Plot: What’s it about?
She was an outlaw that reigned terror on lands of all kinds, but now Xena (Lucy Lawless) seeks to leave her past behind. As the leader of a band of outlaws, she was involved in massive amounts of death and destruction, devices that she became notorious for dealing out without hesitation. Now time has passed however, leaving her with more regret and sorrow than she can handle, so she seeks to reverse her old ways. If she can serve as a protector and defender, Xena believes some of her burden might be lifted, though she knows she has done a lot of bad deeds, so she has to devote herself to the good cause. She has the tools needed to serve a good cause, as she is a skilled warrior and healer, but if she to succeed in her tasks, she will need more than those attributes. Her dark past always looms over her, to the extent that even when she tries to be a help, some people refuse to believe her. After all, it is a rather large change of heart, going from a sadistic warrior to a more kind one. As she faces assorted menaces and enemies, she has a companion in the young Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor). Although she wouldn’t even allow her to join her at first, Xena soon broke down and the two have the start of quite a bond. Can Xena overcome her dark past to carve out a brighter future?
I know this series is laden with cheese, but ever since television shows have started to flourish on DVD, I have awaited the release of Xena: Warrior Princess. This series has a lot in common with the series it spun off, as both Xena and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys have adventure, fantasy, humor, and of course, bad special effects. And in truth, it is the fantasy that makes Xena so great, as the genre hasn’t been touched much of late, so when even a passable entry comes along, fans line up to see it for themselves. Xena is all about the fantasy elements, whether it be the sword battles, the magical & mystical content, or the creatures she battles, not to mention Xena herself, who is quite the fantasy herself, to be sure. The special effects are low rent, but very fun and in this series, the focus is on sheer entertainment. As such, you love the laughable special effects and visuals, as it is all part of the fun. This is quite a visual series too, with cool locations, solid makeup work, and very cool costumes, especially the ones on the ladies. And while I will discuss her more later on, I do want to mention Lucy Lawless in this section, since she is the driving force behind Xena. I am very pleased to own this second season, which has a wealth of terrific episodes. I do wish the visuals were better, but even as it stands, I can’t wait for the rest of the seasons to arrive.
As I said before, Xena is all about fantasy and the main fantasy found in the series is Xena herself, as played by Lucy Lawless. No offense intended, but in a series like this one, we need a gorgeous woman to handle the reins. I know Xena is a fierce warrior, but she’s also a stunning hottie and of course, that’s one of the main reasons the show was a success. If she were played by someone less toned or blessed with beauty, then Xena would have tanked, but Lawless has all the goods needed. I haven’t seen Lawless in many other projects, but she seems to be a solid, if unremarkable worker. But when she saddles up as Xena, she comes to life and without a shadow of a doubt, no one else could handle this role. Lawless is poetry in motion in this role, a kind of magic that isn’t often seen, especially in low rent television shows. When she lets loose her battle cry and storms into battle, its a thing of beauty, pure and simple. You can also see Lawless in such films as Spider-Man, The Rainbow Warrior, Peach, and I’ll Make You Happy. The cast also includes Renee O’Connor (Stone Cold, Darkman II), Hudson Leick (Chill Factor, Tv’s Melrose Place), and Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness, Evil Dead 2).
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. I hoped for an improvement over the lackluster first season visuals, but no such luck. The episodes still look watchable and solid, but don’t offer much to praise. The prints look soft and have a lot of grain, but this season was shot on low end materials, so you can’t expect much. You won’t see debris or other defects, but the grain is thick at times, so be prepared. I found contrast to be good, though some scenes look a little washed out, but most appear solid. I never detected any serious black level problems, but I did want to mention those trouble spots. The colors look bright and bold throughout, especially in the outdoor scenes, where more hues can be seen. Still, I am pleased to see them in at least decent condition and in truth, I don’t know how much better this could have been, given the source materials.
Audio: How does it sound?
As with the first season, the episodes have been given new Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, which sound awesome and add a lot to the experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the audio, but the surrounds are used to create some excellent atmosphere. This show has a lot of fights, chases, and other action elements, so the surrounds are used often to immerse the audience. So when the swords clang, the arrows fly, and the horses run, you’ll feel as if you’re right in the middle of all it, thanks to some well crafted, powerful use of the surrounds. Yes, it all comes across as a little gimmicky at times, but so does the show, so it all balances out. There is ample subtle presence however, so don’t think this is an all over top soundtrack effort. The dialogue remains clean and always audible also, so no vocals are lost in the shuffle.
Supplements: What are the extras?
few episodes include audio commentary tracks with stars Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Conner, as well as Robert Tapert. Not all the sessions feature all three, but in any event, all are worth a listen for fans. As an added bonus, the sessions were also filmed and that means the tracks have video footage of the sessions. That adds a lot to the tracks of course, as we can watch the folks and see more of their immediate reactions. A half hour interview with the trio is also included, as well as some still photos and talent files.