let Xena get away with killing his son. Nor can I imagine that Dahok is going to let her get away without paying for the deaths of his daughter and grandson. The powerful male family members were conspicuously absent from this family affair.
That said, this episode featured two fantastic performances by Renee O'Connor--as vile, vicious Hope, who was recognizable almost from the start through very subtle gestures which made it simultaneously possible for the viewer to realize that she wasn't Gabrielle yet to believe that Xena thought she was, and as shattered Gabrielle herself, who was much more convincing in her grief than was Xena at their eventual reunion. Lawless had one sublime moment as well, when she looked across the town center in Potedeia and saw her friend alive; it was heartrending, even though I knew from the previews that it wasn't really Gabrielle she was seeing.
Joxer was very well-used; if I had any doubts, I knew the moment "Gabrielle" kissed him on the lips before greeting Xena that she wasn't really whom she appeared to be, and he spent the rest of the episode in deep bumbling-idiot mode, meaning that he didn't get in the way of the reunion between the women. I'll say this for Hope: she has a better sense of humor than most of the regulars, so the dialogue was snappy and smart through most of this episode (Xena saying "Bite me" to the Destroyer was another great moment). The biggest surprise was the Destroyer himself - his alien face and porcupine-spines didn't get in the way of the deep emotion he expressed towards his mother. He came across as a surprisingly sympathetic character; he can't help being the son of Ares and Hope, and the grandson of Dahok. All he wanted was a little love.