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!