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Looking Death in the Eye Reviewed

The end of Season 5 approaches, and the battle between Xena and the Gods hots up...

Looking Death in the Eye is a very different episode that just about any other Xena episode, in that its story structure is very different than others.

We get our first glimpse of old Joxer, as he buys a scroll - reportedly the last scroll of the Bard of Poteidaia, Gabrielle. Quite why Joxer needed this scroll is a bit of a mystery, as the story unfolds, it is clear he was there and saw all the events described..and more! Maybe he is just a Xena complete-ist - needing to buy all that merchandise, that some of us fans do, that in years to come we will no doubt wonder why we were so desperate to have it.

Anyway, the scroll tells of Xena and Gabrielle`s trick on the fates, as they try to save baby Eve, she is once again under threat from Athena and her gang of gods. It really IS Athena and the gang - she appears to be the new boss on Olympus, even Ares doesn`t seem to challenge her authority. Was she a favourite daughter of Zeus?

Meanwhile, Xena seems to be behaving oddly, challenging Hephaestus, capturing Celesta - death herself, and saying she wants to become immortal to save her daughter. When Xena and Gabrielle are trapped by the gods on a convenient hilltop, it appears that the dynamic duo and baby Eve are goners, however, there are a few plot twists in store. While Ares takes Xena and Gabrielle`s bodies off to put them on ice - ahh..he DID love Xena after all! Good job he took Gab along too - Roman baby-sitter kid, Octavius turns up to tell the story of how it was all a ruse...but with Ares intervention, things have not gone to plan....

I enjoyed this story very much, although while I was watching this episode for the first time, I was rather puzzled about why Xena was doing these things, and why Gabrielle was daft enough to get herself captured. I am sure I am not alone, in rewinding the tape and rewatching it almost instantly, to try and understand all the bits I missed! It was like an episode of some mystery show..."here`s what REALLY happened..." I loved it! This isn`t a story telling structure than could be used too often mind you, but it certainly worked well in this case.

I just LOVE Athena! I wish they had introduced her earlier, as she has been a brilliant foe for Xena and Gabrielle this season. First seen in Amphipolis Under Siege, she is such a good character because she has many facets. Athena's motives are far more complex that Ares or Zeus. Yes, she is head of the "kill Eve" faction, but as we saw in Amphipolis Under Siege, she is not happy about it. She was not gleefully planning the killing...in her eyes it is a matter of survival. Also, she is a thinking opponent. Ares does indeed tend to think with his codpiece - as Athena taunted him - whereas Athena plans more carefully. Of course, she is goddess of wisdom as well as warfare. (Don`t think she`ll need the weaving though.)

Sadly, the other gods are little more than her stooges in this episode. Hades was always a very dignified character as played by Erik Thompson. Unfortunately, the recent incarnation, played by Stephen Lovatt has been a two dimensional cackling baddie. Shame. Even worse is Hephaestus. One of my favourite Hercules episodes was "Love Takes a Holiday", when Aphrodite realized she loved (in her way) Hephaestus - as in Greek myths. That actor was very good. Tortured and scarred, yet with a dignity and sensitivity. Unfortunately, he is a growling thug here. I suppose they felt they didn`t have time to establish too many new characters - its been a long time since Hades appeared, and Hephaestus was a Hercules character. But when Athena was developed so well - and wonderfully played by Paris Jefferson - it`s a shame the other gods were so poorly portrayed.

This season has seen Ares character explored more than ever. It has been shown that he really does love Xena, and while it was essential for the plot that Gabrielle be laid to rest in the ice tomb with Xena, it also fitted nicely into the Ares/Xena plot. Ares is shown to understand Xena very well - although a little too sensitively for him. He brings Xena`s companion who he acknowledged gave her something he couldn`t - unconditional love. Ahh..how sweet! I especially liked the little speech they gave Ares over Xena`s apparently dead body, that when she was fighting and kicking butt, she was his...and you believed him too. After all, Xena being a kick-ass warrior is what we all love, so why not Ares?

Plot holes also popped up, although they didn`t spoil it for me. When Xena is about to kill herself, she first draws her sword, ready to stab herself in the belly, but Ares interrupts her just in time. How did she know Ares would stop her? If he hadn`t she would have been really stuck! And those tears (a very sneaky and clever title for the episode), it looked like Xena wiped Celesta`s tears once, yet there was enough for Gabrielle AND Xena to swig?? Hmm...Also, if Ares was ready to take Gabrielle to the ice tomb, why not Eve too? OK, so again it would have screwed up the plot, but he is a god - if he really loved Xena, he would have collected the body of her baby for her, and then discovered the truth.

Ah well, this was a really enjoyable episode, setting things up really well for the last few episodes in this season.

Excellent plot twisting episode that is crucial in setting up the last few episodes of the season.

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