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I love these last few episodes of Season 5. I was not 100% convinced by Adrienne Wilkinson as Eve in the last episode but then she has such a hard job - to play the daughter of Xena with the spirit of Callisto. She clearly relishes her nasty Livia role - much more fun to play, and this whole episode has a very grim tone. We see Livia`s handiwork, and I loved the way Xena`s torment at seeing it was portrayed - she can see herself and her rage and anger in her daughter, but is grieved at the killings and bloodshed her child is involved in. The ravaged village complete with crucifixions was pretty nasty.
I have rewatched that villager woman who spits in Xena`s face a few times - either she really went for it, or Lucy is really convincing at getting spat upon!
We are left in no doubt that Livia has to be stopped. Gabrielle tries to reach Livia and ends up almost killed, however, it is old Joxer who gets the sword in the belly. Joxer has come in for a lot of flack over the years, and indeed, season 5 was not the best loved season among the fans, but personally, I thought the storyline of old Joxer and this death scene was masterfully done. Ted Raimi spoke about making that scene much shorter. It was originally written with several long speeches to Xena and Gabrielle as he prepares to croak, but I thought it was extremely poigniant having him drift away as he did. Having said that, I was a bit irked that he didn`t really get a decent funeral onscreen. Usually when someone pops their clogs, they get the fire and the Lucy funeral dirge and a nice teary Gabrielle scene. Here, Joxer was just left under a few leaves for Virgil to take home later. Admittedly, a funeral would have slowed the action, so maybe I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
Once again, William Gregory Lee impressed me as Joxer`s son Virgil. It must be hard for young actors to join an established show. Handsome Greg does well in portraying Virgil`s anger, but also handles the emotional stuff well. Can we assume he gets his good looks from his mother? In just a couple of episodes, I thought he and Ted Raimi worked well together to show us a father and son relationship that we have never seen the like of on Xena or Hercules.
It contrasted nicely with the mother-daughter trials of Xena and Eve. We have never really seen Xena as helpless as she appears here. To defeat this foe means killing her own child, and while she tells Gabrielle she can do it, we have our doubts. I do think this was a bit of an opportunity missed actually - after all, Gabrielle killed her child, Hope. Indeed, you could almost say she killed her three times! Poison in 'Maternal Instincts', falling into the abyss in 'Sacrifice 2', and leading her to her skewering in 'A Family Affair'. However, in the scene when Xena and Gabrielle are discussing what Xena will have to do, and whether she CAN do it, Gabrielle doesn`t bring up Hope. Maybe this would have taken the discussion off on a tangent, but surely Hope must have been in Gabrielle`s thoughts.
The climax to the episode takes place in a temple where Eli`s followers are gathered. Heavy with Christian symbollism, this finale is a spectacular one. Director Mark Beesley should be complimented on a dazzlingly lit sequence, as narrow shafts of light pierce the gloom of the temple. The Xena/Eve fight is a memorable one, but it is the last moments of it that stick in the mind. Xena`s inability to kill Eve is no real surprise. The season 5 Xena has been more vulnerable that ever before, and after the tender scenes in Eternal Bonds and other episodes between Xena and her baby, it was really inconceivable that she would be able to do the deed and kill her.
Eve`s sudden conversion is extremely suggestive of the conversion of Saint Paul. For those of you not up on your early Christian history, Saint Paul was a Roman who used to actively participate in the persecution of the followers of Jesus. On the road to Damascus one day, he was blinded by a light from heaven as God says, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me.' After being healed, he became one of the most important leaders of the early Christian church, and changed his name to Paul. Indeed, Xena's daughter signals her conversion by telling her mother that her name is not Livia, but Eve.
I liked this plot device. I know some people aren`t keen on Christian symbols on the show, but I like looking for clues and hints, and I think the themes work well on a show that mixes mythology and history and makes Xena the centre of it all! And it is an absolutely beautiful scene, where that blinding light shines on Xena and Eve and everything goes slo-mo. This is a very visual episode, the part where Xena goes to pray to Eli is also a gorgoeus scene. That weird looking tree frames the scene so well.(Is it the Joshua Tree that U2 used on their album? Not sure but it looks fabulous. Really must try and go to New Zealand one of these days.)
On the minus side, erm...well not much. While there were not too many Xena and Gabrielle scenes once again, it was appropriate that Xena would be preoccupied more with her daughter. However, some felt that there was little warmth between them in this episode (and a few others) and I would probably agree, although it wasn`t a big issue for me. This episode was about more than Xena and Gabrielle, it will be remembered as Joxer`s last, and the rediscovery of Eve. Incidentally, I am not sure how many other characters have two episode named after them!
A pretty heavy episode, exploring dark themes. Also another pretty bloody one, featuring killings galore..especially that of Joxer. Not fun to watch, but compelling in a similar way to Maternal Instincts
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