Classic Recap: The Reckoning
By Alex Cranz
Season 1, Episode 5: The Reckoning
But really Xena, there is room on that horse. Gabrielle can sit up there. You’re officially a massive jerk for making her walk. She’s in a long skirt and peasant shoes and is complaining about pain. Jerk. But it’s for the best because Gabrielle goes off in search of some fabled “road” and Xena races off and arrives at a caravan just in time to see them all slaughtered by a hooded man. She’s pissed and ready to fight. Only this guy is good. He waves his cloak around and leaps nimbly away and in general makes Xena look like a chump. And when Xena goes in for a kill shot he disappears leaving her a ton of nearly dead to dead dudes. And guess how all the weepy townspeople find her? Covered in blood and lurking over dead dudes. Rakes and pitchforks come out of nowhere as we cut to…
TITLES. (I love the bit where Xena waves her sword at Poseidon while going “Yargh!” Cracks me up.)
Xena makes it pretty clear that she didn’t kill anyone but these people are idiots. She’s the only one there so clearly she’s the killer. She waves her sword around and rides away because daaamn they want to lynch her. Horse beats feet and she’s off screaming for Gabrielle…who’s disrobed next to a nasty looking pond. Oh Gabrielle. Also apparently Gabrielle doesn’t ride because Argo hates her.
The two flee. It’s a very striking look what with warrior and virginal girl in white on horseback.
Oh shit Odo* is here. Sorry I cursed. I can’t help it. ODO. He’s overseeing a crowd of angry people who want to hunt Xena down. Odo is all for bringing her in but he demands a trial before he’ll let them kill her. Cloaked killer man appears from nowhere. No one notices. Oh he’s a ghost. They all just walked through him.
Gabrielle is amused that Xena ran and is also a little confused. Xena is innocent and if it comes to a trial it won’t be hard to prove it, but Xena’s worried, the peasants are idiots and the killer was better at fighting than Xena. She insists that if necessary Gabrielle is to cut all ties with Xena and go home or something. Her bangs are very serious about this course of action.
And again with the walking and riding. Gabrielle is oblivious to all the townspeople lurking. Xena pulls her up on the horse and picks up the pace. But the peasants set a trap. They block the horse and grab Gabrielle. They’re still terrible at catching Xena, but Odo shows up and lets Gabrielle go. Odo is so awesome that Xena gives up. Dudes sucker punch her.
And holy hell they’ve taken her armor. Her undies? Not attractive. That much beige is never good. She’s trussed up and Gabrielle walks in. Some fanfic writer nervously rewrites the scene for sexytime. In the real world Xena insists that Gabrielle go because the people want to kill Xena, and maybe she deserves it. Sadly her “No Gabrielle leave” is so pathetic that Gabrielle ignores it.
Enter cloaked killer. He appears to Xena and she immediately knows who it is. Duh. Ares. I love this dude and his facial hair and his voice. He’s like a dark David Hasselhoff. Xena is enchanted when he gives her a massage. Then, like a sinister fairy godfather Ares whisks her away to a bedroom. I guess it is supposed to be awesome. It does not look it.
Xena wants to know why he killed those villagers and he wants to know why she’s not naked. Ares must hate that underwear as much as I do. So does Xena! Off with the ugly clothes and on with the silky nightgown. Ares is being all sexy while telling Xena to return to her more awesome and bloody old life. He hangs the carrot of good deeds in front of her. He’ll make her an empress and all she has to do is join him. Then he shows her a huge army he made just for her. Xena, I got to admit that this offer is looking good. Dude in leather pants, a giant army, good deeds. What’s not to like! All she has to do is ask for his help out of her current predicament.
Odo and Gabrielle are chatting about the upcoming trial. Odo insists that he should be Xena’s lawyer. Gabrielle, with no experience at all wants to do it.
Outside the townspeople are dragging a straw man around. Ah I get it. On the nose duders. That’s how Xena will die. Ares reappears and is all “come on Xena, say my name.” She’s all “F you I GOT this.” Gabrielle is horrified at what they’re about to do to Xena. She wraps the dragging rope around herself so that they’ll have to kill her if they want to kill Xena. Odo once again saves the day. The trial will happen and no one will be randomly dragged through the street (that happens in season 3!). (Also so many close ups of Ares!)
Xena is totally going to lose the trial, but Gabrielle is optimistic and off she goes to investigate the crime scene. She finds something and runs back to Odo. Gabrielle is now a tracker. She takes him back to show the tracks she found, but Ares disappears them because he’s a bigger dick then Xena. Odo is not amused. Gabrielle is worried.
THE TRIAL. Oh this is already hysterical. A pregnant lady is crying because she heard her husband die. This is not a good witness for Xena’s case. Another guy gives testimony. Xena glares at them all the same way. Finally Gabrielle, lawyer and tracker extraordinaire, is up to bat. She’s poking holes in the testimonies, but these people are idiots. Hysteria! Even happens in Ancient Greece!
They truck in the only survivor of the attack with the hope that he’ll exonerate Xena, but he’s worthless. Gabrielle tries to cross-examine but his wife is all NO. This is a terrible legal system guys.
That night the idiots come to whip Xena like you do. And another fanfic writer wrote something sexy and highly disturbing. Thanks Xena. Ares appears to her during the beating and tells her to ask for help. But Xena won’t have it. They go back to their sexy palace and trade innuendo. Yeeeeah. Flashback to evil Xena! Good Xena is getting turned on by her past. Well those pauldrons ARE awesome.
In the real world Xena screams, breaks her chains and goes to town kicking ass. Take that farmers! She just beats the crap out of them. Good times. Gabrielle comes in in horror. Shit goes slow mo and Xena bitch slaps Gabrielle. If you dislike Gabrielle this was a wonderful moment. It’s a bad one for Xena. She snaps out of her rage and sets to looking after the guys she beat up. Gabrielle runs away. Odo comes in and wonders why she didn’t leave when she could have, and Xena reveals what we knew all along. She’s guilty as hell. She’s killed thousands, and even though she didn’t kill these specific villagers she deserves to die. Odo will have none of it. She’s on trial for a specific incident and he has no right to judge her past actions.
Gabrielle is over getting punched in the face and shows up to break Xena out. Xena won’t have it. Despite wanting different things they make up. Aw. Then Xena closes her eyes and calls for Ares and is immediately transported to his bedroom. Xena gets him to confess. This would work in the modern-day with a tape recorder. In Ancient Greece it’s pretty worthless. Oh. Xena gets Ares to pledge to bring back to life anyone of her choosing. He’s thinking Hector and Achilles. She obviously has someone else on her mind.
Execution time! They found Xena guilty. No surprise. Xena then demands that Ares bring back the men who he killed rather than some famous heroes. Ares isn’t pissed he’s impressed. He brings the guys back. Aw. Go Ares. One dude’s name is dangerously close to areola. Seeing as the men are alive and one of them backs up Xena’s story it’s pretty obvious that Xena can’t be guilty.
Gabrielle and Xena bond post prison. Aw they’re walking together! Gabrielle tries to punch Xena as payback. It fails. The Xena is amused. So was I.
How this Episode Makes Historians Weep
Nothing especially offensive. I’m positive that Gabrielle wouldn’t have been allowed to advocate for Xena and that the legal process didn’t resemble what happened on the show at all, but whatever. ARES.
- Xena holds her own against a god.
- Xena breaks iron chains.
- Xena smashes a door off it’s hinges.
- Xena smacks Gabrielle in the FACE.
Where it stands in the series
It introduces Ares. Besides Ted Raimi, Kevin Smith is the only guy to appear in every season of the show. Ares is a very big part of the mythos of Xena: Warrior Princess and this episode does a great job setting up the push and pull of his relationship with Xena.
This also clinches the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. They’re now best friends and even a smack to the face won’t change that (it takes a LOT more).
Xena was a bad person. Over the course of the show we learn just how bad a person she was. But at this point in time all we really know is that she’s killed, led armies and slept with Hercules AND Iolaus. Still those are some significant crimes (they were best friends and she ruined them!) and the episode raises a very good question. Xena’s a war criminal. If she really wants to atone shouldn’t she be tried for her crimes?
Where the episode falters is how it answers the question. It dances around the issue and Odo makes a good point that he, personally, has no right to judge her. He’s also incredibly clever when he points out that each crime must be judged independently and even a vicious murderer should not be put to death for a crime they did not commit.
It’s the very gray morality that the show pushes onto us that makes the episode, and much of the show in general, so engaging. Action shows are usually about the black and white of the world, but Xena: Warrior Princess is right at home in the gray area where heroes can be murderers and innocent young girls can be selfish and cruel.
As mentioned above, this is also the introduction of Ares. And this guy is a card-carrying member of the Wang Archetype. He’s sexy and mean and selfish, but there’s a core of honest desire and affection that encourages you to forgive him. It’s not especially pronounced in this first episode but the threads of it are sewn.
Episode 7: The Titans. Gabrielle wakes up some seriously tall people. Wacky hijinks ensue. This episode will be a terrible Christmas present.
*Yes I know it wasn’t René Auberjonois. Whatever. Dude looked JUST like him.
Screenshots courtesy of Miroir d’Arc Archive