Welcome to the first Xena Thursday post! I’ve decided to kick things off by sharing with you all 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 start with episodes 56-60 on the list.
56. Season 2, Episode 21: “Lost Mariner” (Aired: 05/05/97 | Filmed: 03/06 – 03/18/97)
After a shipwreck, Gabrielle finds herself aboard the cursed vessel of the lost mariner Cecrops. Soon, she and Xena are confronted by pirates and the nasty god Poseidon.
Written by Steven L. Sears | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V0226
This episode benefits form having Tony Todd turning in a captivating performance as Cecrops, cursed to sail the seas for eternity. An interesting story, this is one of three times that we actually get to see Poseidon in the series. A standalone episode, the producers intended to bring Cecrops back in a Season Five episode. Since the character is established as being immortal, Xena and Gabrielle were going to chase the time-traveling Alti into the 21st century and encounter Cecrops working in a flower shop. That never materialized, and this was his only appearance. “Lost Mariner” makes the list because of it’s tightness. The script, the acting, and the production… just a well done job all around. This is the best of the seafaring episodes. The best scene occurs in Cecrops’s cabin as he reminisces to Xena about his lost love. Oh, and bonus points for the kickin’ flip that Xena does to get onto the ship.
57. Season 5, Episode 12: “God Fearing Child” (Aired: 01/31/00 | Filmed: 11/22 – 12/01/99)
Xena’s baby is born after Hercules steps in to battle his father Zeus, who learns that the birth of the child will signal the end of the Olympian order.
Story by Chris Manheim | Teleplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman | Directed by Phil Sgriccia | Production No. V0915
This the episode where Xena gives birth. This is also the official launch of the Twilight of The Gods storyline that gave focus and direction to a mishandled and misguided fifth season. Kevin Sorbo returns as Hercules. His series had ended the previous December and the series finale found not only Zeus and Hera reconciled, but Hercules made amends with Zeus and Hera as well. Unfortunately, this Xena episode shatters that all to pieces. This episode also deepens the complex relationship between Xena and Ares, and for fans of this pairing, there’s a dynamite scene between them in Tartarus. Which brings up another interesting point: Though the concept of Heaven and Hell was established in the season premiere, it seems that Tartarus and the Elysian Fields exist as well. But how come Xena and Gabrielle didn’t wind up there in the Season Premiere? Also of note, Xena’s deceased son, Solan, is played by a different actor here. An important episode, this outing is strong, but definitely not the finest crafted.
58. Season 5, Episode 3: “Succession” (Aired: 10/11/99 | Filmed: 04/29 – 05/07/99)
Ares merges Xena and Gabrielle into the same body and force them to fight Mavican, Ares’ new potential right hand.
Written by Steven L. Sears | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V0902
This is the last episode that is officially credited to Steve Sears, one of the series’s best writers. This episode features only four characters – Xena, Gab, Ares, and Mavican. Lucy Lawless wears Xena’s new maternity outfit for the first time, and she is definitely showing, but the character’s pregnancy will not be revealed until the following episode. This episode has always fascinated me for two reasons. One: The show addresses Xena’s personal adjustment as Gabrielle returns to fighting, after giving up non-violence in “The Ides Of March.” Two: Ares makes what could be considered a play for Gabrielle. This thread will be picked up once again in another episode this season, but it is not ever fully realized, as it is here. There are some who believe that Ares’s play for Gabrielle was only a ploy to get Xena. I think it’s a much stronger choice to believe that, although Xena is his first choice, in that moment, Ares was interested in Gabrielle. On the whole, not a FABULOUS episode, but an interesting and underrated one.
59. 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
This is the second installment in Season Six’s mini-arc about Gabrielle’s growing violent impulsivity. With new locations and new costumes, this is one cool looking episode. Alison Bruce returns as a different character and, as usual, turns in a fine performance. A little heavy handed in spots, this episode presents our heroes as VERY human. Almost to the point of being unheroic. Essentially, without spoiling too much, Xena jeopardizes the lives of two nomadic tribes in order to save Gabrielle from a punishment that she, you could argue, deserved. By the end of the episode, I liked the Xena character a whole lot less than I did at the start. Of course, everyone was saved, but still… some shady dealings on her part. That complexity is what makes her character so intriguing. Also, it’s always great to see the Romans, but I wish the episode devoted a little more attention to that important subplot. Scripted by a longtime fan fiction writer, this is another underrated episode that raises interesting questions about Xena’s morality and Gabrielle’s evolution.
60. 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
This dark, but visually stunning episode, is one of Xena: Warrior Princess‘s most violent and most sexual episodes from its entire run. Xena and Gabrielle infiltrate a harem to rescue Gab’s niece; erotic dances and violent beatings commence. I’m often conflicted about my feelings for this episode. It is very in-your-face. The story is interesting, it’s well-produced, and yet… there’s something unsatisfying about it. For one thing, there’s not a lot of action. Yes, Xena is beaten pretty badly in a prison, but there are few fight scenes. That is unusual for a Xena episode. Also, Gabrielle’s motivation here seems a tiny bit forced, although I can get on board with it if I try hard enough. And I must admit, her confrontation with Gurkhan is quite powerful. This is an interesting and engaging episode. One of the production staff’s favorite episodes, I had to include it. It certainly is beautifully done.
Come back next Thursday for numbers 51-55! And check back tomorrow for my first Film Fridat post!