Happy Birthday, 'Xena'! Our Favorite 15 Episodes
by Chris Harnick, posted Sep 4th 2010 8:01AM
Fifteen years ago, the world was introduced to a television treasure: 'Xena: Warrior Princess.' Yes, 'Xena' is a treasure, because despite what some people may think, despite its over-the-top cheesecake factor and despite its blatant disregard for history, it was a gem of a TV show. Plus, it introduced us to Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor.
'Xena' was a trailblazer. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'Alias' and even newer shows such as 'Covert Affairs' and the new 'Nikita' remake owe a certain something to the beloved Warrior Princess. The series helped reshape the leading lady on TV for good, and for that reason alone, we as an audience should be eternally grateful.
Female characters shouldn't need a man to rescue them. They shouldn't be afraid to fall in love with another woman, and they certainly shouldn't hesitate from letting out one heck of a war cry.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the premiere of 'Xena,' and to celebrate, as the resident Xenite, I've ranked the Top 15 episodes. It wasn't an easy task -- everything 'Xena' is great -- but here's the final product.
1. 'When Fates Collide' - season 6, episode 18
This episode was alternate reality at its finest, yet it still retains everything that made 'Xena' so enjoyable. After Julius Caesar changes the world by messing with fate, we find Xena as the empress of Rome, Gabrielle a successful playwright, Joxer a stone-faced guard and the evil Alti as Xena's adviser. There was mystery, a great sense of threat and the action was intense, especially with Alti going around and making Xena and Gabrielle relive painful moments from their "real lives." Fitting that Xena and Gabrielle would find each other, even in other lives. They are soulmates after all! I can watch this standalone episode over and over and still enjoy it.
2. 'The Quill is Mightier ...' - season 3, episode 10
It's classic 'Xena' comedy at its best, and it doesn't really involve the title character in a major way. Gabrielle and the supporting players shine so brightly in this episode that you need sunglasses while watching. An annoyed Aphrodite bewitches Gabrielle's scroll so every time she writes something on it, it comes true. Gods lose their powers, Minya shows up, three naked Gabrielles pop up and it's comedy gold.
3. 'The Bitter Suite' - season 3, episode 12
Epic. That's the only word to describe the first musical episode of 'Xena.' After all these years I still can recall lyrics from the original songs by Joseph LoDuca, and I'm brought right back to the mystical world of Illusia. The episode served as a milestone in the rift storyline that made up season 3. It's an unforgettable episode -- for a good reason -- and is probably one of the most famous episodes of the series.
4. 'The Ides of March' - season 4, episode 21
The visions that plagued Xena for an entire season came true in this exceptional episode. The audience knew what was coming, but it was still heartbreaking to see Xena and Gabrielle get crucified by Romans while Caesar was murdered. After watching this episode, the Ides of March were forever changed for me. It was devastating to watch Xena's back get broken by her own chakram, but both wonderful and sad to see Xena and Gabrielle ascend to heaven together.
5. 'Who's Gurkhan?' - season 6, episode 4
There's nothing worse than a pissed off Gabrielle, and we re-learned that during this episode. I can't shake her saying, "Now I kill him ..." in the pouring rain after finding out the fate of her family after her 25-year slumber. Xena and Gabrielle go undercover in a harem to rescue Gabrielle's niece, Sara. There's a lot of mystery and intrigue, but not as much fighting as there is in a typical 'Xena' episode. That's why this episode is special.
6. 'Is There a Doctor In the House?' - season 1, episode 24
One of the most intense episodes of the series as a whole, 'Is There a Doctor in the House?' was bone-chilling. As the season 1 finale, the stakes were high and nothing was off the table. We got a birth, a near-death experience and one mad Warrior Princess.
7. 'Callisto' - season 1, episode 22
The title of the episode says it all, this episode brought us one of the most maniacal villains Xena -- and television in general -- has ever seen. Hudson Leick was perfect as Callisto and whenever she was around -- either as a goddess, demon or just plain crazy human -- you knew nobody was safe. It was a bit strange when she became an angel and was reincarnated as Xena's daughter, Eve, but viewers will always remember her for the evil villain we all came to love.
9. 'Maternal Instincts' - season 3, episode 11
The precursor to 'The Bitter Suite,' this episode was major. Hope's return, Solan's death and let's not forget Callisto! It was the season 3 rift like we'd never seen before and things would never be the same. It just so happens to be part of a string of great episodes: 'Maternal Instincts' fell between 'The Quill is Mightier...' and 'The Bitter Suite.'
8. 'The Abyss' - season 6, episode 6
Perhaps one of the more chilling episodes of 'Xena,' the cannibals were freaking scary! Of course this episode also gave us that wet cave scene between Xena and Gabrielle and a bit of resolution about Xena and Hope.
10. 'The Xena Scrolls' - season 2, episode 10
The first and best reincarnation story, 'The Xena Scrolls' had it all. Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington became instant fan favorites. Plus, who didn't love the 'Indiana Jones'-esque feel, especially with the chakram as an artifact?
11. 'Sins of the Past' - season 1, episode 1
Sure, this wasn't the first time viewers ever saw Xena, but it was the episode that started it all. We were introduced to Gabrielle, and Xena truly began her path of redemption. This episode had everything 'Xena' became known for and remains timeless.
12. 'The Greater Good' - season 1, episode 21
Gabrielle really stepped it up in this episode, plus audiences got a dose of Salmoneus. Another variation of the poisoned hero (these seem to be the best episodes), 'The Greater Good' saw a fierce Gabrielle do everything she can to defend her friend. Even Argo got in on the action!
13. 'Old Ares Had a Farm' - season 6, episode 10
Another classic comedy episode, it just proved how versatile the entire crew of the series was. Xena and Gabrielle hide a powerless Ares on a farm. Of course there are plenty of sexual references and skimpy outfits, but it was lighthearted and entertaining without losing the action-adventure element.
14. 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' - season 2, episode 4
Hello, subtext. Gabrielle becomes a very sexual bacchae, complete with new S&M duds. The episode was dark and the kind of fun you'd expect from 'Xena.'
15. 'One Against An Army' - season 3, episode 13
Xena is at her butt-kicking best in this episode. A poisoned Gabrielle leaves Xena alone to fight the Persian Army. This could've been just another morally injured Gabrielle indeed of Xena's help episode, but it became so much more as we saw the relationship between the two emerge in a different light. "Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you."
Tell us: What's your favorite 'Xena' episode?