Memo to: Xena fans

Re: Her beheading

Xenites, stop freaking out over the last episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.

Xena is dead and staying dead. In five of the most heartwrenching minutes of television, the bodacious warrior prevented her soulmate Gabrielle from bringing her back to life, electing to stay dead and thereby avenge the deaths of 40,000 souls she’d accidentally killed in Japan 35 years before.

The final episode, which aired Jun 20 on the New VR, has caused a major rift between fans, many of whom say the beheading of Xena (in a battle against an army of 20,000) and her later refusal to be brought back to life are a betrayal to the essence of the show.

Vengeance won out and the mighty love between Xena and sidekick Gabrielle couldn’t absolve the warrior of her guilt. The premise of the whole show was blown away.

“Friend In Need,” the finale, was truly a tragic tale: a proud warrior, her beloved, a mighty battle and a choice between love and duty. Xena was heroic to the end: she went down fighting, choosing to sacrifice herself so the 40,000 souls could enter a state of grace. It’s just that her decision meant she left behind a grief-stricken partner, rending a relationship that has been the foundation of the show (and fans’ obsession with it). Even though Gabrielle inherited Xena’s many fighting skills, she still has only a ghost as her companion now.

In the end, it was the greater good that won the day – in Xena’s mind anyway. But thousands of hardcore Xena fans don’t agree. The emotional reaction to the last show was astonishing.

Many angry Xenites say the finale was too violent, misogynist and even feel betrayed.

The calls for stringing up creator Rob Tapert – like he hung Xena’s headless, lifeless, arrow-pierced body from a scaffold in a samurai’s compound – are a little out of hand.

Others aren’t quite so unforgiving. The finale was bloody, but also beautifully filmed, poignant and gave us the first real on-screen kiss between our warrior and bard. I’ve just watched it for the third time and I still choke up at the end. Fortunately I’ve managed to get past the deep sense of loss, the sobbing and sleepless night that followed my first viewing.

You may not have liked the ending, but the trip there was a blessing. It brought disparate people together from all corners of the earth; it gave the world a female, kick-ass hero; and it gave us a powerful love story that just happened to be about two strong women.

It’s that love story that will endure. Two women who would do anything for each other – literally die and travel to hell and back. Two women who never needed a man for anything, even for having kids. Two women who were real, strong, funny, tough and deeply in love with each other.


That love story spawned a great creative movement. There is more lesbian fiction, both original and based on the series, on the Internet than you’ll ever be able to read. Some is very good, some terribly bad, some sweet and some sexually graphic. These stories, written by women, and even some men, about the love between women, opened doors to others who may not even have seen them before.

Those fans who say they’ll never watch any of the 132 episodes they carefully taped, never read another piece of fan fiction and never participate in fan events again will come back. Already the angriest are working through it. The sadness of the warrior’s loss will cling for a while yet, but the anger will dissipate more swiftly. There’s so much more to the fandom than just the show.

As Xena lives on in Gabrielle’s heart, so she’ll live on in the hearts of fans everywhere. Wednesday night TV will never be the same but even in death, Xena’s legacy survives.

And it’s the Xenaverse… so no one ever really stays dead.

Read More About:
Culture, TV & Film, Media, Toronto

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