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I think it is fair to say that many fans were a touch disappointed with Coming Home, and fanfic fans found it hard to relate much of the script to the Missy style we know so well. I actually liked the episode, but I have to say, that I like Legacy about three times as much! Legacy was just brilliant in my opinion! It was quite spooky hearing Xena and Gabrielle speak dialogue that could have appeared in one of Missy's lengthy Xena/Gabrielle stories. But it fitted beautifully. We had humour, action and a fascinating test of Xena and Gabrielle's friendship. Not to mention nude scenes!! Wow!
The episode opens with Xena and Gabrielle having ditched Eve and Virgil somewhere, but discovering the joys of a desert sandstorm. After a refreshing bath, they get embroiled in a scrap between two desert tribes. They don't believe that it is really Xena and Gabrielle; they see Xena as a sort of King Arthur figure who will rise out of the desert to deliver them from their foes...in this case, the dastardly Romans! However, after a little undercover reconnaissance trip to the Roman's HQ, Xena and Gabrielle get caught in another sandstorm, and Gabrielle kills a person she sees who looks as if he is about to kill Xena. Unfortunately, it isn't an assassin, but the rather daft son of one of the nomad tribe leaders. Xena is prepared to let the people believe he was killed by Romans, but Gabrielle's guilt leads to her confessing and facing an execution by croquet hammer...well that's what it looks like! She is buried up to her neck and horsemen with long croquet mallets are about to knock her head off. Xena arrives to save her, and distracts them by leading the Romans right to the tribes, although she and Gabrielle do return to fight along side them and polish off the Romans.
Gabrielle and her attitude to fighting and killing is again looked at in this episode. Firstly, when we see her use her sais in a non-lethal way. The young man, Kora is impressed with Gabrielle's fighting style, and the point is made that the sais can be used either to kill or to merely disable. Then we also have a scene where Gabrielle is asking Xena about the decision to kill during a battle. Xena's answer is one that has consequences in this, and later episodes: You cannot hesitate in a battle, or you will get hurt.
It is this mind set that Gabrielle finds difficult. However, interestingly, it is not in battle that she kills, but in defending Xena from what looks like a sneak attack. I thought the killing scene was very well done, although even with that conversation about killing, Gabrielle's actions ARE a little over the top. She had no need to kill in this case. The way it was filmed, Kora is first seen creeping up behind Xena with a knife. I have freeze framed it on my VCR, and I am pretty sure it is a knife in the very quick first shot. However, all the other shots of the figure approaching Xena show that he is holding a scroll - however, you only realize this when you rewatch and stop the VCR. Interestingly, our brains automatically filled in "knife" as the object being wielded as we watched the scene unfold.
Gabrielle's grief and sorrow over her impulsive act are well handled. We see Xena tenderly washing the blood from her hands, but even more fascinating is the following part when Xena - almost for the first time - lies to the nomad leaders. Xena has done many things, but in this episode we see a Xena who is desperate to save Gabrielle, at ANY cost. She is willing to deliberately mislead and even sacrifice the nomad tribes if necessary, as we see her leading the Romans to them. Of course, being Xena, she has a plan, and does ultimately ambush the Romans with the nomad tribes help. It is an interesting look at her status as a hero however. I loved that part when Xena is telling Gabrielle how it has gone, and that the nomads believe the Romans killed Kora…. She pleads with Gabrielle not to say anything. "I'm begging you.." say Xena. Not something we hear coming from her lips very often. Often, Xena is portrayed as the hero with a dark past, but snowy white present. Almost too good to be true sometimes. It is good to know that she values Gabrielle above all else, and is prepared to cross the line for her.
One of my favourite lines was when Alison Bruce bitterly comments to Gabrielle, "left a few things out of the scrolls didn't you." This contrasts sharply with the welcome Xena and Gabrielle received initially. "Xena, the legendary warrior princess" and "Gabrielle, the battling bard of Poteidaia" are fawned over, fed disgusting desert delicacies, and even offered the use of AB's ugly cousins as bed partners! It is probably inevitable, therefore, that people put on that high a pedestal have a long way to fall, and in the eyes of the nomad tribes, Xena and Gabrielle are not the heroes they imagine. Well, who CAN live up to legendary billing?
I enjoyed the little Roman interlude. However, I do wonder where Xena and Gabrielle keep their dressing up box - nice Roman lady and slave costume. It was also intriguing to hear the Romans speak about "Caesar's Thracian whore" and "a long crucified annoyance." You could almost feel Xena's anger, and just KNEW that particular arrogant Roman would end up on her sword. And he did!
I was also very pleased to see that there was not a cute, lets-all-join-hands ending. While Gabrielle saving that dead guy's father was on the cards, his forgiveness of her was a touch forced. But it was good to hear Gabrielle say that it DIDN'T cancel out her debt. That it wasn't all alright, and that she would have to live with the guilt. Life does not have perfectly tied up endings, resolved in 44 minutes. That was a more realistic and believable way to leave it I think.
Gabrielle: Just once Xena, I'd like to be the Roman and you be the slave…(conjures up an interesting image!)
Xena: What's with the desert boy?
A really well written episode, with a strong plot and good dialogue. We get further examination of Gabrielle's attitude to fighting, and Xena's attitude to protecting her.
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