I really liked Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, but Xena: Warrior Princess was way better. Originally appearing as a villain halfway through Hercules’ first season, the warlord was betrayed by her lieutenant, then joined forces with Hercules. She turned her back on the path of vengeance and god of war, Ares. This happened to coincide with producers want to create a spin-off. Funny that.
Xena was like Hercules as far as structure and setting. Introduced in the first episode, her naive farm-girl companion Gabrielle joined the Amazonian on her quest to kick ass. Xena was a master swordsman, tactician, and all around fighter. Always seen wearing her leather armored skirt with charkam at her side, you knew when you heard her battle cry, it was on. Oh, and flips. There was some serious flipping going on here. Onto horses, over opponents, up the side of trees. This show had me convinced that flipping was incredibly useful in combat.
Played by the still gorgeous Lucy Lawless, the New Zealand native lucked into the role. Another woman was set to play the character but was unable to make it to set due to illness. It was a similar situation for Gabrielle, played by Renee O’Connor. The woman cast to play her didn’t want to leave her boyfriend in the States. I hope she ended up marrying him.
Gabrielle was an interesting character who had strong arc throughout the series. She started as a doe-eyed companion, wearing simple clothes, before becoming more of a warrior, changing her outfit and hair. She annoyed me at first, seeming like a needy little sibling. Once she came into her own, I enjoyed her more.
There was always a question of Xena and Gabrielle’s partnership. Women in the lesbian community rallied behind them, using the characters as role models for gay rights. While the subtext of their relationship was left intentionally vague, many still believe they are a couple, including Lawless herself. The characters have kissed on occasion, including at the end of the series where Gabrielle breathes/kisses life back into Xena.
Much like She-Ra, Xena ended up being more popular and longer lasting than the material she was spun out from. There has been anecdotal (i.e. made up) evidence from producers that strong female leads don’t sell. I’m sure the guy who cut the Joss Whedon Wonder Woman movie years ago is having fun working at McDonald’s.
The show had many fun arcs. Hercules was rooted in Greek mythology mostly. Xena was able to branch out slightly more, with Alexandria and Rome being among the locations shown. More gods were showcased beyond the Greek pantheon as well. Allusions were made to the one god (insinuating the Judo-Christian God), but turned out to be some pagan god, Dahak. Regardless, Xena afforded writers the chance to look beyond the Greek setting.
Xena received much of the same marketing Hercules did; action figures, animated movie, god awful video games (N64 and PS1). The show lasted two years longer than Hercules, with 134 total episodes. Like Kevin Sorbo, Lawless was also hurt and production needed to be shifted to accommodate. The actress fracture her pelvis after being thrown from a horse in season two. See if you can notice any of the alternations.
Looking for something good to watch (that’s family friendly)? Can’t go wrong with Xena. All the episodes are streaming on Netflix. Rewatching this show is on my ever growing list of “one day” activities.
Huge crush on Lucy Lawless still.