Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 1 Episode 18

The Prodigal

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Mar 04, 1996 on
out of 10
User Rating
88 votes

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Episode Summary


After freezing in the face of danger, a confused Gabrielle returns home to Potidaea, where she receives a not-so-warm welcome from her townspeople, who have hired a so-called warrior to save them from a warlord.

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  • An unfortunate incident scares Gabrielle to return to her tame life at home...

    When a group of highway men attack Xena and Gabrielle, Gabrielle freezes up at the moment she should have reacted.

    She doubts her future by Xena's side. The incident prompts her to return to her home of Potidaea believing she can only discuss her feelings with her family. Xena is confused and hurt at her response but lets her go.

    On the way to her village, Gabrielle comes to a destroyed village and learns the warlord Damen is also going to attack Potidaea. Her village already knows and has a hired a renowned soldier, but Meleagor the Mighty has lost his nerve and turned to drinking as way to escape his fear. Gabrielle organizes a plan of defense with the villagers.

    Meanwhile, Willa only seems jealous of Gabrielle but is actually hurt that her sister left and seemed to forget about her. Gabrielle learns to put aside her feelings of inferiority for the sake of helping her village defend itself against the Damen. Meanwhile, Meleagor is having trouble dealing with own his inferiority complex and seemingly deserts them along with the rest of money.

    Though it was believed that Meleagor had taken off, he returns and finishes what the villagers began.

    Willa understandingly tells Gabrielle that she is destined for greatness and belongs in the real world.

    This is another none-too-serious episode intended to entertain. I don't think Damen's warriors would strike fear into anyone's heart. They weren't threatening.

    And just a thought... did they have cast iron skillets back then?moreless
  • Meleagor the *cough* Mighty and Gabrielle defend Potidaea, as Gabrielle does some soul searching.

    The Prodigal is a solid episode that has some good moments, however, I cannot confess to being a fan of any aspect of the episode. Although Gabrielle grows on me more and more as each episode passes, I am still Team Xena all the way - and remain so right until the series finishes. As a result, the so-called "Xena-lite" episodes don't really do a lot for me, although this one does have a relatively solid story behind it.

    Gabrielle is very good in this episode, and the theme of freezing at the critical moment works well. I understand just where Gabrielle is coming from when her 'freeze' causes her to re-evaluate who she is and what she is doing with her life. It is hard when you are forced to question your decisions and what motivates you, and often the only place you feel you can turn in these moments is to your family. This was all well done, and was quite believable - I found that having the episode start so cheerily was very effective, because these moments of doubt often sneak up on you.

    However, I thought it was very interesting that (at this stage) Gabrielle chooses, in her moment of doubt, to return 'home' to her 'family'. In later seasons it is made very clear that both Xena and Gabrielle consider each other their families, and that their home is wherever they are together. Watching Gabrielle make such an easy decision to leave Xena is quite sad and reminds you of just how young their friendship is.

    There are a few funny moments, courtesy of Gabrielle, such as the hitchhiking scenes, but overall nothing particularly stands out - including Meleagor the Mighty. Although I understand the connection between his story and Gabrielle's I just didn't buy the schmooziness of his character, or the silly side. The episode just can't seem to decide if it wants to be funny, or serious, but leaving it hanging doesn't work very well either.

    My favourite moments are at the start and the end - with the dialog between Gabrielle and Xena, which shows where the episode is heading, and what is achieved during the episode. There are some nice moments between Gabrielle and Lila, but again they just don't have the genuineness of Xena and Gabrielle's exchanges.

    Having said all that, I did enjoy the episode and, like all Xena episodes, found it very watchable and it still stands out a mile compared to most other shows, thus it's 7.5 rating. However, it just didn't stand out to me as a starring episode of Season 1, which had many excellent episodes.moreless
  • After freezing during an ambush, Gabrielle decides to return home. But she arrives just in time to find the town being targeted by a warlord, and having hired a washed-up, drunken warrior as their only hope, in this Xena-lite episode...moreless

    Like the previous broadcast 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys' episode 'King For A Day' being Hercules-lite, this episode revolves around Gabrielle whilst Lucy Lawless was in America promoting the series. Xena only appears in the opening and final scenes of the story.

    It is great to see Renée O'Connor get her own episode. She's sort of had one before, in the way-too-early clip show 'The Athens City Academy Of The Performing Bards', but that one mostly served to show old clips.

    As many have commented, Gabrielle's sudden decision to return on to Potidaea after freezing in battle seems abrupt and out of nowhere. However, at the same time, it didn't overly stand out and spoil the story for me.

    It is a nice touch that, after various failed attempts at hitching a ride, Gabrielle finally gets a ride with the same farmer who she convinced into giving a ride to in the first episode, 'Sins Of The Past'. Once on their journey, they debate the events seen in 'Death In Chains'.

    For some unknown reason, we never see (or even hear of) Gabrielle's parents. (We wouldn't finally meet them until the fourth season episode 'A Family Affair')

    This episode is half comedy, half straight. While this works for some other episodes, this one felt a bit undecided of what it was to me, and this may the episode's weakest point.

    Meleagor the Mighty is well played by Tim Thomerson. He is a warrior who (like Gabrielle) lost his nerve in battle, causing him to turn to drink. (I did feel that the comparison of both Meleagor and Gabrielle freezing in battle could have been highlighted more).

    With Meleagor seemingly have taken the money and run, it is up to Gabrielle to arrange a series of 'A-Team'-like traps to fend off the ruthless warlord's men who are targeting the town.

    Of course, it is no spoiler that by the end, Gabrielle finally regains her self-confidence and returns to travel with Xena.

    All-in-all, not a bad episode, although there are some elements that don't quite sit well, and some that could maybe have been done slightly better.moreless
  • Melegar The Alcoholic!

    The Prodigal-After freezing in the face of danger, a confused Gabrielle returns home to Potidaea, where she receives a not-so-warm welcome from the people, who have hired a so-called warrior to save them from a warlord. This episode really shows how much Gabrielle has learned from Xena so far, which helps to build her character a little. When Gabrielle freezes up during a fight, she sees herself as a lieablity for Xena. It's strange to see Garbielle like this, she's usually so full of life and now she must find the answers to her problem without Xena. Of course when Gabrielle goes home she has to help village against a warlord when their paid warrior is a drunk fool. Melegar isn't really likeable at first, I think it's because he was always drunk and had few sober scenes. Luckly Gabrielle teaches him how to get back on her feet. But Gabrielle also has to talk to sister who feels lonely now that Xena is all Gabrielle talks about. This is believeable situation and typical when it comes to siblings. It was funny seeing the town people fighting back against the soldiers and women tricking them into a trap. by the end, Melegar finally is sober enough to stop the warlord and Lila realizes that Gabrielle needs to be on the road with Xena doing good. When Gabrielle returns to Xena, she finally faces her fears and finds the answer. All in All, a pretty good episode where Gabrielle learns about what it is to be a warrior.moreless
  • The second Xena lite episode, and even worst than the first.

    I have to say, after watching several Xena lite episodes (well, I\'ve only seen them once. Not worth rewatching) it made me realize how much Lucy Lawless as Xena carried this show. She was the glue, and without her I found it very hard to follow or even care. All I kept thinking about really was \"so umm...when\'s Xena coming back?\"

    It works well on Hercules, because the supporting cast can carry the show just as well if not better (Autolycus, Salmoneous, Iolaus, Ares so on and so forth) and Hercules\' presense isnt all that missed to be frank. With Xena, its painfully obvious.moreless
Tim Thomerson

Tim Thomerson

Meleager the Mighty

Guest Star

Margaret Conquest

Margaret Conquest


Guest Star

Alan Palmer

Alan Palmer


Guest Star

Willa O'Neill

Willa O'Neill


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • Xena (Lucy Lawless) only appears in the teaser and last scene of this episode.

    • This is the first time we see Gabrielle vault with her staff, a move that becomes one of her trademarks as the series progresses.

    • Chakram Count: 1
      1) To save Gabrielle from the thugs.

    • Nitpick: When the cart is rolling towards Gabrielle in the teaser, she is facing forwards. Then, when Xena tells her to get down, she's facing away from the cart, and Xena's leg sweep catches her behind the knees. Gabrielle was supposed to be frozen in horror as imminent death approached, so there's no way she would have turned her back to the cart so quickly.

    • Nitpick: A stock shot is used to represent Poteidaia, and shows it nestled in hills. However, the real Poteidaia is as flat as Nebraska and is bounded by the sea on two sides. The peninsula it spans (ancient Pallene, modern Kassandria) is only one mile wide at that point. The series never makes reference to Poteidaia as a seaport (which it was), an odd omission given the irony of Gabrielle's seasickness.

    • This is the only episode that shows Gabrielle can play a musical instrument. The wind instrument she uses is often associated with another Greek myth, Pan.

    • Goof: When the townspeople go to defend themselves by smashing objects over their attackers' heads, the sounds of pots and/or glass objects breaking can be heard. There are no glass objects and/or pots visibly being broken.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Gabrielle: (dealing with Meleager, passed out drunk) Get some water- cold water. (Lila douses him)
      Meleager: I'm awake! I'm awake. I'm well aware of my surroundings. Where am I? Poder, Pewter, Podoohickey?

    • Meleager: What, in the name of Zeus, are you doing?
      Gabrielle: What does it look like? I'm rescuing you.
      Meleager: That's not what it looks like!
      Gabrielle: Maybe not- but it will, now that I'm on the inside.
      Meleager: You have a plan?
      Gabrielle: Any minute now.

    • Damon: Who are you, what do you want?
      Gabrielle: Well... Two very good questions, and not to be answered lightly. After all, do any of us really know who we are? And as for what we want, well, I think it was Sophocles who once said...
      Damon: (interrupts) Kill her!

    • Gabrielle: Xena! When did you get here?
      Xena: In time to see you vault that cart. Gutsy move.

    • Gabrielle: Yoo-hoo! Boys! Yoo-hoo! (dancing provocatively for Damon's men)
      Soldier: Hey! Give me some of that!

    • Xena: Nothing like a good ambush to liven things up, huh?

  • NOTES (4)