Thursday, 12 March 2009

Subtext Review of "A Comedy of Eros" [X:WP]

Because I had some spare time last week, I now present you with yet another subtext review, this time on Xena: Warrior Princess.


[Episode 2x22] A Comedy of Eros

“The things we do for love.”

No.1) The episode kicks off with some delicious body language subtext. The playful banter and the intrusion of each other’s personal space as Xena and Gabrielle were discussing the Hestian virgins is pure and unadulterated subtext. The looks, closeness and the physical link with Gabrielle's hand on the small of Xena's back. The episode starts off and it’s made clear on a subtle level that these two are very much an item.

[A little light touching in the morning]

During the opening scene Gabrielle also claims, “when it’s right, love can be the most potent force in the world”. Something Xena later on in the episode will show is true, but also a message that encompassed the entire series. The number of times their love has set things right…well they’re as plentiful as they are beautiful.

No.2) The ultimate shock on Gabrielle’s face as Xena kisses Draco, a shock that quickly turns into jealous and insecurity. “It’s part of her plan…I hope”. Followed by more of the same after Draco leaves and Gabrielle grabs Xena and seriously tells her, “We have to talk”.

[Green really is her colour]

No.3) Later on as Xena professes that she “has a weakness for bad boys”, the look on Gabrielle’s face is pure brilliance. Surprise and shock in a mixture that can easily be interpreted as a look of “well that’s news to me, cause I’m neither”. Xena then continues on talking about how to change Draco, make him good, which in relation to her previous statement can mean that she sees him turning good as a possible source of getting rid of the unwanted infatuation. When he’s no longer dark, the temptation of him will go away.

[Bad boys, huh?]

No.4) The look on Xena’s face as she sees Gabrielle tied (next to Joxer on that pole) up should be pointed out as well. This is a Xena under a very crippling love spell, yet she gets that look on her face as Gabrielle is in danger.

No.5) When Gabrielle is hit by Bliss’ arrow the first name on her tongue is Xena. She calls for Xena and turns in the direction she thinks she will be. The events before getting hit would not explain this, but the best explanation for this behaviour is that when super-charged with love she seeks out Xena. Because that’s where her true love lies. Then Joxer steps up and does subtext a world of good. By having Gabrielle fall for him instead of the person her heart really is with, subtext is established as something greater than a possible source of comedy. It shows that Xena and Gabrielle’s love is not the comedic type where on falls in love with the person they would most unlikely develop that sort of feelings for, like your enemy or your cow. No, their love gets to stay intact by not being tampered with by baby Bliss. The fact that despite the mind fucking love spells they continue to show both love and jealousy in regards to each other is only further testament to the intensity and strength of their bond and love.

No.6) Then there is Xena’s reaction when Gabrielle claims to be in love with Joxer, “You can’t be in love with Joxer”. Then when Gabrielle continues on her love rant the look on Xena’s face can best be described as a mixture between jealousy and disgust. Then as they get into a little spat of who’s the better of “their men” we have a really interesting exchange filled with meaning. Gabrielle says, “I would rather be in love with Joxer than a bloodthirsty warlord like Draco” (note the like, which could be taken to mean someone similar to Draco, someone sharing his type of past). Xena becomes almost desperate and fiercely defends the warlord's right to change, and be a new person. Obviously on the surface they are discussion Draco, but what they really discuss (if you read the subtext) is Xena. Gabrielle's comment dismisses their love and Xena as a potential love mate, hence Xena's intense and almost desperate need to defend, not only herself but their love.

No.8) Draco is the next person hit by an arrow and to make the love triangle complete he falls for Gabrielle. As he speaks his love, Xena is there to try to dissuade him by telling him that Gabrielle “is a little” followed by a vague hand gesture. She’s a little what? It’s just a ploy, but also makes one wonder what “a little” she is and how Xena knows.

No.9) As Gabrielle once again is captured by Draco an exasperated Xena exclaims, “This love stuff is a real pain”. Makes me think all those conflicting emotions inside of her are indeed a bitch, and not just in relation to Draco.

No.10) When Draco has them cornered in the temple he in desperation says he’ll burn it down if Xena doesn’t give him the virgins and Gabrielle. We then have this interaction,

Xena: You’d kill the woman you love?
Draco: The question is, would you?

Whoa. I’m not sure if that can be interpreted as anything but a comparison of Draco and Xena’s feelings for Gabrielle. And it’s only one of them that’s affected by a spell, the other has it all in herself. Also interesting that he should make such an observation so early on in the series.

No.11) Then there’s Draco asking Xena why she’s doing what she does, as in messing up his plans and her reply is, “For love”. Love is the reason she goes through all that trouble in order to set the world right again, to make their feelings real again. Furthermore as she’s trying to explain to Draco that he could never change the person he loves she parts with this piece of experienced wisdom, “Gabrielle could never love someone who lives off of hurting others”. This is perhaps the strongest reason behind what keeps Xena walking the straight and narrow path of redemption and the “Greater Good”, love and especially that of Gabrielle.

No.12) In the final scene we are back to the flirtatious bantering between our two leads. A flirtatious banter that ends only as Gabrielle goes off into the darkness of the night and Xena purposefully follow only seconds behind her. What they’re up to alone in the dark as they leave the poor crying Joxer alone by the campfire…your guess is as good as mine. But I can’t help seeing the parallels that can be drawn between this scene and the one that starts off the episode, where Cupid tries to comfort Bliss and get him to sleep so he can enjoy some grown up fun. Only Xena doesn’t offer Joxer a pony.

[Unrelated, but I do so love cherries]

Thus concludes A Comedy of Eros, an episode filled with subtleness. An episode that also firmly establishes that unlike so many others' their love is true and real, and not something to be used for crude and comedic innuendoes.

I adore.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget that the writers actually admit to starting off with a plot based on Gabby falling in love with Xena, but they revised the plot when told that it would not be aired. My fav subtextual scenes include Ares reaction to the "father bit" when Xena immaculately conceives and tells him that Gabby has taken the position of father. Ares responds with "Oh I'd have paid to see that!"
    Also when Queen Gabby is awoken by fellow amazons in the episode when Xena, Gabby and Eve stay in the amazon village. As she wakes she mutters "not tonight Xena" :P