Full Moon It Must Be Xena [Xena Rewatch 2.1-2.4]October 11th, 2010 at 20:38
A few key points of art direction as we groove our way into Season 2:
While the production team in Season 1 seemed to go to great lengths to avoid any night shoots at all (do we remember the scene in which Gabrielle & Diana lie down to sleep in the middle of the day?) this new season features night scenes in nearly every episode, as well as many more sunrise and sunset shots. This also leads to the iconic ‘full moon’ shot which used to cause me much merriment. It’s always full moon in Xena. Every single time.
Also, Gabrielle is now wearing her classic outfit which was to represent her character over the next two and a half years: teeny sage green top showing off midriff, low-slung plum suede skirt, fighting staff. I love this outfit of hers, which still sums up ‘Gabrielle’ to me and it took me a long time to come to terms with her later style changes, especially the cutting of her hair. It was an important change, though, marking her ascension from Xena’s junior assistant to her partner.
This episode is notable for introducing us to Solan, Xena’s long lost son. It’s also the first time we hear the name of Borias, Xena’s lover and the father of her son, the warlord who turned his back on evil before she did, who will come to be such an iconic part of her backstory. Solan has been raised by centaurs, and while he takes pride in being the son of Borias he has no idea who his mother is.
It’s an interesting enough insight into Xena’s past, but the episode itself don’t have much to it apart from the scenes with Xena and Solan. There’s a shiny evil stone, one of Xena’s former lieutenants wants it, lalala. Disposable ep. (though to be fair the Ixion stone will be highly relevant in a major two parter within a year or so – but not a Xena one!)
In defending the temple of the Fates, Xena kills a masked warrior who turns out to be a child. She is so upset that the Fates make her an offer: she can live the life she would have had if she had never picked up a sword, as long as she never spills a drop of blood.
This is a clever timey wimey sort of episode that builds on Xena’s backstory very effectively. Her baby brother Lyceus is still alive, which brings her great joy, but in this reality the warlord Cortez took her village, and her mother is dead. Step by step, she comes to terms with the person she is, and the person she could have been.
The really creepy part of this episode is the youngest Fate, who in a year or so will play young Callisto, and has a similarly deadened stare. It’s a nice touch to have the same actor back playing Cortez, though. The relationship between Xena and a hardened slave version of Gabrielle is very touching, and I was pleased to see Xena did actually take the initiative to choose which life was the better one, rather than having Lyceus get killed to make the decision for her, which is where I thought the story was taking us.
This is probably one of the better let’s-pretend-the-Bible-is-just-another-mythology stories. Xena rings in a bitter anniversary with an old friend, forgetting to mention beforehand to Gabrielle that he is a giant. He has signed up with a war party to support them in their fight against a minority group of (apparently nomadic) “Israelites”.
Gabrielle hangs out with the Israelites and starts flirting heavily with the second son of their leader, a boy called David. Yep, Xena’s pal is Goliath. Booyah!
I like the fact that Goliath is largely a sympathetic figure in this story, though obviously doing the wrong thing, and it’s nice to see Xena dealing with the moral ambiguity of having to fight a friend whose only crime is being on the wrong side. I have to say, though, for someone who was killing and maiming not so long ago, Xena does a nice turn in I Am Judging You So Hard Right Now.
Gabrielle is utterly bemused that the boy she is flirting with turns out to have a fiancee. Doesn’t he KNOW that all the unattached lads under 20 are reserved for Gab-flirting?
The most important aspect of the episode is of course the Israelites themselves, a tribe who will return again and again, growing in stature and relevance to the Xenaverse mythology, much like the Amazons but without all the headbanging dance moves and cute outfits.
This is probably one of the most artistically ambitious episodes so far. The Bacchae are presented as vampires, and it’s interesting how easily the two different mythologies dovetail together. I wasn’t keen on this episode much in the past, mainly because I dislike the classic cop-out ending of so many pre-Buffy vampire stories; the kind where, once you kill the head vamp, all the other vampires reclaim their humanity. Boring!
There is some great use of weird horror movie style cinematography in this episode, and I do enjoy the disembodied head of Orpheus. They were clever to bring back Joxer for this particular story, as Ted Raimi is one of the few comic actors who can carry off talking to a disembodied head with such aplomb, and it’s a credit to him that those sequences work so well when they could have been BEYOND stupid. The double bluff of setting up Xena as a possible Bacchae was well played out, as was Gabrielle’s seduction into the Bacchae lifestyle, and shocking visual effect of Gab-as-monster.
Speaking of pre-Buffy, at this point Xena is still 5 months away from the first ever screening of the Buffy pilot, and I looked that up because of a couple of key points in this episode. The portrayal of Bacchus with his big horns is powerfully reminiscent of that dude in Legend, and you might remember that Buffy also did this with the Judge in their own Season 2.
Also, a scene in this episode pre-empts Joss Whedon’s classic reversal moment from the very first scene of the Buffy pilot, in which a predatory bloke is attacked by a not-so-vulnerable-after-all girl who proves to have very sharp teeth. Aww, Joss, and we all thought you were so original!
Boys who want romance with Xena: 7
Boys Xena allows to romance her: 2
Xena dead boyfriends: 2
Gabrielle dead boyfriends: 1/7 (I am so counting David as a bf though he did not reciprocate her interest)
“Adorable” children: 23
Babies tossed humorously in the air during fight scenes: 2
Xena doppelgangers: 1
Xena sings at a funeral: 1
Xena dies: 1
Gabrielle dies: 1
Characters brought back from the dead (including ghosts and visits to the Underworld): 9
Xena or Gabrielle earns money: 1
Xena or Gabrielle spends money: 2
Out of the Pantheon: Morpheus, Ares, Hera, the Titans, Hades, Celesta, Charon, the Fates, Bacchus
The Celebrity Red Carpet of the Ancient World: Pandora, Prometheus, Hercules, Iolaus, Sisyphus, Helen of Troy, Paris, Deiphobus, Menelaus, Euripides, Homer, Autolycus, Meleager, Oracle of Delphi, David, Goliath, Orpheus