"Livia"
by Michelle Erica Green


Xena's Daughter Becomes a Roman Executioner

"Livia" Plot Summary:

After she rampages through a village exterminating the followers of Eli, Ares congratulates warrior princess Livia on becoming Emperor Augustus' official successor. The pair kiss passionately.

Meanwhile, near Sicily, an avalanche on the slopes of a mountain exposes Xena's icy coffin to the sun. She wakes as the ice melts and breaks Gabrielle free. When the two women reach a village, they learn the towering peak is Mount Etna and that no one has seen Ares in 25 years...since the legendary Xena died. Realizing she must go to Rome to find Eve, Xena asks whether anyone knows a commander named Octavius, but the only Commander anyone knows is Livia, "the Emperor's bitch," who tries to eradicate the followers of Eli.

The two women stop at an inn which appears to be a tribute to Xena and Gabrielle. There they are greeted by an overweight, flatulent old Meg, who says the blonde woman looks familiar but "Gabrielle wasn't so butch." Joxer, however, recognizes his old friends and shows Xena Argo's daughter, Argo II, whom Xena saddles and rides though no one else ever has. Joxer and his hunky son Virgil insist on escorting Xena and Gabrielle to Rome to keep them safe during the victory march for Livia.

During the march, Xena sees the young champion leading the followers of Eli to prison, and is shocked to discover that Augustus Caesar is really her old friend Octavius. Augustus admits that Livia, champion of Rome and his own fiancee, is Xena's daughter. But the emperor doesn't understand Xena's ire; he has successfully hidden Eve from the gods. "No daughter of mine is going to marry Rome," Xena spits.

Though Xena worries about a girl who has Callisto's spirit and her own dark side, Gabrielle insists that Livia can change - like mother, like daughter. The next day, however, Livia's men arrest Gabrielle, Joxer, and Virgil for refusing to pay tribute to build a temple to Ares.

Xena finds Livia practicing with Ares in the arena, walking in at the moment they've declared a truce and started to fool around. The warrior princess chakrams the couple apart, the draws a sword on Ares, who walks right through the blade to get to Xena. She headbutts him. Livia threatens to kill Xena, but Ares protests that he had to kiss Xena to identify her, since he believed she was dead. If Xena is alive, it means Eve might be alive as well, which would mean his own destruction. Though Livia wants to kill Xena, Ares insists that his new protegee let the older one go, so that if her daughter is alive, he'll find out.

Xena tells Augustus that she believes he loves Livia, but she wants to save her daughter, who loves the God of War. Augustus is skeptical, but Xena kisses Ares at the bacchanalia in Livia's honor just to rouse Livia's jealousy and show Augustus the truth. The emperor tells Livia he'd rather see his empire destroyed than leave it to an instrument of Ares.

The god of war tells Xena he mourned her for years. Then he realizes that he has twice found Xena in Livia's presence, and guesses that the champion of Rome is her daughter. He reiterates his offer from decades ago: either Xena can make love with him and bear him a child, or he'll go to the gods to tell them all that Eve is alive. Xena is appalled that Ares would sacrifice Livia, a woman he claims to love. Ares says he's sacrificing not his true beloved, but her daughter.

Gabrielle catches Virgil writing epic poems and learns that he's afraid his father wishes he were a hero rather than a bard. Joxer tells his son that he is a hero, while Joxer himself is... "An inspiration," Gabrielle adds helpfully, having chosen to ignore the fact that Joxer cast himself as the hero in all the Xena stories he has told his son.

Elsewhere in the capital, Livia is trashing her room when the warrior princess drops by. The champion of Rome doesn't want to chat, however - she says that Xena can have Ares if she lives long enough, then attacks with various ineffective weapons. "You don't know the first thing about me," proclaims Livia. Xena demurs that she knows her first laughter, her first tears - "I'm your mother." Livia scoffs that Ares is right about one thing - Xena is in-credible. "Shut up, you are not my mother. Rome is my mother," says the girl, suggesting that Xena should fight to the death as the champion of Eli's followers in the arena the next day.

As Gabrielle, Joxer, Virgil, and the followers of Eli watch through a prison window, Xena enters the arena as their champion against crowd favorite Livia. "We donít' have to do this," Xena tells her daughter, who says, "I know," then attacks on horseback while Xena defends herself on foot. The two are well-matched despite the uneven armor, since Xena can do backflips onto Livia's horse. "I will never give up on you, Eve," she vows, but her daughter screams, "I'm Livia!"

Finally Xena downs the girl and puts the Touch on her, cutting off her oxygen. She says she would never kill Eve, but Livia tells her mother to let her die. When Xena chooses mercy, Gabrielle shouts a demand for life for all the prisoners. Augustus gives the thumbs-up signal, and the followers of Eli are freed. As the happy throng surrounds Xena, Livia says she'll make her mother wish she had never been born, then vanishes into the crowd. Xena tells Gabrielle that Livia is going to do something terrible and they must save her from herself.

Analysis:

The historical Livia, who divorced one emperor to marry another, was reportedly adored by Augustus, who made her son Tiberius his heir despite the fact that Tiberius was sired by her first husband. I have no idea whether she was ever a warrior princess, but it seems plausible. I'd almost forgotten about her until this episode, which reminded me why I couldn't care that Xena takes outrageous liberties with historical fact as we know it - this series puts so many enthralling women front and center, while putting the famous dead white males in their place.

Here, for instance, Virgil, whom we are led to assume will later write The Aeneid, is the naive son of doofus Joxer and tramp Meg, while Augustus' imperial majesty is diminished by his cuckoldry at the hands of Livia and Ares. That hunk of a god gets around with the coolest women in the world - it's hard not to want to do Ares or be Ares. Again, the sincerity of his adoration of Xena made a charming contrast with his coldhearted dismissal of Eve - does this guy just not get that promising to ditch her daughter for Xena is not the best way to win her affections, or is he just incapable of giving up an iota of control? Livia seems to have grown up to be the woman he always wished Xena would become, so I'm not sure what draws him back to the mother - even his loyalty is perverted.

Livia, who's supposed to be the spawn of an immaculate conception triggered by Callisto, really looks like a cross between Lucy Lawless and Hudson Leick, and fights accordingly. There's not much to like in the girl right now, though her back-flips and fencing are impressive. Next week Xena will have to decide once again whether to kill her murderous progeny, a situation Gabrielle has already lived through once with Hope. Then we get the twilight of the gods started by Hercules, with the return of the Archangel Michael and reportedly Hope herself. It may be over-the-top, but I'm betting it won't be boring.


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