We skipped an episode where Gabrielle has a supernatural demon baby. I said that from what I read, it ended with a big, messy breakdown between our heroines and their ability to trust each other. Then Xena gets word that a very old debt’s been called in and she has to go to China to kill somebody, which Gabrielle doesn’t like at all.
So most of this episode is a flashback to Xena’s days as a villain, not long after the events shown in season two’s “Destiny”. It certainly looks amazing in places. The big set piece at the beginning of the flashback involves several dozen costumed stunt riders on horseback in a huge, empty plain having an amazing fight. It’s feature film-quality, which is pretty awesome for a low-budget syndicated TV show to pull off. From there, Xena and her warlord buddy try turning two Chinese families against each other, but Xena’s tactics are too predictable and she’s too vulgar and wild to pull any of it off.
Honestly, though, I was annoyed by the creeping tough guy-isms in the story, the insistence on going it alone, the “you wouldn’t understand”s. Perhaps it makes some sense after the hour that we skipped, in which Xena and Gabrielle have that falling out, but the present day stuff is just self-destructive and dumb. It ends, bizarrely, with the revelation that Xena actually must have taken the slow boat to China, because Gabrielle got there first and found Xena’s target, warned him, and set up a trap for her friend. Because she’d rather get her friend killed than let her friend kill anybody, I guess. Kind of looks like a betrayal from where I’m sitting, and so the cliffhanger is more sour than thrilling.