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One Against an Army Reviewed

After the stunning brilliance and scale of Bitter Suite, we have this fabulous, but more traditional episode that makes you admire the series all over again. Gabrielle and Xena get involved when the Persian army attack Greece. They meet Phiddipedes on his marathon run to Athens to get help, then a Spartan deserter Dorian(Douglas Kamo). Xena decides that they must try and slow down the Persians to give Athens a chance to prepare or Greece will be lost. However, an early skirmish with the Persians leaves Gabrielle wounded, an arrow in the back. Worse is to come as it turns out the arrow is poisoned and the future looks bleak for Gab. Holeing up in an old barn that happens to be where Xena stashed some weapons three years before (wow, not ten!), Xena tries to heal Gabrielle as she refuses to let them leave the battle because they have to slow down the army. Inevitably the Persians arrive, and inevitably Xena discovers that the Persian soldiers have an antidote, but the fight scene is an all action one. The real strength of this episode is the excellent writing from these two new writers. Xena and Gabrielle`s relationship has been through the wringer, but this episode is a reaffirmation of their close friendship. One slight discrepancy - Gabrielle apologises about China, but no mention is made of Hope, Solan or Illusia. This is probably due to this episode being filmed earlier, but the running order being switched. The opening scenes have Gabrielle trying to do a somersault like Xena does, and have a nice playful tone. The meeting with Phiddipedes is another of the historical figures Xena meets periodically. An historical in-joke when Xena tells him to pace himself and that a run in the heat could kill him, as that is what happened to Phiddipedes.

The drama of Gabrielle`s illness is beautifully played. Renee O`Connor is superb, and we have never seen Xena looking as helpless and torn. It is reminiscent of the outstandingly good series one episode, The Greater Good, only here it is Gabrielle who is injured. Very well written scenes have a fever-wracked Gabrielle returning to her first meeting with Xena, and asking her to take her with her away from Poteidaia, and later imagining a terrible fate for Xena.

The actual battle scenes between Xena and that army are as long and hard fought as any we have seen for a long time. Xena actually gets sweaty! We see her go down under punches, but a blast of the Xena theme heralds an all action Xena revival. However, the end of the fight certainly raises a giggle. Xena chops down a couple of soldiers, then holds her sword out at about 30 Persians, looks threatening and yells, "go home, there are thousands more like me!". And amazingly they do! I kept waiting for them to look at each other, laugh heartily and shout "charge!". Either that, or Diana, Meg and Leah turn up to prove Xena`s point. I know Xena has a great menacing stare, but would an army really do that? A few stay to ambush Xena, but soon she is giving the antidote to a groggy Gab before flopping down exhausted. This is about the first time I can remember seeing Xena realistically get tired. Usually she is superhuman both in her fighting and in her quick recovery. Lucy suits the sweaty look!

Favourite scenes include a really nice farewell scene between Xena and Argo. Xena has made a vow to Gabrielle that they will face their destiny together, which means death for them both. We then see Xena releasing Argo, bidding her not to be stopping for any stallions. Aaahh! A touching scene with really nice music accompanying it. I also loved the end part when Xena gives Gabrielle the antidote, and Gab opens her eyes and asks "are we dead?" I could go on. This was a superb episode in a totally different way to the previous ones. It goes back to the heart of the show - Xena and Gabrielle. Their relationship and their mission. It is Xena who wants to forget about stopping the army to save her friend. "I`m done paying for my mistakes, my responsibility now is you," she says. A very different tune for Xena whose quest for redemption is what keeps her on the road. It is also interesting to see her try and recreate her exploits of The Debt, where she was able to use the power Lao Ma spoke of, to destroy Ming Tien`s palace. She is unable to, however. Due to the shuffling of episodes, there are a few odd moments like the one mentioned earlier, and a lovely statement from Xena, "even in death Gabrielle, I will never leave you." Really? Last week she wanted her dead? Forgotten that drag already Gab? Gabrielle`s attempts to learn Xena`s flips also reveal that she has a little Xena toothpick dollie - and guess where Gab keeps it!!? A wonderful episode.

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