Xena: Warrior Princess 4.1-2 – Adventures in the Sin Trade (parts one and two)

Chanting, blood, and skulls! Now back to 1997 and the remarkably dreary return of Xena: Warrior Princess. When we last left our heroine, Gabrielle, Hope, and Callisto were all dead, and we’re hoping two out of three stay that way. In the two-part season opener, Xena wants to visit the land of the dead to see her only friend one last time, but learns that an old mystic – once her ally, when Xena was a villain – has locked several spirits out of their eternal, peaceful, resting place. So Xena has to deal with the old mystic first.

This was a chore. It’s a moody two hours with flashbacks on top of flashbacks and a lot of shamanism and mysticism and spirits fighting. Part two features one of the most annoying and noisy things I’ve ever sat through, as Xena and her new gang of Siberian Amazons have a bonfire and a nice long shrieking dance while the bad guy preps her attack. The soundtrack is wailing and hollering and it goes on forever.

I liked little bits of it. Part one opens with Xena tracking down the god Hades to ask permission to cross over and see Gabrielle, and Hades says she isn’t in his land of the dead; the Amazons have their own and he knows nothing of it. That’s pretty interesting world-building. And part two sees Xena and her allies enter a dark and quiet patch of woods where a half-dozen skeletons of long-dead warriors are, gruesomely, impaled on trees. It’s a pretty stunning scene, given incredible meat when Xena gives her allies a heartbreaking flashback: these are the long-missing leaders of their Amazon tribe, and several years before, the villainous Xena killed them all. We then get some fine brawling in the trees, using that wire-fu that was briefly popular in the late nineties. It never looked real, but it usually looked really neat.

The kid was not even remotely impressed. We paused part two to give him a quick introduction to shamanism and folk traditions, communing with the dead, that sort of thing. There’s usually blood, skulls, smoke, wailing, all probably as hard on the ears in the real world as this cacophony was on TV. That reminded me of something he’d seen before drawn from similar sources: Doctor Who’s Sisterhood of Karn from “The Brain of Morbius”. So I pulled that off the shelf for a quick refresher. The Sisterhood, whispering their “sacred fire, sacred flame” chant, are far, far less annoying than the Siberian Amazons and their howling, and it was a timely little reminder. He’ll be seeing the Sisterhood again in a little over a month, so stay tuned…

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