Xena Goes To Jail
"Locked Up and Tied Down" Plot Summary:
Gabrielle gives Xena a massage and tells her she has to stop carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Then they both realize men are approaching, and knock out six warriors before Xena demands to know what the leader wants. He has a warrant for her arrest for the murder of Thalassa, a lovely young woman whom Xena remembered as having done nothing wrong other than getting in her way. Handing her chakram to Gabrielle, Xena says it's the weight of guilt that she's been carrying, and agrees to go with the men. At the trial, Gabrielle argues that Xena has reformed and can do so much goodness now that it will make up for her past sins, but Xena recalls in flashback how she gashed Thalassa's face and left the selfless girl to be eaten by huge crabs. When she is sentenced to life imprisoned on Shark Island, Xena does not argue the sentence.
After a painful farewell with Xena, Gabrielle goes to an inn, where she meets the former healer from Shark Island who quit and returned to the mainland on the boat which took Xena to the prison. Meanwhile, Xena arrives at the all-female prison and is greeted by a captain who demonstrates how would-be-escapees are punished - by hanging in front of the new prisoners. Then she fights off several prisoners who are torturing one woman; the ringleader is a woman Xena herself put away. After they see her prowess in battle, the prisoners invite Xena to join their escape attempt, but she declines. When she asks if she can bury the woman who was hanged, Xena is denied dinner, left to dig in the dark in pouring rain. Then, as when she arrived, a mysterious cloaked figure watches Xena.
The next day Xena helps a weak woman with her chores and is beaten by a guard who doesn't appreciate her heroism, making her unload a truckful of heavy barrels. When the woman whom Xena defended earlier tries to assist, the guard orders her to be lashed. Xena stops the lashing by attacking the guards, as the prisoners cheer. When the cloaked figure steps in, Xena is shocked to discover that she is Thalassa, who has a deep scar on her face and a wooden arm. Xena remembers how all those years ago, she found Thalassa's body missing but her arm still being gnawed by crabs; Thalassa reminds the warrior princess that a trapped wolf will gnaw off its own leg to break free, but she didn't have to do the same, since the crabs did it for her. Thalassa then orders Xena chained and thrown into "the pit," where hundreds of hungry rats gnaw at the warrior princess.
Meanwhile Gabrielle, disguised as a healer, arrives at the prison and meets Thalassa, who complains of pain in the arm which has been amputated. When the prison commandant asks why she still feels the ache in a hand she no longer has, Gabrielle says that it might be because she never accepted its loss. Thalassa says that Gabrielle has the sort of warmth and beauty she herself had once, but which was taken from her by an evil dark-haired woman who mutilated her soul. Gabrielle beats up her guards as ssearches for Xena, who has been gnawing rats with her teeth and has them running scared, but when Gabrielle tries to toss Xena her chakram, she is caught and arrested for helping a prisoner to escape.
With her teeth, Xena tosses a dead rat dozens of feet in the air to knock her chakram through the bars; when it falls, it strikes her chains and frees her. Thalassa refuses to give the order for Gabrielle's execution, but the captain, standing in front of a new group of prisoners, does it for her. As noose pulls, Xena chakrams the rope, saving Gabrielle who then saves Thalassa as the prisoners riot against the guards. Xena beats off the women who follow Thalassa; the commandant points out the irony that Xena saved the life of the woman she's imprisoned for murdering and lets her go free, thanking Gabrielle for helping her find her soul. Xena asks Thalassa not to let bitterness destroy her, and asks Gabrielle to promise that Xena won't give in to the monster she used to be.
I have never made it through a women's prison movie, so I'm as grateful for what this episode didn't have (gratuitous lesbian rape scenes, catfights over clothes, etc.) as for what it did. Lucy Lawless gave one of her better performances, particularly the way she shuffled in prison: she walked like a depressed person, not only because her hands were bound, but because she didn't want to look up or move forward. That there was an evil female commandant seemed silly; that she would turn out to be Thalassa was entirely predictable. I did like Xena seeing how she personally turned a good, loving girl like Gabrielle into a monster, but I didn't like the suggestion that the loss of a limb can be equivalent to the loss of one's soul. There was far too much implication that Thalassa turned evil because she was no longer beautiful, which is 1) not true and 2) a really nasty depiction of the role conventional standards of beauty play in women's self-images.
Gabrielle has been a lot tougher this season: while she didn't use Xena's chakram as I had hoped she might, she kicked butt with her staff and with a broom in the prison. I liked her scenes with Thalassa a lot, and also her farewell to Xena on the way to prison where she tried to understand why her friend felt she had to go to jail. Xena, however, didn't make as much sense to me: why on earth did she decide now that she should spend her entire life in prison to atone for one murder, when she committed hundreds? OK, so the young Thalassa reminded her of Gabrielle, but surely she didn't think Gabrielle or the world would be better off with her spending the rest of her life beaten by guards? Get this woman some therapy, please.
So far this season, Xena has met up with an Amazon she brutally murdered, a daughter of a god whose death she tried to arrange on several occasions, a girl she reformed, a girl she tortured and left to die, a woman she put in prison...are we working our way up to a portrait of the kind of role model Xena makes for women? There seems to be a lot of emphasis on her past deeds reinterpreted through current events. It's interesting, and gives the series a very strong feeling of continuity. I just wish her behavior made a little more sense sometimes.