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So, why this site?  Why these stories?
(c) 2012 Ronald B. Howes, Jr.

Why, with all the other websites and virtual seasons out there, (some of them very good), do I keep coming back to this one year after year, and why did I latch onto these stories like a desperate man looking for water in the desert, after we had all done the same and finally stopped screaming "NOOOO!!!" at the television after the end of the sixth season??

For me, it all came down to two simple things; character development and story lines. . . .

But why those reasons make sense requires a bit of background on why a middle-age geek engineer type began watching Xena in the first place.

For many years my only interest in television was sci-fi and such; Star Trek, The X-Files, and, of course, the greatest sci-fi show of all time, Doctor Who.
(BTW, if you have never seen this show and want a good precursor for Xena, Buffy and all the rest, check out Leela, the good Doctor's companion from the 1977 season - now there was a leather-clad-stab-first-and-ask-questions-later kind of woman!)

I stumbled onto Xena by accident one Sunday evening in the summer of 1997 after my nightly walk with our Sheltie just before bed. In our television market, Hercules and Xena aired Sunday evenings at 9 and 10. I had heard vaguely of both shows but had never seen either, and I had turned on the television just for a quick check of the news before bed.

By chance, that night the set had been left tuned to the shows' channel, and lo and behold, there was this odd show that I figured out fairly quickly had to be the "Xena" one. The episode may have been "Ten Little Warlords", but I'm not sure about that.

I have read the Greek myths, and I did not recall anyone named "Xena", or "Gabrielle", however, and what was with the funky sound effects, anyway? So, my first reaction was a bit non-committal, although two attractive women in leather did catch my eye.

Nevertheless, I only watched maybe two minutes of the show, after which I turned the tv off and hit the sack without another thought.

A few weeks later the same thing happened again - walk dog, turn on tv for news, funky show is on . .

Only this time I remember the episode clearly - it was, of all episodes to see for someone who had seen a grand total of two minutes of Xena, "The Xena Scrolls".

!!??

So I wasn't even sure this was the same show at first. Uhh, yea, I think those two women are the same actresses, but the characters are completely different, and who was the dude with the fake French accent? And Indiana Jones themes?

I actually watched several minutes of this episode, trying to figure it out. Was this the same show? Or was this some kind of fantasy adventure anthology? And again, what was the deal with the funny sound effects?

And it was right there, more out of curiosity than anything else, that I decided the next week to get home from my dog walk early enough to watch the show from the start to see the lead in and see what it was that I thought I was watching.

So OK, there was no Xena or Gabrielle in the Greek myths, but hey, the guy playing Ares looked the part, and the fight action was great. But Aphrodite - I had always envisioned her as a tall woman with dark hair and a long flowing gown, not a valley girl in a negligee. Notwithstanding that, generally everything on the show seemed to start hanging together, and within a month I was hooked.

It took me the next two years to catch up on all the reruns before I had the complete arc of the show.

And that brings me back to those two things I mentioned in the beginning, character development and story line.

The thing that I really began to appreciate about Xena was the gradual growth of the two lead characters, and how each character changed over the years.

In my mind Xena's character did not change so much as her background was gradually revealed to us. I must apologize to all the Hercules fans out there, but we saw almost immediately that Xena had much more to her background than Hercules did. Dark, forbidding, hints of a violent past, and the whole theme of past evil deeds, later turning to good, but ultimately having to endure necessary punishment for those evil deeds was laid out.

But Gabrielle - ah, there was a journey of a character!

We saw her start as the young, good hearted, virginal, innocent girl who yearned for something more exciting in her life. She started following the same dark, strong warrior we saw, but also discovered Xena's past and character just like us.

We saw her grow as she experienced love, then loss, then hatred, then the horror of her first kill, the ambiguous morality of finding that sometimes you have to choose between what works and what is "right", the soul searching in deciding whether the warrior's way or the non-violent way was best for her, and ultimately growing into a warrior in her own right, so much so that even Ares, at one point, decided to abandon his pursuit of Xena and make "that irritating blonde" his protégé.

And, finally, at the end of Season Six, it's all about her. The innocent girl was now the powerful warrior, albeit with a different past then Xena's.

So, when I read "Honor Bound", I thought it fit perfectly Gabrielle's struggle to find a new way for herself after her friend and mentor was gone, and, for me, it was the logical continuation of her growth going forward.

That's the first thing that sealed it for me.

The other was the care in how the story arcs in VS 7 and 8 were crafted and the good grasp the various writers had of the flexibility and exploratory nature of some of the themes in the original show. They expanded on those ideas and, in my opinion, created episodes just as outrageous, as exciting, and as powerful as anything that was done for the television series. (Although I'm still not sure about the hot air balloon - still thinking about that one . . !)

I also liked how the native peoples and environments of the story arc in the New World were meshed nicely with the background of Xena and Gabrielle to create new adventures without "jumping the shark", which could have easily happened.

Finally, these written stories - screenplays, actually - allow something an actual tv show does not - let the power of one's imagination roam free with as much or as little fabric as you wish to add to them. Of course, that would apply to the other virtual seasons that have emerged on the internet, but I thought the authors of this site did a better job of striking a balance between too much detail and too little in the story lines.

So, if you are new to the site, enjoy. See what happens when Egyptian mummies meet Greek warriors, travel to the America's, find the Fountain of Youth, wear buckskins, finally find out how Ares got into that tomb in "The Xena Scrolls", find out what happens when you combine a big dog and a scary castle.

And if you, like me, have been coming here for a while, keep coming back. I think it's the best.
 

 

Articles on Honor Bound part I (701) and Honor Bound Part II (702)

 

The concept for Honor Bound came easy. It was planted within my mind shortly after FIN II aired. It was obvious TPTB left the door ajar for Xena’s return. It was just a matter of pushing the door open and trying to make sense out of chaos. Not an easy task. We first had to figure out a way to bring Xena back that was within the framework of FIN. We did a lot of research on ancient Japanese religion and customs. Japanese culture and beliefs are complicated and riddled with numerous ceremonies, and the fact that they have over 250,000 kamis and a ceremony for each was mind boggling. Selecting the most appropriate ceremonies was quite a task!

Overall, the reaction of the fans has been overwhelmingly in favor of how the writers handled the storyline, and the review by our reviewers has been very complimentary to say the least. However there were reservations on how we had decided to handle Gabrielle’s character, particularly in part one of the virtual series opener, and we’d like to address those concerns here. Gabrielle’s grieving process was complex and all accounts had to be taken into consideration.

Although Gabrielle knew that for what Xena had to do, she had to join the spirit world to get close enough to Yodoshi to destroy him. But Xena had told her they’d find a way for her to come back. Harugata and the young monk confirmed that after Xena’s death. So there was hope. There was a way.

Finding Xena’s body in the condition she did was unexpected. Shocking. Sickening. Gabrielle nearly cried, but she didn’t. She nearly threw up, but she didn’t. Instead she repressed those feelings. She let her anger give her strength, much the way Xena’s anger gave her strength at the murder of  M’Lila in “Destiny”. Either way, Gabrielle still had hope. There was still a way to bring Xena back.

Then the news from Xena’s own mouth. She could not come back. She had to do the “honorable and right thing to do” so that the souls of the 40,000 kami could enter into a state of grace.

Gabrielle’s hope was crushed. Her hope of having Xena back in her life was ripped away from her. She knew it was wrong. She knew it was unfair. But she complied with Xena’s wishes. And it hurt. It hurt like hell.

Over time that hurt, that pain, was turned to anger. Anger at what had happened, anger at herself. And that anger began to turn to guilt. Guilt for not being by Xena’s side during the battle that took her life, for not fighting and dying beside her, guilt for not putting Xena’s ashes in the fountain of strength, guilt at obeying Xena’s last wishes even though she knew it was wrong and unjust, guilt at not going with her gut instincts.

Then with Ephiny’s words, hope reared its head again. She had to guard the ashes or she would never succeed in bringing Xena back. Now we complicate her reactions with worry and fear of failing her friend once again.

Several people have said that Gabrielle seemed out of character, not the strong and decisive woman she had finally become. However, these readers perhaps have never lost someone who was very close to them, someone who was their rock, their reason for living, and their soul mate. We have tried to depict how Gabrielle must have felt after FIN II, how she must have felt lost and alone, anger and guilt both preying on her mind.

Then when Gabrielle was given the hope that there was a way to bring Xena back, she jumped at the chance. Her determination and will came back. She became focused on finding out how to restore Xena to life. For in her heart, she felt Xena had been wrong in accepting her “end”, that her sense of honor had bound her unjustly to an undeserved fate. So, her challenge was to find a way to bring Xena back that would show the warrior princess that Xena, for once, did not have the final answer. That in fact, Gabrielle was the one who was right.

So, if Gabrielle sometimes seems indecisive or unsure, or even “whiny” like one reader said, it’s because she had to grow into the realization that Xena was wrong in this instance and had to be shown what her true destiny should be.

~ Chris Schinella ~

 

My comments are in teal. -Lori

From the Bard’s Quill

I knew the conclusion of Honor Bound was going to be complicated. I don’t think any of us; Diane, Iris, Chris, or Magenta knew just how complicated it was going to be. Not only in action and sequence, but in writing. As I mentioned in our article on Honor Bound I, there are over 250,000 kami in the Japanese culture and just as many ceremonies. We had to opt for the most logical. And the most logical, in our opinion, was a purification ceremony.

PROBLEM: Our research did not locate the exact type of purification ceremony we required. We found purification of grounds for the sumo wrestlers, construction sites, homes and gardens, but not of an entire village, the villagers, and dead spirits. We did find one item that said that the Emperor of Japan at one time in history, took upon himself the sins of his entire people and offered them up to the deities. Close enough.

SOLUTION: Adlib! 

We could have taken short cuts and eliminated a great deal. However, if we did that, there would have been no flavor - no ancient tradition - and it might have created gaps just as we saw in FIN. We didn’t want that. We wanted to tie up the loose ends in FIN and in HB as much as possible.

Some fans wanted to know more about Yodoshi’s son, what he had been doing for the past 40 years, and where he might have been during the events in FIN I and FIN II. We’d like to address that here.

Saburo was very young when his father died. After Yodoshi became the Lord of the Darklands, he had no need of his family other than to torment his daughter for slaying him. We envisioned that Saburo grew up knowing very little about his father other than to know he was a powerful lord who was slain by his sister. Given the Japanese culture and its outlook on patricide, honor and women, Saburo would naturally be supportive of his murdered father. Saburo led pretty much a normal life until Yodoshi was slain by Xena and the evil warlord needed help in returning to his former power. Who better to help than a son who didn’t know his evil ways? Therefore, Saburo never was involved with his father until he was needed by Yodoshi. No need to bring him into the picture until then.

As for Yodoshi and his ‘death’. To add to the mysticism created by Harugato and his ceremony over the sacred katana, we felt there was definitely something wrong with Xena’s ‘killing’ him. There had to be something more to the words Harugato said over the katana.

Firstly - Yodoshi was already dead. Akemi had killed him some thirty five years ago. How do you kill something that is already dead?

Since, in theory, you can’t kill something that’s already dead, the sacred words that Harugato spoke over the katana were intended to give the weapon, and the one who wielded it, power to “destroy” Yodoshi’s kami, to weaken it to the point where capturing him would be possible.

Secondly - His kami was so tainted that not even the deities of the hidden world would accept him into their realm of the dead.

QUESTION: So...where DID his kami go after Xena “killed“ him? 

ANSWER: The ceremony and the words spoken over the sacred katana could very well have been similar to a spell that would, when Yodoshi was destroyed, capture the essence that was once the Soul Eater. His kami was captured and is being held prisoner in the sacred katana.

As for Xena’s sacrifice. It wasn’t for Yodoshi she died, but for the 40,000 souls he devoured. In dying, she was able to set them free by destroying the form Yodoshi had taken. Destroying the form he took and capturing his evil kami freed the 40,000 souls.

Regarding the samurai: There was no real evidence that Gabrielle had killed him with the chakram. We don’t feel that Gabrielle even expected to hit him, but if she did, we know that Gabrielle’s heart is good, and she wouldn’t kill him. A just punishment for him would have been to stay alive and live with the shame. Thus, we decided to bring him back. 

As for why he didn’t commit seppuku... In all honesty, he didn’t strike us as the type of individual who would honor tradition. He struck us as the type of individual who would have hunted Gabrielle to the ends of the Earth in order to obtain his revenge for not giving him an honorable death… not to mention showing him up in front of his troops.

In conclusion, we would like to address some of the reader’s concerns regarding our handling of Gabrielle’s character in HBII. Some might feel that we portrayed her as weak and not forceful, that she alone should have carried both episodes. With the complexity of this arc, the traditions we researched, Gabrielle’s character had to be portrayed as such. She had to show respect to the elders, the kannushi and the guji.  When in a foreign land, one so embedded in traditions, being forceful and/or threatening would not have assisted Gabrielle in accomplishing her mission. That mission was to return Xena to the living world.

~ Lori ~


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