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Maternal Instincts Reviewed

One of the problems some people had with series three is the extreme variation in tone between episodes. The previous two episodes were highly amusing, slapstick, bits of fluff. This episode is possibly one of the darkest ever. Xena and Gabrielle meet up with Solan - Xena`s son, while Hope - Gabrielle`s daughter also reappears. To complete the mothers, Ephiny and her centaur son Xenan also appear. However, this is certainly no happy family reunion as Hope releases Callisto from the lava pit to help get her revenge on Xena and Gabrielle. Callisto learns about Solan, and Hope reveals to Gabrielle that she is her daughter, and that Callisto is planning to kill all of the children in the village. Xena sends Solan to safety, but unfortunately, Gabrielle sends Hope to the same safe place, thinking Callisto might harm her. With very nasty results...

This is probably as close as XWP has ever got to real Greek Tragedy, the death of children, misunderstandings, lies, revenge, murder. I found this episode very difficult to watch and it isn`t one I am likely to stick in my VCR too often, however, in terms of quality, this was an excellent episode. When I first read the synopsis, I couldn`t believe that they would kill off Xena`s son, it seemed a very mean thing to do, and not in keeping with this family show. However, in retrospect, I was wrong. Yes it IS a family show, but Xena has always been a dark show too. It can be easy to forget that the background of this character is terribly evil, frankly. The drama of the rift has been tough going, but while in many ways, Xena deserved to suffer - after all how much has she really paid for her crimes? - I was sorry that Gabrielle suffered so. The arguement about who was to blame for the rift could go on and on, but I have a lot of sympathy for Gabrielle. She was Dahak`s perfect victim in that she would always protect her child and see the good in it above anyone else because of her character- she sees the good in everyone. Her only real crime was to try and save her child, and, of course, lying to Xena.

I thought the interactions between Xena and Callisto were fantastic in this episode. There was such a confusion of emotions, and you could fully empathise with both. It was hard to see what more could be done with Callisto after her S2 appearances, but her little speech about "bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh" was so well delivered by Hudson Leick. Callisto`s goal has always been to make Xena suffer - as *she* did and by taking Xena`s family away, her revenge is complete. As I said, as much as we love Xena, and her dark side, considering what carnage she was responsible for, how has she really suffered? If she was around today there would be war crimes commissions or the UN would be chasing her, she would be top of INTERPOL`s wanted list. As sad as is was for her, the death of Solan has a certain symmetry I suppose. It also gave us a chance to see Lucy Lawless at her best once more. She was superb in the scenes at the hut with Solan`s body, and in her later confrontations with Callisto. Those scenes were amongst the series best. When Callisto empathises with Xena, she really DOES understand what it is like to lose your family to a murderous monster. The scene in the caves is another facinating one, as Callisto reflects on how she feels and Xena refuses to let her escape. Finally, that funeral scene with Xena refusing to accept Gabrielle`s explanation or expression of regret. Xena`s reaction is spot on here. She is angry still, but her face doesn`t look murderous (See The Bitter Suite next), merely grief stricken. She even looks regretful after her harsh words to Gabrielle but stoically walks away. Poor Gabrielle has seen her child turn out to all that she feared, and for someone like Gabrielle, killing Hope must have been awful. Her torment must have been considerable, and she gets no support from Xena. Renee O`Connor also turns in a very good performance, particularly in the scene where she realizes that Hope WAS responsible for Solan`s death.

A few niggles however. How did they all know that Hope was responsible? Surely Callisto was the prime suspect. She was the one with the best motive, and as a God she surely could have discovered his whereabouts. Secondly, what was that about killing all the children? A rather weak plot device and not really Callisto`s style. Another point, and maybe this will be answered in a later episode, why do Hope and Dahak want to destroy Xena anyway?

I am a big Ephiny fan, but she had a poor role in this episode. Apart from being the only `successful` mother we see, where are her Amazons? Isn`t she the queen?(Especially as Gabrielle has been describing herself as an `Amazon Princess`) She is the child minder in this episode, little more. The child performers were OK, both battling hard against terribly bad wigs. Amy Morrison as Hope was pretty good at portraying the evil Hope. David Taylor is not quite such a talent, and the scenes between Solan and Xena were a bit sentimental for my taste - apart from when he was dead of course!! The sensitive chats were not really Xena, and once she agreed to take him after Kaleipus` death (a different Kaleipus by the way), well, his fate was sealed.

However, this was a heart breaker of an episode, and a few nasty wigs and slight plot holes don`t get in the way of one of the toughest episodes ever for Xena and Gabrielle. Callisto really does seem to have done all she can now, and rumours of the character leaving the show for good make sense. Great Xena/Callisto scenes and gut wrenching events make this essential if uneasy viewing. Full marks to the writer Chris Manheim and director Mark Beesley.

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