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It certainly seems like Xena`s family are cursed - or at least incredibly unlucky. Quite why Mephistopheles chose to torment poor old Cyrene is a bit unclear. Was it really because of Eve? In this episode Eve plays Max Von Sydow from 'The Exorcist' pretty much. Poor old Adrienne Wilkinson mainly gets to chant the same lines over and over in a very Exorcist-like way. And it is her blood that finally brings forth the demon, Mephistopheles and makes him a real entity. I think the problem of what to do with Eve is a tricky one. She is so full of remorse with now that she is a bit annoying. In these first two episodes of Season 6, she has been a bit of a whiner. Adrienne commented on how much more fun it was to play Livia, and you can see why. Eve does need to find her way, maybe fighting for justice like her mother? In this episode there is a great scene where Mephistopheles tried to get Eve to kill herself by showing her, her past and her victims. In a scene straight out of S1`s Dreamworker, she is faced with some of the people she had killed in her Livia days. She also meets her old self, Livia (just as Xena met her old self in Dreamworker.) I was impressed by how different Adrienne Wilkinson made Livia to Eve. She looked like a different actress, and clearly had more fun (and a much better costume) as Livia.
Gabrielle certainly has a busy time in this episode. I thought the maggots scene was really gross, but brilliant! Gabrielle`s maggot infested hands, and the disintegrating skin was revolting but pretty well done I thought. OK so the bloody skeleton hands were very obviously added later, but it was an effective scene in my opinion.
We had heard comments about how she ended up covered in slime - asparagus, vegemite and KY jelly were all mentioned. I have to say, I was very disappointed with the slime quotient! When Gabrielle emerged from her slime pit (which looked like greenish but fairly clear water to me), she did seem to have lost parts of her clothes, but was not terribly slimy. Shame. However, it did lead onto a nice shower scene. Cyrene`s tavern might be deserted but it`s still got great plumbing! The shower scene was oddly filmed. Eve was there - we saw her hands every now and then, but she was totally out of the frame. It looked like a pan-and-scan movie, where you miss the edges. Then when Eve walks up to give Xena a hug, we had almost a full frame shot of the back of her head. Maybe it was my imagination, but this whole scene looked a bit disjointed.
Anyway, Gabrielle barely has time to say Norman Bates before she is being over run by blood, and transformed into a streaking demon from Hell. Renee`s stunt/body double gets a chance to bare all again. (Is that the same stunt butt we saw in Forget Me Not?) I thought it was really funny that Xena grapples with possessed Gabrielle, and managed to not only tie her up, but cover her modesty too! Many skills indeed. The scene where Xena and Eve question the possessed Gabrielle was another heavy 'Exorcist' moment. The voice was identical, and Renee was VERY Linda Blair like. I kept waiting for the head spinning and the projectile vomiting. Again, Eve and her laying on of hands and exorcism did the trick. Gabrielle`s trials were still not over however. Xena intended to head on down to the spirit world and take on Mephistopheles. This led to a brief bit of closeness between Xena and Gabrielle that was not quite what the subtexters had in mind! The arm joining was not too bad, although the allegedly fused together legs looked like them taking part in a school 3-legged race. Once again the SFX people did a decent job though with the 'Stretch Armstrong' style stretchy arms.
For her last trial, Gabrielle has to learn how to take the neck pinch off someone - namely Xena! In a really good scene, Xena shows Gabrielle how to do it as she needs Gab to be able to release the pinch from her. Of course, it isn`t that simple, and Gabrielle has to stab her fingers into Xena`s neck several times, to her increasing dismay and concern. Good scene. It is also interesting to see the amount of responsibility Xena gives to Gabrielle and the way she discusses her decisions with her about what to do. OK, so Xena is still the one making most of those choices, but she is at least attempting to justify herself to Gabrielle.
There weren`t too many fight scenes in this episode: Xena fights Mephistopheles a couple of times and rolls around on the floor with demon Gabrielle (not like that!) However, once again, we have a fairly bloody episode. Mainly in the effects this time, although the sight of Cyrene and that bloody axe was quite alarming. She was clearly mad - otherwise why did she get the name of her husband wrong??
However, in this all action episode, a couple of quieter scenes stood out too. I really liked the one where Xena sees her old self from many years before bring back the body of her dead brother Lyceus to her mother, and Cyrene`s anger. OK, so it was a different Lyceus, and Xena was in the wrong set of armour and headband (that one was from her Hercules days, some ten winters later...) But it was a powerful and emotional scene that Xena was remembering. I also liked the all too brief final scene with Cyrene and Eve. It is a shame Cyrene was killed off, and especially in such a nasty way. Xena`s scenes with her mother were always interesting to see, due to the shifting dynamics of their relationship. From her last appearance in Amphipolis Under Siege, you feel she would have been a lovely granny. Shame Octavius didn`t take baby Eve to her...
A very enjoyable and fast paced adventure, and nicely set up for the next one. Will Xena take on the mantle of the king of hell?
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