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 26-30 on the list.
26. Season 2, Episode 14: “A Necessary Evil” (Aired: 02/10/97 | Filmed: 11/26 – 12/05/96)
In order to stop the evil, and now immortal, Velasca from hunting down Gabrielle, Xena must unleash an even more depraved immortal to vanquish her—Callisto.
Written by Paul Robert Coyle | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V0219
In this, the conclusion of a three-part story arc that finds Xena both dead and resurrected and Gabrielle made an Amazon queen, Callisto returns to help defeat the villain of the previous episode, the vengeful ex-Amazon, Velasca. This episode is just plain fun from start to finish — chockfull of laugh-out-loud lines, but with the necessary emotional beats. Though Velasca is an awesome and delightfully campy villain, the best moments come from Xena, Gabrielle, and Callisto, whom Xena rescues from the temple in which Hercules trapped her (on an episode of his show). There are two standout moments in “A Necessary Evil” — Xena confessing her crimes to an audience of villagers, and the Truth or Dare game between Callisto and Gabrielle (“When I sliced open your husband, how long did it take him to die?”) Though it seems a contrivance for Xena to even THINK about freeing Callisto and using her against Velasca, Leick is always a treat and adds volumes to any episode. This is classic Xena. In fact, I would say this is as classic as Xena gets – lots of campy ass-kicking chicks making us laugh and cry. I highly recommend this episode to new fans, but they should watch the two previous episodes first.
27. Season 3, Episode 5: “Gabrielle’s Hope” (Aired: 10/27/97 | Filmed: 06/06 – 06/17/97)
Gabrielle must make a difficult decision regarding her allegiance to Xena after she gives birth to the daughter of Dahak, the Evil One.
Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Charles Siebert & Andrew Merrifield | Production No. V0404
For those unfamiliar with the series, when fans mention the “The Rift,” they are referring to the Season Three storyline where, through incredibly shocking and dramatic circumstances, Xena and Gabrielle’s friendship was slowly ripped apart. Though the Rift began in the previous episode, things kick into HIGH gear here; in short, it’s not for the faint of heart. In the previous episode, Gabrielle killed for the first time and was engulfed in the flames of Dahak — an evil god who was going to use Gabrielle’s sacrifice to enter the physical world. We find out in this episode that Dahak has somehow impregnated her. This is a scary episode, produced especially for Halloween, and can be painful to watch. Gabrielle has a baby and everyone’s trying to kill it because it’s the daughter of Dahak. Xena defends the child, but after the baby, named Hope, kills a knight, Xena is adamant that the child must die. Of course, Gabrielle refuses to let that happen, believing her child is not evil until proven evil. Both ladies have valid points, but I won’t spoil the outcome for you. It’s awful but exciting to see our characters in such opposition. “Gabrielle’s Hope” is a great dramatic and action-packed episode that you won’t soon forget.
28. 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
This is one of the best episodes of the final season. It’s also one of the most violent Xena episodes ever produced. In an homage to Saving Private Ryan, Gabrielle leads the Amazons into battle against an evil warrior who has killed most of their tribes and captured their queen. By the end of the episode, the Amazons are all but wiped out. This is a big episode — big images, big fights, big drama. But its opulence fortunately adds, rather than distracts, from the episode’s emotional core. This is really Gabrielle’s episode as she takes charge of the Amazons, and the audience (and Xena) realizes just how much Gabrielle has changed in six seasons. The speech she gives to the disheartened Amazons is riveting and was apparently the source of much conflict on set, as Renee O’Connor refused to perform the speech as it was initially written, deeming it totally out-of-character. (Wish we could see those original words!) My favorite moment, though, is Gabrielle’s FURY at Varia for attempting to kill her in exchange for their freedom. “To Helicon And Back” is a pretty sad episode with gorgeous visuals, loads of action, and some pretty interesting happenings for our characters. Recommended highly, but perhaps not for first time viewers.
29. Season 3, Episode 17: “Forget Me Not” (Aired: 03/09/98 | Filmed: 01/19 – 01/23/98)
Haunted by images of the past, Gabrielle goes to the Temple of Mnemosyne to forget her painful memories.
Written by Hilary J. Bader | Directed by Charlie Haskell | Production No. V0417
This is a clip show. Yes, a CLIP show. But it’s incredibly unique and revealing, so it manages to be so much more! Gabrielle goes to the temple of Mnemosyne and considers having her painful memories erased. But if she chooses to lose them, the good ones go too. Gabrielle’s guided through her memories by Ares. Along the way, she deals with some pretty important issues, the most important being how she got to Chin ahead of Xena in “The Debt (I).” (This important detail, which I won’t spoil, is necessary for understanding part in the season finale.) The sequences between Gabrielle and Ares are the best of the episode — well written, captivating, and strangely sexy at times. But it’s Joxer who provides some much needed comic relief, as he attempts to teach the empty memory-less Gabrielle about herself (in typical Joxer fashion). Besides previous clips, Xena only appears in the final minute of the episode. However, because of an original plot, well-chosen clips, sharp dialogue, and a revealing story that MOVES THE SHOW FORWARD, this a highly recommended episode, though probably best for fans who have already caught up on Season Three.
30. Season 2, Episode 2: “Remember Nothing” (Aired: 10/07/96 | Filmed: 05/08 – 05/16/96)
The Three Fates offer Xena the opportunity to erase her past — including her younger brother’s untimely death — but only if she vows to never shed blood in anger again.
Story by Steven L. Sears & Chris Manheim | Teleplay by Chris Manheim | Directed by Anson Williams | Production No. V0201
When discussing “When Fates Collide” a few weeks ago, I mentioned my disdain for “what if?” or alternate universe episodes, finding them either gimmicky or unimportant to the show and its trajectory. However, this episode is an exception. The alternate universe device arises NATURALLY from the action, and the events, while revealing things about Gabrielle, also have a lasting affect on Xena’s character. When Xena kills a young kid in combat, she wishes that she never was a warrior and that the kid could have his life back. The Fates, grateful that Xena saved their temple, grant her that wish. But the moment she spills blood in anger, the old universe will be restored. So Xena gets to see what her life would be like without violence — her youngest brother is still alive, she’s engaged to be married, and Gabrielle is a bitter slave to an obnoxious warlord. This well designed episode is important for a number of reasons. Not only do we finally get to see Lyceus, for whose death Xena still feels responsible, but we also see how Gabrielle’s life has changed because of Xena. The alternate Gabrielle is shocking, but dramatically satisfying. However, the best thing from this episode is Xena’s ablity to reconcile her violence with the good she’s done helping others. Fascinating and well-produced episode. I recommend it highly.
Come back next Thursday for numbers 21-25! And check back tomorrow for another Film Friday post!