112/522 – “Motherhood”

Originally published in 2010.
Edited and republished at Sharonda.net on March 17th, 2017.
Edited March 20th, 2017.

I love the second half of this episode. The first half, not so much. It comes really close to being a conversion reel, but — in truth — it almost has to. The God of Eli has been (and continues to be) cast in a positive light, at least on the surface. But look a little deeper, and it’s not all sunshine and roses: You’re the new god in town. You want the other gods out of the picture. How do you make that happen? Float the notion that Xena’s daughter will spell the end of the Olympian gods, then give Xena the power to kill gods. This terrifies the Olympian gods. It makes Ares and Aphrodite miserable. It nearly kills both Eve and Gabrielle. And it doesn’t make Xena Particularly happy, either:

Watching Wisdom die.
This is Xena’s expression when she’s killing Athena.  Not exactly the joy we generally see Xena take in battle.

In short, you manipulate everyone until they play they role you want them to play. Whether they want to or not. And make no mistake: There are clear parallels drawn between the Way of Love and Christianity. The banner of the Elijans sports an Ichthys! One of the characters in this episode is known as “the Baptist.” And he baptizes people! People are asked to admit their “trespasses” before being baptized! While baptizing Eve, the Baptist says this to her: “You must die to the things of the flesh and be reborn to the way of love.”

Eli, himself, used the term “Abba” — Hebrew/Aramaic for “father” — while healing people in “The Ides of March”, which lends creedence to the notion of Eli as Jesus figure, but he was also a bit on the transcendental side (see that same episode for an example); in “Motherhood”, however, someone wanted it made very, very clear that Elijan equals Christian.

(As an aside, there’s also a nod to “Sins of the Past”, and a minor parallel drawn between Eli and Xena, when one Elijan asks Gabrielle: “Is it true that he could breathe fire?”)

I'm sure THIS never inspired any fan fic!
Minus the whole gaping head wound thing, I’m thinking there are worse positions to be in.

The main reason that I enjoy this episode really has nothing to do with Xena or Gabrielle. It has to do with Aphrodite and Ares. Both were torn throughout “Motherhood”, and both are humanized by it. Both eventually chose either Gabrielle or Xena over their own families. And Ares eventually chose Xena over his own immortality. Note that Aphrodite did not make that sort of sacrifice for Gabrielle. The God of War choosing self-sacrifice, for a mortal, when the God of Love would not? Where “Looking Death in the Eye” suggested, this sacrifice solidifies that Ares loved Xena with a capital “L”.

I feel so incredibly sorry for Aphrodite in this episode. Compare these two bits of dialogue to understand why:

Aphrodite: “Can we leave the bard out of this?”
Athena: “Do you have a soft spot for Gabrielle?”
Aphrodite: “She’s my friend.”
Athena: “Aw. Well. Then don’t watch.”

Xena, to Aphrodite: “Aphrodite, you might wanna take off. Things could get ugly.”

In both cases, someone is telling her “Hey, I know this gonna suck for you. So just look the other way.” Aphrodite is also the one to tend to Gabrielle post Gabchak, while Xena is defending herself and Eve from Athena, Artemis, Hades, and a bad Billy Idol impersonator (whom I’m fairly certain died when a truck fell on him). Aphrodite is clearly afraid of Xena in this episode, and has no love for Eve. But Xena still trusts her enough to leave Eve with her after cooking Hades alive. Aphrodite also takes the mortal trio to Olympus — even though she knows Xena will probably kill her family — when Xena points out to her that “Gabrielle doesn’t have much time.”

So, we’ve established that Dite does, indeed, love the Gabster, just not like Ares loves Xena. And before we go all-out shipper, I’d also like to point out that while Xena did thank Ares, she still went home with Gabrielle and Eve. Then there’s this little bit:

Ares: “You know, this is the second time since you became Xena: Slayer of Gods, that we’ve faced off one on one, and you still haven’t been able to pull the trigger.”
Xena: Pulls trigger.
Me: Fit of giggles.

Some o' y'all have had neighbors like this, huh?
And you think your family is hard to get along with?

What little subtext exists in this episode is wound up tight with resolving issues between Gabrielle and Eve, and solidifying the family unit. (Which, come to think of it, is pretty subtexty, in and of itself.) It starts with Gabrielle expressing her mixed feelings about Eve, to which Xena replies: “And she’s lost, just as I was. But I got lucky. I found you.”

Later, in the rain, with a half-dead Gabrielle stretched out on the ground, and a half-dead Eve on her knees beside her, Xena says “Gabrielle, you’re the most pure thing in my life.” Then to Eve: “And you’re my great Hope.” I get that “pure” comment as subtext. If you’re lucky, you do, too. But wait… “Hope”? Really? Surely Xena knows that’s the wrong thing to say?

Or maybe not. Hope is one of the things that the Furies use to push Gabrielle to kill Eve. They cause Gab to hallucinate Hope, and that’s when this little tag team occurs:

Fury: “Xena won’t kill her own daughter”.
Hope: “You know how hard that is.”

Way to drive home the point that there’s really no difference between Gab’s little monster and Xena’s little monster. Untrue, maybe, but definitely effective.

In the end, though, Gabrielle makes her peace with Eve, and the notion of the three as family is reinforced:

Gabrielle: “Looks like you got your daughter back.”
Xena: “No, we got our daughter back.”

Here! Have a lovely view of Lucy Lawless to keep you from thinking about what you're seeing on Xena's chakram!
That’s Gab’s blood and bits of tissue on Xena’s chakram. I’ve got nothing remotely amusing to say about that.

And the moral of the story? Up on Olympus, when Xena’s killed all of the other gods, only Ares, Aphrodite, and Athena remain. Xena makes an offer to the Goddess of Wisdom. She offers to leave Athena alone if the goddess heals Gab and Eve. Athena’s response? “I will not be dictated to by a mortal!”

I think this lines qualifies:

Xena: “You know, there’s nothing more pathetic than a dead God.”

Especially one killed by her own arrogance.