REVIEW 701 - HONOR BOUND
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What more can I say, I was a crying, hurting, blubbering idiot
when I started to read this new scroll. To me Gabby has always
been a rock. She has always had an inner strength I’ve admired and
hope to develop some day. As I read the tale, I felt Gabby’s heart
growing weaker as she begins to deal with this loss. I knew she
wouldn’t be able to go on with a “normal” day (but then how many
of us had a “normal” day after we saw the Finale? I know I
didn’t). But the apparent guilt she has over Xena’s “death” is
something I never conceived of. Way back when, in the scroll “One
Against an Army”, Gabby “accepted the consequences of their life
together, that it might one day come to this”. I never thought
about her feeling guilty for what happened. I thought she would be
hurting and use this pain to fight for the greater good. (At least
that was what she did following one of Xena’s ventures to the
I loved how Gabby kept clutching the urn. She can’t let go of
Xena. Gabby was Xena’s source and Xena was Gabby’s inspiration.
This is something we all have to know is right. We all lose people
close to us at some point in our life, but these people are still
walking with us. We need to keep holding on to them. Keep them in
our hearts as Gabby has kept Xena in hers.
Ephiny was a surprise, a welcome surprise. She has always had a
knack for making Gabby stop and realize she is heading down the
Dreams (not the Fleetwood Mac hit)
What is it with Gabrielle and boats? Every time she is on one,
something bad happens. The boat either sinks, she gets sea sick,
almost gets sucked into a vortex, she gets sea sick, she gets sea
sick and Xena goes off to fight Gabby’s fight, or she has
nightmares. But in a way these nightmares are a way of healing for
As the dreams replay the events surrounding Xena’s death,
Gabby’s mind is changing the events to help her deal with her
grief. The fear, asking why, ashes, sword, and searching that are
in her dreams (before Ephiny appears) are part of this grieving
process. The fear comes from unexpressed love, self-doubts, and
courage. Asking why or questioning in dreams is a call for a
reply, feeling of uncertainty, and expression of doubt. Ashes
depict a loss of something through carelessness. The sword means
she feels a need to confront. And the searching is looking for
recognition of desires or wants.
After Ephiny finally gets through to Gabby, the dreams take a
peaceful turn. Gabby is no longer seeing the death of Xena, but
the life of her. The laughing, the quiet rumble of a stream, the
cherry blossom. This peace may be the end of a cycle and the
beginning of a new cycle. Gabby may have reached a new level of
stability and calmness. Or, this is just the calm before the
Q & A, but without the A (well, sort of)
This scroll has brought up many questions, mostly about Gabby’s
character. Will Gabby become a “monster”? Will Gabby become what
she feared Xena would become if she died? Is she going to grieve
like Xena in “Adventures in the Sin Trade”? Gabby is devastated
now, if Xena can’t be brought back, will Gabby be able to go on?
I highly doubt that Gabby will become a monster. Sure, she has
become something like Xena, but Gabrielle is pure, her heart is
strong. Eventually (if Xena cannot be brought back) Gabby will
have to go on with her life. The light will still shine on her
face and she will always be out to battle for the greater good.
Even if the greater good is what took Xena away from her.
It’s hard to think of Gabby going on without Xena. If she has
to go on without Xena, how will she. When Xena died in “The Quest”
Gabby was still young and naïve to the world. Could that have
played a part in the difference in the ways she grieved for her
friend? Or is it that both Xena and Gabby have come back from
death so many times that it is the expected outcome (by both them
and us?). Gabby has to go on though. If she can’t, her heart is
not as strong as thought. She’s not the rock portrayed in numerous
episodes. Gabby needs to focus, like Xena always told her. This
bard is destined to do something great with her life. Since day
one, she wanted to be the beginning of the peace and the end of
the violence. Gabby can still do this she just needs to realize
she has to do this, with or without Xena. It will be harder
to accomplish this without Xena, but Gabby has never backed down
from a challenge. The pain is great nevertheless at least she
knows her and Xena are soul mates. This offers little condolence,
however it is something to look forward to. Gabrielle and Xena
will always be together, spiritually or physically (although it
would be better if Xena would come back in this life time, but we
will all have to wait and see).
Quotes, Quotes, and more Quotes
I love quotes, things I can spit at someone that make me sound
intelligent. Or in the case of this scroll, two quotes of feelings
and true emotions. The first is when Xena appears to Gabby while
she is still on the boat. “We’ve been through a lot together… some
good times… some bad times… …but we always managed to win in the
end… I don’t feel like a winner this time around, Xena“. That is
true emotion in its simplest form. Gabby has never been afraid to
say or show her emotions and this is straight out how she feels. I
wish I could be that strong to say what I felt whenever and to
The second quote is when Gabby is setting up camp and is
talking to Xena (even though Xena’s not there in a semi-visible
form). The “…But they weren’t concerned about honor. They were
more concerned about revenge. They weren’t concerned about
justice; they just wanted somebody to take the blame”. How many
times do we find ourselves wanting someone to take the blame and
seek revenge and/or vengeance for something without finding out
the truth? No truth in the matter, no honor in the revenge. No
honor in the revenge, no revenge, only another pain to feel.
~ unknown author ~
Review by Josh:
I found it rather difficult to approach
this virtual season idea. Unlike a large segment of the fan base
(at least, according to surveys conducted online), I was not
upset, offended, or hurt by the way Tapert & Company decided to
conclude their story. Perhaps this is why I was invited to offer
my commentary on these new stories; I would be a lot less
willing to forgive the flaws in the tale because they brought
the Warrior Princess back to life.
I have never been fond of fan fiction – the
vast majority of it, in my opinion, is amateurish and nowhere
near as engaging as the series itself. As a glorified fan
fiction project, this virtual season (again, in my opinion)
seemed doomed to mediocrity at best; clearly an attempt by the
dissatisfied segment of the fandom to pretend the series finale
was all a horrible dream.
Still, I felt the sharp sting of curiosity.
Where would these new scribes take the story? How effectively
would they capture the tone of the series? How would they
convert the active visual format of television into the
print-and-picture style of the Internet? What sort of community
would develop around this neo-Xena?
I had to find out. If it turned out my
suspicions were correct, I could bow out gracefully with no harm
If this premiere is any indication, this
project has a lot more promise than I had thought it would.
Before I get into the analysis itself,
however, I should point out that my approach to these stories is
going to be a little different than the television episodes for
a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, these are scripts, and
reading a script is very different from actually seeing a
performance (just think of the difference between reading Hamlet
and seeing it performed, and you’ll know what I mean). In a
script, it is much easier to get into a character’s head and
understand their motivations – there is convenient “narration”
to point to motivations or feelings.
Second, these stories are not truly
restricted by time considerations. While the scribes are doing
their best to adhere to the standard length of an hour-long
script, there will be no editorial cuts – the whole story should
be there. Any glaring omissions or questions will be a lot
harder to shrug off as, “It was likely left on the cutting room
Finally, action and scenery is less
important than it was. The “money shots” (to use the
professional phrase) should be described in the script, but
these will not have the same impact they have on screen. A sense
of the action should be given (particularly in the action
sequences), but it isn’t going to make or break the episode in
My primary concerns will be the quality of
the story itself, and how faithfully it adheres to the spirit of
the original series.
Now let’s sit down and look at Honor
Bound, shall we?
I received a preliminary copy of the script
– I have no idea how the episode will actually look when fully
assembled and posted to the VS website. The preliminary script
has some directions that are intended for the web designer –
these are images that are intended to be seen on the website
(and possibly some audio as well, I don’t know).
A page through the story reveals a faithful
adherence to the teleplay format. The teaser and four acts are
clearly indicated. The scenes are highlighted with numbers and
descriptors, and the editorial directions between scenes (cuts,
dissolves, and so forth) are also present. Dialogue is indented,
with stage directions to indicate the tone of the lines.
As for the story itself, it proceeds from
one of the arguments made by fans at the end of the series.
Akemi betrayed Xena’s trust, using “the pinch” to kill her
father. Akemi then killed herself, and asked Xena to go against
the tradition that patricides get buried with no honor. In
fulfilling Akemi’s request, Xena accidentally started the fire
that killed the residents of Higuchi, allowing them to be
imprisoned by Yodoshi.
Basically, Xena was wrong to sacrifice
herself for these people because it wasn’t her fault – justice
hasn’t really been done.
Gabrielle hasn’t been well. It would appear
that Xena’s spirit is literally hanging around, and that
Gabrielle can see and hear her. Xena vanishes each night at
sunset, and Gabrielle is left to the torment of nightmares,
wracked with guilt because she feels that she should have done
something to save her friend. Remaining by her side at the
battle where Xena was killed, dumping her ashes into the pool on
Mount Fuji to revive her, or any number of other possibilities.
Ephiny appears and tells Gabrielle that
there is someone in Chin who may be able to help. (One advantage
of this project – any characters can appear because they don’t
have to worry about the availability of actors.) Gabrielle finds
an old follower of Lao Ma’s teachings (Li Ching) who tells her
about the Kannushi. These are holy men who specialize in seeing
In my research, I wasn’t able to find any
specific reference to this group. Still, the idea of a panel of
wise priests that sees to the justice of life and death fits
into the mythological system of China and Japan, which are both
loaded with hierarchies of men, spirits, and gods.
So we have our objective. If Gabrielle can
convince the Kannushi that justice was not done, perhaps Xena
can be brought back to life. Most of the events in the rest of
the episode are obstacles to achieving that goal.
In a nod to the traditions of the series,
one of these obstacles is a time limit. Almost entirely
arbitrary, it is a device used to add tension, drama, and
urgency to an episode. I have no trouble with this at all.
Another obstacle is Xena’s own stubborn
refusal to accept the situation. Another character returns to
deal with this obstacle – Lao Ma. She reminds Xena that there is
a lot of good she has done, and a lot of good she has yet to do.
This conflict is not resolved in this episode – we must leave
some things for the second part of the episode!
This conflict is very well handled. Xena
obviously won’t come back if she doesn’t want to, so her
objections to resurrection must be dealt with.
We have our requisite action sequences with
Gabrielle getting attacked by thugs on the dock, and by the crew
of the ship taking her to Japa. For an episode like this, the
dramatic and interpersonal conflicts are more significant than
the physical danger, but there should be a fight or two in an
episode (it is an action series, after all). These
fulfill that role adequately.
This is a two part episode, so we have a
fantastic cliff hanger to bring us running back next week;
Xena’s ashes are stolen from the shrine by a mysterious ninja
(at least, I presume that it’s a ninja, with the stealth and
This is a very engaging story, solidly in
the tradition of six years of televised episodes. I think the
writers and story developers did a very good job of advancing
the story of Xena’s resurrection, and provided interesting
challenges and obstacles along the path to that goal. I could
certainly see this story done as an episode of the series.
Overall, I am still going to withhold
judgment. The conclusion of the story will affect my overall
impression of the scribes’ ability to capture the essence of the
series and the characters. This is a story that, by its very
nature, lends itself to drama and solid storytelling. How will
they fare when they need to come up with fresh ideas? Only time
But for now, I
am intrigued enough to go along for the ride.
It’s no secret that, had “A Friend in Need”
not been the series finale of Xena, but a season finale,
it wouldn’t have been as hated as it was. People might have been
able to appreciate its story, despite some rather large plot
holes, had that death not seemed so final. And now they can,
since the Virtual Season has come along and saved us all! Not
only have they resurrected Xena, but they’ve even been able to
patch up a few of the plot holes that “A Friend in Need” left
open. I would be willing to wager that if “Honor Bound”
was aired, as is, on television, and fans watched “Friend in
Need” and “Honor Bound” back-to-back, it would be viewed
as one of the greatest story arcs the show has ever done.
As far as scripting and pacing, this
episode was brilliant. Despite the fact that it was a foregone
conclusion that Xena would come back to life, the writers
managed to make the episode both suspenseful and taut,
effectively using the mystery of the identity of the assassin,
and the reappearance of the samurai who had challenged Gabrielle
to add vital components to this thoroughly satisfying
installment. The notion that Yodoshi’s spirit may not be trapped
forever also opens up a possible return in the future, which was
a good idea for the writers. It could yield a good story for
future episodes, although I hope it won’t be for a long time!
Only a few niggling things remain in my
mind…Will Gabrielle’s nightmares from “Honor Bound” be
addressed again? And will we see more of Ephiny’s ghost? She
appeared in the first part to help Gabrielle. Does she have a
greater part to play, as a ghost, in the upcoming season?
Perhaps the greatest question that remains,
however, is where do we go from here? Xena and Gabrielle are
together once more, all the wrongs have been righted again. I,
for one, cannot wait to see how the Virtual Season tackles
perhaps even a bigger challenge than bringing Xena back to
life…keeping her alive, with fresh storylines and great writing.
With “Honor Bound,” the Virtual Team had “A Friend in
Need” as an anchor. The purpose of “Honor Bound” was to
complete that storyline. Now the Virtual Team must set Xena and
Gabrielle off on a new quest, with new villains to vanquish and
people to save. And, after viewing “Honor Bound Pts 1 and
2,” I am positive that they are up to the challenge.
My rating for this episode is 10 out of 10:
Perfectly executed, perfectly scripted, perfect
characterizations, perfect pacing…Perfect everything! And
perfectly brilliant, too!
Bound” Part One is a stellar achievement and more than
worthy of being part of the canon of “Xena: Warrior Princess.”
Beyond merely having an excellent plot, the dialogue is
well-written, with a perfect ear for the characters and
situations. The writers obviously have great love for these
characters, and also seem to know them better than even the
writers of the original series sometimes seemed to. I could
easily see this being a “real” episode of the series. So
authentic is it, that, in my mind, it is.
The writers of
this episode certainly had a daunting task. They had to figure
out how to bring Xena back to life once again, but while keeping
with the continuity of the story. They wisely realized that they
cannot just bring her back at once, because Xena herself, as we
know from the end of “Friend in Need” would not want that. While
wishful thinking would have Gabrielle bring Xena back with no
argument from Xena, the fact is that Xena chose to remain
dead and thus needs to make the decision herself to come back
from the spiritual realm, while Gabrielle does the necessary
provisions back on the earthly realm. And who better to show
Xena the error of her judgment than Lao Ma? It is very clever
that both Xena and Gabrielle are drawn into this quest by old,
dear friends: Gabrielle by Ephiny, and Xena by Lao Ma. Both of
these women are arguably Xena and Gabrielle’s best friends
besides each other.
And the way they
are dealing with “Friend in Need” is perfect. Every side
of the issue of whether Xena was right or not to remain dead is
taken into consideration. We hear Xena’s side, we hear
Gabrielle’s side, we hear the perspective of the villagers, and,
true to Gabrielle’s character, we even hear a defense of Akemi!
Xena, after all, even to the end, called Akemi a friend
The subtext is
admirably handled, actually brilliantly handled, as it was in
the best episodes of the original series. Those of us, such as
myself, who believe that Xena and Gabrielle are more than just
friends have a great deal to enjoy, particularly the fact that
one of the most horrible things for Gabrielle is that Xena’s
spirit is fated to never be with her at night, and thus calm her
and drive her nightmares away. What worse fate for lovers than
to be denied each other’s embrace at nighttime? At the same
time, those who believe that Xena and Gabrielle are soulmates,
but not necessarily lesbians, can easily understand how
Gabrielle would miss her best friend at night. It was wise for
the virtual season not to peg them as lesbian or not, however,
just because they are writing the show now. To do so would
divide the fans.
This episode is
so true to the feel of the original series that at times, I was
amazed. I closed my eyes and could actually imagine Lucy Lawless
and Renee O’Connor acting these scenes. What amazing
performances the two of them would give, particularly in Xena’s
scene with Lao Ma, and Gabrielle’s scene with the old Chinese
man. The fight scenes were also well-written. I marvel at how
great it would have been to see Renee O’Connor use the chakram
in battle, and implement the pinch. The pinch scene, by the way,
had me rolling on the floor in laughter. It was perfect
annoyed-Gabby-mode. I could just see that adorably frustrated
face of hers before it turns into a smile, as she shows off the
new trick she learned from Xena.
A great deal of
questions are raised about what is to come. Who stole Xena’s
ashes? Will the ceremony work, should the ashes be reclaimed?
How will Xena finally be convinced of her own redemption? How
much more will Ephiny come into play in the story? I am eagerly
anticipating the second installment of this two-parter and can’t
wait to find out what the season-long story arc will be.
The only thing
keeping this from being a perfect episode are Gabrielle’s
nightmares. Although I did enjoy one or two, I thought too many
of them were depicted. The idea of Gabrielle’s nightmares of
decapitating Xena is intriguing, but seeing it over and over
again was a little bit too much. I would be curious, however, to
learn why Gabrielle feels guilty. Is it merely because she could
not convince Xena to come back to life or is perhaps an evil
spirit playing mind games on her? I hope this issue is resolved,
because it is my only misgiving with the episode.
My rating for the
episode? 8 out of 10! Reaching towards brilliance…Not quite
there, but incredibly close!
~ Author Unknown ~
Gabrielle crazy or are we? Stay tuned…
The script answers one burning question:
That really is Xena’s spirit by Gab’s side and not just her
imagination. Whew! J
The approach to the resurrection problem is
IMO a logical one: Xena was tricked into remaining dead. Having
Lao Ma teach Xena what she needs to learn to return to the land
of the living works for me but then I’m a Lao Ma fan from way
back. Having Ephiny be the one to contact Gabrielle also makes
sense, especially given “The Last of the Centaurs” (S6, ep #17).
HB Part I also introduces the method by which Xena will
be [presumably] resurrected. Whether the method is one that
makes sense given the Shinto religion (with an anachronistic
sprinkling of Buddhism??) is something others will have to
answer, but the choice to be consistent with the TV show was
probably a wise one.
HB Part I ends with a shocker: An
assassin kills a Japanese priest working on Xena’s resurrection
ceremony and steals her ashes. Nice cliffhanger ending even if
there’s no suspect anywhere on the horizon. More backstory to
come? Or is this a new enemy of the daring duo?
Too talky – but this strikes me as more
fanfic than shooting script, and we (audience) don’t have the
advantage of seeing the actors’ expressions and gestures to fill
in the blanks.
Gabrielle crying in public (near the end of
the episode) – NOT! In private, maybe, but not in front of
strangers. She’s too strong for that. This is the person who
managed to not throw up when she saw Xena’s mutilated body, and
then defeated in one sword stroke the warrior who killed Xena. I
can’t see her becoming stoic, like the S1 Xena, or even like
herself in later seasons of the TV series, but I do expect her
to be as strong in VS7-1 as she was in S6-22. I would have liked
to see Gabrielle formulate a plan of her own, of what she would
do in life without Xena, rather than showing her as just barely
making it on her own and only becoming goal-oriented when
there’s a chance to restore Xena.
I think Xena was handled well. She has a
new existence to get used to and that could have been used to
show her out of character, but many of her reactions are typical
including strongly disagreeing with Gabrielle’s attempt to
Fight scenes were well done. I liked the
use of the chakram and the pinch, as well as the sai. I’m still
torn about how much I want to see Gabrielle as warrior vs bard;
I don’t want her to give up being a bard but I would hate to see
her stop being a warrior completely.
I liked the choice of clips and the
“Disclaimer: Gabrielle learned a number of important life
lessons during the making of this motion picture. The value of
ducking, the need to make early reservations, how to properly
ask for directions, and how to sleep with one eye open.”
It was nice to see old friends again (Ephiny
and Lao Ma) and of course I was delighted that TPTB were able to
get the original actors to portray the characters.
Good uses of humor – not overdone, but in
places were it made sense.
Incidental and supporting characters were
handled well, adding plot and motivation as needed without
taking too much away from Gabrielle, who is the focus of the ep.
My subtextometer ran up pretty high, around
an 8, based on the emotional and physical closeness between Xena
and Gabrielle and some of their dialogue. The rather strong hint
that Lao Ma and Xena were more than just friends was also
Episode Rating: 7/10. The story
raised lots of possibilities, but I would have preferred a bit
more action and a lot more independence on Gabrielle’s part.
Still, I’m looking forward to the next episode and I think this
opening to the new season worked well.
~ Gail Futoran
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