Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 1 Episode 23

Death Mask

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Jun 03, 1996 on
out of 10
User Rating
87 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


After learning a raiding party's leader was responsible for the destruction of their home Amphipolis years ago, Xena and her brother set out to put him out of business for good.

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  • Xena's past returns...

    Xena is reunited with her brother Toris. They decide to join forces and overthrow Cortese, the warlord who destroyed their village of Amphibolus years before, the event which killed their brother Lyceus and turned Xena to the life of a warrior.

    I found it hard to keep interest in this storyline. I admit I didn't really pay attention to what was going on. The character Cortese did not strike me as a warlord who would butcher people and razed villages to the ground, the same man who as Xena put it "made her what she is". I'm not buying it. I had envisioned Cortese to be a monster.moreless
  • Meet Cortese - the very epitome of evil and destruction, who created the monster that was Evil Xena... hang on, are we talking about the same Cortese???

    After the exceptional effort of the previous episode, "Death Mask" was always going to feel like it fell far short in terms of characterization, plot, villains etc. I do not envy any of the episodes that had to follow the outstanding moments of the Xena series, because they will be forever remembered as far lesser offerings, which is not always fair.

    However, Death Mask does little to grab your attention. The episode works, it is entertaining, and the plot twist is effective, but it really is just your run-of-the-mill episode in every sense.

    The episode opens well with some nice scenes with Xena and Gabrielle, but it becomes very clear very quickly that there is nothing outstanding about the story. One thing that did stand out to me is how easily I have come to accept Gabrielle as a formidable fighter - she really has developed some fantastic moves over the last few episodes!

    I enjoyed the introduction (and farewell!) to Toris who was an interesting character. I enjoyed the scenes with him; he was well acted, and his moments of honesty, after realising what he has become, were genuine and believable. However, I didn't feel that he and Xena had any real chemistry, which you would expect between siblings. It felt a little forced in some places which took a lot of the focus off the more interesting points of Toris' character.

    As a character I did like Cortese, who I thought was one of the more unusual villains of the first season. However, I have to echo the sentiments of others when I say that as the so-called 'creator of Xena' (ie. the warlord that set her on her path of death and destruction) he was an indescribable let down. I mean, you can't be serious: THIS is the man who was so evil and destructive that he left in his wake a young woman so disturbed, scarred and twisted that she spent the next 10 years of her life on a murdering rampage??!! In some ways I can imagine how Callisto must have felt meeting 'good' Xena instead of evil Xena after so many years of torment - what a let down it must have been for her to find the warrior princess that destroyed her life was a caring, honest woman fighting for good. Although that is a fairly extreme comparison, it is just such a shame to have wasted a character who could have really given some insight into what drove Evil Xena to do the things she did. Instead we were given a slightly comedic, bumbling warlord.

    Having said this, I did like the plot twist of making Cortese the warlord as well as the King, and I think that this could have been played upon more, with less emphasis on the thugs that were part of his band of rebels.

    Overall, although I tried to look at this episode with fresh eyes, and made my best effort to like it, "Death Mask" falls into the lower ranks of the first season.moreless
  • Xena is reunited with her older bother, Toris, as the pair set out to stop the raider who destroyed their village years before. Not a classic episode by any means, but some fair moments...moreless

    After the two top-notch previous episodes, 'The Greater Good' and 'Callisto', this episode had a hard time being anything that a big bump back down to Earth. I've always considered to be an average-quality story with some good parts mixed in.

    Xena's older brother Toris seems to come out of nowhere, never being mentioned previously, and not woven into much of the future references of Xena's family. I did find him slightly better than Xena's (supposed) father in the disappointing 'Ties That Bind' a few episodes previously, though.

    The first half of the episode is definitely the better, being quite well written, and with some good moments, whereas later on things do sink slightly into an average 'fight & outwit the bad guys' fare.

    Gabrielle has little to really do in the story, but has some really good lines. Ever since she manages to stop an arrow with her staff at the beginning of the episode, she tries to recreate the act. I also like the scene where she tries to get Xena and Toris talking to each other, and lays down the law to Xena and insists that she won't be left behind to "protect the village".

    The best moment of the episode, in my opinion, is as Xena, tied up, launches the breast dagger (presumably the one Gabrielle bought back in 'Dreamworker') from her cleavage to cut through the ropes.

    The villain of the piece, Cortese – the raider who destroyed Xena's home village years before – is nowhere near as powerful as he should be. For someone who was responsible for the forming of the Warrior Princess, he comes across as a just basic villain-of-the-week, and not one of the better ones at that. And what's with his accent – I couldn't make out if it was supposed to be like that, or was just one of the New Zealand performers who wasn't so good at hiding their native tones.

    (PS – while I don't normally comment on other people's reviews, I'm a little confused by the fellow reviewer who says that this episode is a missed opportunity, but rates it a perfect 10 out of 10. Strange)moreless
  • Missed oppurtunity for a pivotal event and villian in Xena's life.

    The episode and plot premise is actually not bad, as I've heard some people say. In fact, its actually very good! However, the choice to make the man who 'created' Xena as a comic relief, non-intimidating warlord was a terrible, terrible choice. Not only does Cortese not act or look like a threat (come on, you just look at him and think, when is Xena just going to wipe the floor with him already?) but he lacked any depth or layers that such a important role in Xena's life should have. Like the review before mine, we fortunately are given a DO OVER with Season 2's Destiny, which MORE than makes up for Death Mask.

    Its a shame Toris, Xena's older brother, was never to seen or mentioned again. He definetely should of made -- if anything -- a brief appearance in Remember Nothing. Actually, a short scene with him in the beginning of the alternate universe as he left Amphipolis would of been perfect. (Why couldnt I be a writer for X:WP? Oh yeah, that's right I was only 6 at the time...)

    I also have some quips about episode order. I feel that this episode should of came BEFORE Callisto, not after. That changes the whole vibe and overall feel of the themes X:WP plays with, and certainly emotion. To see the man who 'created' Xena in one episode, to get the audience thinking more deeply into that issue and the way Xena and Toris' conflicted views on the subject matter -- straight to someone who Xena HERSELF 'created' in a sense. Thats certainly a emotional roller-coaster of events worthy of that order. Its not a huge dissappointment for me, but it would of been more interesting to say the least.

    Overall, there's many lessons, humorous and messages to be learned in this episode. Its just too bad Cortese (who we as the audience, subcontiously have been aware of since Xena's very first appearance on Hercules) was an extreme let-down to say the least.moreless
  • This is Cortese?

    Death Mask-After learning a raiding party's leader was responsible for the destruction in their village, Xena and her brother set out to destroy him.

    Finally, we meet the man who attacked Xena's village, putting her on the path of the warrior she is today!!! To bad Cortese is such a weak villain, what a disappointment! But on the bright side, we get to meet Xena's older brother, Toris and learn more about Lyceus, her younger brother. It's also funny watching Gabrielle catching an arrow with her staff. All in All, this is an average episode which doesn't make much of this suppose pivtol villian in Xena's life. Luckily, "Destiny" in Season 2 makes up for this...A LOT!!!moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Malik: Now, my dear, let's not waste time in senseless pleas for mercy or silly games. Right to it, shall we?
      Xena: Have it your way. (she punches him) Right to it! I like that!

    • Gabrielle: Oh no. No no, that's your way of saying 'it's too dangerous to be around me right now Gabrielle.' Well have you ever considered that there isn't a safe time to be around you? Now that village doesn't need my help but you might, and I'm going with you. Now, if that's all, I'll just be practicing with my staff. End of discussion. Sorry you had to witness that, Toris.

    • Gabrielle: I don't get it. I've seen speeding arrows come right at you, and you just you catch 'em before they hit you. No, nobody can do that. I mean, even when you don't see them coming, you do it. Now, I can't figure this out.

  • NOTES (2)