The Last Temptation of Gabrielle
"The Ides of March" Plot Summary:
In Hell, where people are suffering torture, Callisto sees Xena and Gabrielle laughing at her and screams. A man destined to be obsessed with the former goddess for all eternity offers her a way out, saying their Lord thought he had Xena in his grasp, but she is on the road to redemption. Terrified that Xena will move up the Karmic ladder, Callisto - who cannot harm Xena phyically - agrees to help Caesar in getting rid of the Warrior Princess, in the name of whoever rules the dark realm.
Caesar dreams of making love with Xena, only to have her pull a knife and murder him as he climaxes. Callisto laughs at the Roman's dreams, saying they have torment by Xena in common. She offers him ultimate power in exchange for Xena's destruction. Meanwhile, the subject of their discussion is moving with Gabrielle and Amarys to find Eli, but bounty hunters attack them. Xena puts the Touch on one of them and learns that Caesar has offered six million dinars on her head. She tells her friends that it's time for her to rid the world of the would-be conqueror, but insists that they cannot accompany her: the vision of the crucifixion frightens her.
As Gabrielle and Amarys travel to find Eli and his disciples in Greece, Callisto suggests to Caesar that they need a lure besides bounty to bring Xena to them. The spiritual leader is still healing and preaching love, but Amarys is hostile to him, asking whether he would let his mother die if someone threatened her. Gabrielle asks Eli to teach her to heal, but he says he can only teach her to love, which is the closest to divine perfection human can come. Just then Romans led by Brutus attack, taking the entire group into custody. Brutus tells Gabrielle that she's just Caesar's insurance against Xena; he has been promised none of the group will be harmed.
Inside Caesar's palace, Xena disguises herself as a guard and sees the leader trying on a crown. She prepares to chakram him to death, but Callisto catches her weapon. "Brings back memories, doesn't it, Xena?" The warrior princess escapes guards by flipping out a window, but the omniscient Callisto easily tracks her down, thanking her for trying to end her own existence but notifying Xena that she failed. "Whoever does the final judging sent me to a place that makes Tartarus look like the Elysian Fields," she says, calling it Hell and revealing that the guy in charge wants Caesar running Rome and Xena out of the way. She adds that to silence Brutus' objections to an Imperial Caesar, the new emperor will give his friend Gaul. Callisto knows about Xena's trip to India and about Eli, laughing that Gabrielle is on her way to a Roman prison. Dropping her plan to kill Caesar for the moment, Xena flees to save her friend.
Brutus delivers Gabrielle, Amarys, Eli, and the others, unnerved by the crosses being constructed but accepting an explanation that they're not for these prisoners. Amarys tries to escape and is nearly executed, but Gabrielle demands that Brutus pardon her as the Queen of the Amazons once pardoned him. Brutus does so, telling Gabrielle that she won't be harmed because Caesar said so and Caesar her never lied to him, but Gabrielle warns that there's a first time for everything.
After he leaves the prison, Xena sneaks up on Brutus and offers a trade: information which will save his life for Gabrielle's location. "Beware the Ides of March," she tells him, explaining that Caesar will declare himself emperor that day and Brutus will be exiled to Gaul where his leader will have him quietly assassinated. "I hear that you're an honorable man," she says, demanding her friend's location. Brutus tells her of the prison in the mountains, adding that it was snowing when he left. Xena relives her vision of crucifixion in the snow.
In prison, Eli continues to teach Gabrielle to meditate, explaining to Amarys that one must learn to be empty to become a perfect vessel for love. Callisto finds Xena on her way to save Gabrielle, offering to let the pair live happily ever after if Xena will give up the sword and leave Caesar alone. "You're trying to tempt me from my Way," says the warrior princess, who knows she must fight evil in this lifetime. Callisto mimics Xena's famous war whoop, alerting all to her presence as Xena rushes into the prison to free the hostages.
Amarys helps Eli and the others escape in the woods while Xena fights Roman guards. When Callisto takes the chakram and strikes Xena with it, severing her spine and paralyzing her - and breaking the weapon - Gabrielle takes up the sword, killing nearly a dozen Romans before the sight of the blood on the knife in her hands stops her. When Xena wakes in prison in her friend's arms, she apologizes for leading Gabrielle astray from the Way of Love, but Gabrielle says she chose the way of friendship, thanking Xena for bringing out the best in her.
Meanwhile, in Rome, Caesar tells Brutus that he will have an important announcement to make on the Ides of March. He admits that he plans to crucify Gabrielle and the others to keep Xena distracted while he changes the course of history. Brutus reminds Caesar of his promise, but Caesar suggests that he'll feel better when he takes a legion to Gaul. Brutus warns the senators that Caesar believes he's a god.
As Xena and Gabrielle are led to crosses in the snow, Callisto sneers at the warrior princess, but Xena notes that Callisto's Lord still hasn't won. Callisto informs Xena that while she is being crucified, Caesar will be declaring himself Emperor of Rome. In the realization of the vision which has haunted her all year, Xena hears Gabrielle tell her she loves her while they are tied to the crosses. In Rome, Caesar declares himself Emperor; Brutus signals Cassius; the Senators converge with knives. On the mountain, Romans lift nails toward the women. Caesar is stabbed repeatedly by his former allies as Xena and Gabrielle are nailed to the wood. The crosses are lifted as a dying Caesar demands, "And you, Brutus?" Brutus delivers the killing blow, and Caesar dies on the floor of the Senate. Xena's spirit leaves her body on the cross and calls to Gabrielle, who floats with her in the sky in a realm of paradisal light.
I really didn't expect the consummation of the crucifixion vision to live up to the buildup, but this episode was superb - probably my favorite-ever Xena. I have no idea how they're going to restore the series next season, but I'm not going to agitate for a return to the lighthearted, silly stuff, not after "The Ides of March." This episode came together on a plot level, a character level, even a spiritual level, opening in Dante's Hell and ending in something that looks a lot like Heaven. In between, the stories of Caesar and Christ unfolded like an tapestry by an artist who took a few liberties in the name of art, but whose epic vision made up for the license.
Callisto has finally succeeded in selling her soul to the Devil, and what excellent timing! We know from The Inferno that two of the main characters of this arc will be joining her down there as the murderers of Caesar, and I bet we've seen the third, though Eli's disciples were an indistinguishable mass here - I'm betting that Amarys turns into Mary Magdalene, but there are a number of candidates for Judas. Eli calls the higher power "Abba," the Hebrew word for father, though it's more familiar than that - "Daddy" - his preaching about love and nonviolence was more New Age-y than King James, but recognizable nonetheless. I am wildly in love with this version of Jesus, who epitomizes "Judge not, lest ye be judged."
How to get Xena and Gabrielle off those crosses? Well, at the start of the episode, Callisto was told that she could not harm Xena physically, yet she hurled the chakram which stopped Xena's escape. If those events must be reversed, does this mean Caesar will come back as well? I am ambivalent, since I really like the man's selfish, sleazy evil - he and Callisto make nearly as good a couple as Kai Winn and Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine. But I am also enjoying the march of history, distorted as it might be. Eli quotes twisted versions of the Bible, but Caesar quotes twisted versions of Shakespeare, who never let picky historical detail stand in the way of good drama. We've moved from parody to tragedy on this series.
My favorite scene was Gabrielle snapping out of her vow of nonviolence to save Xena's life. It was human, it made her a much more interesting character...and can she fight when she wants to! I don't worry about her getting stuck on the Dark Side, so it was a relief to see her rethink her priorities and realize that her relationship with Xena is as central to life as any spiritual meaning she might find on her quest. Even though we've known it was coming all year, the crucifixion scene was very moving. The angelic ending was a little hokey, but I'll let that slide until we see where they're going with it. The season finale is next week, set in the current world (or at least the world of "Yes, Virginia, There Really Is a Hercules"); with a pregnant Lucy Lawless and a dead Xena, it ought to be an interesting fall.