The 25th Anniversary Guide to the Best of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (Season Six)

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m eager to conclude our renewed look at Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001), the classic syndicated action show that informed my love of television as a child and influenced my creative sensibilities, for on Xena ANYTHING could happen: one week a French farce, the next a Greek tragedy. When I began this blog in 2013, I started our coverage by making a list of my 60 favorite episodes. Soon after, I produced one of our most popular series of posts ever, The Opinionated Episode Guide, which combined my thoughts with reflections and recollections from the cast and crew. This year, for the series’ 25th anniversary, I’ve decided to look at Xena again — this time monthly, offering a seasonal episode rundown that includes brief snippets of my own commentary, links to the Opinionated Episode Guide, along with notations of how/if I ranked the entry among my favorites in 2013, how/if I ranked it when I updated my selections in 2017, and how/if I’ve ranked it on my NEW 2020 list (which will be shared in full at the end) — from which I will also be choosing (in red) the ten episodes I consider each season’s best. (To add some confusion, I’ll also be citing if the episode was an HM, or Honorable Mention. I chose 18 in 2013, ten in 2017, and have compromised at 15 for 2020. These are not necessarily ranked, but may inform my ten-per-season favorites.)

Let’s finish with the final season, Six, where the series commits to satisfying its fan base via a more romantic depiction of Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship, alongside an attempted restoration of an episodic storytelling format that nevertheless reveals a newly matured dramatic impulse — culminating in a series finale that did the opposite of satisfying the fans. Eight of Six’s 22 episodes have made my 60 favorites list. This number is lower than those for Seasons Two, Three, and Four, but it’s tied with Five, and higher than One’s. If you add in the Honorable Mentions, two of those 15 come from Six, meaning I’m singling out 10 entries from this year in total. Numerically and proportionally, this stat is the lowest. However, Five remains my pick for the series’ weakest; if Six has fewer offerings competitive with prior year’s past classics, it’s not because the year itself is bad — it’s more that the largely self-indulgent and self-contained narrative ideas are inherently hit-and-miss, with half being misses.

 

113. Season 6, Episode 1: “Coming Home” (Aired: 10/02/00 | Filmed: 08/14 – 08/22/00)

Fed up with being mortal, Ares calls upon Xena to help him restore his godhood, unaware that the Furies are conspiring against him.

Written by Melissa Good | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V1411

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Produced hastily in the middle of the season, this tacked-on premiere tries to provide some emotional continuity from last year while setting up Six’s new story interests. See more here.

 

114. Season 6, Episode 2: “The Haunting Of Amphipolis” (Aired: 10/09/00 | Filmed: 05/31 – 06/09/00)

Xena is forced to battle Mephistopheles when she returns to Amphipolis with Gabrielle and Eve to find her home haunted by evil.

Story by Edithe Swensen and Joel Metzger | Teleplay by Joel Metzger | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V1401

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Although this “haunted house” show is not without its value for character, it’s clearly an example of style mattering more than substance — that’s common in Six. See more here.

 

115. Season 6, Episode 3: “Heart Of Darkness” (Aired: 10/16/00 | Filmed: 05/10 – 05/19/00)

Xena fights to avoid inheriting the throne of Mephistopheles by devising a plan to turn the cocky archangel Lucifer into the King of Hell.

Written by Emily Skopov | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V1402

2013 Ranking: HM | 2017 Ranking: HM | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Seeking a moral ambiguity that runs underneath much of the season, this entry has fun playing with Christian mythology, but it isn’t a great showcase for character. See more here.

 

116. Season 6, Episode 4: “Who’s Gurkhan?” (Aired: 10/23/30 | Filmed: 05/22 – 05/30/00)

When Gabrielle learns that her niece has been captured by the vicious raider Gurkhan, she sets sail for North Africa on a rescue mission with Xena, Eve, and Virgil.

Story by Robert Tapert | Teleplay by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Michael Hurst | Production No. V1404

2013 Ranking: #60 | 2017 Ranking: #60 | 2020 Ranking: #51

Six begins its mini-exploration of Gabrielle’s relationship with killing in this lavishly produced spectacle of sex and violence that nevertheless progresses her character. See more here.

 

117. Season 6, Episode 5: “Legacy” (Aired: 10/30/00 | Filmed: 06/12 – 06/22/00)

On their travels through the North African desert, Xena and Gabrielle intervene to help two tribes of warring nomads unite against their Roman enemies.

Written by Melissa Good | Directed by Chris Martin-Jones | Production No. V1405

2013 Ranking: #59 | 2017 Ranking: #29 | 2020 Ranking: #35

With an exotic locale and a richly dramatic theme about Xena’s refusal to prioritize justice over her emotional biases, this installment deserves to be more popular. See more here.

 

118. Season 6, Episode 6: “The Abyss” (Aired: 11/06/00 | Filmed: 06/28 – 07/07/00)

Xena and Gabrielle are forced into a deadly confrontation with cannibals when they go in search of Virgil.

Written by James Kahn | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V1406

2013 Ranking: HM | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: HM

This episode is all action, and with a set of nuance-less villains, the Xena and Gabrielle scenes are tasked with supplying even more emotional weight — and they do. See more here.

 

119. Season 6, Episode 7: “The Rheingold” (Aired: 11/13/00 | Filmed: 07/10 – 07/18; 07/31 – 08/01/00)

Xena embarks on a deadly mission involving her dark past when the Norse warrior Beowulf approaches her for help.

Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by John Fawcett | Production No. V1408

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

The Valkyrie arc shoehorns the leads into Norse mythology and doubles down on style, but it’s emotionally overindulgent without revealing anything about the characters. See more here.

 

120. Season 6, Episode 8: “The Ring” (Aired: 11/20/00 | Filmed: 07/19 – 07/28/00)

Xena must battle a monster of her own making to recover the destructive Rheingold ring she forged in her days as an evil warrior.

Written by Joel Metzger | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V1409

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

The middle part of this trilogy has the least to accomplish, but it’s another well-produced action-adventure that unfortunately claims dubious character concerns. See more here.

 

121. Season 6, Episode 9: “Return Of The Valkyrie” (Aired: 11/27/00 | Filmed: 08/02 – 08/11/00)

Xena battles to regain her memory and reverse the curse of the Rheingold ring.

Written by Emily Skopov | Directed by John Fawcett | Production No. V1410

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Perhaps the most notable of the entire arc, this romantic entry frames Xena and Gabrielle in a way that most fans like, even though neither of them drives enough of the plot. See more here.

 

122. 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

2013 Ranking: #47 | 2017 Ranking: #47 | 2020 Ranking: #43

One of the few charmingly simple comedies from the final season, this installment is filled with laughs, and has great moments for Xena, Gabrielle, and Ares. See more here.

 

123. Season 6, Episode 11: “Dangerous Prey” (Aired: 01/22/01 | Filmed: 08/30 – 09/08; 11/23/00)

Xena becomes the ultimate prey for the deranged Prince Morloch, who has been hunting and killing Amazons in his twisted quest for an adversary who can match his skills.

Written by Joel Metzger | Directed by Renee O’Connor | Production No. V1413

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Renee O’Connor’s second directorial effort is a Most Dangerous Game takeoff that builds out the character of Varia and boasts a few memorable fight scenes. See more here.

 

124. Season 6, Episode 12: “The God You Know” (Aired: 01/29/01 | Filmed: 11/13 – 11/22/00)

The Archangel Michael summons Xena to kill the now immortal Roman emperor Caligula, who has been murdering innocents in his quest for absolute power.

Written by Emily Skopov | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V1415

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

The year’s heightened moral ambiguity is well on display in this dramatically overwrought excursion that suffers from some very labored story decisions. See more here.

 

125. Season 6, Episode 13: “You Are There” (Aired: 02/05/01 | Filmed: 11/08 – 11/10/00; 01/12/01)

In an ancient world meets modern-day satire, a tabloid TV reporter stalks Xena and Gabrielle, determined to get a juicy scoop on the Warrior Princess.

Written by Chris Black | Directed by John Laing | Production No. V1417

2013 Ranking: HM | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: HM

Xena’s penchant for risk-taking goes into overdrive, and because this wacky comedy doesn’t explain itself, its sheer audacity helps bring laughs to an otherwise plotty script. See more here.

 

126. Season 6, Episode 14: “Path Of Vengeance” (Aired: 02/12/01 | Filmed: 11/23 – 12/05/00)

Xena and Gabrielle fight to save Eve from execution when she returns to Amazon lands to make amends for her past.

Written by Joel Metzger | Directed by Chris Martin-Jones | Production No. V1418

2013 Ranking: HM | 2017 Ranking: #50 | 2020 Ranking: #28

Xena’s arc is mirrored through her daughter’s when Eve is put on trial by the Amazons in this effective entry that utilizes Ares, Varia, and the series’ thesis. See more here.

 

127. Season 6, Episode 15: “To Helicon And Back” (Aired: 02/19/01 | Filmed: 12/05 – 12/15/00)

When the Amazon Queen Varia is kidnapped by a masked warrior, Gabrielle leads the Amazons to Helicon on a bloody rescue mission.

Written by Liz Friedman & Vanessa Place | Directed by Michael Hurst | Production No. V1419

2013 Ranking: #28 | 2017 Ranking: #24 | 2020 Ranking: #20

This gory “war is hell” story is the best of its type because it affords Gabrielle the chance to showcase her growth when she’s forced to lead the Amazons in battle. See more here.

 

128. Season 6, Episode 16: “Send In The Clones” (Aired: 04/23/01 | Filmed: 09/11 – 09/14/00)

Modern-day Xena fans clone Xena and Gabrielle as Alti awaits their rebirth.

Written by Paul Robert Coyle | Directed by Charlie Haskell | Production No. V1412

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Another of the series’ creative clip shows, this offering takes us to the present day for a convoluted cloning plot with Alti that’s fun and fresh, but narratively wobbly. See more here.

 

129. Season 6, Episode 17: “Last Of The Centaurs” (Aired: 04/30/01 | Filmed: 01/15 – 01/24/01)

A young centaur is being hunted down by Lord Belach, and Xena and Gabrielle must save him while preventing a war.

Written by Joel Metzger | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V1420

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

This outing employs several known elements of Xena’s past to concoct a grim tale that explores the familiar terrain of using a proxy to exploit Xena’s guilt; it’s so-so. See more here.

 

130. Season 6, Episode 18: “When Fates Collide” (Aired: 05/07/01 | Filmed: 01/25 – 02/02/01)

Xena becomes the Empress of Rome with no recollection of her past when Caesar chains up the three Fates and cuts the strands of time to alter his destiny.

Written by Katherine Fugate | Directed by John Fawcett | Production No. V1421

2013 Ranking: #44 | 2017 Ranking: #44 | 2020 Ranking: #36

Among the series’ most popular, this overhyped “alternate timeline” episode is close to fan fiction, weaving together many characters and emphasizing the soulmate angle. See more here.

 

131. Season 6, Episode 19: “Many Happy Returns” (Aired: 05/14/01 | Filmed: 02/26 – 03/07/01)

While on their way to deliver Hermes’ helmet to Thebes, Xena and Gabrielle save a young virgin from being sacrificed by a group of religious zealots.

Written by Liz Friedman & Vanessa Place | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V1426

2013 Ranking: #19 | 2017 Ranking: #19 | 2020 Ranking: #15

The series’ last truly regular episode is one of its funniest comedies, evoking a playful energy reminiscent of “A Day In The Life” for the Xena and Gabrielle dynamic. See more here.

 

132. Season 6, Episode 20: “Soul Possession” (Aired: 06/04/01 | Filmed: 02/08 – 02/16/01)

The discovery of an ancient scroll that indicates Xena married Ares leads to a highly charged press briefing attended by the modern-day reincarnations of Xena, Ares, Gabrielle and Joxer.

Written by Melissa Blake | Directed by Josh Becker | Production No. V1423

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Designed to reveal how Gabrielle got out of the lava pit (although it was explained), this unnecessary offering is a disappointing swan song for Ares and Joxer. See more here.

 

133. Season 6, Episode 21: “A Friend In Need (I)” (Aired: 06/11/01 | Filmed: 03/08 – 04/18/01)

Summoned by a long-lost spiritual soulmate, Xena heads for Japan with Gabrielle on a daunting mission to save the city of Higuchi from destruction and make amends for her past.

Story by Robert Tapert & R.J. Stewart | Teleplay by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Robert Tapert | Production No. V1424

2013 Ranking: #45 | 2017 Ranking: #57 | 2020 Ranking: #50

Even though the flashbacks in this much maligned “The Debt” redux are unrevealing and inessential, the present-day scenes between Xena and Gabrielle are stellar. See more here.

 

134. Season 6, Episode 22: “A Friend In Need (II)” (Aired: 06/18/01 | Filmed: 03/08 – 04/18/01)

Xena and Gabrielle face the greatest threat they’ve ever known when they go up against the evil Yodoshi and an army of 20,000 elite Samurai warriors.

Story by Robert Tapert & R.J. Stewart | Teleplay by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Robert Tapert | Production No. V1425

2013 Ranking: N/A | 2017 Ranking: N/A | 2020 Ranking: N/A

Xena having to die in the finale to avenge those she’s wronged makes no sense on a series that had previously opined that her path to redemption was living and fighting. See more here.

 

This concludes our 25th anniversary tribute to Xena! Here’s the list of my 2020 rankings!

 

Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more sitcom fun!

2 thoughts on “The 25th Anniversary Guide to the Best of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (Season Six)

  1. Great end to a great list overall :) Looks like we’re in pretty close agreement again; I’d only drop three from your list … Path of Vengeance (I’m really not a fan of Varia–Amarice was much better–and she doesn’t seem to have learned much in the previous episodes, so what was the point?); Friend in Need I (I agree it succeeds as drama, and I don’t unreasonably hate it like a lot of fans do, but I wouldn’t put it in my top 10 for the season … and I actually thought Part 2 was better anyway); and Legacy (It’s Gabi-centric, which I like, but it doesn’t really seem to advance her character that much. Xena saves her against Gabi’s wishes, so it’s almost like a deus ex machina. And if it was okay for Xena to break the rules to save Gabi here, why didn’t she let Gabi return the favour in the finale?)

    For my top ten, I’d replace those three with The God You Know (the message ends up a bit muddled, but Alexis Arquette did such a great job and there are some great moments with Gabi, Ares, and Aphrodite); The Ring (my favourite of the Ring trilogy because Xena and Gabi have the most scenes together. In the first chapter, Gabi’s basically sidelined and there’s too much backstory, much of which is repeated in the latter two chapters); and Return of the Valkyrie (Gabi’s sidelined again, but there’s some great moments with Xena trying to figure out who she is and I love how she and Gabi are inexorably drawn together [unlike you, I actually love all the “soul mate” stuff :)] I also love how Xena chooses to let Grunnhild redeem herself instead of just killing her).

    So overall, we differ on a few episodes, but agree on the majority. I think you’re more into episodes that showcase the themes of the show and the characters, whereas I lean toward episodes that I subjectively like, even though I can’t always articulate why. Anyway, thanks for the great analysis over the years; I’ve gotten a lot of pleasure out of reading your reviews. I’ve recently started doing my own Xena reviews (see what you started!), but the first one won’t go live until December 23, 2020. Feel free to check it out and tell me what you disagree with :)

    • Hi, Mike! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think you’re exactly right in where our opinions differ — I use character and premise as the guiding metrics to determine success. For those reasons, episodes like “Path Of Vengeance” and “Legacy” are no-brainer favorites — the former uses Eve’s redemption as a mirror to Xena’s own, while restoring Ares to his proper role as villain and solidifying Varia’s ascension as a warrior (her fighting skills have improved, but she’s still got a lot to learn — that’s the point), while the latter challenges Xena’s assumptions about her intentions and forces Gabrielle to confront how her instincts have changed — she used to actively avoid killing, now it’s her first response. That’s a significant advancement in her arc; I’m not sure how that can be minimized. Similarly, I prefer Part I of the series finale to Part II, because Part I shows Xena quietly passing the torch to Gabrielle — emphasizing the latter’s growth — instead of dealing with the story-driven mechanics of the final battle itself, which is more distracting.

      As for “The God You Know,” I hate scripts that make up the rules as they go along, and that’s a chief offender, with a jumbled plot that labors to reach a conclusion, forcing the characters into emotional contortions that are only half-earned. I appreciate that Xena is flawed enough to put her own daughter’s survival over any supposed moral imperative, but her reactions to the God of Light’s manipulations are so far removed from the series’ central character themes that anything of value as it pertains to Xena is lost in the mechanics of plot. I also think it’s another instance of style mattering more than substance — and that goes for Arquette’s performance as well. Also, my thoughts on the Ring Trilogy are unshakable, although I’ve tried several times to cultivate an appreciation. I simply don’t think we learn anything new about Xena and Gabrielle in this ostentatious three-parter, nor do they learn anything about themselves. So, it’s a dramatic waste of time, and in a narrative where they’re so often reacting to others instead of acting themselves.

Leave a Reply to upperco Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.