"Motherhood" perfectly displayed everything that's been wrong with Xena lately. Where Xena used to be a hero, she is now a self-righteous prig. She manipulates people with a verve and ease that is usually reserved for the villains of the show. In fact, take a look at "Amphipolis Under Siege": Character A uses the fact that Character B is in love with A to manipulate B into betraying B's family, all for promises that A never keeps by coming up with a lame loophole. Normally on this show, A would be the evil villain that is cursed for being a manipulative bastard and B would be the noble, wronged hero -- except, in fact, A is Xena and B is Ares.
In "Motherhood," Xena never once, in any way, shape, or form, acts heroic. Having decided that nothing will stop her from saving her child -- despite the fact that her child is a mass-murderer, despite the fact that Eve's existence is supposed to spell the end of the Greek gods -- Xena turns into a killing machine. She wipes out gods, and even slices open the head of her best friend, in order to defend the life of her child. (This is, of course, the very same Xena who urged Gabrielle to murder her own infant child back in "Maternal Instincts," solely on the basis of who Hope's father was. Eve's swath of destruction, frankly, makes Hope look like a piker...)
She is given the power to kill gods by the so-called god of love or god of light that we first got a glimpse of when Iolaus was carried off in "Redemption" on Hercules. The next time we saw this "god of love," his agent, the Archangel Michael, decided to wipe out humanity, and was only stopped by Hercules (with help from Iolaus and Ares) in "Revelations." This same "god of love," according to Xena's "Fallen Angel," condemns people to hell solely because an angel is unable to keep a grip on someone's wrist.
And finally, this god of love condones and encourages mass murder by giving Xena the power to kill gods, a power our theoretical hero takes on with great relish.
Admittedly, the gods are trying to kill Xena -- and having a ridiculously hard time of it. Suspending disbelief has been damn near impossible ever since "Eternal Bonds," when the gods first started trying to kill Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve. That was the thirteenth episode of the season, and it isn't until the nineteenth -- "Looking Death in the Eye" -- that Xena tricks the gods into thinking she, Eve, and Gabby are dead -- and Xena has had time to hare off to Egypt and back for "Antony and Cleopatra" in the meanwhile.
The fact is, these are gods we're talking about. Remember way back in "The Wrong Path," the first regular Hercules episode? Hera wiped out Hercules' wife and three children without batting an eyelash. Yet half a dozen gods apparently are incapable of killing these three, despite having several months to do so, which is absurd. If the gods really wanted them dead, they'd be dead. The gods have (up until now) consistently been portrayed as more than capable of killing any mortal with the flick of a wrist. The only reason Xena hasn't been a victim of any of them prior to now is simply because they've never had reason. Xena's interactions with the gods (aside from Ares) has been minimal, and none of them have wanted to kill her, except Poseidon, and he mainly just wanted her off the sea (not that he ever made good on the promise he made way back in "Lost Mariner," considering that Xena's taken half a dozen sea voyages since then). And yet, they can't seem to kill her now.
Once Xena's been imbued with the power from the "god of love," of course, the difficulty killing her makes more sense, and Xena's own slaughter of the gods is, to a degree, self-defense: they did attack first. (And, I have to admit, Discord's beheading was a fantastic special effect.)
But then we have the incident with Gabrielle.
Gabrielle, having been manipulated by the Furies, decides to kill Eve. Eve is, after all, a mass murderer who killed, among other folks, Joxer. Gabrielle stabs Eve, just as Xena walks in. Xena -- the same Xena who earlier that same episode gave Gabby all the credit for Xena's transformation from evil to good (once again ignoring the rather important contributions made by Hercules and Salmoneus, but we'll let that go), the same Xena who has declared her undying love for Gabrielle on endless occasions -- unhesitatingly uses her chakram to slice Gabrielle's head open, and then runs to see if Eve is all right before checking to see how Gabby is.
At that instant, I stopped liking, caring for, or being in any way sympathetic to or interested in Xena as a character. I can never again be convinced of her as a hero. Her behavior is not significantly different from the way she acted when she manipulated Iolaus into killing Hercules way back in "The Warrior Princess."
It gets worse.
Xena and Eve meet up with Virgil, who is understandably distressed at being face to face with the woman who murdered his father. Virgil gives a lengthy and heartfelt speech about what a good man Joxer was -- which Xena then fobs off by telling Eve that she'll "get a lot of that," and not to worry about it. No object lessons in humility, no comfort, just dismissing Virgil's legitimate grief as just something Eve will have to deal with but nothing she needs to concern herself with.
Xena needs Aphrodite to get to Olympus, so Xena -- who has just recently murdered 'Dite's husband -- plays on 'Dite's friendship with Gabrielle by urging the goddess of love that "Gabrielle doesn't have much time." Right, bitch, she doesn't have time because of a gaping head wound that you caused!!!
And all of this has apparently been in service of this damn "god of love." It's obviously supposed to be the Judeo-Christian God (reinforced by the appearance in "Motherhood" of John the Baptist), but if I were Jewish or Christian, I'd be really offended by this thing trying to be passed off as my deity, especially since it's proven to be as cruel or crueler than the Greek gods ever could have been. What's worse is the show forcing the supposedly inherent superiority of this one god down our throats, to the extent that Xena serves as its avatar and prays to one of its proponents (Eli) -- the same Xena who, on more than one occasion, said she had no real use for gods.
This used to be one of my favorite shows. Now, it's almost painful to watch. I actually find myself loathing the title character to a degree I wouldn't have believed possible. By jumping ahead in the timeline by twenty-five years, they've all but eliminated their supporting cast, which was part of the show's charm. But then, the show has lost all its charm anyhow, so what the hey. The only interesting character left is Ares -- who has acted more heroic this season than the title character, despite being an ostensible villain. Hell, one of the grand themes of all the "Xenaverse" shows is that one should follow one's heart, and Ares has been doing that all season, only to have Xena metaphorically kick him in the balls for it. The only parts of "Motherhood" that were at all compelling to me on a character level were the scenes with Ares.
[First posted on sff.people.krad at SFF.net on 28 May 2000.]
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