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Endgame Reviewed

Lots and lots of TV shows seem to have an episode called Endgame - it`s a chess term. After the opening encounters and tactics of a game, it`s the final plan a player has to finish off his or her opponent.

The final couple of episodes of Series 4 are very dramatic ones. The big event of Endgame is the death of a much loved guest star - Ephiny snuffs it before the opening credits!(Solari is also killed off!) The Romans also play a large role in these final episodes. The alternate title for this episode kind of gives it away - The Death of Pompey. However, the most notable Roman on view is Brutus - who is a major character in this and the event of the Ides of March. He is the most honorable and honest Roman we have met yet. He is the one who kills Ephiny, but it is in a fair battle, and she dies like a warrior. Brutus is captured, but the new queen - Gabrielle - does not want to kill him. Xena has other plans that involve using him to discover what Caesar and Pompey are up to.

Aside from the tragic death of Ephiny, this is a memorable episode in that we once again see Gabrielle`s new way of peace being tested. How can she be an Amazon queen while she is on this path? When they first enter the Amazon village, Xena takes over the battle planning, and indeed seems more at home there than ever before - even talking about "us" and "we", which she hasn`t before. Maybe she is relieved she won`t have to explain to Ephiny why she broke her arm back in The Bitter Suite.

At first I was a little confused by Brutus. Xena and Gabrielle appeared to know him, and he knew them yet they hadn`t met had they? This can be explained as the previous Brutus actors have been mere bit part local actors. Brutus was one of the soldiers on the beach when Xena was crucified. This actor was a more mature man, the description of him as "young, dark haired", was a bit odd for this man. However, he was a good character, and the actor did a fine job.

There were some great battle scenes in this episode. Xena riding into battle on Argo, sword flying and a feral snarl was particularly memorable. Her confrontation with Pompey was a classic. Not just for the action sequences, but for the superb writing, and the shocking final blow struck by Xena. Quite a stand off. I also really liked the relationship between Xena and Brutus. Xena tries to make him see that Caesar is not a good leader, while he - unsurprisingly - disagrees. With the facts of history proving Xena correct, it is facinating to see how they write Xena into the scenario.

The final funeral scene - while starting badly with too many scantily clad Amazons writhing on the floor - ends superbly, with some wonderful new music fron Joe LoDuca, and a touching scene between Xena and Gabrielle. The one other feature of this episode in the introduction of a young Amazon named Amarice, who is a slightly less annoying version of Tara. Jennifer Sky played Amarice in several more episodes, before moving on to the title role in the new half hour action show Cleopatra 2525. She is pretty raw here, and wastes some wonderfully written lines. However, I suppose it was necessary to have at least one Amazon who we knew.

Top marks to writer Steve Sears and director Garth Maxwell. A brilliant episode.

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