Fantastically funny and original comedy that fans of the show will just love - at least they should! Michael Hurst plays Nigel, a modern day TV reporter on the trail of a hot news story - that Xena has returned to the land of the Norse gods to steal the golden apples of immortality. He tries to get the scoop on what Xena is doing, and what her motives are. Is she in love with Ares and keen to return him to power and rule as his queen? And what about the real story of Xena and Gabrielle`s relationship? We follow Nigel to Valhalla, heaven and hell, and listen in on his chats to Eve, archangel Michael, Charon, Lucifer, Odin and more...
Reminiscent of those modern day Hercules episodes featuring the Ren Pics staff in some ways, this anachronistic comedy is an absolute hoot! What could have been a flop succeeds for several reasons. Firstly, Michael Hurst is a wonderful actor, and does a great job in actually starring. It`s not until you rewatch this episode a few times that you realise how LITTLE Xena and Gabrielle are actually onscreen. You don`t realise because the episode moves briskly along, from spoof studio interviews to hilarious photo-journalist sequences.
The real highlight of the on the spot interviews is the one with Eve - whose foul mouthed attack on Nigel is unexpected and therefore very funny. There is an explanation for her odd behaviour, but as drippy Eve has been such a drag this year, the reappearance of vicious Livia f-ing and blinding is just so funny. I bet Adrienne Wilkinson enjoyed it. The bleeps to cover Eve`s tirade are all the more amusing because it is totally obvious what she is saying - hence, some stations in the US edited the scene! NOT suitable for kids! By far the best Eve episode of season 6.
One of the main points of interest for some fans is that the question of Xena and Gabrielle`s relationship is directly addressed too. Nigel frankly asks them if they are lovers. However, it typical RenPics "we`re not telling" fashion, Nigel`s camera battery runs out just as Xena says.."Well, technically......" Make of that what you will, but once again, the writers and producers have managed the delicate job of approaching the issue, avoiding an answer and letting people think what they want to think about the relationship. I am constantly amazed at how well they manage this.
I was also intrigued to see that Xena and Ares relationship is addressed. However, there is much less ambiguity there. Nigel thinks he knows about Ares and Xena's love affair, but Ares soon puts him right. Ares and Aphrodite DO get their godhoods back, but Ares knows Xena will never be his...however, it`s lovely to see him back in the leather and all smooth and smarmy again!
Another main reason I think this episode worked well was that at its core, there was a good plot idea, but we - like Nigel - had to figure it out. Xena doesn`t intend to make herself a god, and most viewers will figure out what her scheme is. Love has gone from the world - with the loss of Aphrodite`s godhood, and Xena knows how important it is. All her actions are for the great good once again.
Lastly, the episode works so well because there are just so many funny moments! Lots and lots of excellent scenes, good ideas, small giggles or belly laughs. OK, so comedy can be a very subjective thing. People probably disagree more about which comedy is the funniest than anything else because we all laugh at different things, but for me, this episode is one of the best comedies for ages! Kudos to writer Chris Black and director John Laing.
Lots of these!
- EVE!! Finally, Adrienne Wilkinson gets to have a decent role. Loved her swearing scene as mentioned above, then there is the end scene where Eve and her followers insist on being flagellated! Adrienne should add the writer, Chris Black to her Christmas card list right now!
- Michael Hurst. Carried the episode very well, and showed his versatility once again. Michael was always one of the best things about HERCULES, and he has become a favourite director of mine on XENA too.
- The little Xena/Gabrielle argument outside the TV studio. Interestingly, about the only scene NOT from Nigel's point of view. Very funny little bit of bickering "you could walk BESIDE my horse" says Xena to Gabrielle! A delight.
- The gods are back in town! Yep, great to see Ares and Aphrodite with their godly powers back.
- Nigel interviews Caligula in the underworld. A nice bit of continuity from the last ep sees Alexis Arquette waiting to catch the boat across the river Styx. I enjoyed his performance in The God You Know and he is also lively and funny here. They even get in a subtext gag from him about Xena and Gabrielle.."oh yeah, right..like we don`t know what`s going on THERE!" he says about them.
- "ARCHANGEL!" Smug archangel Michael`s little interview is another amusing little gem. Loved his insistence on his full title.
- Those wooden Norse actors are back! Alexander Petersons and Luanne Gordon as Odin and Grinhilda return. Renato Bartolomei as Beowulf is supposed to be low key - his love for Gabrielle has disappeared with the love in the world - but he is mainly scenery here too. All the actors look OK, so I won`t be picky!
- The Ares in a brothel scene is one I must admit to fast forwarding through. A little pointless to include how the sex industry is still going strong. I suppose they were looking for a fairly Xena and Gabrielle-light story, but this scene seemed like padding.
- OK, so the whole idea of the episode is one huge HUH? Of course the TV camera`s shouldn`t be there in ancient Greece, for that matter the way they travel from Greece to the Norse lands instantly is also a bit of a mistake, but in an episode like this, you just have to suspend your disbelief about little things like realism. XENA has never been an historical show. They have always played fast and loose with chronology and the laws of physics!
- One little comment though...ANOTHER way to become immortal? Almost as many ways as there are to kill a god. Last week we saw Caligula gain immortality by snogging Aphrodite a lot, this week, itís the golden apples. No wonder there are so many gods around!
One for the fans, lots of in-jokes, but a very funny episode.