The Path of Vengeance Redux
"To Helicon and Back" Plot Summary:
Masked riders attack the Amazons and kidnap Varia. Recognizing their maces as coming from Helicon, Xena calls on Gabrielle to lead them as a Queen to get their leader back. While the Amazons approach Helicon by water, Xena breaks in and learns in combat that the leader, Bellerophon, is half-god -- the son of Artemis. He blames Xena for the death of his mother, and the Amazons for failing to come to Artemis' aid. As Xena retreats by diving out a window, Bellerophon orders catapults launched at the boat carrying the Amazons. The survivors straggle to shore.
After ambushing more Amazons on the beach, Bellerophon offers Varia a deal to save her sisters. The Queen approaches down the beach, blindfolded, claiming Bellerophon thought she should die with her tribe. But Xena sees Varia trying to shoot Gabrielle from behind, and realizes Bellerophon promised to spare the Amazons if Gabrielle died so that Xena would suffer. Because Varia has betrayed the Amazon sisterhood, Gabrielle strips her of her position as Queen. Xena admits that she would give herself up if she thought it would save the others, but because he's obsessed with revenge, she doubts Bellerophon would really let the Amazons go.
Gabrielle honors the Amazon dead and calls the Amazon nation to arms. Xena suspects this isn't easy for her friend, but Gabrielle insists she must act like a Queen and become ruthless to keep these women alive. Going to the castle, Xena challenges Bellerophon, who follows with his men when Xena appears to become frightened and flee. She leads them into an Amazon trap, where Gabrielle and Varia fight together along with the others.
With Bellerophon down, Xena asks him to give up the cycle of killing, but he reminds her that as a half-god, he can't be stopped. She stabs him with her sword, reminding him sadly that he's a half-mortal as well. After he dies, Gabrielle chases after one of his soldiers, intent on continuing the battle, but Xena tells her it's over. She and Varia clasp hands and vow, "To a strong Amazon Nation."
One more installment about Gabrielle getting in touch with her dark side, "To Helicon and Back" unfortunately plays fast and loose with the Amazons and Artemis in order to make a point about vengeance. It's possible that Bellerophon was making up his parentage, for the man who tamed Pegasus and slew the Chimera ended up dying alone and unknown in punishment for believing he was a god -- I think he was supposed to be the son of Poseidon who was banished from Corinth for an accidental murder, but I may be mixing him up with some other hero. At any rate, I would have expected Xena to laugh herself silly when he said he was the son of the Virgin Moon Goddess, savior of battered women and patron of lesbians. And I would have expected the Amazons to call for his blood for such blasphemy. Yet no one even blinks.
Obviously Bellerophon's no half-god like Hercules, so it's not worth dwelling on him. The episode focuses instead on how close Gabrielle comes to behaving like him in her quest for vengeance as Queen of the Amazons. Maybe Xena should have taken her to them when Gabrielle lost her fighting spirit awhile back; it's a pleasure not to hear one word about the Way of Love, but considering how recently these same women clashed over the fate of Eve, it's also a little bizarre. Varia screws up for the third straight time when she decides to sacrifice Gabrielle instead of using her knowledge for their mutual advantage; I think Ares was right about her, and she's not ready to be Queen.
Given the horrible high body count in "To Helicon and Back" (according to TV Guide, modeled on Saving Private Ryan, though there are a few obvious differences), one wonders how the combined Amazon Nation with its legions of dead queens can ever recover its strength. With the series winding down, I wonder how much time they'll have to rebuild.