I thought there were a couple of interesting things somewhere in this very predictable episode. Seriously, when you bring back the very manipulative Ares and simultaneously introduce a character who’s very passive-aggressive in his own manipulations, the only people who are going to be fooled that this isn’t Ares in a supernatural disguise are the under-nines in the audience. And while I do like the way that Ares can count on Xena’s unresolved daddy issues to make her lose her temper, I didn’t like the way that she went directly from the angry but careful tactician of every previous adventure we’ve watched into an uncontrollable battlefield lunatic. I didn’t buy it. The kid found it pretty boring as well despite lots of fighting. Maybe it would have been better if we hadn’t known from the very beginning that Ares was up to something?
I’ve not commented on any of what the fans call the subtext of Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship, because as far as I have approached this show, Xena and Gabrielle are simply a couple who occasionally have wandering eyes for cute boys and the camera’s just never on them when they’re holding hands. I don’t need to spotlight lines that read as “They’re gay” when I know perfectly well that they’re gay. That said, however, I can appreciate the fannish desire for evidence of this POV, and the story ends with Xena telling Gabrielle with bedroom eyes “Our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could.”
This episode is about a quarter century old and yet I still heard a cobweb-covered Usenet group spark back into life with the posts of thousands of fanfic writers squeeing with delight and punching the air over that sentence.