Judge Adam Arseneau had the same nickname in high school gym class.
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 Four (published September 29th, 2004), Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Five (published October 27th, 2004), and Xena: Warrior Princess Multipath Adventure (published October 19th, 2000) are also available.
Archangel Michael: "You dare talk of 'dirty work' when you've besmirched
so many souls with your nefarious filth?"
Having spent five seasons making amends for her past, Xena gives it another go in Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Six, the final season in the fantastically popular beat-'em-up fantasy adventure. Reviewing this DVD set is a slightly apocryphal task, since fans who have spent hundreds of dollars keeping up with the series to this point will no doubt be buying it regardless of anything I say. Likewise, anyone who has not purchased any of the series up until this point will probably not rush out to pick up the last season in the set.
So from a review standpoint, this is slightly pointless. But, we've got a job to do, and this is it.
Facts of the Case
Xena (Lucy Lawless) and Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor) head home after the events from Season Five, along with Eve, Xena's daughter, now all grown, only to run into Ares (Kevin Smith) vying for help to restore his powers of godhood. Xena's adventures this season take her from North Africa to Japan, to Hades and back, as well as through the very fabric of time and space…typical day at the office, really.
Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Six contains all 22 episodes from Season Six, including the two-part season finale:
• Coming Home
So much has been written on the subject of ye olde Warrior Princess that it is an exercise in redundancy to delve too deep into it. I would probably just look stupid, or redundant, or possibly both. Suffice it to say, Xena has become a phenom of pop culture, the name itself synonymous with female empowerment and butt-kicking, raping and pillaging the ratings of syndicated television for years. Men loved the show for the scantily-clad women and sexually charged relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, while the lesbian community embraced the show for exactly the same reasons. This is not to say that only horn dogs and gay women like the show, but the joke doesn't work any other way. Suffice it to say, the show had an appeal; be it the clever blend of fantasy and mythology with Christian iconography, the show's inherent fondness for physical comedy and buffoonery, the well-choreographed action sequences, the fantastic acting between Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, and on and on, Xena was one of those rare ambitious shows that managed to master just about everything it tried to do.
Personally, I was a Hercules fan myself, but Xena would work fine in a pinch. I always liked the emphasis on light-hearted buffoonery of Hercules over the constant whining and atonement issues of Xena, but admittedly, Herc's leather-clad female counterpart had some very compelling things going for her. Incredibly hot women everywhere you looked, for example. Plus, other stuff, I would assume. Plus, Gabrielle. Boy howdy, I always had kind of a crush on Gabrielle. By Season Six, she sports a short haircut, henna tattoos, swapped the staff for sai, and gained the ability to make total ass-kicking a mystic spiritual exercise; a difficult trick to pull off to say the least. I'd ask her out on a date, for sure.
In all seriousness, what Xena actually had going for it (beyond the girls) was the ability to explore complex emotional issues of redemption, mysticism, spirituality, faith, ethics, and all the other dalliances and experimental explorations not afforded Hercules in his adventures. Especially toward the end of the show, Xena got downright metaphorical, a freedom afforded to the show from its rabid and fanatical fan base, who would hungrily devour absolutely anything Xena-related, securing the show's financial footing and giving producers the mandate to do whatever the snake they wanted. Like the "Send In The Clones" episode from Season Six, where Xena and Gabrielle suddenly find themselves alive in the modern day, resurrected by the miracle of cloning through recovered fragments of their hair. And the parties responsible for bringing them back to life? Die-hard fanatical Xena fans. This incredible unpredictability breathed fresh life into the "beat-em-up-serial" format of the show, and when you tuned in week after week, you literally had no idea where the show would take you.
The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle took on a life of its own in the fan community, never really illustrating exactly the nature of their relationship. It drove people crazy. People were reading all kinds of lesbian undertones into the relationship, which was left deliberately ambiguous by the series's creators, and good for them. The unspoken aspects worked incredibly well in the show's favor. The characters' relationships, as always, are far from static; they are ever-changing, growing and shifting between temperaments. At the start of the series, Xena was passionate, brutal, cold, and violent, while Gabrielle was naïve, innocent, sweet, and rational; their personalities a natural balance for one another, Gabrielle keeping Xena in check, Xena inspiring Gabrielle to strive for greatness. By Season Six, the dichotomy has shifted somewhat; Gabrielle has inherited more than a fair dose of Xena's passion, violence, and temper, while Xena seems to finally getting closer to the inner peace she strives for. The natural chemistry between actors Lawless and O'Connor ensured the fantastic play between characters, and by Season Six, they have the characters down so well that the entire affair seems effortless and totally natural. The duality of the characters is so inherently fundamental to the show's success that without Gabrielle, Xena would have been but a pale imitation of the show that Xena: Warrior Princess ultimately became.
Xena was at the top of its game by the final season, every element perfectly oiled and calibrated. The fights were tight, the acting superb, the special effects less cheesy with each passing episode, and the dialogue…well, the dialogue has always been cheesy. Balancing the show's natural flair for comedy and buffoonery with a hard-edged dramatic narrative, Xena: Warrior Princess, Season Six contains some of the most satisfying episodes the show ever created ("When Fates Collide" in particular, which many consider to be the best episode of the series). This is good television, to say the least, and fans who have been keeping up with the Xena DVD releases know exactly what to expect with Season Six: decent visuals, great sound, and a crapload of extra material catered specifically to the die-hard fan. If you are going to shell out for television box sets, Anchor Bay sure knows how to treat a fan right.
Visually, the set is on par with previous seasons. The transfer is decent, all things considering, clean from defect or damage, decent sharpness and black levels, but still has that "Xena-esque" graininess and saturation of reds during low-light shots. Colors are vibrant, artificially so, having been tinkered with to produce some wild and crazy color contrasts, but the overall presentation is impressive. Considering the quality of the stock used to shoot the production, it looks as good as can reasonably be expected.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is aggressive and well-defined, throwing the music up into the rear and side channels with power and machismo. The bass thumps in time with the action, with good low-end response, but dialogue can sometimes be muted in comparison to the score, which is mixed incredibly loud. For a television show, this surround presentation had got some serious muscle, but at times it can feel chaotic and overwhelming. Luckily, the show sounds fantastic down-mixed into a 2.0 configuration.
As far as supplementary content, well, to call it a deluge would be an understatement. There are enough commentary tracks, featurettes, interviews, and material here to stop an invading Turkish army. Give it up for Anchor Bay for going all-out for the final season of Xena. We get interviews with cast and crew discussing particular episodes, audio and video commentaries on selected episodes, the standard special effects featurette and deleted scenes, an alternate Director's Cut of the series finale, production drawings, a "Xena Convention 2004" featurette, as well as a CD-ROM filled with bios, trivia, sketches, and all kinds of goodies. Definitely can't complain with this offering, but I gotta tell you, it still blows my mind to hear Lucy Lawless talk in her Kiwi accent.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
By the sixth season, there really is nothing you can say about Xena that hasn't been said already, except the way the show went off the air.
The two-part finale is something of contemptuous bone to say the least; about half the fans absolutely love it, and half absolutely hate it. Almost all were universally appalled by the coldness and brutality of it…you gotta admit, she goes out with a bang. The episode itself is pretty superfluous, and only really serves as a vessel for Xena's untimely demise, which I so want to go into graphic detail about so badly that my fingers quake in anticipation. But I won't. That would be very unfair, and ruin the fun. Xena has been brought back to life so many times that it seems slightly apocryphal to play this particular death as anything more significant than a particularly nasty hangnail, but hey, the season is ending. Suspension of disbelief, I guess.
Did the show end well? Is there such thing as a good finale? Not really. It ended. Let us leave it at that.
As stated at the start of this review, here's how this works: If you're a Xena fan and you've purchased Seasons One through Five, then there is no way in Zeus you are going to not buy this DVD after laying down so much capital. Don't even pretend otherwise.
Likewise, for everyone else who has a passing interest in the show (which covers just about everyone, let's be honest), there is no way you would go out and buy the final DVD set out of the blue without buying the previous sets. That would never happen.
So there you have it. If you have been keeping up, you'll buy it; and if you haven't, then you won't. There is no middle ground with this one.
Another reviewing job well done. Time to have a beer.
All I know is, when I die? That's not the way I want to go out. Yikes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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