by Michelle Erica Green

Last of the Olympians

"Motherhood" Plot Summary:

Eve wanders in the desert, tortured and filthy. Gabrielle watches, telling Xena she doesn't know if she wants to help Joxer's murderer. Xena says Eve is lost as Xena herself once was lost, but Xena got lucky and found Gabrielle. Meanwhile, on Olympus, the gods confer about what to do now that they know Eve is alive. Athena calls in the Furies. Though Aphrodite protests that Gabrielle is her friend, Athena sends the mad deities to torment the bard. While Xena saves her daughter from nomads, the Furies tell Gabrielle that she will know no peace until Joxer's killer is dead.

An old woman offers to shelter the three women in exchange for stories about Eli, who is now worshipped as a deity. Gabrielle insists he was just a man who believed every living thing could be saved by love. "He was wrong," bursts out Eve. "How can I be saved?" The old woman tells them about a man called the Baptist who continues Eli's tradition of cleansing people of their sins. The next day, while Eve is baptized to be reborn to the Way of Love, Xena has a vision from the Archangel Michael, conferring on her the power to kill gods. "If that's the way it must be, then I'm ready," Xena says.

Poseidon rises from the waters as Hades, Discord, Hephaestos, Deimos, and other gods converge on the beach. Xena deflects Hades's fireball at the god of the sea, who turns to steam and vanishes. Furious, Discord charges Xena and dies by her chakram. Then Xena executes Hephaestos, taking his chains to use against the other gods.

On Olympus, Aphrodite weeps. Athena appears to express surprise that Xena can kill gods - a fact that seems neither to surprise nor faze Ares. "You fools!" Athena exclaims to her surviving siblings, telling them that if they'd waited for the Furies to work on Gabrielle instead of attacking, none of the gods would have perished. Ares offers to distract Xena so the gods can go after the real threat - Eve.

"Where should I begin?" asks Eve, who accepts Xena's suggestion that she face someone she wronged. They visit Virgil, who tries to kill "Livia" when he recognizes her. Virgil says his father was never cruel to any man, woman, child or beast, and brought joy to everyone who knew him. Eve says that if her death could bring Joxer back, she would accept it joyfully. While Virgil saddles up to be with his family in Athens, the Furies continue to demand that Gabrielle avenge Joxer's murder.

That night, Xena spies Ares outside and goes out to confront him. Inside, the ghosts of Joxer and Hope appear to Gabrielle along with the Furies. Her dead daughter tells Gabrielle that Xena's making a terrible mistake trying to save Eve - "the same mistake you made when you didn't kill me. Stop the cycle of violence. Eve must die." When Ares tells Xena he loves her, Xena realizes he's trying to distract her. "Eve!" she cries in warning, but she's too late. As she enters Eve's room, Gabrielle stabs Eve with one of her sais. Xena chakrams her best friend in the head to destroy her aim, so Eve survives the blow, but Gabrielle falls unconscious and bleeding as the Furies vanish from the hole in her scalp.

Though Eve is badly wounded, Xena attends first to Gabrielle, who is near death. Furious that their nemesis is still alive, Athena calls for a full-scale attack on Xena and Eve, but Aphrodite appears to help treat Gabrielle. The goddess cannot save the bard, however: only with Athena's blessing can a god save a mortal. Xena kills Daimos and Hades with the help of their own fireballs; then she wounds Artemis and Ares. Once the warring gods return to Olympus, however, the warrior princess realizes she cannot save her friends without their help. She asks Aphrodite to take them to Olympus so she can offer Athena a deal.

Eve calls Xena "Mother" and tries to remember her childhood, recalling that she liked spiders. Ares offers to make Xena a god in exchange for her daughter's life, but Xena shoots him and traps him in Hephaistos' chains. "You shot me! I'm the god of war, nobody shoots the god of war!" he shouts in shock. Athena refuses to speak of a deal, summoning Artemis to shoot at Xena, but Xena catches the arrows and kills the archer. Athena knocks down the pillars of Olympus but finally falls on Xena's sword, realizing as she dies that Ares has healed Gabrielle and Eve without her blessing. The god of war says he gave up immortality to save the human women. "I'm sorry, but I've got a thing for her," he nods at Xena. While she hugs her friends, he looks at the dead body of his sister. "Thank you," Xena says.

In a field by the sea, Eve plays with a spider and apologizes to Gabrielle about Joxer. "You got your daughter back," the bard observes to her friend. "No, we got our daughter back," Xena smiles.


So passes pretty much the entire supporting cast of Xena, Warrior Princess. I'm glad Xena was fighting for her daughter's life, because otherwise I'd be pretty uncomfortable with her using power from the Archangel Michael to destroy the Greco-Roman pantheon. Gabrielle's still insisting that Eli was just a man, but we've already seen him return from the dead once, and he's obviously got friends in extremely high places who can alter the course of human destiny. I prefer to see people altering their own destiny, so Hercules' reaction to Michael - namely, that the archangel should butt out - has greater resonance.

On the other hand, it's been very entertaining to witness the rewriting of early Christian myth through the lens of Xena. Because Gabrielle and Virgil are both bards and Eve learned her mother's life story by reading their scrolls, there's a lot of emphasis on how history is constructed. The women have had to diminish Eli's personal legend even as they've worked to save his message. Are we supposed to believe Eli is the Son of the Almighty or not? There's no suggestion of divine intervention in John the Baptist's cleansing ritual, yet Xena had her vision from the angels at the moment her daughter was baptized, which can't be coincidence.

It's also not coincidental that Xena calls daughter Eve her great hope, in an episode when Gabrielle's daughter Hope appears once more as her mother's nemesis. I wish Gabrielle fought the Furies off herself as Xena did before, but she's never been portrayed as strongly as Xena when it comes to gods interfering with her. This series is as ambivalent about motherhood as it is about worship, and there's been a fatalistic element to the pregnancies - both of which were divinely engineered without the knowledge or approval of the mothers. Even good gods seem to be bad news.

So what are we to make of Ares, who chooses to save Eve and Gabrielle while Athena dies? He could have let them die and hoped Xena would choose to mourn with him. His motives stem largely from selfishness - it was too late to help his siblings, and he finally came up with a good reason for Xena to keep him alive. But she kept him alive even when she had reasons to kill him - as he pointed out, she had lots of opportunity to get rid of him, yet chose not to. Her reluctance can't be attributed purely to his charisma because Hercules made the same decision when he had Ares' life in his hands.

Could we be headed towards an arc about the redemption of the god of war? Ares killed Eli, so he's Satan and Pontius Pilate rolled into one - a friend of Rome with malevolent super-powers. Yet he obviously cares about Xena, and against all odds Xena cares about him. As Ares himself said, when she's virtuous, she belongs to Gabrielle, but when she kicks butt, she's his girl. Maybe for Xena to embrace the Way of Love, she will have to love this enemy, and give him a clue what real love means.

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