Judge David Gutierrez picks up the Chakram and Sword and slashes through season four.
Our reviews of Xena: The 10th Anniversary Collection (published September 21st, 2005), Xena: Warrior Princess, Season One (published May 26th, 2003), Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Two (published May 3rd, 2004), Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Three (published May 17th, 2004), Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Five (published October 27th, 2004), Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Six (published June 15th, 2005), and Xena: Warrior Princess Multipath Adventure (published October 19th, 2000) are also available.
"I am the destroyer of nations."—Xena
I openly admit I had never fully seen an episode of Xena. After watching a full season and then some, I think I was really missing out on something. After all, how can I not warm up to a woman in a leather corset who could pin me in less than two seconds? How could I not fall under the demure Gabrielle's Siren-like spell? What's not to like about a show that gives the world more Bruce Campbell? How does one resist Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Four?
Facts of the Case
Set during the heyday of Greek/Roman gods and Titans, Xena (Lucy Lawless) roams around righting wrongs in order to make up for her past deeds. Her companion, Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), acts as Xena's moral compass and undertakes a spiritual journey of her own. During their time together, Xena and Gabrielle encounter a variety of threats and allies.
In their fourth season, Xena and Gabrielle find themselves questioning their motives, relationship, behavior and personal philosophies. As in all friendships, people grow and change at different rates. Xena fears that Gabrielle might be outgrowing her. Though coping with interpersonal changes, Xena and Gabrielle have to deal with life-threatening baddies, family, zealots and the theater. Did I mention this show also has its share of comedy?
Not knowing what happened in the three previous seasons, it seems the intent of the fourth was to allow everyone to change and force the characters to question everything. Xena's crisis this season revolves around her continuing having to pay for past sins. It seems every other week (or every other episode), someone's got it in for Xena. Perhaps mirroring the viewer who has stayed with this show, Xena grows weary of this. She's thinking of hanging up her Chakram. After all, Gabrielle has traded in her staff for some internal peace and meditation. Why shouldn't Xena?
Somehow, the people behind Xena managed to make our main character's internal crisis work through the season. By opening with a two-parter that makes Xena revisit one the darkest times in her life, we are shown how far she's come and how central Gabrielle is to helping Xena change. I don't think this show would work if not for their relationship. Despite its sexual overtones, theirs is a relationship that transcends sexuality and ventures a deeper area. Much like the Sean/Christian relationship in Nip/Tuck, Xena and Gabrielle would choose each other above all others. Even the comic relief character, Joxer (Ted Raimi, Spider-Man), has to cope with an onslaught of emotions when he takes his first life.
Broken up over ten discs, this full season contains the following twenty-two episodes and includes a heavy dose of bonus features. Beware of spoilers below!
• "Adventures in the Sin Trade—Part One"
• "Adventures in the Sin Trade—Part Two"
• "A Family Affair"
• "In Sickness and In Hell"
• "A Good Day"
• "A Tale of Two Muses"
• "Locked Up and Tied Down"
• "Past Imperfect"
• "The Key to the Kingdom"
• "Daughter of Pomira"
• "If the Shoe Fits."
• "Paradise Found"
• "Between the Lines"
• "The Way"
• "The Play's the Thing"
• "The Convert"
• "Takes One to Know One"
• "The Ides of March"
• "Déjà Vu All Over Again"
Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Four puts its characters through the wringer and leaves the viewer dangling. By setting expectations at the beginning of the series through a series of visions of the future, Xena was in danger of writing itself into a corner. Thankfully, what would have been a crutch for most series is one its greatest strengths. I wanted to know how these characters would end up the way they did. I want to know what's going to happen to them later.
The acting, like Xena and Gabrielle, is all over the place. Particularly in the comedic episodes, the actors occasionally overdo it. However, in the world of centaurs and anachronisms, it becomes part of the overall package. Lawless and O'Connor come across perfectly at ease playing Xena and Gabrielle, no matter the setting or situation. Raimi's Joxer also stands strong as the show's comedic center. Any Bruce Campbell is good Bruce Campbell, so seeing him as Autolycus is always welcome.
Thank you, Anchor Bay, for putting together such a lovely package. Most episodes have a series of interviews on them or a commentary. The commentaries and interviews are very candid and honest, particularly those involving series producer Rob Tapert. Additionally, one disc contains cut or extended scenes that run simultaneously with the aired scenes. While rough, the inclusion of these scenes fleshes out what is discussed in the interviews and commentaries. All three featurettes make good additions for fans. A CD-Rom featuring trivia, background information and other information nuggets is also included. All these discs are housed in a nicely illustrated folding case.
The shows are presented in a full-frame format. Most of the time, the picture is lovely. However, the picture can get murky when heavy amounts of black or darkness are on the screen. One episode in particular suffers from this effect, making it less enjoyable to watch. The Dolby Digital sound was strong with only a few dropped or muffled moments.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'm hard-pressed to find something negative about this series. At times, the special effects fell short. Additionally, the episodes grew repetitive. Even still, the series has won me over.
Suspend disbelief and embrace the anachronisms, sound effects, occasionally bad special effects, mad fight scenes, memorable characters and smart writing. Give the girls a chance.
Xena is a good deal more complex than it appears. It is funny, dark, philosophical, tongue-in-cheek, sexy, intelligent and simple. It's surprising, a testament to the team behind the series that the show works and is widely accepted.
Given the treatment that Xena and Gabrielle received in Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Four, all charges are dropped and the parties are free to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Episode commentaries/interviews
Review content copyright © 2004 David Gutierrez; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.