Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Xena Warrior Princess: The Titans


In this episode, Gabrielle awakens three Titans by reading a chant in a language that sounds mostly vaguely Greek, except for ‘noces’, which sounds Spanish to me, and hi-jinks ensue.

I spent the whole of this episode mishearing the murderous thief’s name ‘Hesiot’ as ‘Hesiod’. I’m rather disappointed I was wrong, as I thought it was hilarious. Hesiod is the archaic Greek poet I always think of as ‘the boring one’ – there’s Homer, who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, and then there’s Hesiod who wrote the Works and Days (summary: Life sucks and then you die) and the Theogony (divine family trees). To be fair, both Hesiod’s poems are actually very good and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading them, but they just don’t have the wow factor of the Homeric poems (and they’re much shorter – but that’s probably a point in their favour). Anyway, the image of Hesiod as a murderous, double-crossing ruffian was really funny, so I think I’ll continue to assume that that’s his name (that’s what it sounds like, anyway).

The use of the Titans is quite nice. They’re proper giants for starters, which is an improvement on Charmed. Giants are not my favourite thing in fantasy – apart from Narnia’s Giant Rumblebuffin and the BFG, I don’t really like them, not even Hagrid – but the Titans I suspect should be giants, so it’s all good. Many more bonus points for using the names of actual Titans – Theia, Titan goddess of light, heaven and prophecy, Hyperion, Titan god of light and time and Crius, Titan god of the constellations and the year, sometimes a Titan leader – as he is here. Their characterisation is perhaps less Titan-ic though. Hyperion wants to crush the puny mortals – so far, so good – but Crius actually likes them and Theia is well, completely useless until the last few minutes. Hyperion kills Crius about halfway through, which is also typical Titan behaviour (both were involved in holding their father Uranus down while Cronus castrated him) but Crius himself is a bit too good-cop to be properly Titan-like. Gabrielle really is a bit of an idiot though, for not realising that Titans were not going to take well to being employed as mud-movers. In Greek myth, Hyperion and Crius were thrown into the pit of Tartarus rather than turned to stone, but petrification in a cave works quite well in this context.

There were some other fun touches in this episode as well – Gabrielle asking the Titans please to not spread the world around the whole town that she’s a virgin was a highlight. Xena’s reassurance to Gabrielle that she would never leave her because her heart is in the right place was nice to see as well – only episode 7 and we’ve had some decent forward momentum on the character development front (as long as this doesn’t mean they fall into the trap of completing their characters’ arcs within the first two seasons and then wondering what to do with them). All in all, not a contender for a favourite as giants really aren’t my cup of tea, but a nice little episode and the most faithful reinterpretation of Greek mythology so far. Clearly, giant Titans running amok is not something the writers felt the need to mess around with too much – what that says about 1990s TV writers, I leave up to you.

My inner feminist mildly disapproves of the bare midriff, but it's nice to know that Gabrielle will finally, at some point in a later season, get out of the horrible peasant clothes.

6 comments:

  1. Great recap Juliette. I really must start watching Xena again. It's been such a long time.

    Reading your preferences for Classical literature in this and other posts, it seems you prefer the ripping yarns to the scholarly contemplations - I must admit they are easier to stay awake reading!!

    Keep up the great work

    Kind Regards
    H

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  2. A note to your inner feminist - you can actually generally tell how late the season is by the amount of Gabrielle's flesh on show. Also, how short her hair is.

    In "If the Shoe Fits" (S4), they parody this by dressing Gabby in a sack, which gradually gets modified smaller and smaller as the episode goes on.

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  3. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up :) Though I'm very fond of Plutarch - who's somewhere in the middle I think - and I like Marcus Aurelius' Meditations as well. But since I lean towards poetry, novels, imperial history and biography, those all tend to involve the more exciting narratives.

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  4. @faithlessone - I may have to skip ahead to that episode, it sounds funny! :)

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  5. Someday I really need to immerse myself in Xena. It gave us quite a tidy influx of wannabe classics majors who needed us to help untangle their fractured fairy tale version of mythology!

    I always had the feeling that Aristophanes and Apuleius were haunting that show.

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  6. Now I have a fantastic mental image of the ghost of Apuleius following Lucy Lawless around New Zealand... :)

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