Welcome to another Xena Thursday! Today, we’re continuing our series on 18 “Honorable Mentions” that were not included in my list of the 60 best episodes. But first, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, Xena: Warrior Princess 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.
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. Since Xena did so many different things over the 134 episodes, this is the type of show that requires multiple viewings to be properly assessed. So, newbies, 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’s discuss two more underrated Xena episodes that nearly made my “best of” list. (They are presented in chronological order.)
*It’ll be a shorter post today, as yesterday was Christmas and I want to enjoy the holiday!*
07. Season 3, Episode 19: “Tsunami” (Aired: 04/20/98 | Filmed: 02/19 – 02/27/98)
The eruption of Mount Aetna produces a tidal wave that submerges Xena, Gabrielle and Autolycus inside a sinking mining vessel.
Written by Chris Manheim | Directed by John Laing | Production No. V0414
Again we have a solid self-contained adventure show from Xena‘s strongest season — the third. As a bonus, we even get Bruce Campbell as Autolycus. Because this isn’t part of “The Rift,” the episode almost feels like a Season Two installment in its episodic non-serialized format. However, like “The Dirty Half Dozen,” we also get an ensemble of mediocre guest stars whose characters lack depth and whose functions are readily apparent. Still, the episode manages to be highly entertaining, primarily because of the premise: a group of relative strangers trapped inside a small space — in this case, a tsunami submerged cabin of a ship — where sparks are bound to fly. But the only real thing worth watching here are the interactions between the characters that we care about — Xena, Gab, and Autolycus. Love the stuff between Xena, Gab and the fortune teller in the beginning, and I like the humor of Autolycus’ plan to work in the gem mines. (Incidentally, a real life accident occurred on set when a water tank burst. Luckily, no one was injured.) It’s a good episode — but nothing special, especially when compared to some of Season Three’s better designed installments.
08. Season 4, Episode 9: “Past Imperfect” (Aired: 01/04/99 | Filmed: 08/28 – 09/08/98)
Xena has a series of flashbacks in which she recalls military exploits from her evil past—which echo the strategies attackers are using on a town she’s defending.
Written by Steven L. Sears | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V0609
This episode is a mixed bag. It’s very important — we get to see (via flashback) how Xena and Borias came into conflict, the latter’s death, and Solan’s birth. (They even reshot and rewrote the one scene we saw in “Orphan Of War.”) That story is naturally going to make for an interesting episode. It’s the non-flashback sequences that trouble most fans. While the premise is undoubtedly cool — the idea that someone is using Xena’s former tactics to wage war on Corinth — it is entirely too obvious who the perpetrator is. And even when Xena confronts her, it’s very much of a let down. Many fans put this onto the actress, but I like her. I think it’s a shortcoming in the storytelling. It’s just… predictable. More interesting is the stuff between Xena and Gabrielle, as the latter has finally learned about Xena’s vision. The scenes between the two ladies at the beginning and end of this episode are stellar. Incidentally, the first cut of this episode was about 20 minutes too long. Some of this extra footage has been released in various fan kits. I have typed up the missing stuff here. It definitely fills in some gaps and makes the episode less disappointing. Still, this is a flawed but integral installment.
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Mae West Film Friday!