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The Ring Reviewed

Oh, breasts...are they mine? The Norse trilogy continues with another exciting tale of monster hunting and epic battles...

After the cliffhanging ending from the previous episode, The Rheingold, we pick up Gabrielle, Brunhilda and Beowulf in their search for Xena. Gabrielle is sure she is alive, her companions less so. Of course, Gab is spot one, but the battered Xena reveals that she cannot leave, and tells the truth about just who Grendel is, and the consequences of putting on the ring when you have not forsaken love. Grinhilda had tried to prevent Xena from gaining the power of a god by putting on the ring herself. We learn that EVERYONE gets that special power - for a bit - before losing what they value most. Oddly, it turns out that Grinhilda was vain and loses her looks and humanity to become an ugly monster. This was not really a facet of the character we were shown, however, it was the way the writers linked the Valkyries to the Beowulf story.

After a battle with the beast in its lair, Xena is victorious and regains the Ring, however, it soon becomes apparent that the monster she killed was not Grinhilda, but her son...yet another link to the Beowulf story, when the legendary hero killed the monster Grendel, only to have the beast's mother come after him. Odin is now also after that ring - his powers seem to be on the wane - and it turns out that too-good-to-be-true Brunhilda is one of his cronies. However, Brunhilda has fallen in love with Gabrielle (yes, really!) and rather than doing Odin's bidding she kidnaps her love, leaving Xena and Beowulf to face Odin, the Valkyrie and the monster Grinhilda (who Odin persuades to join him.) Xena is in a spot and has no choice but to put on the Ring, and gain the power to defeat them, despite the consequences. This does the trick, however her loss is that she loses all memory of who she is and of Gabrielle - those things most important to her. Brunhilda comes across the bemused Xena, persuades her to give up the ring, and yet does not take her back to Gabrielle - the meanie. Instead, she realises that she has no chance with Gabrielle and instead, uses her Valkyrie powers to turn herself into an eternal flame to surround a Sleeping Beauty style Gabrielle to protect her and the Ring from all comers....


I read a review of this episode somewhere that summarised it in a really amusing way:
Brunhilda and Beowulf: Gabrielle!
Gabrielle: Xena!
Xena: Grinhilda!

And it is true! One of the most notable things about this episode is the way all the characters are fairly single-mindedly after something. Beowulf and Brunhilda's infatuation with Gabrielle is a little odd. Neither of them know her very well, yet are totally smitten. When they find a battered and bruised Xena, both are more concerned that darling Gabrielle is alright! Never mind poor beat up Xena. To show Brunhilda as such an admirer of Gabrielle is quite a daring move. She expresses her love in no uncertain terms and all of her actions are for the love of Gabrielle. However, the normally sensitive and patient Gabrielle has very little time for her. "I don't know what to say. I'm sorry." And she walks off. Gabrielle has one thing on her mind throughout this episode: Xena.
The pursuit at the beginning and a rather sweet reunion reinforce the strong theme of the two of them as soulmates that runs though all three of these episodes. In this episode, Gabrielle makes it clear several times that she and Xena are meant to be together. She even tells Brunhilda that they had no choice about it! Whether you take Brunhilda's declaration of love, and apply that to Gabrielle's statements about her and Xena is entirely up to you..

Xena herself is seeking to put right what she did all those years before. This is probably the single strongest theme of the entire series. It is what makes the show constantly interesting, and the character of Xena, a fascinating one. I still think she was a little hasty in ditching Gabrielle and heading off to try and defeat the monster without her. Indeed, when they do meet up, it is Gabrielle who says "Don't ever leave me again", but with no responding promise from Xena. She can never make a promise that she might not be able to keep. Xena will always be seeking to make reparation for her past.

On the other hand, there is a lot of fun to be had in watching Xena's reaction to Brunhilda and Beowulf's devotions to Gabrielle. The single funniest line in the episode is when Brunhilda is cooing and gushing over Gabrielle's warrior skills and her nobility, and Xena sends her off to scout ahead. "I don't like her" says Xena, and we all know just what she means. Xena is right to mistrust her, although she does turn out to have some goodness in her.

Beowulf's main function seems to be as cannon fodder..he is the first to get attacked usually, and must be a sturdy guy to survive all these beatings. He gets a bit more to do next episode...




All in all, this was another very enjoyable and exciting episode. The story that combines Beowulf and Norse mythology is really involving and this episode in particular is a wonderful affirmation of Xena and Gabrielle's bond. Now..how ARE they going to end it??

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