Happy Independence Day and welcome to another Xena Thursday! We’re continuing with my 60 favorite episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess. I’ve been a fan of this series since I was about three years old and believe me–this list was tough to make! If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it was a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and aired in first-run syndication from 1995 to 2001. Taking place primarily in Ancient Greece, the show focused on Xena (Lucy Lawless), a reformed warlord seeking redemption for her evil past by helping others. She traveled with her best friend, Gabrielle (Renée O’Connor), an aspiring bard and the chronicler of Xena’s adventures.
I have chosen the best 60 of the 134 produced episodes. Of course, these are all subjective. For those who are familiar with the series, I hope my points-of-view will prove fascinating and perhaps inspire you to reexamine your favorite, or perhaps least favorite, episodes. For those who are unfamiliar with the series, this list might spark your interest and give you some places to start. Because the series did so many different things over the 134 episodes, Xena is the type of show that requires multiple viewings to be properly assessed. Though we are starting at the end of the list, the ranking is subjective. If a particular story strikes your fancy, I encourage you to give it a try! In fact, contact me and I will be able to hook you up.
With all that said, let us resume with episodes 46-50 on the list.
46. Season 3, Episode 18: “Fins, Femmes, And Gems” (Aired: 04/13/98 | Filmed: 01/26 – 02/04/98)
Aphrodite steals the “mystic diamond” that keeps the North Star lit and casts obsession spells on Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer to keep them from retrieving it.
Story by Rob Tapert and Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster | Teleplay by Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster | Directed by Josh Becker | Production No. V0418
This episode was promoted as a sequel-of-sorts to the previous season’s “A Day In The Life.” The only real similarity is that it’s a comedy and fish are involved. The plot is very silly. Aphrodite steals the North Star and to stop Xena, Gab, and Joxer from retrieving it, she casts spells on them so that they become obsessed with whatever they are presently viewing. Joxer is looking at a picture of “the ape man” so he runs around acting like an ape. Gabrielle is looking in the mirror and becomes obsessed with herself and her beauty. Xena is looking at fish and decides that the only way to recapture the North Star is to go fishing. This episode has always been a personal favorite of mine, and it’s one of the zaniest comedies that the series ever produced. However, it’s one of the most successful, I think, because it draws upon previously developed character traits and exaggerates them. Originally Gabrielle was going to become obsessed with Xena, but a few days before production, the network demanded a rewrite. (I think this actually works better with Gab obsessed with herself.) Very funny, but probably not a good starting place for first time viewers.
47. Season 6, Episode 10: “Old Ares Had A Farm” (Aired: 01/15/01 | Filmed: 09/15 – 09/22/00)
To protect the mortal Ares from a gang of revenge-seeking warlords, Xena brings him to her childhood home and disguises him as a farmer.
Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Charles Siebert | Production No. V1414
This was the first comedic episode of the final season and the first entirely successful comedy since Season Four. Xena, Gabrielle, and Ares go back to her childhood home and disguise themselves as farmers. The late Kevin Smith as Ares gets the most to do, and there’s not a lot of action. The fourth act fight is only a short mock one that Xena and Gabrielle put on to trick the warlord into going in the opposite direction. It’s very funny. Fortunately, the episode is so entertainingly crafted that the lack of action is hardly noticed. On the romance front, there are moments here that should satisfy both Xena/Ares fans and Xena/Gab fans alike. A small subplot involves Xena’s pursuit to capture her youth and the happy times she shared on the farm. My favorite moment occurs between Gabrielle and Ares when she asks him why he gave up his immortality to save her and Eve. Renée is also dynamite pretending to be the slutty farm girl. In short, there are lots of great moments in this feel-good episode.
48. Season 5, Episode 19: “Looking Death In The Eye” (Aired: 04/24/00 | Filmed: 01/25 – 02/03/00)
Old Joxer obtains a scroll describing Xena and Gabrielle’s final attempt to trick the Fates into bringing about the Twilight of the Gods.
Written by Carl Ellsworth | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V0920
This episode changes the entire series. The show opens with an elderly Joxer purchasing Gabrielle’s last scroll and reading it to his kids. In it, Xena and Gabrielle learn from the Fates that the only way to bring about the Twilight of the Gods (end of the Olympian order) is for Xena to die. SPOILER ALERT: The episode ends with Xena and Gabrielle faking their own deaths in front of the Gods and a grieving Ares entombing them in a cave of ice. Meanwhile, Xena’s daughter Eve, goes off with Octavian, a Roman general. (The next episode opens 25 years later with Xena and Gabrielle waking up.) While it was sad to see all the other characters age, it was an INGENIOUS way to get rid of the baby and have Eve as an adult. My favorite moment in this episode, and maybe of the entire season, occurs when Xena kidnaps Hades’s sister, Celesta, the goddess of Death, whom we met in Season One, and confronts her about all of the lives she’s taken – Solan, Marcus, Lyceus – without ever knowing what true loss is. It’s a very powerful and very real moment.
49. Season 4, Episode 18: “The Convert” (Aired: 04/19/99 | Filmed: 02/09 – 02/18/99)
Najara returns claiming a newfound mantra for nonviolence while Joxer wrestles with the guilt of his first kill.
Written by Chris Manheim | Directed by Andrew Merrifield | Production No. V0621
Najara, one of the series’s best villains, returns in her second and final episode. Many fans, who loved her first appearance, thought this episode ruined the character by having her go insane in the fourth act. To that, I have two things to say. First of all, she hears voices. She was never not crazy! Second of all, the show had to end with a fight between Xena and Najara, and it wasn’t unmotivated that she would suddenly go cuckoo. She was always cuckoo! That issue put aside, the rest of the episode is very gripping. First, the conflict between Xena and Gabrielle, as Gabrielle believes that Najara has converted to non-violence, perfectly highlights the differences in their characters and their current paths. But the best part of the episode has Joxer dealing with his first kill. Joxer, almost always a comic relief character, is actually developed in this episode and it is so great to watch. This is a fascinating and underrated episode. Najara wasn’t as strong as she was in her first episode; so what? Her descent into madness wasn’t unmotivated. Xena was right. Cuckoo!
50. Season 1, Episode 14: “A Fistful Of Dinars” (Aired: 01/29/96 | Filmed: 11/09 – 11/17/95)
Xena is drawn into a treacherous treasure hunt that forces her to team up with a desperate assassin and a ruthless warlord — who happens to be her former fiance.
Written by Steven L. Sears & R.J. Stewart | Directed by Josh Becker | Production No. 876918
This is one of only a few times that the series’s two best writers are credited as having directly collaborated in writing a script. From the first season, this is an action packed episode. Xena and Gabrielle team up with two killers to find the Sumerian treasure. The real reason behind the quest is to stop Ambrosia, the food of the Gods, from falling into the wrong hands. But the more personal story in this episode involves one of the killers, who happened to be Xena’s former fiance. He left her at the altar, and she is, well, still bitter. To make matters worse, he and Gabrielle seem to be falling for each other. My favorite part of the episode is the tense opening sequence that sets up the tone. This is Xena, not Hercules. More people die in a Xena teaser than in half-a-season of Hercules. By now, the series understands that and is fully committed to its style. This is one of the fastest moving episodes of the season and the heightened pace is greatly appreciated. Possibly a good place to start for new fans.
Come back next Thursday for numbers 41-45! And check back tomorrow for another Film Friday post!
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I will admit I am one of the fans who does not like Najara going crazy because crazy; to me it makes her more cliché than she could have been, yes she hears voices but this is ancient mythology times that’s not a guaranteed reason to go crazy.
I loved Najara because for me she was the “good” version of Xena if you will; yes she was extreme in her methods in “Crusader” but was she really that different from Dark Xena or even Xena now at times (she’s her execution of Green Dragon)? The flip of Najara compared to Xena was interesting to watch for how each responded to the other and for how Gabrielle would respond to them. I LOVED when they did lines like “I want a life of peace with Gabrielle, you want to lead her to her death so you tell me – who’s the bad guy?” because it created great debates!
We knew Gabrielle wasn’t going to leave Xena in the end, but especially in the season with Alti’s vision I think having Najara be a “good guy” option of Xena is more intriguing because fans could wonder and debate would Gabrielle have been better off with her at least for a while and how would that have effected things when she eventually came back to Xena because again they don’t part for long. Najara was never going to be Callisto who could get under Xena’s skin and was a direct consequence to some of her dark choices but she was a well done season voice nagging in the back of her head “what if” and again with the vision for me I just wish they’d left it as Najara was the flip of Xena and what conflict did that create instead of having her give in more to the crazy side. The crazy side wasn’t horrible mind you, even some of the most cliché plots on this series with the writers felt watchable because of the talent, but it wasn’t a direction I was a fan of when it came to Najara. Ending the episode with Najara being freed to go start her hospital would have given her a chance to return which could have been interesting, again sets up a good debate of should Gabrielle go with her even for a bit to try and change the vision, and arguably adds to the good karma Xena is meant to be building towards but also she could debate if it’s the right choice and leave fans wondering what consequences come from that – essentially killing her in the end because she’s crazy felt like a run of the mill episode instead of the special episode it could have been in the season/series. Maybe it’s just me but the Najara story feels like watching a great race only for the runner you like to stumble at the end; maybe the runner rolls across the line for the win still but it’s not the way you wanted the race to end if that makes sense?
I wonder if there was ever a debate if the episode should end with her being let go?
Bottom line “Convert” is still for me one of the more rewatchable episodes of the season, I just couldn’t fully get into all the spiritual episodes, but I do wish it had ended differently.
Also, seriously this was Joxer’s first kill? I thought he killed people in self defense before in group fights where they’re slashing baddies left and right…is this to say when they do that or when Xena does the awesome behind the back stab those guys don’t die? I’ll grant some may not but none do? That may actually be my biggest issue with the episode; making Najara just crazy is up there too though. That’s my favorite version of Joxer I have to say – when he’s 70% being serious/responding in a normal way, 20% funny stuff is happening to him arguably to make a scene with him funny, and 10% when they intentionally try to make him funny as “comedy guy” Joxer rarely made me laugh, sorry writers I wasn’t a fan of that choice either.
Hi, Aaron! Thanks for reading and commenting.
It’s been six years since I wrote these posts, so my thoughts have evolved slightly since then. I do agree that Najara’s turn towards outright lunacy tarnishes her trajectory and limited the show from developing someone that could have become a much more fruitful villain. However, I think this problem with Najara pre-dates “The Convert,” for the series — even in the superior “Crusader” — always gave more time to the Joan of Arc “I hear voices” aspect of the character than her much more interesting morally ambiguous view of execution.
In other words, I think the show, from Najara’s inception, led with her tenuous mental health instead of her dangerous code of honor (the thing that *actually* makes her a villain), and so I almost think it was inevitable than in her second appearance, the character snapped…
That said, I *do* also think there might have been a way to make the character more calculated and less insane in “The Convert.” But, c’est la vie; Najara probably wouldn’t have fit very well in Season Five anyway…
Oh, and yes, if it’s not already clear, I DO think the series always wrote Najara as being a villain — certainly not a “good” version of Xena. Najara executed innocent people if they didn’t convert to her religion. Xena (theoretically — she wasn’t perfect, but that’s why she was interesting) only killed in combat, fighting for justice. Once we learned what Najara did, we were never supposed to find her “good.”
I also think with “Convert” having Najara be not crazy as it were would have added to the impact of Gabrielle choosing to stay with Xena because she could have the easy life as it were with Najara but Gabrielle doesn’t want the safe/easy option she wants her love Xena. Given the coded romance of the series, Xena and Gabrielle are totally lovers by this point, that choice could be seen as staying with who you love instead of going the “safe route” by being in a more accepted relationship. Even if you see them as just friends you can argue the impact is better with Najara not being crazy because Gabrielle is choosing to stay with her long term buddy/sister who takes some work to understand yes but she’s still worth it instead of jumping to spend more time with the person she has more in common with and wouldn’t have to work so hard to get to know if that makes sense.
Again I don’t hate the episode, but I do think it could have easily been made arguably even better.
I actually think Xena and Gabrielle should have separated in Season Four, but after The Rift, the producers were very cautious about ever putting their main characters in serious conflict again. Sadly…
Hey Jackson! :)
Thanks for taking the time to reply back!
Yeah I’m watching the series in full for the first time, I had seen season one and most of two when it originally aired but when the show started jumping schedule wise post “Xena Scrolls” I kind of fell out on it because I expected it to air one day at a certain time like always but it wouldn’t be on or would be on a different time/day, thus the delay in response to your posts. :)
I can get you on the Joan Of Arc front; honestly when I first saw the episode and heard her say djin, I think that’s how you spell it in that context, I knew in mythical times that was genies/spirits with powers but knowing the genie connection I went “Aladdin” in thought more than “Uncharted 3” so that part always made me chuckle. Ha.
By “good version of Xena” I was meaning it as Najara was the flip of dark Xena if you will. Both did bad things and even on her redemption path you could argue Xena to me wasn’t that much different from Najara now as both technically killed bad guys. I know we were meant to see Najara as a straight up bad guy to “hero” Xena but I personally never took her like that; was it wrong how she was doing things? Arguably yes, I say arguably because placing it in that era people were very much “eye for an eye”; it doesn’t make it right but I can see how people could see Najara still as a hero more than they could Xena with her reputation.
I always loved “Xena” for the ambiguity especially when it came to Xena herself so I think Najara is just super interesting more in the frame of questionable actions thus making Xena’s actions seem better or bringing a focus on her past choices than as a simple undercover bad guy character if you will. I can admit my own personal headcannon of the situation clearly isn’t what the writers were going for but again that’s the part I found interesting because I always loved the continuing dealing with dark Xena and by extension why I love the Xena Vs Callisto stuff so much I think – they give you discussions about this women just as characters themselves are having; for some like Gabrielle Xena is a hero or someone who has paid for her crimes but for others like Najara they don’t understand how you can say Xena is in the right when she’s done exactly what they have or to a worse degree; the conversations this slow creates are just great when discussed liked this and I don’t think you could have that with Najara if she was just a simple bad guy in the end so maybe that’s part of why I hold on to my headcannon for this more than the crew’s take. :)
“I actually think Xena and Gabrielle should have separated in Season Four, but after The Rift, the producers were very cautious about ever putting their main characters in serious conflict again.” – do you think Gabrielle would have gone off with Najara for a bit had the rift not happened and they not gone so simple bad guy with Najara or do you think something else would have pulled Gabrielle away? Would something have brought them together again by series end time or would they have stayed apart in your scenario? Or do you mean separated there as they still travel together but any romance is over?
First, I think the series’ “soulmate” concept, mainstreamed in Season Four’s “Between The Lines,” was counterintuitive to the dramatic tension inherent in the Xena/Gabrielle relationship. If they’re MEANT to always find each other, then the fact that they both actively chose to travel together in Season One is irrelevant, and it removes the characters of their agency and the real dangerous possibility that, at any given time, they could decide to separate — which is one of the exciting things about their dynamic within the first three seasons.
To that point, I find it hard to believe that Xena, after spending YEARS trying to make sure that her violent ways wouldn’t also lead to Gabrielle’s demise, would all of a sudden stop trying to save the person she loved most, especially once Gabrielle cut her hair (in accordance with the vision) and gave up violence, making her an even easier target for the terrible fate in Alti’s vision, which propelled Season Four.
I also think that Gabrielle, if the show really wanted to commit to the idea that she was protesting against the use of violence, would have had a problem traveling with Xena, who relished in bloodshed. In fact, I think the show absolutely WASTED several episodes at the end of the year avoiding the natural conflict between the two characters, given their newly chosen paths. In other words, the characters’ opposing choices weren’t ever pitted against each other… even though, by definition, they were. And even if the women never separated, I still would have gladly jettisoned episodes like “Deja Vu All Over Again,” “The Play’s The Thing,” and “Takes One To Know One” in favor of more dramatic stories that showcased just how difficult it would be for a warrior and a lover to coexist as a twosome.
As for who Gabrielle would have left Xena to travel alongside — or who Xena would have left Gabrielle with — it certainly wouldn’t have been Najara (again, she was always a villain). It would have been Eli. In India. When Gabrielle gave up violence and wanted to follow his teachings.
But I’m not much for hypotheticals or any “head-canon” nonsense. The text is the text. And the text decided that Xena/Gabrielle could never split again after The Rift, and the “soulmate” concept was assurance to the fans of this fact.
“Old Ares Had A Farm” is hilarious and easily a favorite episode of the season! I’m going to rewrite Kevin’s ending though and Horus now lives on Olympus with Aphrodite protecting him. :) If OAHAF isn’t the best episode of season six it’s certainly one of them!
Just comparing it to old “Xena” if you will it’s a fun episode.
It’s one of them, yes!
“Looking Death In The Eye” might be my favorite season 5 episode; I did love Xena confronting Celesta about Lyceus and the scene with the ice coffins was beautiful; I love Ares respected Xena and Gabrielle enough he kept them together because he could have been a jerk and burned them separately but he didn’t, I feel this was a nod to Kevin being the biggest X/G shipper arguably because again character wise it’s not unbelievable Ares would keep Xena for himself as it were.
I’ll always be bummed they did the Twilight arc and took out the ancient gods for a more modern plot if you will because the ancient element made the series feel unique but if they were going to take them out this was a well done episode for it I feel. While I’m not crazy about how they did Livia, angel Callisto was just as much an option as bad her so it felt cliche to just latch onto that aspect instead of doing dark Xena to make Livia evil if you will and use the good sides of both to redeem her, I do LOVE the stuff tbis sets up with Aphrodite in particular! Often dismissed as the dumb blonde she got to show her depths in the following episodes helping the team even though they were leading possibly to her own death and certainly her family’s so that was some really interesting stuff I think and I wish we’d seen more with Aphrodite on that front.
Aphrodite’s pivot from comedic lite-villain to sincere, well-meaning ally is interesting — it happens in Season Five and is continued in Six — and mirrors the increasing complexity within Ares’ depiction, as his villainy also becomes shaded by more nuance.