Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 4 Episode 1

Adventures in the Sin Trade (1)

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Sep 28, 1998 on
out of 10
User Rating
81 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


After Gabrielle sacrificed herself to stop Hope, a grief-stricken Xena must travel to the Amazon Land of the Dead to find Gabrielle, and Xena takes a trip down memory lane to her evil past at the side of Borias and the shamaness Alti.

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  • Alti and the Amazons...

    Xena journeys to a different land to find the spirit of Gabrielle. In a trance, she discovers Cyane and a race of Amazons in the Land of the Dead who are unable to cross over into eternity. Xena has an epiphany; instead of finding Gabrielle, she sets out to free the Amazons.

    The opening music is fantastic and the feeling is, this episode is going to be different. It was a great idea to introduce the fact that not every soul goes to either Tartarus or the Elysian Fields. If they chose to worship different Gods that those of Mt. Olympus then it seems fitting their souls should be elsewhere.

    The storyline fills in the gap between Xena and Borias' experience in Chin and the battle with Centaurs, their last together. Also, it explains her involvement with Alti and how the Amazons knew of Xena.

    After all this time, Xena finally gets a costume change and it's not just her in her skivvies. I loved her new outfit, especially the headdress with antlers and the beading surrounding her face and forehead made her look very beautiful.

    The Amazons of this land are of a different breed or line. They are not the scantily clad forest dwellers of Greece. Their attire of choice is a fur-enrobed ensemble designed to endure the harsh land and severe weather conditions. Although, I loved both races of Amazons and any episodes with their appearances, this particular group appealed to me more as they seemed darker and more savage.moreless
  • Xena after loosing Gabrielle at the end of season 3, goes off the deep end. We also learn more about her back-story. (possible spoilers within)

    Xena, now having gone completely nuts (and having received a budget increase to the show), gets a new horse, new clothes made of animal skins and ventures off into the middle of no-where. It seems that Gabrielle was not sent to Hades after her death, but instead to the amazonian eternal-life land. Xena goes to join her. It seems that getting there is much more complicated than just popping around to see Hades. This complication has her meeting up with a tribe of Amazons (not the amazons previously shown). She tells tales of her run-ins with them previously, there are prophecies, references to the land of Chin, etc. etc.

    Overall a very good episode, a good lead in to part 2 even though it feels slightly drawn out to make it a two-parter. It's enjoyable, Lucy Lawless acts very well, and we learn more about Xena and the amazons in general.

    It seems that Xena has done some really terrible things in the past (more terrible than just rampaging through the countryside killing everyone), so we learn why she needs to continue to seek redemption.moreless
  • Amazons in need of a few acting classes.

    After last season's fantastic cliff-hanger, Xena returns moodier than ever. 'Adventures in the Sin Trade' (love the title!) is not exactly your typical Xena outing. In fact, it's unlike any other Xena episode in the series. Dark? Oh yes! Action packed? Oh yes! A little insane? You guessed it – YES.

    First off, this isn't an episode for the uninitiated. There's no time for that. Sure, you have some flashbacks, but they'll only resonate with long term fans. The nit and grit of this episode is the search for Gabrielle, who was last seen falling to her death along with her daughter, Hope, into a pit of lava. See? No time to play catch-up.

    Xena has been through an awful lot. We've seen her battered and bruised, and we get a lick of that through some cool flashbacks thanks to one of the more interesting foes on the show, the Berserker. Any episode that has Xena's legs given the once over with a sledge-hammer immediately gets the thumbs up from me. What?! It was one of season 2s best episodes.

    Anyways, in this episode she completely loses herself. Gabrielle was her light, and in order to get her best friend back, she must dive into the heart of darkness. And let me tell you, it's not an easy thing to do. You have your elk-killing, your elk-skinning, smearing elk blood on your body, your horse killing, drinking said horses blood. It's an all round unpleasant experience, as you can tell, involving a lot of blood, a lot chanting and a lot spazzing out. Lucy nails it.

    The hour looks incredible. There's an entirely different feel to the episode and with it comes and entirely different look (loved the various chromes added to the different landscapes). I must say that it suits the show. I enjoyed seeing another faction of the Amazons, although their line delivery could have been a little better (especially from the younger troops). We do get Victoria Pratt, though, who slots into the show very nicely. She's also a hottie, which also helps.

    The big-bad of the episode, a reoccurring villain, Shaman-in-desperate-need-of-strepcil, AKA Alti, is played fairly OTT by Claire, but it somehow works. Very well. Alti is Xena's most influential mentor, for better or worse – obviously worse. She quenched Xena's lust for power and sold her on the world and how Xena could very well take it and become its destroyer. I loved that reference to Lao Ma – oh how disappointed she would be – right before tempting Xena into the heart of darkness.

    Overall, it's a mind-whammy of an episode. Sure, it's a little too MTV-styled for my liking, with far too many close-ups for any one episode, but the flow of the story streamed off into interesting directions, and it sets up Alti as a worthy adversary for Xena. Where the Hades is Gabrielle, anyways? Find out in part 2!moreless
  • "... the light? That's not for people like you and me. I want to tap into the heart of darkness..."

    I love everything about this episode, and admire everything the writers and producers set out to achieve. "Adventures in the Sin Trade" is a powerful, haunting and epic story, which represents outstanding television; by any standards this is superb television, and there is no doubt that this episode changed the face of Xena forever.

    This episode broke so much ground in so many ways. From the interesting but fairly standard season final "Sacrifice", in the break between the seasons Xena has matured as a show. Season 3 set the scene for the big changes that were going to take place in the future of the show, but no one could have been prepared for just how much the show would be turned around. From the first scene this episode clearly shows a new side to Xena, and a new feel to the show; a darker, more dangerous, atmospheric and dramatic look and feel that continued far into the 5th season.

    This episode has one of the greatest openings of the series. From the first scene it is just so powerful; we are immediately thrust into a fast and dark world, with the distress and darkness outside reflecting the absolute inner turmoil within Xena. This is Xena without Gabrielle; lost and confused, torn between who she was and who she feels she is inside. This is a woman mourning the loss of her lover, partner and best friend, who has no idea how to deal with the pain she is feeling, and finding herself quickly overwhelmed by her loss and grief. I was struck by a real sense of growth within the series, and I felt like this was the culmination of an entire season of development and improvement; Xena as a show has matured, with this episode the example.

    Xena's clear distress over the loss of Gabrielle finally puts out in the open the ambiguities surrounding their relationship. No one could argue that Xena's reaction is a logical one for someone who has lost their friend; this is how you mourn the love of your life. Her beautiful and heartbreaking speech to Gabrielle's spirit in the land of the dead is so sorrowful, and yet tinged with such hope. It is an absolute tribute to Lucy's acting that we get to feel her emotions the way we do in this episode.

    This episode is particularly heavy with flashbacks and, if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times, one thing Xena does incredibly well are flashback episodes. Xena's dark past is so fascinating; I find myself truly unable to tear my eyes from the screen as we are shown more of her dark world. Again I was struck by just how far she has come as a person to have overcome the darkness and pain of her past.

    The introduction of the skills and imagery of the shamans is also beautifully portrayed. I love this Xena; the raw and accomplished woman in control of her skills and powers. The enactment of the journey to the land of the dead is hypnotising, and is contrasted very effectively against her same journey years before.

    We see here a different Borias than the one of "The Debt". This is a man who has found himself desperately in love with the woman you don't want to love. Borias is no longer able to think clearly, in his head he sees the scenario as he wants it to play out and yet the object of his affection not only doesn't return his feelings, but finds them repulsive. At this stage in Xena's life, she is unable to feel such weak human emotions as need and love for another person; her blasé attitude to her pregnancy, including her incredible lack of respect in not informing Borias, is particular significant as it paints the picture of who Xena is at this time.

    We are also introduced in a powerful way to Xena's arch enemy, Alti. This episode is incredibly important as it represents the beginning of a very long and epic battle between Xena and Alti that extends far beyond this story-arc and well into the next season. Alti is everything you could possibly hope for in an enemy. She is frighteningly powerful, and portrayed with such relish by Claire Stansfield. There is such a powerful sexual vibe about Alti and her involvement with Xena. Alti already knows Xena's preference for idealistic women, and uses the assistant almost as a form of bait to draw Xena into her world. Not that she needed much to do so, Xena has been searching for this kind of means of gaining power for years and Alti simply dangles the carrot in front of her. As usual, Xena is her own worst enemy.

    A particularly noteworthy part of the episode was the final scenes were Alti uses her new power of making her victims re-live the pain and suffering of their pasts. I thought the three moments of Xena's past that Alti chose were most interesting. Obviously Xena's survival of the gauntlet was a key moment in her life – the moment where she found the inner strength to turn her life around despite what she had been through. The fight with Callisto shown from the end of last season is also a highly emotive moment for Xena; there was so much at stake going up against Hope and Dahak, and in the end Xena lost what was most dear to her, instead of it being the other way around. And, of course, her crucifixion and the breaking of her legs after Caesar's betrayal changed her life forever. All these moments were both emotional and physical torments for Xena and to me this shows Alti's intelligence, skill and how much of an enemy she is. This is a woman who knows that it is not enough just to inflict the pain; the pain must come with heavy emotional burdens, because to defeat an enemy requires beating them physically and emotionally. Xena should be afraid.

    So, this episode is key to the series; it is emotive and powerful and takes you as a viewer to an entirely new level. I cannot banish the images from the episode from my mind, and that to me demonstrates that this is an episode that needs to be watched, re-watched and then watched again to really appreciate the full picture. Top marks from me.moreless
  • Distraught over the loss of Gabrielle, Xena attempts to travel to the Amazon Land of the Dead to find her deceased friend, along the way recalling her past and how she met the shaman Alti. I'll dare to say it – I don't like this episode much at all...moreless

    I know many will disagree, but I really don't care for this episode much at all. It is very heavy going, and half the time it's hard to even tell what's supposed to be going on.

    Don't get me wrong, it is impressive visually, and they've tried to go for the epic scope that worked so well in the second season's 'Destiny', and season three's 'The Debt' two-parter. But this one just doesn't work for me.

    The first season, Renée O'Connor credit-less opening credits are used on this story, giving us a clue that everyone's favourite bard won't be returning, at least not yet.

    This episode includes some of the darkest and strongest (graphically) material seen in the series, with the stalking of the deer, the killing of the horse and the drinking of its blood et al. Here in the United Kingdom, when broadcast (finally) by Channel 5, a warning was given out beforehand that it was the material was stronger than usual (but even then, they made several edits).

    I know many will lap this sort of episode up, but for me – while I respect what they're going for – it's just not one of my favourites. Even worse, we have to sit through Part II before normal service is resumed.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • In the episode "Callisto", Gabrielle made Xena promise her that if something happened to her, she would not become a monster and resume her murderous ways. In this episode, Xena keeps that promise and then some. In fact, she actually goes beyond the promise and helps others before she helps Gabrielle.

    • While Xena is fighting The Berserker, Alti uses her new power of making her victims suffer and relive their pasts. The flashbacks which symbolise the pain Xena is reliving are from the Hercules episode "The Gauntlet", the season 3 finale "Sacrifice II" and the season 2 episode "Destiny".

    • Borias mentions to Xena his plans for approaching the Centaurs and uniting their armies against the Greek Amazons. This is a reference to the events that are going to occur in the very near future, which were shown in flashback form in the season 2 episode "Orphan of War". Borias's decision resulted in the disintegration of his relationship with Xena, and had huge repercussions on both of their lives.

    • While together in their tent, Xena makes a comment to Borias that his tactics didn't work so well in Chin. This is a reference to Borias's attempted negotiations with the Emperor of Chin that Xena sabotaged. These events were shown in flashback scenes in the season 3 episode, "The Debt Pt I".

    • Erik Thomson makes his final appearance as Hades on Xena and Hercules (his final appearance altogether is the Young Hercules episode "A Lady in Hades"). The role is later taken over by Stephen Lovatt in season 5.

    • Hades is the last Greek God to appear on either Hercules or Xena until the mid-season Hercules episode "Redemption". The next Goddess to appear on Xena is Aphrodite in "If The Shoe Fits".

    • The Berserker's pupils dilate when channelling Alti's power. This is the first and only time we see the power having a physical effect on the user. Alti subsequently gets less and less emotive while using her power with each episode in which she returns.

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Xena: I want you to deliver a message to Alti: tell her that Xena's coming.

    • Alti: Congratulations.
      Xena: What?
      Alti: You are with child.
      Xena: Very good. I hadn't told anyone yet. (Borias gapes in shock) I would've got round to it.

    • Borias: What would you do if I told you I'm in love?
      Xena: I'd cut out your sweetheart's throat. (Borias laughs) You think I wouldn't?!
      Borias: No, I mean I'm in love with you.
      Xena: (in disgust) With me? Have you lost what's left of your mind? People like you and me don't fall in love... not with each other, anyway.

    • Alti: Your friend you told me about, Lao Ma? Her powers come from denial, self-sacrifice, from the light. That's not for people like you and me. I want to tap into the heart of darkness, the sheer naked will behind all grieving. The hatred, and violence. I'll become the face of death itself. Capable of destroying not only a person's body, but their soul. Help me… and I'll make you Destroyer of Nations.

    • Xena: Gabrielle... I'm entering a world of darkness I promised myself I'd never return to. But it's the only way I can see you again. My mind has lost its center. It's turning, turning-- can't hold. It can't hold.

    • Xena:(referring to Anokin who rejected her once she was on the Other Side) I hate the dead. You can't take vengeance on 'em!

    • Yakut: She must be a very good friend.
      Xena: She's the only friend.

    • Xena: I don't care about your plan. My friend is dead.
      Borias: You knew her for less than a moon. What spell have they thrown on you?

    • Xena: I can't, Gabrielle, I can't. You know nothing would make me happier than seeing you again. You are my light. I just realized what it was that you gave me... a light of my own. There's something I've got to do, something you'd want me to do. I love you.

  • NOTES (8)

    • Shooting Dates: June 16 to June 26, 1998, 9 day shoot

    • A great deal of this episode was filmed around North Island's Lake Taupo during the mild winter weather. However, on one occasion, the production base camp was blown away, and the day after filming was completed, a flood washed away the road! It's the same storm that heavily damaged the just constructed Hobbiton for The Lord of the Rings.

    • As originally written, the bad guy in this episode was supposed to be a shaman, but they decided it would be a stronger choice if they made it a shamaness.

    • When told by her stepmother that her portrayal of Alti was extremely troubling, Claire's reaction was "What? Like I have some evil lurking that you didn't know about? It's acting!

    • Claire Stansfield didn't tryout for her part. She had auditioned for the part of Morrigan on Hercules, and later Rob Tapert called and said she was perfect for a role on Xena and sent her a script for "Adventures in the Sin Trade". She thought he wanted her for the part of Cyane, because the notes for Alti said she was supposed to be a "frail, old hag"!

    • Renee O'Connor followed the director of this episode during filming because she wanted eventually to direct an episode herself, as she later did in "Deja Vu All Over Again" and "Dangerous Prey".

    • Renée O'Connor does not appear in this episode. The opening credits sequence from the first season, which did not credit her, is used.

    • DISCLAIMER: No Dead Amazons lost their lives in the production of this motion picture.


    • Yakut

      The Northern Amazons are located on the steppes and taiga of Russia, which is the area inhabited in reality by the Yakut, a semi-nomadic tribe of hunters and reindeer herders. The Amazon named Yakut is a reference to this northern tribe.

    • Xena: My mind has lost its center. It's turning, turning - can't hold. It can't hold.

      This quote from Xena mirrors the opening stanza of W.B. Yeats' poem The Second Coming:

      "Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."

    • The title comes from a collection of hallucinogenic short stories called Adventures in the Skin Trade by Dylan Thomas.