Saturday, July 27, 2013


                                                      Original Air-Date  September 18, 1995

Gabrielle is fantasizing about being a great swordswoman. Xena sees her playing with her sword and isn't impressed. Gabrielle asks Xena to teach her how to use a sword, apparently a conversation they've already had several times. And Xena refuses, again. Xena tells Gabrielle that she doesn't understand what's involved that when you pull a sword you have to be prepared to kill. Gabrielle, missing the point totally, insists she doesn't want to learn to kill, just to survive.

Xena tells her the rules of survival: "Number one: if you can run, run. Number two: if you can't run, surrender and then run. Number three: if you're outnumbered, let them fight each other while you run. Number four: talk your way out of it. Moments later they are attacked by bandits, Xena doesn't take her own advice.

While fighting them, Xena somehow loses her sword, which Gabrielle picks up. Xena has to come to her rescue as the bandits converge on Gabrielle. As the fight ends, Xena killing the last of them, we see two hooded men watching from the undergrowth. They are very impressed, but not with Xena. With Gabrielle. Morpheus will be pleased, he says, revealing Gabrielle is the one.

Xena and Gabrielle ride into town. Gabrielle, still miffed by their earlier argument, wanders off, ostensibly to find some supplies, while Xena seeks out a local trader: she needs a new sharpening stone. The trader is interested in Gabrielle, and when Xena asks where she should report a dead highwayman, he seems relieved when Xena confirms it wasn't Gabrielle that killed him. Before Xena can question him, a blind old man, Elkton, comes into the shop. He wants a new halter for his horse, but the trader refuses to serve him despite Elkton's insistence that he's no longer a mystic. Xena, offended by the trader's attitude, buys a halter and as she leaves the store, places the halter where Elkton can find it.

Meanwhile Gabrielle has found the shop of a swordsmith and is inspecting his wares. The swordsmith seems surprised to see her: he tells her she should be in hiding unless she has no reason to fear Morpheus. Gabrielle can't think of any reason to fear the god of dreams and says so. Instantly, the swordsmith assumes she is a warrior and goes into full salesman-mode. Gabrielle, flattered, plays along, eventually buying a breast dagger, which Xena immediately confiscates. There's a disturbance in town -- all of the people flee to their homes, bolting doors and shuttering windows.

Three warriors attack Xena. She fights them off easily, but when they've gone, so is Gabrielle. A very angry Xena interrogates the trader. All he can tell her is that every Solstice the mystics of Morpheus come down from the mountain and take a young girl...who is never seen again. Xena goes in search of Elkton, remembering he is a former mystic.

Manus, priest of Morpheus, explains to Gabrielle that she has been chosen as Morpheus' bride. To prove herself worthy, she will face a series of challenges, each one a fight to the death. If she survives, she will become the god's bride. Gulp. Gabrielle's in trouble. More trouble than she realizes. From Elkton Xena learns the truth behind Manus' mystical talk: that Gabrielle was chosen for her blood innocence, the fact that she has never killed. The challenges are designed to trick her into taking a life, and the moment she does she will be sacrificed to Morpheus.

Xena asks Elkton to tell her where she can find Gabrielle, but Elkton tells her it's hopeless: the temple is well guarded and by the time she fights her way in, Gabrielle will be dead. Unless...and Elkton reveals his prophetic vision of a woman warrior with a dark past who can fight her way through the Dreamscape Passage to defeat Morpheus. Xena agrees to try it his way. Elkton shows her a way to travel the Dreamscape Passage, a mystical journey through her own mid which will, if she wins through, bring her bodily to the temple of Morpheus. If she fails, she will die.

Entering the Dreamscape, Xena finds herself in darkness. She is surrounded by warriors chanting her name. She protests that she left this life behind her. "You can't change who you are," they taunt. The scene changes, to that of a ruined, smoldering village. Xena meets a man who claims to be one of her victims. "Did you know I had a name?" he asks her. Other figures appear, all villagers slain by Xena's army, all accusing her of crimes. One of them hands her a sword. Kill us, he tells her, and the others repeat it as a chant. Xena takes the sword and smashes it on the ground, telling Morpheus it won't work: That he's using the past of a Xena long dead. The figures vanish. Manus somehow knows that Xena has entered the Dreamscape Passage. He sends warriors to search for Elkton and Xena's body.

Gabrielle's first challenge: She is handed a sword and shown through a door, she has to find her way to the end of the passage. There'll be two men trying to stop you. Stop them first. The passage is hung with muslin-like cloth, meaning that Gabrielle and anyone else in there can see only shadows. Remembering Xena's advice, Gabrielle trick the two warriors into killing each other.

She has passed the test, and is returned to her imprisonment, where she falls asleep. Somehow, Gabrielle meets Xena in her dreams and Xena is able to warn her not to kill. Gabrielle wants to know what's plan B? Xena tells her to use what she's good at to stall: give Xena time to break through the Dreamscape Passage.

Gabrielle is woken by Manus, who tells her to prepare for the next challenge. She tries to stall, but Manus is aware of what Xena is doing. He assures Gabrielle that he has warriors searching for her body: she'll be dead before she can reach the temple. Manus' warriors break into Elkton's hut. Both the mystic and Xena's body are gone. They continue their search. Gabrielle's second challenge: Again she is given a sword, but she discards it at once. Killing is not an option. In a mysterious cavern she is attacked by three warriors. She grabs a spear, breaking off the point, and uses the shaft to defend herself.

Gabrielle realizes she might be able to talk her way out of this one. She tells the warriors she'll take them on one at a time: whichever of them is the best, first. This prompts them to fight each other, to test which of them is the best. Once again, she survives, but now Manus realizes that Gabrielle knows she mustn't kill. "The next challenge," he tells her, "will not have options. You take the life offered you, or you die." In the dreamscape passage, Xena is confronted by the fist man she ever killed, and by the most recent. They taunt her with the knowledge that Gabrielle is going to kill...and what that act could twist her innocent mind into. Xena refuses to be provoked. Recognizing at last that she is within her own mind, she exerts her will to banish the apparitions.

Moving on, she finds the door Elkton described. Now Xena must literally confront her own dark side. "You can't go through that door until you have the key," Dark Xena, aka Doppelganger, taunts her. She tempts Xena with the past, telling her that being good can't last. Xena doesn't believe it. "All through this dreamscape I've been confronted with people I killed in the past and I couldn't bring myself to kill them again...It means I finally get to kill *you*." They fight, but Dark Xena seems physically stronger. Meanwhile, Manus' warriors have found the place where Elkton is guarding Xena's body. They prepare to kill her. Gabrielle's third challenge: she is in a passage with a wall of sharpened stakes moving, forcing her toward an armed warrior. She can either kill the warrior or die between the stakes and his sword. Gabrielle is close to panic. There's a sword on the ground in front of her, but she knows she can't use it.

Dark Xena is taunting her rival. Xena begins to understand: if it wasn't for her dark side she wouldn't be the warrior she is. Whether she likes it or not, she owes everything she is to the darkness in her past. But she can control her dark side. Finally breaking out of the dreamscape passage, Xena appears in the temple, ready to fight. Just in time to save Gabrielle. Manus, desperate to salvage something, orders his warriors to kill them both. Gabrielle throws Xena the sword and Xena fights the warriors off. Later, the local villagers express their gratitude to Xena for making the valley safe again.

Elkton is reinstated as head priest of the mystics, and Morpheus grants him the return of his eyesight. Elkton tells Xena that if she's ever in the area, she's welcome. Fresh from confronting her past crimes, the offer of friendship means a lot to her. Gabrielle, meanwhile, seems to have changed her mind about wanting to learn sword. Xena thinks that's a good idea.


Lucy Lawless as Xena

Renée O'Connor as Gabrielle

Bruce Hopkings as Termin

Nathaniel Lees as Manus

Patrick Smith as Dolas

No disclaimer.


"All right, the rules of survival: #1. If you can run, run. #2. If you can't run, surrender, then run. #3. If you're outnumbered, let them fight each other while you run. #4..."
"Wait...more running?"
"No, four is where you talk your way out of it, and I know you can do that."
-- Xena and Gabrielle

"The first time you pick up a sword, you become a target. And the moment you kill...everything changes. Everything."
-- Xena

"I'll keep this[breast dagger] for the time being."
"Ha! It's not like your breasts aren't dangerous enough!"
-- Xena and Gabrielle

"You're lucky the tree was unarmed. You could've been hurt."
-- Xena

"You're trying to slow me down. You're using the past of a Xena long dead. I'm not her anymore!"
-- Xena


Xena doesn't use her chakram in this episode.

This is the first episode to handle the dramatic choice between fighting and non-violence with Gabrielle rather than Xena. This will continue to be a central theme in the development of Gabrielle's character in seasons to come.

This is the first episode to introduce the concept of blood innocence. This will play a pivotal role in a later story arc.

This was the fifth episode of the series to be written, but the third to be filmed. "Death in Chains" was the third episode to be written after "Sins of the Past" and "Chariots of War."

Story Recommendation:

The Eleusinian Mysteries by Baermer - 58 pages
Xena is summoned to look into several murders at the festival of Demeter, but it's Gabrielle who is asked to undergo an initiation that may cost the bard her life.

The story continues in the Peloponnesian War Series.

The Peloponnesian War Series

Book I: Precursors - 90 pages
Takes place a year after "The Eleusian Mysteries". Gabrielle and Xena return to Eleusis and become caught up in Greek politics.

Book II: Poteidaia Under Siege - 91 pages
The Athenian army places Gabrielle's hometown under siege as the two friends help the townsfolk through the difficult months.

Book III: The Mytilene Debate - 87 pages
Several Amazons join the companions as they begin their mission to the island of Lesbos to find a missing Ephiny.

Book IV: The Battle of Amphipolis - 140 pages
Xena and the Amazons are off to rescue Gabrielle, who's been abducted by Athena.

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