It’s always fun to look at a program’s earliest few episodes when you really only know it from later in its run and see how, when it started, nobody really knew what kind of show they were making. I only saw a few episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess from season three or four – I’m honestly not sure – and found it a very entertaining, amusing show, confident in its silliness and style, and with its tongue in its cheek. I was too busy at the time it aired to add another show to my life, but I liked what I saw. In light of what we’ve blogged about recently, I also like how it pays about as much attention to the details of Greek mythology as the producers’ later Jack of All Trades would pay to the details of history. This first episode, though, is the work of people who didn’t know what the heck they wanted to do yet.
Except for Renee O’Connor. The show may be centered around Lucy Lawless’s Xena, a master fighter who has spent years doing terrible things and has repented and wants to do right for a change, but in “Sins of the Past,” Lawless is mostly humorless and seems unsure how best to play the character. Gabrielle is, despite her limited time on screen this time out, the absolute star of the show. The entire production seems to lack confidence, not sure how silly or camp it should be, but Renee O’Connor is supremely confident. She has to be; Gabrielle is a character who can talk her way out of anything.
In time, quite quickly I expect, Xena will get there, embrace its absurdity and give its leads hearts, but the first episode is otherwise a weak, weak hour full of bad haircuts and remarkably bright colors. It does have a really amusing “don’t touch the floor” duel that requires Xena and her opponent to stand on people’s heads after the platform they were using collapses, and a blind cyclops who really would like to eat our heroines is a hint of where this show can go, but overall, this is a program that will do better than this.
Since there’s quite a lot of Xena – six seasons – and I’m largely unfamiliar with it, I decided this would be a show where we will watch samples and highlights instead of the full run. I’ve picked twelve of the first 24 episodes from the reviews at AusXip and we’ll see how it goes and how much our son enjoys it. Promisingly, he did like the oddball fight-on-heads scene as well as the cyclops, even if he was largely silent and didn’t have too much to say. Still, it’s early hours. I’m sure he’ll be more appreciative once we meet Ares and Autolycus and once Xena starts enjoying being a hero.