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Maternal Instincts

Written by Chris Manheim
Directed by Mark Beesley
Carmen S.
earth warrior
Mika Ariela Epstein

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Carmen S. on Maternal Instincts:

This was incredibly painful to watch. I was really ticked when the blurb in the TV section spoiled Solan's death. Then I figured I'd already been spoiled, so I might as well read spoilers, and was hit again with Gabrielle killing Hope. I wasn't happy about either of these, but now I wonder if I would have been able to get through the episode if I hadn't known what was coming. Rift doesn't even begin to describe the current state of affairs.

I hated many of the choices TIIC made in this episode. They have done their best to destroy the relationship between Gabrielle and Xena. However, it kept my attention and involved my emotions the whole time. WPT2 wasn't very interesting. I thought TQIM was funny (with two exceptions) while I watched it, but afterward there were a lot of things I didn't like. MI kept me glued, horrified, to the TV set.

I had some problems with Hope's powers. She is powerful enough to release Callisto, but she gets exhausted throwing a sword at Kaliepus. She is smart enough to manipulate everybody around her, but not smart enough to wait another month or so until she can't be poisoned. She controls Callisto enough that Callisto lets her kill Solan, so she must have lots of power, but we don't see her using it.

Hope really set Gabrielle up here. Now not only does Gabrielle have to feel guilty because she lied about Hope and Hope killed Solan, she gets to feel guilty because she told Hope where to find Solan. This is a much bigger betrayal than in The Debt, where at least she thought she was rescuing Xena's soul. This time she does the opposite of Xena's wishes, when Xena has clearly explained the danger (even not knowing it is Hope), for no apparent reason. Hope is not in danger; Callisto is letting her come and go as she wishes.

Xena is in so much pain I was surprised she didn't go berserk. From her point of view, Gabrielle has helped her daughter kill Solan. I'd have been inclined to slaughter everybody within reach. If the woman who is leading me out of evil, the embodiment of goodness in my eyes, can help murder an innocent child, why should anybody be allowed to survive?

I don't understand why Xena was surprised that Gabrielle had not killed Hope. Gabrielle has horrible problems dealing with the mostly not her fault death of whatever her name was, but killing her own daughter in cold blood apparently doesn't faze her. I wouldn't buy it. Now, however, Gabrielle has really lost her blood innocence. She chose to kill another person. It wasn't an accident. It wasn't self defense. It wasn't even to protect someone else from imminent danger. She chose to execute her daughter. This ought to tear her apart, and Xena is so angry with her that she won't help Gabrielle get through this.

I cannot imagine how they will patch things up, but they had better do it quickly. I can't take much of this.

c. 1998 Carmen S.
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deb7 on Maternal Instincts:

Okay, I wrote this long-ass thing cuz...it's Dahak's Will! No, really, it's because i've been co-opted by the Military-Industrial Complex who are paying my way thru graduate school and are gonna give me a premiere free-ride to the Spirit in the Sky, but I have to make up for lost time.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
--I John 1:8
To call the series of six (or more?) episodes that began with "The Deliverer" and continues with "Maternal Instincts" "the Rift arc" is to oversimplify matters to such a great extent as to miss the point entirely. Similarly, although deconstructing the heroes Xena and Gabrielle is, at one level, a goal of the third season dramas (let's accept for the moment the "parallel universe" model of inter-episode continuity whereby the comedies and the dramas have no relevance to one another), focussing on that mundane purpose may obscure the greater -- and infinitely more powerful -- message.

A series-level theme of _Xena: Warrior Princess_ has been, from the moment Xena spotted Gabrielle in the clearing outside Poteidaia, an exploration of the grey areas where dark and light, good and evil, hopeful and cynical meet and commingle. Over the course of seasons 1 and 2, we have watched as Xena struggles toward self-healing with Gabrielle as her beacon and then support, and we have watched as Gabrielle clings to a belief in the innate goodness of humankind even as she loses the flush of innocent youth and experiences the horrors of the world around her (including the horrors perpetrated by Xena).

Thus, the striving to find balance between opposing forces has played out both *within* the two characters as well as *between* them. What makes X:WP compelling is watching how what could be an uneasy partnership instead becomes stronger with each passing week and how, in X&G, the saying "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" takes on new and real meaning. This is not to say that the journey has always been a comfortable one, but for a series which attempts to tackle such a large theme through character study, the foundation of X&G had gone surprisingly unchallenged. Xena had become remarkably "healthy" (or at least mightily capable of bouncing back from occassional descents into darkness) and, if "Ulysses" was any indication, bordering on complacent. Meanwhile, Gabrielle had become so much more warrior-like and less bardly that her (diminishing) claims to be a peacemaker were beginning to ring hollow and false (e.g., "The Price").

If X:WP was going to remain true to its greatest theme, then it was time for Gabrielle, Xena, and the two of them in relationship (i.e., X&G) to undergo serious challenge. The question posed in season 3 is: "How committed are each of them to their professed philosophies and to one another -- and at what price?" If sufficiently pressed, would Xena be able to let go of the anger, hatred, and lust for revenge in the service of the greater good? Or would she give in to the sting of betrayal and continue the cycle of violence, no matter what the cost? In the face of evil and betrayal, would Gabrielle succumb to darker impulses or would she remain steadfast in her belief that goodness can triumph?

True to its nature, X:WP answers these questions with what might best be described as a paradox. What we see occur over the course of "The Deliverer", "Gabrielle's Hope", "Debt", "Debt II", and "Maternal Instincts" is a series of events wherein G's greatest strength becomes a fatal flaw and X's greatest weakness serves the greater good. Time and again, X and G are simoultaneously *both* wrong *and* right. The issue becomes, then, not whether Gabrielle's code is better than Xena's or vice versa, but whether unthinking adherence to *any* course of action -- that is, lack of balance -- is ultimately desirable.

"Xena, I thought that Khrafstar was leading me to the salvation of the world through peace and light, and instead I discovered the heart of darkness and I became a part of that."
-- Gabrielle, "Gabrielle's Hope"

In Deliverer, Xena's blind hatred for Caesar (Julius Caesar) gives Boadicea the extra cunning, skill, and muscle to drive out the Romans -- but leaves Gabrielle vulnerable to Caesar and to the Dahakians. Gabrielle's incessant search for salvation for the world takes her away from Xena's side and leaves her open to the sway of the cult. Each woman goes off on her own and loses the balance they provide one another. Caesar is routed and the temple destroyed, but Gabrielle has lost what both she and Xena held as a most lofty ideal: her blood innocence.

"It's not a baby! It's a thing in the form of a baby! A dark, wicked thing that must be destroyed!"
-- Xena, "Gabrielle's Hope"

The tension increases and the conflict more plainly stated in Gabrielle's Hope. Having been violated by Dahak, Gabrielle gives birth to a daughter. Gabrielle wants to believe in the potential for goodness in her child and strives to rationalise away all evidence to the contrary. Xena, on the other hand, comes to conclude the child is innately evil almost immediately. By falling back to an extreme optimist's position Gabrielle is as closed-minded as Xena is and any potential for rational discussion quickly fades away. Hope lives as the rift between our heroes gets wider.

"I thought that she would be betraying herself if she went back to the way of murder."
-- Gabrielle, "The Debt II"

In the Debts, it's easy to get caught up in the spectacle of Xena's flashbacks to Chin and Lao Ma or mired in the picayune details (such as how Gabrielle beat Xena's slow boat to China), and thereby lose sight of the intricate interplay between past and present and the larger message. Xena rushes off to Chin in both the past and the present bent on revenge and largely closed to intervention by cooler heads. As did Lao Ma, Gabrielle responds to Xena's stubbornness with whatever means she has available. Gabrielle's fear that Xena's violent impulses are resurfacing, combined with Xena's fear that Gab will never understand, result in G betraying X to the tyrant Ming Tien (a tyrant Xena had a large hand in creating) and X lying to G about her (X's) actions. Ming Tien is dead but so, perhaps, is the fundamental trust between X&G.

"Why does everyone I love die? Is it me?"
-- Solon, "Maternal Instincts"

"Better to crush their dreams, destroy their future...."
-- Hope

"What makes you think you can trust this child?"
-- Xena
"What makes you think that we can't?"
-- Gabrielle

"I don't feel better, just empty."
-- Callisto

By the end of Debt II it was obvious that something had to give -- Gabrielle and Xena could not continue on the path of miscommunication, lies, and rigidity and have any hope of retaining the bond and the strength they both draw from it. "Maternal Instincts" is where everything falls apart and all the flaws are made plain. How sad it was to see Gabrielle's persistent belief that Hope must have some measure of humanity and therefore some chance for goodness repeatedly twisted and subverted in the service of Dahak-Hope. (Dahak was very clever: By making a human DNA-wrapped avatar the focus of attention, Gabrielle becomes distracted from the real problem: her own continuing corruption.) How horrifying it was to see Xena's near-raving attacks on Hope's character to the child's mother -- and to watch how those rants drove Gabrielle to lie and deceive.

Most painful of all was the tragedy of Gabrielle's and Xena's past decisions leading to the deaths of innocents: Solon dies by Hope's hands, Hope dies by Gabrielle's, Gabrielle's blood innocence is *unmistakably* sacrificed, and X&G are ripped asunder. The inclusion of Callisto in this episode was a symoblic stroke-of-genius. Callisto embodies in one character (a) Xena's dark past and handiwork (she is also, therefore, a good proxy for Ming Tien), (b) the one person who had before now brought Gabrielle to the brink of killing (and the cave scene in Return of Calli marks the one instance in which Gabrielle almost certainly "gives her leave" for Xena to execute a foe), (c) a past recipient of Gabrielle's remarkable forgiveness, and (d) a clear depiction of the corrosiveness of hate and lust for revenge. In the end, Callisto is buried and, as Xena and Gabrielle walk off in opposite directions from the funeral pyres, one can't help but wonder if the lessons she embodies are not (at least temporarily?) buried with her.

"Maternal Instincts" must be the climactic installment in an arc that, whether loved or hated, has nevertheless been engaging and compelling from the very first scene of "The Deliverer" (when Gabrielle advances particle theory and Xena brushes her off). Everyone involved in the production of this episode seems to have risen to the challenge. Heck, even the stunt wigs weren't so bad.

Chris Manheim doesn't disappoint in her first script for season 3. Notably, she also co-penned "Remember Nothing" with Steven Sears. In that script, as in this one, the thematic importance of blood innocence and the question of balancing the dark and the light were of central importance. Here, Manheim had many more established and important characters to juggle and she handled them exquisitely. Hope is written as the incarnation of evil that she is without being reduced to a cartoon; Callisto fluctuates between psychopathy, megalomania, and frank psychosis in measured doses; Xena's and Solon's sensitive chats are endearing without being overly-sentimental or maudlin; and Gabrielle, despite committing some very troublesome and dismaying acts, comes across as sympathetic and completely in character. It's almost hard to fault Manheim for using Ephiny, Regent Queen of the Amazons, as basically a sounding board for narrative exposition and part-time babysitter.

The cinematography and direction reinforce the script but also add layers to it. For example, the setting and lighting for the poisoning scene are strangely reminiscent of Gabrielle's dream of Meridian from G's Hope. Likewise, the profile shots during the funeral scene invoke Return of Callisto. Mark Beesley proves that the emotional punch he managed with "A Necessary Evil" was no fluke. Especially provocative were the extreme close-ups peppered throughout -- there was no escaping the emotion being played out onscreen. Special mention should also go to Joe Lo Duca for his usual brilliance in picking just the right leitmotifs for just the right moments.

Of course, "Maternal Instincts" would not have been the emotional powerhouse that it was were it not for the acting of the principals. Amy Morrison did an incredible job shuttling between being the sweet and frightened orphan and the Daughter of Darkness . David Taylor, who I and many others found annoying in the extreme in "Orphan of War", returns with a Solon who's a little bit older but a whole lot more enjoyable. Hudson Leick is brilliant (as usual) as Callisto. The two confrontations with Xena where Calli talks about the pain of existence were gut-wrenching without seeming manipulative. Despite having been in so many X:WP episodes, Leick manages to keep Callisto pretty fresh and interesting.

Lucy Lawless took me on a roller-coaster ride with Xena's emotions. In the teaser, LL shows just how far both she as an actress and Xena as a character have grown in a little over a year. The meeting with Solon has a naturalness to it that I found missing from the whole of "Orphan of War". Ironically, LL's tendency to drop her U.S. accent when interacting with Taylor added a level of "trueness" to those scenes. LL was frankly amazing as she moved across the range of emotions Xena went through in this ep: from the joy of reuniting with Solon, to the frustration of being thwarted by Callisto and an as-yet-unknown accomplice, to the cold-heartedness and then rage directed toward Gabrielle, to the grief and anguish at losing her son. LL nailed them all. When Xena snarled at Xenan, the look on her face sent chills down my spine. I was hoping that Gab had her bags packed for Poteidaia...or at least the ancient New Greeceland equivalent of a straightjacket on hand.

Renee O'Connor, quite simply, kicked Thespian ass. One gets the sense from ROC's interviews that there are dark places that she does not like to go as an actor. You wouldn't know it by watching "Maternal Instincts" (or "G's Hope"). Her performance of Gabrielle caught in a painful conundrum, desperately trying to make the best of things but getting further caught in her own web of deceit, then finally accepting that there is no good solution, was so beautifully, achingly subtle and layered that I thought I might just die from the sweetness of it. An XWP staff-writer once remarked about ROC that it is "an honor to put words in her mouth," and another said more recently that one of the deciding factors for pursuing this dramatic arc was the recognition by many parties of ROC's "incredible range". Rift or no, it's wonderful to see ROC getting the recognition and challenge that she deserves -- as well as to see Gabrielle becoming a more clearly integral part of the series-level story.

It will be interesting to see if the level of intensity and excellence displayed in "Maternal Instincts" can be maintained in "The Bitter Suite". If Instincts was, as I suspect, the climactic piece of this arc, then it rests on Suite to bring about a resolution that can match what was done in this episode. Will Xena and Gabrielle learn and grow from these experiences? Will they come to have a new appreciation for the opposing forces within themselves and within their relationship? If XWP can do that, I might be able to forgive them those darn parallel universe comedies -- even "King of Assassins".

c. 1998 deb7
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DebR on Maternal Instincts:

I think Gabrielle was WRONG to kill Hope.

I think that Gabrielle's tragedy is that she betrayed herself not Xena. "I won't help you destroy all the ideals that you live by," Xena said in Return of Callisto. Well, baby, she sure don't act that way no more. Gabrielle has not only killed, premeditatedly, but she has acted as judge and jury of her own daughter, who's crimes do not amount to a hill of misdemeanor compared to Xena's, and begun to decide who lives and dies. That's not the Gabrielle we know. Did she do it for Xena? Has she begun to believe the propaganda?

I believe she was right not to kill Callisto then and that Xena was wrong for letting her die. I also believe that she was right to try to save her daughter's life from Xena's insane and irrational fear. And I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows. |8^o

Isn't Gabrielle's worst crime, before murdering her daughter, the fact that she didn't leave Xena to go find Hope or even that she didn't leave Xena for trying to murder her baby?

Does the fact that Hope grew to do bad things prove that she was evil or, rather, that Xena screwed up bad by letting her out of Gabrielle's sight? Is the fact that everyone believed Hope was irredeemable an acceptable substitute for finding out the truth of her deeds and questioning her possibilities for good as well as evil? Is killing your child better than teaching her?

Isn't Gabrielle the victim here by virtue of having been hounded to death by rocks and hard places till she finally made a bad choice? Don't you think that the end of the rift should be Xena down on her knees begging Gabrielle's forgiveness? Isn't Xena way more, maybe even entirely, responsible for Solon's, Kaleipus's, and Hope's deaths? Isn't it wrong to kill now, ask questions later? Hasn't Xena destroyed Gabrielle? Why don't Gabrielle get no respect?

I think it will end with Xena asking forgiveness in some form. The whole arc began in The Deliverer where the idea of divide and conquer was slammed home repeatedly both verbally and visually. The end scene of Maternal Instincts is very reminiscent of the scene in The Deliverer, where X&G 'discuss' what Caesar had said to Gabrielle in her apple-eating captivity and then, not so pleased with each other, leave the screen in separate directions. Everything that has driven them apart has been the result of their reactions to manipulations of their own weaknesses-- Xena's self-hatred and Gabrielle's unswerving belief in Xena. Why they have those weaknesses and why they are weaknesses has been explored in previous stories leading up to this arc and further in The Debt I & II. The weaknesses are not necessarily being judged but, rather, used. The tragic flaw if you will.

I can't call Gabrielle's hopefulness a weakness, though that is what is being manipulated most. Rather I see the manipulation as the true evil. Hope must be nurtured. Hope is not a weakness but WHY it/she has to be manipulated-- to destroy it/her. Once hope is destroyed (the witch burnings in Europe, 9 million dead and history erased) the conquering is accomplished. The reflection of this is in Hope's spew of dogma, where she repeats DaDa that you destroy the soul by destroying the children.

Well first of all Hope is a child. And children are also code for legacy. If there are no children to teach or if the children are taught to hate their mother's beliefs, yes the enduring soul of those beliefs is destroyed. I mean that in a symbolic sense, not that children=worth, rather that ideas and voices/language to speak them equal existance. (One of the reasons this series resonates so strongly in me is that it reinvents voices from the grusome silence of Western history.)

While our heroines in grief ponder the guilt or innocence of their acts with focus on each other, the truly guilty party is reaping the rewards of the crime. Callisto put it nicely, "The old bait and switch." It is a recurring theme of the arc. Dahak is the bad guy. Dahak is the manipulator. Dahak is the murderer and rapist and stealer of innocence. So, in the trials of witches, did the focus rest on the guilt or innocence of the woman healer rather than the murderous insanity of the trial itself.

The only way that EVIL will not win is if they can find their way back to each other, not be divided and thus conquered. Given the journey of the transformation of the female that lays at the heart of this story, the writers could go either way actually. They could let it play out as it has historically, the female divided and conquered, or they could re-write history as they have done so often in the past to reflect the empowerment of the female possible by X&G's reconciliation. My impression of the three central writers (when at their best) of this arc is that they like to go for the improved ending. Thus, Gabrielle does not take her own life, keeping hope alive and leaving Dahak's plan incomplete, and reconciliation a possibility.

About Hope:

Xena wants to slaughter Hope because she believes she should have died herself at her mother's hand instead of Atrius. It is her self-hatred that makes her hate Hope. She, herself, is the one she truly believes is irredeemibly evil.

But what is the evidence that Hope can not be taught? Can a young child choose free will in the face of a parent?

I just don't believe that the writers have led us to conclude that Hope is evil and Gabrielle right to kill her. I think they have given us the tools to do that ourselves, and that is the point. I mean, I don't think the writers have painted such an absolute picture. IMO, the ambiguity has been rife in all of the, 5 to-date, episodes of the arc. In particular around Hope. Conclusions have been drawn based on who won rather than who was right. I believe that the writers have given us what we need to conclude that Hope is not evil, as well as that she is, and even more that we adults create the evil in our children.

Hope is fathered by Dahak (whose existance we must take on FAITH!), but even as she was being born the discussion of her inherent nature is being debated. Immediately following, her nature is again debated by Xena and Gabrielle themselves. Xena draws her conclusion that Hope is evil based on her predisposition to believe so and her circumstantial evidence that a dead man and Hope (with his necklace) were in the same room. That is not the only possible conclusion or even the most probable. We have been told in Maternal Instincts that Hope's powers drain her to incapacitation because of her youth. If she is so easily drained two months later, how could she have had the power to overcome a grown man hours after her birth? We saw no evidence that Hope had ANY powers other than her speedy growth rate.

When we see her in Maternal Instincts she looks the abandoned child that she was. Are we supposed to blame her for surviving? For communicating with her father once abandoned by Mom? It never seemed to me that she made the choices to destroy the world on her own, but, rather, that she was Daddy's pawn. Is she a willing pawn? Probably. She's 2 months old. That's how kids behave. They will do anything to curry the favor of a present parent ESPECIALLY if one of them has abandoned them. The plan to destroy Xena, the woman who descimated her life, and thus the world must be very appealing to a hurt child. She's a baby Callisto. Callisto always wanted a child. Could Callisto have been changed if she had had loving guidance after her tragedy? Anyway, Hope is a victim's victim. Killing her is WAY too easy and convenient, IMO. That's what we do in the inner-cities, stamp foreheads with 'irredemable' and walk away to let children kill children. Hope might be evil? Kill her. Abandon her. Hope killed Solon? Kill her.

c. 1998 DebR
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earth warrior on Maternal Instincts:


We just saw "Maternal Instincts". Breath taking... on many levels. I need to weigh in with the Xenites who like this season so far. Amazing that a little syndicated TV show is attempting to deal with this many issues - on so many levels. (I'm NOT talking about the comedic eps here!) I am not going to attempt to defend the weaknesses in some writing in some of the episodes. I feel no need to state the obvious about attempting to do complex, controversial issues in a medium not designed for this (it ain't no BBC Masterpiece Theatre)!!! But, heck, TPTB ARE trying something new here. And I'm completely hooked...waiting to see where it goes.

The characterizations in "Maternal Instincts" were completely within the parameters of my own interpretations of these characters. Gabrielle acted EXACTLY as I would have expected. Lucy played Xena brilliantly. That last scene, while painful to watch, was to be expected. Xena reacted as a "top" in pain...Gabrielle turned to her, Gabrielle reached out to her....Gabrielle will be there when Xena figures it all out...Xena has to work it out in the only way she can. Hmmmm....Xena is taking her next step to redemption...experiencing first hand the consequences of her previous actions. She gets to learn the true meaning of unconditional love ... of forgiveness. Gabrielle is growing up. And she will be there for Xena after Xena begins to truly exorcise her demons. That will be Gabrielle's greatest gift of love - letting Xena use her to begin that exorcism.

Heck, I paid my own price 10 years ago when I stubbornly acted upon my own interpretation of right and wrong. It cost me my best friend (she paid with her job and her reputation) and my actions resulted in an agency closing down that had been doing much needed work in the community. But I was oh-so self- rightious, I played "judge AND jury" ...and, yes, money had been inappropriately used and some had been embezzled (not by me friend but she was the Executive and her head rolled). I was so convinced that I was right that I didn't think about the "grey solutions" or the ways to find a compromise. I wasn't prepared for the outcome and I was shocked at the consequences I ended up having to take responsibility for. I was a Board member and thought I was making some big fucking difference by turning the agency in to the Dept. of Corporations. Hell, I was just covering my own butt as a board member. But then it felt like I was being so "pure" and acting for all the "right" reasons....but it was wrong... no matter how many times I was thanked for doing it. (No good deed shall go unpunished!!) Anyway, my friend and I just began the painful process of reconciliation...those first tentative baby steps...after 10 years. We are both very different people (from 10 years ago) and, if we can become friends again, it will be a wondrous friendship! But, oh, it IS HARD!

Xena's face at the end said it all....after Gabrielle declared her love..yet again!! They will reconcile. It won't happen in one episode. But...it WILL happen. I have complete faith that Xena and Gabrielle will find their way home to each other...in a much stronger, healthier and much, much more equal way.

loving this season.....

c. 1998 earth warrior
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Helen on Maternal Instincts:

I've now seen this episode and feel compelled to add my 2 dinars.

First, the acting of the three principals - Lucy, Renee and Hudson - is exceptional. Lucy and Renee are rapidly becoming as accomplished in drama as they are in comedy. Hudson - well - Renaissance should fall down on its collective knees and thank whatever deities might be listening for Hudson Leick. The part, as written, could have been played by any number of actresses in the standard villain manner. Hudson brings an extra dimension, or dementia, if you will, to the role that invariably has me riveted. IMO her portrayal could, and should, serve as a model for other actors to study. It reminds me, if I might digress for a moment, of Robert Shaw's portrayal of King Claudius in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's presentation of "Hamlet" (circa 1965). As a Shakespeare afficionada I've seen "Hamlet" many times, but I've never seen Claudius acted so convincingly, so much a worthy opponent for the prince. For me, Hudson's Callisto is every bit as complete as Shaw's Claudius.

While on the subject of acting, I have to comment on the rest of the cast. At times, in the past, the entire supporting cast of Xena has been painful to watch. This time TPTB were fortunate enough (I can't go so far as to give them credit for it) to assemble a reasonably competent group. For example, the whole episode could have been considerably weaker had the girl who played Hope (Amy Morrison) not been able to carry it off, which, IMO, she did.

Overall, this is an uneven piece. I haven't read MI spoilers - this is a *first* for me - so I expect someone has already taken TIIC to task for setting this ep only two months (or *a few* months) after The Deliverer. Presumably X and G used frequent flyer miles to jump from Britannia to China and back to Greece in the time allotted. I'm glad I didn't read this ep's spoilers for a number of reasons but never more so than the closing scene. When Gabrielle turns to Xena and attempts to bridge the gulf separating them, I fully expected that, as she had so often in the past, Xena would listen. Although I didn't anticipate forgiveness, I felt her answer would be non-committal enough to begin the healing process. Her snarled response left no doubt in my mind that TPTB are going to have to be miracle workers to re-establish this relationship on any kind of believable footing. I think that whatever X and G had is gone. For good.

c. 1998 Helen
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Katrina on Maternal Instincts:

I was going to impress you and write this fabulously intense review. But honestly, I guess it's not necessary.

I liked this episode. I think, given the scope of what they have accomplished, that they will accomplish something really ...strong. .great. .

This was such a wonderful episode. It was emotionally intense, thematically important and mythically true. It was a true tragedy, for it ended on the tragic separation, but like life, we see the next episode coming and that life goes on. . (in this case in the mytho dream realm. .but still wow. what a concept)

As a person who tends to walk the border between myth and reality anyway, this show had terrific impact on me. So many different ways of looking at this episode. wow. .I'll have to watch it again, I'm sure.

There are so many different kinds of hope. .Sometimes, in order for true love (not necessarily romantic, but real) to succeed, one has to give up the childish kind. .to kill the buddha if you will. . .and embrace . . love.

that final scene, where Gabrielle says, I love you. .it wasn't too late. .it was simply true. .Love. .
the embracer, the over comer. . .the forgiver. .the forgiven. .

what takes us beyond the mortal realm and makes us . .eternal beings. oh well, I suffer from flowery language, but still fabulous episode.

Funny, they say that love isn't enough, but it is always enough, it's just never what people expect.

The poses that Xena and Gab assume, Gab's become an Amazon. .she has her staff (which is highly symbolic of the help Gab needs to walk the path)..And Xena. .she stands alone, but Gabrielle is still besides her. They may part ways for a bit, but. .hmm .they'll walk together in the end.

This is an episode to be watched symbolically more than anything else, I think. .And next weeks. .even more so. .

I don't seek a resolution, other than in the symbolic sense next week. .their day to day lives will be what proves their love (which is the real truth) later. . .

I'd write more. . but. this is my first impression.

I LOVED this episode, and given the . .rest of the story, the other episodes, I'm finding that I can love those too, despite the trauma.

Every experience in life is of worth, when seen through loves' eyes.

and. .Forgiveness is possible.

. . .but then I've written stuff on that before. .

Love ya!

c. 1998 Katrina prosper4@ix.netcom.com
Katrina's Xena Fanfiction at: http://bearblue.simplenet.com/xenafic.html

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Lunacy on Maternal Instincts:

Watched this episode last night. Lots of different impressions. Some bad - some good. Among the bad - a continuing feeling of sloppiness in how the show is written and presented. I can't get over how time and time again Xena manages to outwit or beat Callisto despite the fact that the woman is now a goddess. I had problems with the scene in which Xena and Gabrielle dupe Callisto into thinking the bard is Solon for the simple reason that Callisto is a goddess. I can't imagine a trick like this fooling a goddess. In fact, through most of the episode both Hope and Callisto are looking for Solon and yet in other episodes we've seen the gods time and time again just materialize in front of whatever mortal they are looking for.

To be honest, I was also a bit distressed that Xena apparently didn't think much of USING Gabrielle as a decoy. She obviously expected to run into Callisto. The goddess could have easily killed Gabrielle even before realizing the hooded figure wasn't Solon - OR she could have killed her afterwards deciding that her death would count too. I seem to remember a scene in which Callisto was gunning for Gabrielle, couldn't get her, killed the bard's husband instead and then told Xena "that'll do." I could just see her in that forest killing Gabrielle, turning to Xena and repeating that fateful line.

In the scene after Solon's death when a shaken Gabrielle first sees Hope, I can understand why she seems to desperately want to believe in her daughter's innocence. What I do NOT understand is why Gabrielle looks convinced of Hope's guilt as soon as the girl says Solon's name. Why would this implicate Hope? They are in the centaur village where Solon lives. She could have heard his name anywhere.

I was disappointed with how little they used Ephiny. At the Burbank convention she said that her favorite XWP episode was HOOVES & HARLOTS and I can see why. In that episode Ephiny was sharp, enigmatic - a strong presence. In MATERNAL INSTINCTS she's reduced to baby sitting. The scene in which Gabrielle tells her about the events in Brittania had great potential but we really don't see much of it.

Finally, I REALLY wish they would think of more creative ways of stopping Callisto than trapping her time and time again. The woman is a goddess capable of shooting lightning bolts and of materializing and dematerializing wherever she wants. HOW could a simple cave-in trap her?????????

On a minor point, if the Xena staff wanted a blonde girl to play Hope I really wish they would have used some of that temporary hair dye now available or a better wig. That hair was just downright distracting.

Some good points - TREMENDOUS ACTING from Lucy, Renee and Hudson. WOW! Lucy and Renee may like to do comedy but in my book they are at their absolute BEST in drama. Lucy played the gamut of emotions extremely well. In the beginning her excitement at once again seeing Solon was really endearing. Her scenes with that young actor were excellent. Despite not having worked together often, there was a connection between them that made them very believable as mother and son.

Lucy's Xena after Solon's death is absolutely riveting. I've never seen a colder expression in those blue eyes than in the scene where she's shooting arrows at Callisto. She gave the very clear impression of just barely controlled rage.

Renee was heart-breaking to watch during her interactions with Hope. It's clear that she SO wanted to believe in her goodness. Her pain over having abandoned the girl is raw. Her desperate determination to protect Hope from Xena as strong as ever.

Hudson is once again at her best. It's incredible to see the depth to which she's brought her character. Callisto goes from her usual playful insanity in this episode to a disillusioned solemnity that is fascinating to see. One of the best scenes has to be when Xena is screaming in agony over Solon's death. Callisto at first smiles in glee then the smile fades and her eyes just grow empty as it dawns on her that indeed revenge has NOT taken away her own pain.

Two scenes stand out in my mind as perhaps the best in the entire episode despite the fact that they were also the two scenes that depressed me to the extreme. One was when Xena sees Gabrielle after the bard has killed Hope. The expressions on their faces is excruciating to watch if you love these characters. It is clear something has broken between them. Xena's face is a cold mask. Gabrielle's shows a poignant resignation. The impact of this scene, without a line of dialogue, is a tribute to the talent of Lucy and Renee.

The second scene that really got to me - the end of course. Gabrielle's guilt - Xena's bitterness - a friendship in ruins.

A few other thoughts - I found it interesting and ironic how Hope's agenda is patterned after the same one Jesus Christ would follow decades later. She sees herself as the harbinger of her father's kingdom, she promises her follower (Callisto) a place in that kingdom, AND I suspect...she sacrifices herself for that agenda just like Christ would later do. My impression is that Hope never wanted Callisto to kill Solon because she knew it was imperative that SHE do it. She knew doing so would create the rift between Xena and Gabrielle but in addition I suspect she knew it would also drive Gabrielle to kill her, further damaging the bard's already wounded soul. Lets keep in mind that now not only has Gabrielle betrayed Xena and killed a stranger - she's also killed her own child. In the Herc episode ARMAGEDDON - Hope returns so like Christ she too apparently experiences a resurrection of sorts.

Overall some great drama in MATERNAL INSTINCTS despite some disappointments too. I've read a a few commentaries which are noting that it contains all the elements of great tragedy. This may be so but unfortunately another mainstay of tragedy is that there *IS* no happy ending. Classic tragedy tends to involve lots of deaths, an insurmountable conflict and the downfall of the hero/heroes - fine for literature but NOT what I personally want to see in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. After this episode, as I said before, for me the friendship between Xena and Gabrielle is in ruins. I challenge now the Xenastaff and any bards out there to try to CONVINCE me that this friendship can be salvaged into something akin to what has kept me watching the last two seasons. I warn you - it wont be easy, but I REALLY REALLY want someone to convince me.

c. Lunacy
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Mika Ariela Epstein on Maternal Instincts:

Okay, I havn't read a SINGLE spoiler yet, and here I am saying... Wow. Now this is actually why I like this show. We have a gut wrenching, powerful, I'm-ready-to-cry episode, where BOTH Xena and Gabrielle lose children... and they act like REAL PEOPLE!!! My god, it... it made me sit and go 'wow.' I didn't need to cringe.

See, while I LOVE the slapstick episodes, like "Comedy of Eros" and even the "Warrior ... ?" trillogy, I cringe. When they make bad jokes, or when Gabrielle is a naieve kid and can't do a thing with out Xena, or where Xena treats Gabrielle like a tag along... the BEST 'slapstick' episodes have to be "A Day In The Life" and "Been There, Done That," becuase in BOTH those eps, the characters stayed true to form, and just got a little goofy.

But as much as I LOVE dying of laughter over the funnies (And they do 'em great), I love watching the realness of the show.

May I point out, firstly, that Xena is a DARK human. I'm going to paraphrase something I read in my _Official Guidebook_. She was a rough and tumble tomboy, who saw her town get its ass whupped, and her brother (I presume) die. Xena got PISSED and said 'not in my town' and kicked back. And KEPT kicking back till Horn Boy- Sorry CAESER came to town and screwed her big time. THEN she swore to be bad to the bone, and she was, until she ran into Herc, saved a baby, had sex with Herc (yuck, nothing against men, but Sorbo is NOT that handsome, sorry) thought about being good, met Gabrielle, became 'Good.'

Good is in flying comma's for a reason. Xena is good like Batman is good. She's the Dark Night in an age that NEEDS heros, but can't produce as many demi-god perfection ones as it needs. Back to the old hero slant: Xena IS a hero. But she's not perfect.

When I watched this ep, I was poignetly reminded of how powerful Xena's human-ness is to me. When she first shows up, Xena 'senses' Callisto...As much as I hate to say it, Xena might just be part god, somewhere down the line. That or she's got a 6th sense, after being picked on by all those gods. Anyways, THEN Xena looks up and says 'Oh, that's not a god, that's my son!' and gets her motherly feelings in a warm-happy in her belly. I wish my mom could do that :P

Xena is SO happy to see Solon, her son, that Gabrielle is third wheel and sorta feeling 'shit, man, it was only a few episodes ago that I had MY daughter and YOU made me get rid of her.' Which remindes me, GREAT acting by both ladies, expecially Renee. So Gabrielle and Solon run off, and Gabrielle meets Ephiny and Xenon (cute kid, and is Danielle Cormack pregnant again?). Of COURSE Gabrielle gets all misty eyed at the cute centaur boy, and spills SOME of the beans to Ephiny. The awkward hesitation that Gabrielle had was GREAT (Kudo Renee!) and Ephiny had such a contrite look on her face when Gabrielle said she ran into some 'bad' stuff. Not to mention my Dad chimed in and asked "What? Did she get raped?" A bit text-book formulaic, but as I often remind my friends, there's a REASON sterotyping works. Sometimes it's RIGHT.

Jet through the Ep, with Gabrielle wondering how the HELL she's going to keep Xena from killing Hope, Callisto and Hope plotting, and Xena trying to figure out how to save everyone.

Gabrielle TELLS Xena she lied, and we see the crumble in those baby blues. With a look of torment, Xena has to fight between the fact that this IS Gabrielle's daughter, and this IS Dahak's daughter... Best Friend, evil nasty guy.... and THEN Gabrielle LIED to her. It's a lot for a woman, even Xena, to handle all at once. But then Hope knocks off Solon, and that was all she wrote.

A lot of us have lost people. Cats and dogs, friends, family, parents, grandparents, and so on. When I was 16, one of my friends was killed in a hit and run when I was away at school, and I flew home for her funeral. I remember that her mother said that it was always a greater tragedy for a parent to outlive a child. She said a lot of other things, but since I don't feel like crying at a keyboard tonight, I'll leave it at that it has ALWAYS seemed harder for a parent to lose a child. There are probably a dozen reasons I can say why, but for the above reason, I won't.

Xena, in her days as 'warlord noogie' (I think Lala coined THAT phrase), started to become Xena Bad-Ass. Borias got wigged out, switched sides, Xena finds out she's preggers, and STILL has that little bit of good to hope for the best of her child's safety and gives him away. She wants her son to LIVE and she leaves him, abandoning him for the sake of her vengance. HER evil.

After her reformation, Xena can only see HERSELF as the evil nasty. So when Gabrielle (a warlord noogie? you think?) ends up pregnant BY an evil nasty sort, it's a bit of Deja Vu for Xena. She gets freaked, and when all the REALLY weird stuff happens (the banshes etc), Xena get's more freaked. THIS is a deamon spawn child, this WILL be a bad thing, Gabrielle, can we talk about abortion?

But for the same reason Xena loves Gabrielle, she knows that the bard will NOT kill this child. Gabrielle is YOUNG. Come on, we're talking ancient Greece, you're a spinster by 26! I always imagained Gabrielle as being 'supposedly' about 16 or 17 when she runs off with Xena. And WHY did Gabrielle run off? Yes, for the adventure, but becuse she saw GOOD in Xena. She see's good in a lot of people, and why would she see differnet of her child? Hell, Hope had a 50% chance of being all sweetness and light, didn't she? Still, Gabrielle came up with a convincing lie, and Xena wanted so much to believe her friend, that she ignored plausibility and bought it. Human, isn't it? Xena wanted things to be like they were, the two friends agreeing, and she was willing to accept anything at that point, so long as she thought Deamon-Spawn was dead.

Too bad Hope was alive, and kicking hard. That Gabrielle saw PAST her blinding love, and the harrowing guilt of abandonment, was miracle enough. Gabrielle TRIED to believe Xena, but she loved so much, that she stumbled and got lost. They truly work best as a pair, these two, Gabrielle adding the little light of love to Xena's life, Xena shadowing that love with reality. And then, as the world ISN'T perfect, Gabrielle's love hid from her Hope's evil nature, until she too knew that Hope was an abomination.

Infantcide. Twice over.

What do you say when your daughter kills your best friend's son? (you can define best friend as you like) "Oh sorry, and I MEANT to tell you that Hope was alive, but...." There ARE no good words, there IS no easy way. Gabrielle BETRAYED Xena. That's not something which is forgiven easily, is it? I'm rather forgiving, but when my roomie broke my computer, I was livid and wouldn't talk to her for a day.

Xena was RIGHT. As much as I love Gabrielle, I know she's not perfect. When, at the funeral of the children, Xena said not to speak his name, I knew what she meant. Xena was JUST going to tell Solon that SHE was his mother, that she loved him and she was going to TRY to be a mother. This could only have come about from either Gabrielle's patient application of a board to Xena's head, or her patient display of love.

Then it was all ripped away. "You lied to me. I trusted you and you lied to me. My son is dead ... because of you." Those words are SO true. It's exactly what Gabrielle did, and you can't expect forgivness for that in a one hour episode. Not even when Gabrielle goes for the puppy dog approach, and says "I love you Xena." Xena's silence was all but her saying "I love you, Gabrielle, but I don't like you right now."

It's possible to love and dislike someone at the same time. You can love them dearly, and care about them, but people are people. Life isn't like soaps or novels. People DON'T kiss and make up, people don't forgive at the drop of a hat. People fight, people bicker, and they WORK THROUGH their problems.

It's real. I like it.

c. 1998 Mika Ariela Epstein
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Pursh on Maternal Instincts:

(or Portrait of a Devil-child Having a Bad-hair Life)

In Maternal Instincts the XWP producers once again did a good job in bringing us a subtle, tangential nuance that is simply ripe for a nattering and somewhat relevant analysis. Did anyone else catch the good/evil paradox represented by Xenon and Hope's wooden Senticles toy animals?

Early on when gABS and Ephiny are having girl bonding, just prior to the "oh, and I cranked out a babe in a barn in Britt" conversation we see, after gABS points it out, that Xenon has a craved wooden toy wolf, Lucas. A bit later Hope, that calculating little fashion disaster, purposefully drops her toy lamb in front of gABS. gABrielle immediately recognizes it as the gift she gave to Hope just before she sent Hope on her high seas river-in-a-basket adventure.

The lamb was originally a gift to gABS from Xena in A Solstice Carol. (You may recall Xena's musing at the end of that ep, upon gAB'S confession that she pooched getting Xena a Solstice gift. "gABrielle, you are a gift to me," says everybody's favorite butch in a mini-skirt. Oh Xena! Love you! L-O-V-E your one-liners! And your grace in sparing gAB-ola from the awkward embarrassment that attends forgetting to acknowledge a lover with a gift in good taste on a major pagan holiday, is most sweet. You are one full-on warrior princess babe after all of our tender loving lezzie hearts).

Now back to the toys. IMO it seems that the producers are giving us a directional tug on the season's continuing theme of good and evil. Xenon represents the innocent, true child. He has no agenda. Indeed, his birth station in life is anything but similar to that of the archetypal predatory wolf. As a male he's not allowed to live with his mommy among the amazons, and as a Centaur he really can't safely live outside his four-legged tribe. He represents the child in pure form. He is an innocent lamb, thrown out to play in a world of wolves. Devil girl, we are lead to believe, is a born predator. (Although that's not a view held by all Xenites. There is some eye opening discourse on this point out inthe 'verse, including a highly recommended analysis from our beloved Webmistress)

Hope, although conceived through the seed of bad devil dad, is also part good egg, through gAB'S influence. Through gABrielle she is at least exposed to the archetypal lamb's pacifistic goodness. IMO this is clever textual metaphor that gives us a touch of the yin and yang, and a view into the essence of Hope.

Even in inherent innocence (represented by Xenon) the potential for evil is present (his playing with and ownership of the wolf toy). In born bad because of devil dad Hope, there is the potential for good because of Hope's matrilineal inheritance. Her good to the core mama passed on the live and let live philosophy represented by the gift of the wooden lamb.

We are thus left wondering about Hope's potential, both as a child and in the broader-implied metaphorical meaning of the word. Because of the gift from her good mother, there is always the positive potential for Hope. We must ask ourselves, then, who this child would be if she would have been raised by gABby the good. Could gABrielle have tapped that small port of goodness in Hope and turned her away from evil? The next query presents itself naturally: with her good potential still in tow, who will Hope become. Is it too late for Hope?

OK, while I'm waxing loquacious on Hope, I know this question has been asked with derisive wonderment around the Xenaverse, but I simply can't resist. What is wrong with that poor child's 'do? TIIC could have given Aphrodite a cameo (or even an off camera gig) to help the raggy urchin get her hair thingy organized. Alas, the diminuitive daughter of darkness looks like she inherited her hair DNA from the goat who so auspiciously oversaw her birth. Or perhaps the straw from the floor of the birthing barn is permanently stuck to her head. I don't know, but lets hope (errrr, perhaps pray) that by the time she comes back to life (oh come on, nobody stays dead on XWP) and reaches her teen years, and starts dating other devil girls, that she's out grown (errrr, perhaps cut) this rather awkward outer-cranial stick-pile.

And hey (pun fully intended), don't try to hang this mess on good ol' Auntie Callisto -- she did her best with the flying hairbrush.

That brings us back full-circle to the wolf and the lamb. Again, we must ask who this child would be had she been raised and tutored in fashion and hygiene by her always well-presented mother. At this very moment would Hope be alive, sporting a fetching and well maintained over-the-top side-braid like gAB'S? Or would gAB, sensing the boy in her precious little girl, have steered her to the graceful, yet dapper bob, popular among the younger amazon set? Who knows? Surely with Xena as a co-parent, Hope wouldn't be leaving the house without brushing her teeth and hair, and her play habits with the other children in the neighborhood would most likely lend less tragic outcomes. It goes without saying, of course, that the burlap bag dress would be upgraded to a well-tailored age-appropriate leather ensemble, replete with metal accents where necessary.

(or a short treatise on the merits of chemically altering the brain)

Well, I know I'm going to get a spanking for saying this, but speaking of Auntie Callisto, she is one crabby babe in need of some serious, consistent and well-delivered therapy. It's time for closure, dearie, or at least a piece of gAB'S filched henbane nutbread. This is no knock against Hudson, mind you. She's given the best villain protrayal in the series, and I'd take Cali the destroyer any day over Caesar-Cheezer and dahak and his burnin' bed o' flames. But Cali, love, come on. Get yersef some Prozac, or at least some nice organic, non-endangered species, ethically harvested herbs (the nervines come to mind).

IMO TPTB need to begin the next phase of the development of the full Cali the destroyer archetype. Destruction, or death, is an essential part of the life-death-rebirth cycle. Callisto is continually rebirthed, as are all of our friends (and enemies) in warrior princess land (and yes I'm still holding out for the return of Lao Ma, perhaps again as an apparition). In spite of her divine herstory of coming back to life on the physical plane, Cali is failing to make any karmic progress toward spiritual rebirth. If good can find a safe haven in evil, and if death is a necessary component of rebirth, then why can't Callisto make some Xena-like progress in washing the blood from her hands, thus truly completing her development as Cali the destroyer.

And on that note, since Xena developed every medical procedure under the Moon in Is there a Doctor in the House, I see no reason why she and gABS can't start a low-cost, drop-in counseling center for wayward warriors, princesses, priestesses, tramps, theives, murders, bards and warlords. Certainly our gals could grab their fair share of the utterly untapped market for these much needed services in the warrior princess realm.

gABS would do the actual counseling, and Xena could be in charge of the billing department. The office could be tastefully decorated in leather, and operate a 24 hour self-help library carrying all of gAB'S recent writings, including:

1) "The Way to Inner Peace Through Phenominal Abdominals: One Gal's Journey From a Bulky 1970's Full-length Maxi to Two Ever-Shrinking Pieces of Suede"

2) "Xena is my Co-pilot" (subtitled: The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love)

3) "You, Your Child, and the Pre-meditated Murder Option"

4) "Around the globe in 180 Minutes: Chin to Brittney to Greece in Three Easy Episodes"

5) "Tough Love: Hair Brushing Techniques for Your Inner Callisto"

6) "Too Much of a Good Thing is Never Enough: Deconstructing the Eating Disorder Myth"

The children's section could include these offerings from Hope:

1) "Presumed Guilty"

2) "The Politics of Hair and Self-esteem in the Unwanted Child"

3) "Bad Herbs and Why You Shouldn't Drink Them, Even if Your Mommy Says So"

4) "Xenon Did It and I Can Show You How"

And by Xena:

1) "Are You Suicidal?"

2) "My Argo, Myself"

3) "Communication Techniques for the Wise Woman: How to Use Your Dark Side to its Fullest Advantage When Negotiating Healthcare Benefits, a Living Wage, Free on-site Daycare and Other Issues of Concern to the Contemporary Gal"

4) "The Round Killy-thingy Owner's Manual" (Co-authored with Princess Diana)

5) "Fishing for Health and Profit: All You Need are Your Own Nubile Fingers"

Our favorite couple could depose Minya to Chin to run a branch office there. I'm sure she'd do fine with a little divine intervention from Lao Ma. In fact, the Chin office could have an expanded mission. Hope could be the next initiate into Lao Ma's finishing school for troubled devils. L.M. did a good job with Xena, afterall, and she could definitely show Hope a thing or two about the proper use of a stylized hair brooch.

c. 1998 Pursh

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