Caligula and Eli Make Ares Look Good
"The God You Know" Plot Summary:
Xena and Gabrielle find hundreds of corpses in a field, all brutally slaughtered. The Archangel Michael appears to tell Xena that Caligula is responsible. The Roman emperor has become a god, meaning only Xena can kill him. To give her incentive, Michael adds that Caligula has been slaughtering Elijans -- and that Eve has gone to Rome to fight him. Sure enough, Eve is arrested for proselytizing about Eli in front of Caligula, who has just demonstrated his immortality by having a soldier stab him through the belly.
Xena rides in on a chariot and prepares to slay the emperor, but Ares grabs her. "I can't let you kill my sister," he says, explaining that the lives of Caligula and Aphrodite have become bound together. While Gabrielle sneaks Eve away, the former Goddess of Love fondles both Caligula and her brother. Then Gabrielle introduces Xena as Saaba, who wants to challenge Caligula to a chariot race. Caligula loves their style and invites them to the revels at his palace.
Gabrielle attends the party, realizes Aphrodite has become amnesiac, then stalls for Xena by performing a sexy dance with candles. The warrior princess has gone to the dungeon, where Ares explains that Love becomes unbalanced without War, so succubus Caligula is draining the godhood from his sister. To placate Caligula for her tardiness, Xena undresses, promises to kill Ares, molests the unresisting God of War, offers Caligula a piece of Ares, then kisses the emperor and bites his lip. When Caligula discovers that he's bleeding, he has Xena put in chains and throws everyone else out of the room. She explains that she can wound gods because she is really Saaba, Celtic Goddess of Sex, and she'd like to join Caligula's orgies.
Later, Caligula is haunted by the voice of his murdered mother, but the torment really comes from Michael, who then finds Eve among the Elijans. She preaches about redemption through Eli to Caligula, who is stopped from killing her by Xena. The emperor says a demon with wings told him to kill Eve, but she suggests killing her in front of a crowd of followers instead. Finding Michael about to attack Aphrodite and Gabrielle, Xena attacks the archangel, who admits he took Eve as bait because if Caligula kisses Aphrodite one more time, he will gain full godly powers. Xena is furious and tries to kill Michael, but as he vanishes in a flash of light, she is engulfed in flames. Afterwards she tells Gabrielle that she has lost the ability to kill gods.
Xena then tries to stop Caligula from kissing Aphrodite, but it's too late. Although she recovers her wits, he has acquired all her powers. In the dungeon, Xena insists that she must protect Eve. The next time we see the warrior princess, she is dragging her daughter behind a chariot to an altar, where the winner of the race between Xena and Caligula will get to kill the Messenger of Eli. Though the emperor announces his intention to make Xena his empress after the race, he isn't happy when she wins despite his powers.
As Xena approaches the altar, Gabrielle yells out, "It's Xena." Caligula recognizes the name: she's the slayer of gods. With the crowd chanting her name, Xena tells the emperor that she could add him to her list of slaughtered gods, but he would gain more renown for killing himself. Caligula dies on his own sword. Later, Xena admits to Gabrielle that she feels dirty, because she believes Caligula was not evil but damaged. Meanwhile Ares commiserates with Aphrodite about being mortal. Eve asks her mother if she is sorry she lost her ability to kill gods, but Xena is so happy to have her nearest and dearest safe that it doesn't matter.
Xena agrees to tactical submission to a Roman emperor, but not to a Christian -- excuse me, Elijan -- archangel, and I have to admit that it's delightful. We've already seen Lucifer this season, so despite his depravity, Caligula doesn't seem all that impressive; I'm a little disgusted Xena dismissed his genocidal behavior as damaged rather than evil, but if she believes the Archangel Michael or his god to be responsible, that might explain her sympathy. Not to put too fine a point on it: Michael's despicable, and Eve's a stupid sheep bleating about how Eli is the only path to redemption. How Xena can tolerate hearing words like that from the mouth of her daughter, I will never know; as an unbeliever, I'd be tempted to drag her by her hair around the world to see how many other paths have led people to truth and enlightenment.
Yet there's odd disjuncture between Michael's behavior and Eve's. Michael says, "The god of Eli gave you the power to kill gods," not "My god gave you the power to kill gods." Are Michael's unnamed god and the god of Eli one and the same? He also speaks sarcastically to Eve about the fact that she obeys a higher power than him, though when he summons her to Caligula, she goes willingly. After she kills the archangel, Xena has no doubt that it is Eli who has stripped her of her power to kill gods, and she says so to Gabrielle. So Eli and his god thought it was worth letting Caligula continue his slaughter, just to teach Xena a lesson? Great. Please explain to me how this behavior is any better than the meddling of the old unreformed Ares.
All that aside, "The God You Know" is a hugely enjoyable episode. How can anyone complain about getting to see Xena, Gabrielle, Aphrodite and Eve all near-naked, plus a sexy kiss between Gabrielle and Aphrodite and some nipple-biting between Xena and Ares? I don't much like the scene where Caligula interrupts his chariot-racing to whip Xena instead of his horses. But oh, the look on Ares' face when Xena asks the emperor if he'd like to take a bite of the ex-god! The effects where Caligula gets stabbed with no effect are well-done, but my favorite is the sword that strikes home, going straight through his body before he falls. Even with the interminable Christian arc, this episode brings together many of the most interesting aspects of Xena, Warrior Princess.