I owe Xena a lot. She came into my life when I was still very young, and she was the first on-screen example of a woman who could really hold her own. You want her to fight a man? Great, she’ll win. You want her to fight an entire army of men? Great, she’ll still win. And not only that, but Xena was also proof that a woman didn’t need a man or a significant other by her side. Even before Gabrielle joined her, Xena was fine. Putting aside her dark past, she was one heck of a role model. After all, she was the sole reason why I learned to appreciate a good war cry.
Growing up, my brother and I watched both Xena and Hercules religiously. And when the shows would have crossover episodes in which Xena and Hercules would make out? Oh yeah, those were the best days. As a child, those days ranked just below snow days on the scale of awesomeness, and that’s saying a lot.
But even when Hercules would come around, he would save her and she would save him. She was never a damsel any more than he was. Honestly, as ridiculous as it sounds, I attribute my strength as a young woman to my mother and to Xena.
In fact, even my mother wishes she were Xena. For years, she has taught sales workshops in which she plays, “Who am I?” She allows the group to ask her five closed-ended questions and one open-ended question, after which they’re always able to guess that she’s Xena. And you know why she wants to be her? Because Xena is strong. Xena is powerful. And Xena can pretty much fly.
So you can imagine the horror I felt when the television show ended with the warrior queen of all warriors dying. And by dying, I mean being decapitated. Here’s how the story went:
Many years before, Xena had befriended a girl named Akemi, who had killed her father and then asked Xena to kill her. Xena obliged, but later, when she was attacked by villagers, Xena burned down an entire village and killed 40,000 people. Akemi’s father had then become Lord Yodoshi, the eater of souls. And now, he had all 40,000 souls enslaved inside of him. In order to fight him, Xena had to die.
Let me stop here and say … what?! I loved this show, and I was all about the mythological aspects of things, but this floating head, eater-of-souls stuff was a bit of a stretch. As was the literal mushroom cloud bomb that Xena set off before she took on an entire army during her suicide mission. I wish I were kidding.
Xena, knowing that she had to die to fight Yodoshi, single-handedly took on an army, which resulted in her being shot by a number of arrows before finally being decapitated. Needless to say, that was not fun to watch. But Xena had a plan. She was no stranger to the underworld and fully intended on coming back to life after killing Yodoshi. Only, once she completed her task and freed the 40,000 souls, she realized that in order for them to remain in a state of grace, she had to stay dead. So Gabrielle took her chakram and her ashes and continued her journey without her.
In their final scene together, Gabrielle spoke of Xena’s life spent journeying to the farthest lands and the edges of the earth, to which Xena (as a spirit) added, “And to the place where I’ll always remain: Your heart.” And after Gabrielle told her that she heard Egypt was in need of a “girl with a chakram,” Xena responded with, “Where you go, I’m at your side.” And the final words of the series belonged to Gabrielle: “I knew you’d say that.”
I can’t even express how many things are wrong with this ending. As much as I’m against Xena dying — which I am — I would’ve been okay with it had it been in some other way. But having Xena go out and be a peaceful spirit and let Gabrielle become the girl with the chakram (and super cheesy lines)? It just doesn’t sit well with me. If Xena had saved everyone on Earth, lost Gabrielle in battle, and then went out in a super epic fight, I might’ve been okay with that. But there’s just something about Gabrielle lasting longer than Xena that doesn’t make sense. Plus, the whole peaceful spirit thing makes me itch.
I know that Xena was finally able to find the redemption she had been searching for, and I’m all for that, but the situation through which that was executed was all wrong. Xena was a warrior who never stopped fighting. She had proved time and time again that she could not be killed, that she was the best of the best. So why not end things with her whistling over her horse and riding off to her next venture? And that way, we could’ve sidestepped this over-the-top ice-breathing Yodoshi man.
Look, Xena defeated gods and goddesses, and she deserved an ending that was as strong as she was, not some rom-com ending about how she would always be with Gabrielle. Did Xena love Gabrielle? Of course. But Xena could stand (and die) on her own two feet. If anyone deserved to go out with a bang — dead or alive — it was Xena the freakin’ warrior princess.