Callisto is essentially a childlike prehistoric Hannibal Lecter and you can’t think it’s overdone and cliched because holy hell is she violent. Also she’s earned it for how she egged Xena in her first appearance. This woman is crazy. I like how quickly the dude falls for it. You feed her with a bowl on a stick but she says something rude and you go in and beat her? Totes deserve the slaughter she unleashes. Also, I can honestly say I never thought “here piggy piggy piggy” would be so creepy sounding, but when you follow it was a scream and arterial splurt? Definitely works!

TITLES. Do you think that chair has a chamber pot? Or did she just go in her leather skirt?

Perdicas arrives to propose to Gabrielle. So Xena preemptively smacks him in the face. I love how he proposes and she looks to Xena. Perdicas I can already tell you this won’t work out in the long run. Then we have to hear about how sad he is with killing people and how he’s suicidal and how Gabrielle’s face saved him. This proposal has given Gabrielle a lot to think about. (PROTIP Gabrielle: don’t marry dudes who need you to save them for crippling psychological trauma) They’re shooting her in close up but her makeup is AWFUL so it’s distracting. This is a good looking woman who looks like she’s 40.

BANGS.


Cut to Joxer breaking his arm on a barrel. Callisto walks in and Joxer tries to threaten her. It’s really pathetic. What’s worse is that she leaves him alive. His death here would have saved us from at least two of the worst episodes of this show.

Gabrielle and Xena chat about the proposal. Gabrielle wants to stay with Xena but doesn’t want to tell Perdicas. Xena pulls a Born Free and tells Gabrielle it’s okay and she should go get married and leave. Then Joxer runs up to tell them about Callisto. The four all head off to a village where Callisto is screaming and killing and enjoying herself. Callisto tries to kill a little girl that looks like Xena. Xena saves the kid but exposes herself to Callisto. Rather then kill Xena Callisto pulls an excellent super villain, gives Xena her plan and flips away.

Perdicas and Gabrielle are fighting bad guys. Perdicas kills one and freaks the fuck out. Xena saves him. Gabrielle realizes that Perdicas is broken and pulls a Cameron from House and decides that loving broken people is the best thing EVER. Gabrielle this is a terrible reason to marry someone!

They get married. I continue to stare at her makeup. Really. It’s bad. Xena looks super confused about the marriage. She’s all “I’m happy for you,” and it’s totally the way you say it when your ex tells you they’re with someone and they’re in love. Then they kiss. I can safely say I’ve never kissed a friend on the mouth at their wedding. How’s about you?

Gabrielle and Perdicas leave and I notice Gabrielle’s shoes. Oh Gabrielle. Bad shoes and bad makeup.

THE SHOES.


Worst wedding night ever. They’re talking about Xena instead of other things. Perdicas when will you realize your wife loves another and is just with you out of guilt and a need to fix things. Gabrielle would marry a broken bookshelf shattered while Xena went to war just to appease her need for fixing and guilt absolving. Gabrielle tells him she’s never been with a man. Interesting way of putting it. They talk about their sexual history and I feel uncomfortable. Then he tells her he sucks at sex. Winner!

He clearly does not comprehend what he's seeing.


Xena, down one chick, goes hunting for another. She grabs Theodorus, Callisto’s second in command, and interrogates him. Callisto left. Xena realizes she’s after Gabrielle.

Confirmed when Callisto interferes with some PDA. Perdicas tries to stop her with logic and honor. Idiot. Callisto just drops Gabrielle. Xena flips in they trade blows and Callisto stabs Perdicas and rides away. Xena can’t be that upset, but Gabrielle is HORRIFIED. Oh man, that close up of Xena. Awesome.

Also awesome, bringing in a character just so they can be killed. Success! George R.R. Martin would be proud.

For the honeymoon Xena sings her dirge, Gabrielle cries, and Perdicas roasts some delicious meat. Also Gabrielle wants to kill Callisto. She practices on a tree. Xena tries to talk her out of her anger with logic. Gabrielle would rather learn how to fight with a sword. Xena refuses. I love this scene. I love how she pokes her with a sword and Xena just lets her. I also love how Gabrielle apparently loses her virginity and her respect for love in the span of a few minutes. Then Xena teaches her and she’s so pissed about it. Seriously. Fucking great scene. Excuse me while I rewatch it.

Back.

And now we’re at a rave. Everyone’s getting wasted and Callisto is sitting there in her chair watching it all like a teetotaler. Outside Xena tells Gabrielle to stay put while she goes to watch Callisto. Gabrielle gets pissed and Xena leaves and goes off to pray. This episode has pushed her to pray. That’s a pretty big deal for this Xena. She doesn’t give a fuck about anyone or anything and usually spits on the gods. That she would pray means we’re in dire spiritual straits. Gabrielle catches the prayer and tells Xena that she’s sorry. I love Xena’s face when Gabrielle says she’s going home. Good work!

The next morning Xena and Joxer (where did he come from!?) are preparing to go in and kick ass. Only Gabrielle has snuck in before them and stands over Callisto with a sword to her heart. Then she remembers how everyone likes her because she’s the plucky sidekick who doesn’t kill and realizes she can’t do it or they’ll fire her from the show. Callisto wakes up and immediately sees what’s happened. Love the look of confusion. Callisto really doesn’t get Gabrielle.

Xena comes in and sees that a trap’s been laid. Both are tied up, with Xena getting the S&M chair. Oh they’re going to burn Gabrielle at the stake. And that’s when Joxer runs in and Callisto kicks his ass, but it’s just the diversion Xena needs. She grabs her chakram with her foot and sets to saving the day. Thankfully the first guy to attack Gabrielle attacks with a staff. Lucky! Lots of fighting. Callisto and Xena get their little one on one fight that ends with Callisto running off to ride a chariot. Xena gives chase with a little ADR encouragement from Gabrielle.

The chariot fight goes on and on. There’s a sunset. It’s picturesque. Callisto does a little Ben Hur bit and disables Xena’s chariot. Xena latches on to Callisto’s and the XenaDrag commences. Xena finally gets up on the chariot and they fight some more then both roll off into some quicksand. OF COURSE. This delights Callisto.

Xena works out a way to escape and does, but then, when given the chance to save Callisto she refuses. Instead she just stands there and watches Callisto drown in the sand. Hard-fucking-core.

Stone. Fucking. Cold.


Post manslaughter Xena tends to Joxer and acknowledges his help. Then she goes to tend to Gabrielle who is staring off into the sunset thinking about Perdicas.

The episode ends with a dedication to Hudson Leick’s stunt double from Callisto.

How this episode makes historians weep

No way that I can see. They totally had to have had S&M chairs in prehistoric times.

Superhuman Feats

  • That bit with the chakram is pretty impressive.
  • She gets dragged across sand by a chariot and comes up without a scratch.
  • Mother fucking ACTING.

Where it stands in the series

Thus ends Callisto’s life as a mortal.

Thus ends Gabrielle’s virginity (with a dude).

Thus ends Gabrielle’s marriage.

Theodorus and Joxer both made returns. We’ll see them both again in the future.

We’ll never see Perdicus again. He’s totally dead.

Disclaimer

Although Xena finally conquered her dark nemesis, Callisto, it took weeks to get the sand out of her leather unmentionables.

Rating *****

Are there some flaws? Yes. Mainly Renee O’Connor’s makeup and those shoes they had her in for her wedding. YIKES. Okay and the Gabrielle/Perdicas relationship might be a little rushed and clearly existing for plot purposes. Otherwise? This episode is solid gold. The performances, especially from Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor and Hudson Leick are all fantastic. You just…this is a show about a lady in a leather bustier. You don’t expect it the characters in it to have sincere moral quandries and you don’t expect these actresses–two of which haven’t done anything since–to be so good. These are three fully realized characters.

Lucy Lawless has come a long way from the Blue Steel wonder of the pilot. She expresses genuine emotion in this episode, and though the story is often about Gabrielle and Callisto it’s anchored by her. She, and the audience through her, are witnessing the downfall of an innoncent. It wouldn’t be nearly as heartbreaking without Xena there to watch it unfold.

Renee O’Connor has, perhaps, the easiest job. She’s a grieving widow out for revenge. But she plays off Lawless and Leick so well. Look at the urgency she brings to the scene where she forces Xena to teach her how to kills. She’s egging Lawless on and forcing the other woman to really fucking act.

And Hudson Leick’s Callisto. It’s not often you see such a perfectly rendered psychopath. She’s not like the many Jokers and Lex Luthors and other psychopathic villains we’ve seen. Callisto just doesn’t get people. She doesn’t understand forgiveness. That moment she finds Gabrielle hovering over her with a sword is one of the most telling character moments I’ve ever seen. Here is a character incapable of redemption because she doesn’t comprehend it.

The writing for the episode is sparse and really allows the actresses to bring their own abilities to the table  and the episode uses Joxer to surprisingly good effect. Shocking because that character gets misused a LOT over the course of the show.

Does the director maybe experiment with slowmo and Dutch angles too much? Sure. Does it date the episode? Absolutely. Should you mind? Nope. It’s worth it because the story being told is just that good.

Perhaps what’s neatest is that Gabrielle undergoes a HUGE change this episode. She really does lose just about every drop of innocence she has (okay, she still hasn’t killed a person). Yet despite her character being extraordinarily dynamic this episode and appearing to have the main storyline we actually see it all through Xena’s eyes and she has a pretty big, if quiet change. This episode, on the surface, appears to be Gabrielle’s, but it’s a Xena episode through and through.

Xena just had a world altering episode back in “Remember Nothing” where she sacrificed her brother to protect Gabrielle’s innoncence. Here Callisto takes that sacrifice away. She makes Gabrielle a widow and she makes Xena feel helpless.

Not eight episodes ago Xena risked her own life to protect Callisto despite Callisto clearly being irredeemable. Here she allows her to die, not for the greater good, but to protect those she cares about. It’s one of the core conflicts of the show. Balancing personal desire with the greater good.

Coming Soon

Episode 6, Warrior…Princess…Tramp.
Xena’s many doubles appear in a farcical romp because dang if we don’t need one after the heaviness of this episode.