Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 1 Episode 9

Death in Chains

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Nov 13, 1995 on
out of 10
User Rating
93 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


Xena must free Hades' sister Celesta, Death herself, from King Sisyphus.He wants to cheat death by holding her hostage, thus prolonging his life. Meanwhile, Gabrielle meets a young boy with a kind heart but a sorrowful secret. As more people suffer from not being able to die, time is running out for everyone.


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  • Xena frees Death

    An interesting, solid story with some great characters introduced to the mix, and with hints of the blossoming partnership between Xena and Gabrielle starting to appear.

    However, having only recently watched through the series and so with the dynamics of the later seasons fresh in my mind, this episode is let down once again by the characterisations of our two main leads, or should I say lack thereof. Where previous episodes have at least dealt with Xena's tough past, this episode remains wholly in the now, which seems to me unfortunately a time in the series where Xena and Gabrielle's relationship seems hollow and unbelievable, and their characters lacking nuance and depth. Also missing is a lot of the fun and excitement between the two, making me feel a bit sorry for Gabrielle. Where years ago when I first watched the show I caught only from the third or fourth season onwards, I couldn't believe there were 'subtext deniers', but watching the past few episodes now I finally understand! (Not that I agree though ;)).

    But this isn't a gripe I have with the episode, so much as the season as a whole, and in the context of the early season 1 dynamic this is no less a solid or unique story.moreless
  • Death is chained by a King attempting to cheat death. (p.s. watch this AFTER "Hooves & Harlots", but before the Herc. ep "Highway to Hades")

    This episode is about clever king Sisyphus' attempt to cheat death and how the world suffers for it. It's a little disjointed in the viewing order as Gabrielle loses her "little house on the prarie" outfit (as Lawless called it) and gets her first costume *shrink* into the Amazon outfit tha only makes sense AFTER viewing "Hooves & Harlots" (even though even this gets altered a bit). For this reason I tend to alter my Xena/Herc viewing order to XWP: Hoooves and Harlots, XWP: Death in Chains, and then HTLJ: Highway to Hades. But even though Gabby has the Amazon outfit, she doesn't have her fighting staff so she's still pretty much counted out of the fighting here. It's a particularly clever Xena episode and gives Gabby yet another handsome, sweet, "Man of the Week" to adore. Of course this too-good-to-be-true man is doomed from moment one. Despite him being one of those annoying perfect characters, he was likeable enough. In fact, you almost feel he reached the peace he had because he had accepted his fate and choose to do the heroic thing despite the fate he was facing, unlike the old king who was unwilling and afraid to accept it. In the end it is this young man afterall, not Xena or Gabrielle that convinces Sisyphus of the right course of action. I find this to be a really enjoyable episode despite a throw-away typical villian and the small issue of Gabby's costume change making no sense yet.moreless
  • A God requires help...

    Chain Death. Live Forever! Enter Hanes, Lord of the Underwear! Oops, wrong episode... Hades requests that Xena relinquish Celesta from a king's imprisonment. Her death will mark the eternal suffering of mankind. Better acting and believable characters. No unnecessary sword play. New costume change for Gabs. Introduction of the God and Goddess Hades & Celeste. I found this installment to be enjoyable and worth watching. Also I've noted the beginnings of the closeness between Xena and Gabrielle. I started watching Xena at some point in the third season and don't remember seeing this one as a repeat. Maybe this an episode one can skip as there is no revelations to Xena's background and the most of the characters we'll not see again. However, I did detect the faint bittersweet hint of the pain to come to Gabrielle in future episodes...moreless
  • This week on Xena, after last episode's heroic rescue of Prometheus, Death is now being held hostage.

    Death in Chains is another solid episode - personally, I didn't find anything particularly remarkable about it, but it works well, dialog is good, and it is enjoyable.

    This is Gabrielle's first episode with her new costume, which looks fantastic and is a 100% improvement on her village girl outfit, but this is really the only thing that has changed about Gabrielle. Until Gabrielle starts learning to become a warrior, she holds very little appeal for me as a character. We also get to meet another of Gab's "Men of the Week", who inevitably end up dead or moving on to bigger and better things. I must say that I preferred it when, in later seasons, Xena and Gabrielle's relationship becomes the focus.

    The rest of the episode is quite good. We meet Hades, played by Erik Thomson, who is (without a doubt) the best Hades in the series. It is just a shame that he has such a small role, because Erik is an excellent actor, and plays a seductive and sexy Hades incredibly well.

    The bad guys in this episode are nothing special, as are the fight scenes. The plot inconsistency whereby Toxeus and his 'dead' men do not suffer, yet everyone else does, makes the episode a little difficult to believe.

    There are, however, some pretty great chakram moves throughout, the set inside the castle is quite impressive and the King's tricks are good, including the horrible scene with the rats!

    There are some nice moments, but some cheesy ones as well. Overall, I enjoyed the previous episode, Prometheus, much more than this one. The two episodes have so much in common, but Prometheus just does everything so much better. Still, this is a very watchable episode, and Xena is definitely hitting its' stride as a series.moreless
  • When King Sisyphus captures Celesta (a.k.a. Death) to prolong his life, Xena must free her, and until she can do so, people that should be dead remain alive - including thug Toxeus and his goons, in this interesting concept episode.moreless

    The most immediately notable thing about this episode is Gabrielle's costume change. Gone are her early villager clothes, replaced by a red tunic-like top and shorter dress. This sudden change is actually due to the fact that the following episode, 'Hooves & Harlots', should really be shown first. (Actually, Garbrielle's costume is a slightly different version of what would become her regular one. Most notably, it has a much wider blue edging around the neck and down the front. Gabrielle also wears a necklace from that episode, although this is the only other episode in which it appears with the costume.

    Also with the costume change, Gabrielle is already considerably more mature, a noticeable contrast to the goofy, excitable villager girl we met only a relatively few episodes previously.

    The episode was actually the third to be filmed – evidentally, they had plans for Gabrielle's development from the beginning, and planned for this episode to be slotted more into the season. (Too bad they didn't slot it in very well!)

    The story itself has a very interesting concept, of Death itself (in this case, HERself), being captured, with the result of no-one dying.

    King Sisyphus, who captures Celesta (Death) is clearly not an evil being, but very misguided, and blinded by his obsession of extending his life.

    Gabrielle starts to fall in love with the 'good looking man' of the week. He is unbearably good looking, but seems perfect for her. Without giving anything away, we know from the start that the relationship will be doomed, and indeed it is.

    Toxeus is the standard generic bad guy, with an amusing 'horrible' name, but serves his purpose. One silly moment comes as Xena throws her Chakram, which spins like a buzz-saw, cutting through a branch causing it to fall down on Toxeus.

    I really like the scene with Gabrielle and the old lady who should be dead. Even in this world full of Gods and all kind of supernatural happenings, there are things that people don't understand.

    The episode starts out with a lot of potential, and is good throughout; although in the later acts, it does fall slightly into a rather standard 'castle assault' episode.

    But it is very well written and a solid episode. Although I wouldn't immediately point to it as an outstanding favourite of mine, it is a very good episode with an interesting situation. (I just would have preferred it to have played in its correct position after 'Hooves & Harlots' to get its full effect).moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Chakram Count: 2
      1) To cut the branch so it would fall on Toxeus.
      2) To prevent Toxeus from killing Gabrielle and to realese Celesta.

    • Gabrielle's costume changes as of this episode. Her early villager clothes are replaced by a red tunic like top and shorter dress. This sudden change is actually due to the fact that the following episode, "Hooves & Harlots", should really be shown first. In fact, the top that Gabrielle wears here is different to what would be the regular version - most notably it has a much wider blue collar than the regular one. Gabrielle also wears a necklace from that episode, although this is the only other episode in which it appears with the costume.

    • Nitpick: Toxeus is seemingly invincible and walks around in perfect health despite the numerous stab wounds and whatever that big branch crushed. He should be in agony like the other people suffering from fatal wounds during the absence of Death.

    • How come most people die on their own, but king Sisyphus gets a special visit?

      Possible answer: At the beginning, Death says that Sisyphus is going to die as punishment from Zeus, so it seems that Death is acting as an assassin, rather than a representation of Sisyphus dying of natural causes. Then again, maybe she's there for everybody, other people just don't see her most of the time.

  • QUOTES (0)

  • NOTES (7)


    • The myth of Sisyphus: Sisyphus was the king of Corinth, famed for his craftiness, greed and deceit. When he betrayed Zeus by reporting one of his sexual conquests, Zeus ordered Hades to chain Sisyphus in Tartarus. However, once there, Sisyphus tricked Thanatos (Death) and chained him, preventing people from dying. Ares, upset because his battles were no fun when no one could die, freed Thanatos. Sisyphus' punishment was to eternally push a boulder uphill, only to see it fall back down and have to push it again.