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This second part is equally enthralling, and production values similarly high. (I think it was filmed as one long episode. It is unusual for the same director to do two successive episodes.) We see the effect that Lao Ma`s teachings had on Xena. She ultimately rejects her advice, but only because Xena wasn`t ready for it at that time in her life. She is considerably more human than she was in part 1. This part is especially memorable for the scenes between Xena and Gabrielle. The part where Gabrielle slaps and shouts at Xena is a bit unbelievable to be honest, but Lucy Lawless puts in an amazing performance in that scene. She says nothing yet says so much with her eyes and her face. Despite everything it is hard to see Gabrielle actually acting like that and slapping her. Another big question is how she beat Xena to Chin-(although this is answered nicely in a later episode, Forget Me Not). The relationship between the two women is the heart of the show, and some fans were unhappy at this portrayal of Gabrielle as a casual betrayer and beater of Xena. There are also issues about why Xena didn`t explain herself better to Gabrielle. (OK, so no episode if Gab understands it all!) They were journeying for some time in part one, yet she didn`t say that Lao Ma saved her life? Or what she taught Xena and why she owed her this debt? Clearly Xena and Gabrielle`s communications are not at their best.
The scene in the dungeon is another brilliant one as Gabrielle, bedecked in her Chinese finery wades through that muddy water to talk to her friend. The scene is very well written, with Xena breaking her silence to ask Gabrielle to scratch her nose causing Gabrielle to burst into tears of remorse. It`s an emotional scene that both actors play very well.
Opinions vary on a fantasy sequence that has Xena and Lao Ma flying through the air after Lao Ma has healed Xena`s legs- silly or lovely? But the parts of the story dealing with Xena rejecting Lao Ma`s teachings and going back to the sword are nicely nasty. It is clear that she meant a lot to Xena, and her actions in killing Ming Tien, were justified. Indeed, it seems that Lao Ma wanted Xena to kill him, as she sent back her hairpin- a direct reference to a conversation they had about its use it as a weapon. Quite why Xena kept the killing from Gabrielle, it is hard to see. The deception is another factor in the rift between them, but if Xena could forgive Gabrielle for betraying her, the execution of the monsterous Ming Tien could surely have been explained.
Special mention should go to the costume designers once again. After part one`s grunge look for Xena, she looks fabulous in the rags and wooden collar. Quite a good look on Lucy! The guest actors help make this episode work. Jaqueline Kim was a big hit with fans as Lao Ma, Marton Csokas a dastardly Borias- but where was he supposed to be from? Slightly less successful were Daniel Sing as a slightly one note Ming Tien, and Grant McFarland, who did a silly Fu Man Chu Chinese accent. Eagle eyed fans should have spotted a chakram patterned doorway in Lao Ma`s palace. What with M`Lila having the design for Xena`s breast plate on her t-shirt and Lao Ma`s chakram doorway, I hope we get a future episode about where Xena`s costume and weapons come from. Writer RJ Stewart and director Oley Sassone must be mentioned also for this brilliant two part story.
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