I Don’t Work For Money [Xena Rewatch 1.5-1.8]

1.5 The Path Not Taken
Xena has to go undercover with her old warlord pals to save a princess and stop a war – luckily the bush telegraph passes information along pretty slowly between members of the Secret Society of Warlords. She also gets to make smoochytime with Marcus, a dear “friend” from the past.

The aspect that most jumped out at me in this episode, which is all about the contrasts between Xena’s old and new lives, is her statement to the prince who wants to hire her that she does not work for money. This is a theme that comes up again and again, and in the scenes with the warlords, we see why. Their world is all about victory and profit, and Xena wants none of that. Which begs the question – how does she eat? We often see she and Gabrielle eating in taverns, etc, and she usually has some (though not a lot) of money. While I recall several instances of her refusing or charitably disposing of a reward, though, I don’t remember any of her actually taking (however modest) payment. She seems pretty determined to keep to an oath of poverty – indeed, it’s usually Gabrielle who is in charge of the purse. I’ll be keeping an eye out for further evidence of how the Xena economy works as the series progresses!

1.6 The Reckoning

ARES ARES ARES. Xena tries to save a group of villagers attacked by a hooded man and is later put on trial for their murder. The man in the hood, is of course Ares God of War (I went squee when I saw his blatantly fake goatee sticking out of the hood) , in the first of many attempts to make Xena give up her do-gooding ways and return to being the bloodthirsty bitch who served him. It is strongly suggested here that while Xena “served” him as a warlord, she has never seen him in person before this episode. I don’t remember if this is ever retconned out.

Kevin Smith’s iconic portrayal of the sexy bearded one was certainly later ret-conned into Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (where he was more traditionally menacing and rather less seductive, sadly, as the Big Muscled One’s wicked half-brother), but this is his first appearance in the role and he knocks it out of the park. The relationship between Xena and Ares was to continue to be one of the most interesting and crunchy aspects of this show for its entire run, and it’s cool to see that it was just that good right from the start.

It will be much better, though, once he grows the beard himself. This one is so very fake.

Oh, and the plot twist at the end has to be mentioned. The Xena method for avoiding a murder rap: plead guilty, and then arrange for your local god to bring the “victims” back from the dead. Hooray! Why yes, the Underworld is going to have a revolving door installed in it fairly soon now.

1.7 The Titans
A fairly standard though enjoyable episode, based on the premise that Gabrielle is the only one who figures out how to read a chant properly, and inadvertently frees the Titans from stone. This one also marks the first real argument between Xena and Gabrielle (episode 1 doesn’t count!), the first part of a continuing dialogue about respecting each other’s abilities/skills and treating Gabrielle as an adult. Ultimately, as with many classic Xena stories, it shows how well they complement each other.

1.8 Prometheus
Prometheus has been chained up, which means that human healing no longer works. Xena swashbuckles her way through a series of trials to win a sword that will break the chains imprisoning him, and Hercules promptly tries to get it off her. The two of them desperately out-noble each other, as the one who does the deed will be killed.

This whole episode is almost painfully awkward, a meshing together of the Hercules and Xena tv shows which displays neither hero to full effect. It feels more like a Hercules episode than a Xena one, and certainly does not give a very positive idea of that show – both Hercules and Iolaus come off as quite one-note, and there’s a very obvious “hello, backstory” weight dragging the whole thing down. In particular, the Gabrielle/Iolaus romance is quite tacky and comes out of nowhere – in later occasional crossovers these characters displayed great chemistry together but in this one, especially considering how young Gabrielle seems in this first season, it’s kinda skanky. Xena credits Hercules with changing her life, and the two are very lovey dovey with each other, though on this rewatch I do think that he seems a lot more into her than she is into him – she wants him to stay alive because the world needs him, whereas he wants her to live because he loves her. It’s important to remember that this is season two Hercules, and he’s telling the truth that Xena is the first woman who has meant anything to him since his wife died – this is before Serena the Golden Hind, before Morrigan, and he really is still just a baby. So I’ll cut him some slack. Also, having watched season 2 Hercules, the awkwardness of this episode is not at all typical. I put it down to an episode that is trying too hard to do too many things.

Xena does fancy Hercules enough for smoochies, though it’s pretty clear that he ranks at least second in the Love Interests for this season, below Marcus. And how much do I LOATHE the fact that one of his hero moments is catching her when she falls/leaps from a great height? Very much, thank you.

This is the first time that the series introduces the concept of soulmates, though the word is never technically mentioned – it is evoked through a story Gabrielle tells to comfort the dying (temporarily, the one thing totally in character for him this episode) about people divided, roaming the world to find the person with the other half of their soul. The rather icky implication of this episode (and the retelling of the story in the later Bard Academy episode) is that Xena and Hercules, being all heroic, share a soul as do Gabrielle and Iolaus, despite the fact that the only thing the latter couple have in common is being blond and being the best friend of a hero.

The show of course would go on to establish a far less heterocentric concept of soulmates, and Hercules would be recategorised as a fond footnote in Xena’s life story and a good, reliable comrade rather than a Great Love of her Life – and in his own show, she would be categorised the same way. For this whole season, though, we have to deal with regular reference to how they can’t be together (when REALLY the only reason they can’t is cos they both have their own shows). The friendships between these four characters are really far more comfortable to watch than their romances.

Boys who want romance with Xena: 4
Boys Xena allows to romance her: 2
Xena dead boyfriends: 1
Gabrielle boyfriends: 4
“Adorable” children: 13
Babies: 1
Babies tossed humorously in the air during fight scenes: 1
Xena sings at a funeral: 1
Characters brought back from the dead: 3
Xena or Gabrielle earns money: 0
Xena or Gabrielle spends money: 1 (actually back in ep 2)
Out of the Pantheon: Morpheus, Ares, Hera, the Titans
The Celebrity Red Carpet of the Ancient World: Pandora, Prometheus, Hercules, Iolaus

Previous Xena Rewatch Posts:
Warlord is a Lady Tonight

2 replies on “I Don’t Work For Money [Xena Rewatch 1.5-1.8]”

  1. Amanda says:

    I got given the Xena box set for Christmas and had your reviews in mind to check back over for when I started watching. I’ve just watched 1.6 the other night, and Kevin Smith was totally rawr! I was trying to explain the chemistry between Smith and Lawless to a friend, and it came down to “Five minutes straight of smouldering looks and pouting lips”. Ahhh Ares you hot little beastie you…

  2. tansyrr says:

    Thank you, that’s lovely to hear! I hope you enjoy it.

    Ares was fabulous in this, and only got better and better. He was an absolute star in season six, and Kevin Smith’s early death was a sad loss to the acting industry.

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