Dancing With the Devil
"Heart of Darkness" Plot Summary:
While Michael recalls that the last time Xena ran hell, she nearly took over heaven, hotshot archangel Lucifer says he'll send Xena down for good. On Earth, he fights Xena, who kicks his divine posterior. Eve asks her mother not to kill the angel, since she can see the hearts of people turning to darkness, as Hell rises to claim its rightful ruler. Since Xena has no intention of going to Hell, she decides to tempt Lucifer onto the throne. Eve quotes Eli about how corrupting another is akin to corrupting oneself, but Xena says Lucifer is already corrupt: she's just going to make him admit it. She's already seen evidence that he feels pride and envy, two of the seven deadly sins.
The portal to Hell attracts people to Amphipolis, feeding on their rage and fear. Virgil shows up in the village, causing trouble. When Xena tries to seduce Lucifer, he claims they have nothing in common -- she's a mortal female with a lying tongue, savage tendencies and a blonde girlfriend, whereas he's a celibate archangel who serves the Lord -- but it doesn't take long for her to teach him the meaning of gluttony, greed, and lust. Meanwhile, Eve prays to Eli for the strength to convert people and acts like a prude when revelers come into the temple for Xena's "farewell" party for Lucifer.
A wild orgy ensues, at which Gabrielle fools around with Virgil, then Xena, then Virgil and Xena at the same time while Lucifer gets hot and sweaty. When she's not trying to turn him on, Xena preaches free will to the archangel and suggests that he could rule the world with her. Michael and Raphael show up to remind Lucifer his soul is not his own to give away, but God's. Nonetheless, when they bring Xena to the portal of Hell and try to send her down, Lucifer fights on her side, vanquishing the angels. When Eve tries to show Xena the evil in her heart, the warrior princess blasts her daughter across the room, vowing that she has gotten in Mommy's way for the last time.
Lucifer wants to fornicate immediately, but Xena says she needs to deal with Eve first -- if they kill the Messenger of Eli, the angels will leave them alone. They pursue Eve into the woods, where she takes refuge in a temple. Gabrielle and Virgil trap her there. Claiming she has learned that the heart can betray, but the sword never lies, Eve challenges Lucifer, who prepares to deliver a death blow but Xena stops him. She says the right to kill Eve belongs to Gabrielle, her partner, with whom she has shared things Lucifer can never comprehend. Lucifer gets jealous, then angry. "You will feel my wrath," he threatens.
Xena congratulates Lucifer on achieving all seven out of seven sins in a few short hours -- which would be forgivable in a mortal, but archangels are supposed to be loyal to God. Sprouting horns, Lucifer first tries to seduce Xena, then fights her, but she kicks him into the pit of Hell that opens in the floor of the temple. Eve apologizes for having doubted her mother, and Virgil thanks Xena for stopping him from making a big mistake -- at which the women look at him askance. Gabrielle tells Xena she thought she'd lost her, but her friend says that every time she started to lose control, she thought of Gabrielle. "Don't go getting all emotional on me," Gabrielle jokes.
I feel like a really bad person, because I realized 3/4 of the way through this episode that I was rooting for Lucifer to kill Eve. What an annoying little priss she's turned into, despite her bikini-under-the-dirty-blanket attire. "Eli says this, Eli says that," she bleats as Xena tries to save herself from an eternity on the throne of Hell, having already saved the undeserving Eve from the Amazons. It comes as a great relief each time someone knocks the girl unconscious.
If the point of "Heart of Darkness" is to make viewers despise proselytizing, it works superbly. But since Eve will be back next week in her mother's good graces, I have a feeling we're in for more fundamentalism. Christianity didn't develop canonical scripture as quickly as Eve has consolidated her lecture notes based on Eli's unwritten teachings. How can such a recent convert believe she knows Eli well enough to speak for him in the most complex and dire of situations? That's greater hubris than Lucifer's got. It's revolting to listen to Eve pontificate about Eli's Way, which she seems to believe is the only path to enlightenment. You'd think Xena's daughter would be more open to the wide range of possibilities in life.
The Messenger's disgust at the orgy seems prudish and unfair. Eve witnesses a lot of behavior frowned upon by the Moral Majority, but no one tries to rape anyone, no one makes anyone get drunk or do drugs, no one takes advantage of innocents. Even if we're supposed to be repulsed when Xena and Gabrielle fool around with unworthies like Lucifer and Virgil, both couples have great chemistry, which is why we see so much footage of them dancing and making out. For that matter, the foursome has great chemistry. Why must the writers connect unconventional but alluring erotic possibilities to the corrupt, evil hearts of the participants? Especially when the filmmakers go out of their way to make unrestrained sexuality look so attractive?
By dragging the Seven Deadly Sins into the mix, this show gets heavy-handed and moralistic. Sure, an archangel should know better than to give in to temptation, but we've seen Ares commit all those sins and we root for him anyway. Eve represents blind obedience and orthodoxy -- two things we all cheer when Xena resists. How can we root for the brainwashed baby over lusty Lucifer? It's hard to see Eve as a heroine on this series. When the black in Xena's heart finally goes away, we learn it didn't really affect her loyalties, anyway -- just made her hot for sex and power, which isn't anything new and doesn't seem terrible in context. She's no demon this time around, she's got no plans for world domination by the sword. Eve's self-righteous, condescending sermons seem more oppressive than anything the devil has in store for humankind.