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I think this two part story is one af my all time favourites. There is so much to enjoy in it. The subtitle of this episode is `Betrayal`, and indeed, there are betrayals all around. Xena betrays Borias by not sticking to their partnership; Borias, Xena`s lover, betrays her to Ming Tzu for money; Gabrielle betrays Xena by tipping off Ming Tien; Gabrielle feels Xena is betraying herself by returning to her old ways. It is a strong theme that runs through the episodes. One person who does not betray is Lao Ma. Actress Jaqueline Kim is wonderful as the elegantly beautiful but powerful, ruler`s wife. She helps Xena escape pursuit in a memorable scene by hiding her in her bath. Most facinating of all is Lucy Lawless as the savage, post-Caesar Xena. We have seen a few different facets of Xena`s character over the past 2 and a half series, and it must be hard to play an earlier incarnation of a well known character. Lucy Lawless has a few tricks to emphasise the similarities and differences. She is twitchy and edgy in The Debt, very different from the often still and stone faced Xena we know. Occasional flashes of Meg`s wicked grin appear, but this is as nasty as we have seen Xena. It is interesting to compare the Xena from pre-Caesar Destiny, who was mercenary but reasonable. Her crucifixion and the death of M`Lila clearly changed her. This wild and untamed Xena is a memorable sight, and apart from an early variation on the fire blowing(here with water), very different.
Borias has been much talked of, being Solan`s father, and it is an interesting twist to have him played by the same actor who played Khrafstar in The Deliverer. Marton Csokas is clearly keen on accents, and is unrecognisable. However, both are directly or indirectly responsible for Xena and Gabrielle`s children- an intriguing irony. One of the criticisms that is made about the star`s love interest is that they are not a good match for various reasons- too wimpish, too boring etc. Borias and this Xena are a perfect match for each other. Borias is sneaky and untrustworthy, but he is also a schemer and clearly a clever bandit. He is not intimidated in any way by Xena, and while it is hard to see him as turning to good and opposing Xena over the centaurs, he is a strong character.(Incidentally, Solan must have been conceived and born pretty soon after Xena and Borias left Chin. I wonder if we`ll get that story?)
Another thing that really stands out in this episode, is the very high production values. The costumes are fabulous, from the opulent Chinese silks to Xena and Borias` grungy outlaw look. The photography is beautiful- are they really still in New Zealand? Definitely movie class. The opening flashback shots of Borias` army galloping over teh plains is just brilliantly cinematic. I am a big fan of Joe LoDuca`s music and the score for this episode is again outstanding.
There are points of discussion over the motives and actions of Xena and Gabrielle, but I`ll save those for the next part of the story. A wonderful episode.
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