When Varia is unexpectedly captured by Bellerephon, the vengeful half-God son of Artemis, Gabrielle is forced to take charge by leading the Amazons to rescue Varia from Bellerophon's fortress: Helicon.
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This episode marks the last appearance of Varia on the series. There is still some lingering ambiguity regarding her destiny and place within Amazon society, however.
For anyone who is confused about the status of the many Amazon Queens in "To Helicon and Back", all the women who were in the tribal council in "Path of Vengeance" were Queens of their own individual tribes, but when Varia calls them to join her she becomes the High Queen. In "Path of Vengeance" Queen Kanae says, "We up hold Amazon law....Varia is our Queen". Later, during "To Helicon and Back" when Varia is kidnapped, the Amazons needed a commander in battle who knew the terrain of Greece. Any of the Queens could have qualified to lead the Amazons in battle, but as they were less familiar with the terrain, it made more sense to elect Gabrielle. When Varia returns, Gabrielle defers to her as High Queen. But when Varia betrays her, the power which had been freely given to her by her fellow Queens was rescinded, and leadership once again devolved upon Gabrielle.
Nitpick: When Xena and the Amazons are swimming with Gwyn-Teir's pallet, it's very obvious that they are only in about 5 ft of water. While they worry about the shark circling then, Xena is a good three inches beneath her armpits above the waterline, and her arms aren't even moving to help her stay afloat. She could be scissoring with her legs to stay above water, but it's unlikely she could stay that high above water for the length of the entire scene without visible effort.
During the funeral pyre scene, we hear Ephiny's song from "Maternal Instincts".
Nitpick: This episode has some serious, major problems with catapult physics. Catapults are not precision weapons, and cannot be used to pick off individual people. And they take a few minutes to reload. Early in the fight, fireballs fall one after another, meaning there must be several catapults being used. However, when Xena takes one out with her chakram, or when they pause to reload after firing at the sacrificed volunteer, all firing stops. Both of those scenes seem to imply that there is only one catapult.
Nitpick: Artemis, in Greek mythology, was one of the virgin Goddesses, so how can she be Bellerophon's mother?
Goof: When Xena stops Varia from killing Gabrielle, Gabrielle's sword handle is coming out from behind her right shoulder. But then, as the bombs fall and Gabrielle runs to safety, the sword handle is coming out from behind her left shoulder. The sword holder strap also switches sides on Gabrielle's body
Goof: Xena squeezes Gabrielle's shoulder, then walks straight behind Gab to Argo, with one of the Queens on Gab's right. When we switch to the long shot from above, the row of Queens stand to Gabrielle's left, and Xena is way over on the other side of them.
Gabrielle: Everybody's afraid. Some people are just better at hiding it.
Cyane: Lend me some coins?
Gwyn-Teir: What for? We don't even use the same money.
Cyane: I know, but knowing my luck, if I owe you money, I'll survive. (Gwyn-Teir laughs) No, I'm serious.
Varia: How's the eye?
Gabrielle: How's the hand?
Varia: Fine. Why?
Gabrielle: I thought maybe you sprained it on my face.
Xena: You won.
Gabrielle: I don't think I did. With each battle, I lose more of myself.
Xena: War's tough on the soul, Gabrielle.
Cyane: Queen Gabrielle?
Xena: Your people need you.
Gabrielle: Queen Mawu-Ka, Queen Gwyn-Teir, your friend Bane- their blood on the shores of this land. Our sisters have died, but death is not an end to their spirits. Death it's a pathway to an afterlife. And when it is my time to join them, I want to know that I can grasp them by the hands, I can look them all in the eyes and tell them that their blood was not shed without purpose, that we finished the job that they began. More of us may die today, but the Amazon Nation, it will live on forever. That is the duty that we carry, and the everlasting honor that we will hold.
Gabrielle: You're thinking of giving yourself up to Bellerophon, aren't you?
Xena: It would settle things.
Gabrielle: Only for a moment. Then he would turn around and come after us again.
Xena: That's the thing about vengeance, you're never really satisfied.
Gabrielle: Xena, you should take command. Take it.
Xena: The Amazons aren't going to listen to me, Gabrielle. You're it. You're it!
Varia: Xena, hope you don't mind if we borrow her for a while, but, um, the ceremony is...
Xena: Amazon only, like the other ones. Yeah, that's okay. I'd rather sleep rough out in the forest.
This episode had more edited out than any other previously, with 25 minutes of deleted footage. The previous record-holder was "Motherhood", with 20 minutes.
When writing the action for the landing scene, Liz put a note reading, "As much carnage as television will allow". She personally thought this episode pushed the boundaries on that subject farther than what is normally allowed.
In the script, Gabrielle doesn't ask Trudis to be the diversion, she orders her. When they filmed it, they had Trudis volunteer. In editing, they compromised and had Gabrielle ask her if she will do it.
Originally Gabrielle's speech to rally her troops for the final attack on Bellerophon was more Pattonesque, but they rewrote it to be more low-key and soulful.
While filming the scene where Gabrielle argues with Varia about whether or not they should leave the wounded Amazons behind Renee and Tsianina switched lines several times because no one was sure which would be more appropriate for Gabrielle to argue.
There were two shark scenes filmed. The second made it into the episode, but the first came when Xena leaped into the water to eacape from Bellerophon. The guard that she knocks out before her gets eaten. The scene was cut for time.
They called this their Saving Private Ryan episode.
DISCLAIMER: No shark bait was harmed during the production of this motion picture.
In Greek mythology, Bellerophon was a hero who lived before the time of Heracles. He is best known for killing the Chimera, a monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. He was the grandson of King Sisyphus, and sometimes described as being related to Poseidon.
The symbol on Gwyn-Teir's arm seen when she collasped is a triquetra. Notably, the version of the triquetra used is identical to the one popularised by the TV series Charmed which also has strong themes of female empowerment.
The title of the episode is taken from To Hell and Back, the autobiography of Audie Murphy (1924-71), the U.S. Army's most decorated combat soldier in World War II. The book was later made into a movie of the same title, with Murphy playing himself. However, the episode more closely resembles Omaha Beach in the Normandy invasion; Murphy was not there.
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