While this isn't Ares first appearance in the Universe (he'd been a Hercules enemy in at least 3 season 1 episodes), it is the first time Kevin Smith takes up the role as he was played (like Hera before him) as an omniscient evil force in the lives of mortals. Giving him form made him more of a man and eventually a more vulnerable character than a laughing skull in the sky could ever be. But here he's simply a Ruthless, yet Suave and Sexy God. And I swear, he wears his role so well even my Sapphic little heart goes pitter patter for him. You could easily be convinced to like this guy even though he slaughters a bunch of innocent villagers basically just to get Xena's attention. Unlike in an episode like "The Path not Taken", here I was easily convinced that Xena was tempted to go back to her old ways. One of the most powerful scenes of the episode is when Xena breaks free from her chains under Ares seductive influence and attacks the villagers. First of all, it once again shows the incredible warrior Xena has turned herself into. One of the reasons I think Ares likes her so much is because she doesn't require him to be great, he just wants to be a part of her greatness and it kills him that in the end she always chooses to go on without him. I also think it's very significant that he sends her into a rage and it's harming Gabrielle that snaps her out of it. This is probably also the grandest test Gabrielle's loyalty has ever had. When Xena hurt her she could have turned against her, instead she returns to try to break her out from prison. As a Gab fan, of course I must gush about how wonderful she was here. She is unwilling to leave Xena despite being told to do so and she is willing to sacrifice herself and die with Xena (wrapping the cords intended to drag Xena to her death around her own neck). Gabrielle is just a very brave woman and I understand why I admired her so much as a younger person. With Xena's abilities it's easy to go into most fights knowing you're going to win. When Gabrielle puts herself out there it's more of a risk and makes her all the more a hero in her own right. Also, I think this is the first time Xena calls Gabby her best friend. She's acknowledged her as a friend before, but here you can really see that Gabrielle is the most important thing in her life. And because there is a Gabrielle in her life she has the power to resist dark (yet tempting) forces like Ares.
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