130/618 – “When Fates Collide”

Originally published in 2010.
Edited and republished at Sharonda.net on March 16th, 2017.
Edited on March 17th, 2017.
Edited on March 22nd, 2017.
Added to SMWoodfin.WordPress.com on October 30th, 2017. Also edited to add title tags and improve alt tags.

As alternate timeline episodes go, this one takes the cake!

Actually, it’s not so much the cake it takes, but the subtext. It takes the subtext, flips it around, and turns it into maintext of the love-at-first-sight sort. It made two out of three lists of essential subtext episodes at Whoosh.org, landing at #2 on the readers’ list. In short, this is a much better watch than “Armageddon Now, Part 2“.

And it all starts with godsbedamned Caesar. I hate Caesar. That’s not to say that I hate episodes involving Caesar — I tend to like most of those, actually — but that I really, really hate the character with a passion that burns like the flames of a thousand Hells. I hate this character with such an intensity that it’s starting to bleed over into my perception of the actual, historical Julius Caesar; which means that, soon, I need to balance the Caesar knowledge I have from Xena: Warrior Princess with a bit more from scrolls not written by Gabrielle.

But back to “When Fates Collide”: It all starts when Caesar, having crawled from Tartarus (which he was only able to do because Xena killed Hades in “Motherhood”), chains up the Fates, and snips his lifeline back in “Destiny”, just before he would’ve betrayed Xena, then splices it back together with gods know what, since we have yet to see how his little excision has changed things.

Oh, yeah. That’s where this story comes in.

It would be very easy to fall into writing this review as a play-by-play of the episode. There’s so much that actually happens in “When Fates Collide”, that it feels almost like an entire feature-length film has been crammed into a simple 45-minute love story, but without ever getting rushed or cramped. It’s well-filmed, like most of Season 6, but with a heavier emphasis on rich colors and dramatic lighting. Since she’s the empress, and presumably no longer bathing in streams, Xena changes clothes more often, too. Apparently, that brown outfit was only chosen ’cause it’s less likely to show dirt.

Xena as empress in 'When Fates Collide'.
That really does look like innocence. This makes me sad.

But I digress. Xena is empress of Rome. Caesar, the emperor, takes her to a play. Gabrielle (aka “The Visionary Voice of Athens”) is the playwright. Xena and Gabby meet and talk, and Xena’s rather obviously smitten. This Xena, unlike the Xena who was betrayed by Caesar, is emotionally open and vulnerable. She’s willing to not only indulge, but to engage Gabrielle in speculative conversations about love. You read that right. And this lends itself wonderfully to lots and lots of deliciously maintexty dialogue.

Gabrielle's haircut in 'When Fates Collide'.
Sometimes, even haircuts are meant to be.

To be blunt, if you’re a fan of the show, and you’re a subtexter or maintexter (or even just not in denial), you already know that this episode’s primary purpose is to further establish that the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle was “meant to be”, and that it was romantic. That’s the main reason I like this ep. If you’re a subtexter or a maintexter, that’s bound to be the main reason you like this ep, too. So there’s really no point in me rehashing all of the squee-inducing dialogue that this episode contains.

Joxer holds Gabrielle in 'When Fates Collide'.
Because Caesar didn’t betray Xena, Joxer is stoic, subtly heroic, and has a real job?

Once I got past all of my emotional reactions to WFC (I HATE Caesar. Oh, God! Do I have a thing for Alti? Aww, don’t cry. Caesar, you bastard! Burn, baby, burn!), what really sunk in for me is that WFC could just as easily be titled “The Ides of March: Redux”.

It echoes “Ides” in some fairly significant ways. Never mind Alti’s free hand with giving our girls visions. The parallels go way beyond that:

  • Xena says to Gabrielle, “You can’t have a crucifixion without crosses.” Tack the name “Brutus” onto that statement, and you have Caesar’s line from “Ides”.
  • Once again, we see Gabrielle on the cross, even if Xena does manage to get her set free.
  • Gab’s hair is chopped off without her consent, à la “Between the Lines”, so that in both “Ides” and WFC, she has short hair before she’s put on the cross.
  • We also see Xena on the cross, again, and as the nails are hammered in — just like in Ides — Caesar is being stabbed to death.
  • The fact that he’s being stabbed while being ridden by Alti hearkens back to his dream sequence near the beginning of “Ides”, ‘cept then the knife-wielding rider is Xena.
  • The fatal confrontation between Caesar and Brutus plays itself out, again, but this time, it’s Brutus who dies.
  • Yet again, Gabrielle betrays her own values, in an extreme (and extremely awesome) way, to save Xena. In “Ides”, she goes from pacifist to killing machine, in order to save Xena from some Roman dudes. In WFC, she goes from “I’ve never harmed anyone in my life” to not caring if she destroys everything (literally), in order to save Xena from some Roman dudes.
Xena on the cross above shallow surf.
Never let it be said that I don’t appreciate a nice piece of cinematography.

A little something to think about: If Caesar hadn’t betrayed Xena in “Destiny”, Xena and Gabrielle wouldn’t have died in “The Ides of March”. If they hadn’t died in “The Ides of March”, archangel Xena wouldn’t have redeemed demon Callisto in “Fallen Angel”. If archangel Xena hadn’t redeemed demon Callisto, Xena wouldn’t have become pregnant with Callisto’s soul. If Xena hadn’t become pregnant with Callisto’s soul, Eve would never have been born, and we’d have spent a chunk of Season 5 only seeing Xena from the neck up or the thighs down.

I guess that means Xena was right when she said “…everything happens precisely as it should.”

But we’ll get to that later.