"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.