Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 3 Episode 13

One Against An Army

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Feb 09, 1998 on
out of 10
User Rating
101 votes

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Episode Summary


As the only thing that stands between the Persian Army and Athens, Xena wages war against substantial odds & time itself, while Gabrielle slowly succumbs to the strike of a deadly, poisoned arrow.

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  • Season 3 at its best

    season 3 is the era of the show that had severe lows and extreme highs that balanced out this season..it started with the average episode The Furies,which paved the way to balancing out episodes tht are either really well done or completely unwatchable( Forgiven, King Con, Vanashing act etc.).

    But this episode just shows how great this show can actually be,an is without a doubt one of this seasons best episodes(just beaten by Sacrifice).

    it single handedly showed us how one person can do so much change and have a great deal on their shoulders and to take off so brilliantly while staying in complete focus the entire way through.

    Lucy and Renee are at their hight here after conquering their rift in the musical after a few episodes of being adrift from one another(the debt,Maternal instincts)and showing their relationship excell.

    this is a masterful episode tht evidently took a lot of skill to make for our enjoyment.

    one of the shows best and the best of the season until the fantastic finale.moreless
  • The Greater Good once again...

    Since the location of the series is set in Greece, it would be unthinkable not to include the battle of Thermopylae between the Spartans and Persians. The storyline follows along the same plot line as "The Greater Good" but a poisoned arrow has hit Gabrielle instead. At one point, she even mentions the "Greater Good", conveying to Xena "there are things worth dying for".

    This episode has many bittersweet moments, including the scene of Gabrielle in a daze from the effects of the advancing poison when she recites the same plea to go with Xena as she first did in "Sins of The Past".moreless
  • As the only thing that stands between the Persian Army and Athens, Xena wages war against substantial odds & time itself, as Gabrielle slowly succumbs to the strike of a deadly, poisoned arrow.moreless

    This was one of the more memorable episodes of the series for me, because I'm kind of drawn relatively to story lines that involve people bearing their souls under adverse conditions. These conditions usually include volatile doses of poison or grievous injury. Thankfully (though the scenes are painful to watch, certainly) both happen to Gabrielle in this episode. : ) Emoting while someone is branding an arrow wound closed on both the front and back of some one's shoulder is a foregone art, of course. Allow me to go on.

    After some magnificent back flips in a training exercise leave Gabrielle with a twisted ankle, things grow even bleaker for the blond scribe a ways down the road; encountering a runner, the companions are informed that The Persian Army is fast approaching Athens for an attack. With gratitude, Xena tells the man to inform the Athenians that she will head the Persians off at the mountain pass at Thermopylae.

    This is when the fun really begins.

    The incredible thing about the show is that no matter what the subject matter, (except maybe in the later seasons where all the good writers jumped ship to write for Cleopatra 2525, and Jack of All Trades, not to go too far off subject) there are always daft character examples, and very clear moral conflicts. They're mostly feigned in this particular episode, but I don't mind. It really only goes to prove, though - how much of a heroic soul Gabrielle's character is.

    Now, Renee O'Connor (Gabrielle) actually had a twisted ankle at the time of filming this episode, because of an agile stuntman falling on her during a stunt, so I give her some mad props at this fact; the twisted ankle was actually the opposite of the one in the storyline, so she must have had a time.

    Getting back to the story, on the way to the pass, Xena & Gabrielle encounter a defected coward of a Spartan named Dorian; Xena - though reacting with as much contempt at a traitor and a coward as reasonable, given the circumstances - recruits him, giving him an opportunity to redeem himself. Uh-huh.

    I certainly wanted to kick Dorian myself several times throughout the plot, if only for his verbose put-on ineptitude, but I dealt with the pain, somehow. ; )

    Soon, the small party encounters a group of Persians. Dorian, true to form, freezes - once more flaunting his battle prowess - and in the flurry of the skirmish, Gabrielle tries desperately to move the man out of the way. In turn, she's struck by an arrow, and it buries itself deeply in her left shoulder blade.

    Afterward, amidst blithering and apologizing on Dorian's part, Xena is forced to remove the arrow in the only way possible; by pushing it forward, all the way through Gabrielle's shoulder. This scene is absolutely remarkable; just the look of horror and borderline sadness on Renee's face as the arrow is 'jutted' through her shoulder is striking, and heart wrenching. The sealing of the wound through cauterization is also striking, as it hearkens back to the third episode of the series, 'Chariots of war', but in no way seems repetitive on the writer's part (Gene F. O'Neill).

    At the risk of making this review a complete recap, when Xena realizes that the arrow's tip is coated by a potent poison, she sends Dorian away to tell the Persians that the pass at Thermopylae has been blocked in a rock slide; after he eagerly agrees and darts off, Xena reveals to Gabrielle that he's not only a liar, but a Persian spy. The misinformation will lead the Persians into a conflict at Trefoils where an antidote for the poison lies, as well as an old armory of Xena's from her horde days.

    The most memorable moment of this episode, for me, is the one when - in the abandoned armory - Gabrielle, delirious, asks Xena to take her with her, repeating her first request to become Xena's traveling companion. Xena, in turn, comforts her, obviously conflicted about the situation. On the matter of character development, considering what had just transpired between the two during 'Maternal Instincts' and 'The Bitter Suite', I found it reassuring that Xena had been able to push past the angst, and see Gabrielle for the person she trusted and relied on for guidance more than anyone else. (Thank you, run-on sentence).

    I've heard arguments that Xena fighting an entire army (tre' unlikely in such a small space with minimal weaponry), and abandoning Gabrielle for 'The Greater Good' were incredibly unlikely events, however, time and time again both Hercules and Xena make such crazy decisions to bend the odds and sacrifice the people they love for the many. It's just a credo, and one we see over and over as a theme of the sister shows. In my point of view, the battle was actually more believable since it seemed more like a battalion sent out in a first wave to attack than the WHOLE army. It simply wouldn't have been a smart move on any King's part to just move his entire army en masse in for the kill, whether the advantage was primo or not. Just wouldn't happen.

    Getting back to Gabrielle; she - as the selfless character that she is - would have always given her life to help someone else. It's that kind of heroism despite the loss of her 'blood innocence' in 'The Deliverer' that draws Xena to her. They're heroes. Plain and simple. And heroes choose to do what they have to despite the costs and the odds.

    In the end, after having served justice up with a dash of revenge, the two remain as they always have been; side by side. And that's really what the series is about, in essence. Eternal, undying - while dying - friendship. And besides... what's a ruthless, onslaught of Persians between friends?moreless
  • Xena must stop the Persians from invading Athens alone and save Gabrielle who was injured and pierced by a poison arrow that was slowly killing her.

    The episode had a lot of historical references and emotional growth for both Xena and Gabrielle. Xena proves how she can defend a city all by herself. However what makes this episode great is the feelings that were shared between Xena and Gabrielle. We see Xena admit how much influence Gabrielle has on her. As much as Gabrielle wants to be like her, Xena can't help feeling the opposite. There were many scenes where goodbyes were said. Gabrielle to Xena, Xena to her horse, Argo, which gives us the impression that Xena isn't sure she could with stand the force of the Persians. Having to worry about a dying Gabrielle didn't make the situation any easoer for her. The best part was at the end. As soon as the music kicked in and Xena regained her strength again and started knocking Persians left and right made me cheer her on. You just knew those Persians were in for a beating. She not only fought the Persians off, but she stopped them from attacking Athens and found the medicine to save Gabrielle's life. The episode showed the love and friendship between the warrior and her sidekick. It was suspenceful because it was one of those very close calls. It was also emotional, creative, filled with action...it had it all. It's one of my favorite episodes. I loved everything about it. It was very well written and Lucy Lawless gave an excellent pereformance.moreless
  • Xena defeats an army, Gabrielle almost dies, and we find out that our two women are going to be together forever.

    "One Against An Army" continually gets rave reviews from fans. Its generally accepted to be one of the best episodes of all time, and I usually agree with the fan choices. This time is an exception.

    Its not that this isn't a great episode – it is! But its not one of the best, and there are just too many plot holes here to ignore. For me, this episode just pushes the boundaries of possibility a little too far. There are some nice moments, but ultimately, its not enough to give this top marks.

    For a start, this is one of the few episodes that really takes a full 20 minutes to get started. We are halfway through before anything much happens, and that is too long for the second half to redeem itself. The whole flip thing at the start just doesn't work in relation to where this episode ends up. Some top episodes handle the comedy/drama well, but in this episode it just seems unnecessary.

    Gabrielle's injury is suitably horrible, and her suffering leading on to her dying is all very well acted by Renee. I really believed that she was sick and dying, and that is saying something. I was a little bothered by Xena's blasé attitude for most of the episode, and I definitely DON'T believe that had Gabrielle's life really been at stake, that she would have stayed and fought the army anyway. This is perhaps my biggest concern: if the love of your life, your soul mate, was mortally wounded, and the antidote was in a neighboring town, there is no way that you would allow yourself to get sidetracked for any reason. I don't think that 'the greater good' is a good enough excuse; if Gabrielle's dying, then Xena needs to do whatever it takes to get her to safety and a cure. Instead, she stays to fight an army. Logical, really?

    My second main problem is why Xena really feels like taking on the Persian cavalry is worth it? Wouldn't there just be thousands of other Persians on their way? And why would this army bother attacking a little hut with a dying woman and one warrior? Would an entire cavalry launch a full blown attack? I don't think so. So again, a little far fetched for me.

    There are a couple of good moments, one of which is Xena trying to look within herself to gain access to Lao Ma's powers again. It must be incredibly frustrating to know that they are there, but not be able to use them.

    Secondly, the moments between Xena and Gabrielle are really touching. I was tearing up (as usual) and I thought that they captured the enormity of the moment quite well. I loved that Gabrielle was utterly content to die, because she was with Xena. To have that much love and connection with a person that just having them there is enough, is quite inspiring.

    Finally, the fight scene was really, really good. It was clever and original, and almost believable. So, I will probably be making enemies here, but I just can't see what other people see in this episode. I would love somebody to explain it to me. The end of season 3 had some weak moments, with some great episodes tucked away. After the incredible first half of the season, anything that came after was going to be a bit of a let down, but on the whole season 3 is really probably the most consistently strong season of all, which is why it gets the most votes for best season. Personally, its not my favorite, but it is definitely a great all-rounder.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Gabrielle: A long time ago, I accepted the consequences of our life together. That it might one day come to this... it has. I'm not afraid.
      Xena: You always said I was the brave one... look at you now! If this is to be our destiny, let's see it out together. Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you.

    • Gabrielle: (delirious) Xena... you gotta take me with you. Teach me everything you know. You can't leave me in Potidaea. I wanna go with you - I've studied the stars, spoken with philosophers... I have the gift of prophecy. I can be very valuable to you. Take me with you... I want so much to be like you.
      Xena: (whispers) I want to be like you.

    • Gabrielle: You know, it's occurred to me that this is just a clever diversion to make me forget about my boots.

    • Gabrielle: Go on, say it. We'd move a lot faster if I hadn't tried that.
      Xena: Tried what?
      Gabrielle: The flip.
      Xena: Oh, the pass.
      Gabrielle: The pass?
      Xena: The pass at Thermopylae. That's the answer.
      Gabrielle: What's the question?

    • Xena: But you're my source, Gabrielle. When I reach down inside myself and do things that I'm not capable of, it's because of you. Don't you know that by now?

    • Gabrielle: Be honest with me Xena. How bad is this poison?
      Xena: It didn't hit a main artery. This poultice will delay then effects until we can get to Tripolis and treat it with a serum. By tomorrow, you'll be trying those flips again, with a staff.

    • Gabrielle: The first thing is the greater good. You taught me that. You taught me that there are things in life worth dying for things that hold a higher meaning than our own existence.
      Xena: Not your existence.
      Gabrielle: Why? 'Cause I'm your friend?
      Xena: Yes!
      Gabrielle: Well then, honor my memory. We both know that I'm right. This is right. Xena, promise me, promise me that you will not leave this battle because of me.

    • Xena: Gabrielle, that's all in the past. All I want is to be with you right now. You're my best friend, my family. I love you, Gabrielle.

    • Xena: Gabrielle, before I tried the flip without the staff, I made 300 attempts with it.
      Gabrielle: Slow learner, huh, Xena? I had that problem with basket-weaving.

  • NOTES (7)

    • In the original script, Xena found the medicine she needed for Gabrielle in the healer's hut and then accidentally broke it. This was removed because it made Xena look like too big a klutz. Interestingly, Lucy Lawless' nickname growing up was "Unco", which is short for "Uncoordinated".

    • Shooting Dates: November 20 through December 1 1997, 8 day shoot.

    • The toothpick Xena action figure was Renee's idea. She made it as an in-joke since Peter Bell, the stunt coordinator always used a couple of action figures to help block out the fight scenes for the actresses. The toothpicks came from Lucy's private stash, so there's no wonder why she grabbed it from Renee and started using it on her teeth!

    • This episode is regarded as one of the 10 classic Xena episodes of all time.

    • Producer Eric Gruendemann insisted that the Xena spit flame be done by CGI, so as not to put Lucy Lawless in any danger.

    • On the third day of shooting for this episode, a stuntman fell on and badly sprained Renee O'Connor's ankle. It was also the opposite ankle of the one Gabrielle injured in the script. The same stuntman broke his own leg two days later performing another stunt.

    • DISCLAIMER: Gabrielle's ankle was harmed during the production of this motion picture.


    • The Battle of Thermopylae
      The Battle of Thermopylae took place in 480 BC. The Spartans, who chose to send a token force of 300 men to defend the pass held out along with 4,900 men from allied cities against over a million Persians for a week before they were all killed. When Pheidippides tells Xena that at Marathon the Persians had shot so many arrows they blocked out the sun, this is a reference to an actual story from the Battle of Thermopylae. According to the historian Herodotus, when King Xerxes ordered the Spartan King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan companions to surrender, saying that his men would fill the sky with so many arrows that it would block out the sun, Leonidas told Xerxes, "Good, then we'll fight in the shade."

    • Pheiddipides
      Pheiddipides, the man who gives the warning to Xena about the Persians, was really the man who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Athenians over the Persians at Marathon. Stories vary, but they all agree that Pheiddipides dies after passing on his message due to exhaustion from his run.

    • The Battle of Marathon
      The Battle of Marathon, fought in 490 BC on a plain northeast of Athens, was a triumph for the Greek forces as they repelled a major Persian invasion during the Persian Wars. Unlike the battle fought in the Xenaverse, at the real battle of Marathon the Spartans refused to fight alongside the Athenians to hold off King Darius' forces. They claimed that this was because it was the Spartans' holy month, so aid could not legally be sent until the new moon arose, which would have been long after the battle was over. According to the historian Herodotus, Sparta's real motive was that they wanted the line of Greece's defense to be drawn at the Isthmus, well south of Athens. It made tactical sense, but would have surrendered half of Greece to the invaders without a fight, including Athens. Athens therefore chose to fight by themselves, with only an allied force from the northern city of Plataea to assist them.