I realize it's for fanservice, but is there any reasonable explanation why Xena's armor is so... impractical?
It's not like she needs it, she can catch arrows with her bare hands.
Well, the boots and skirt are actually a step up from the sandals and skirt that would have been more accurate for... some of the years that the show mayb e sort of theortetically takes place during, sometimes. Pants would be too hot for an athletic combat style like hers, and she's on the road a lot where cleaning up is difficult. The exposed arms are pretty normal, for all of the reasons already listed. The exposed shoulders and cleavage... besides the aspect of ventilation/cleanliness, I think it might serve as a target, to make sure missiles are aimed high, where she can see them and grab/ dodge, instead of at her abdominal region, where they might pass unnoticed through the the armor, or perhaps injure a spinning, kicking leg. Not to mention, she's Xena, so I'm not she even CARES about armor. I think she just wears the outfit to pick up girls.
Not impractical at all, considering her fighting style. If you're going to be flipping around scissor-kicking dudes in the face you're gonna want clothes that offer maximum freedom of movement.
One question remains though: how do her armbands stay on? They don't seem to have any means of support
Did the opening narration bother anyone else? "A mighty Princess forged in the heat of the battle." She was not a Princess. She lived in a village with a mom who owned a tavern and a father who was devoted to Ares.
She was forged into a "mighty Princess," perhaps.
The title "Warrior Princess" was given to her by Alti. It's never adequately explained, though; it was mostly an artifact from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, where Xena and her title originated.
And that never made sense the "Warrior Princess" was just a nickname Hercules called her without ever hearing about her before, in the series proper its the title she always had.
Of course "Princess" is used loosely- we just assume it means the daughter/consort of a king or otherwise ruler of territory in her own right. As essentially the chief of a maurauding band of warriors, though, it shows she had some power/authority in that sense. Once she forfeits that, one might think of it as an honourary title in recognition of how good a warrior she is.
She was given the title by her other (good) mentor Lao Ma, who was an...empress?
Correction: Callisto didn't rape anyone. By that point, she was redeemed and became an angel (thanks to the efforts of Xena herself), and later, made Xena magically conceive a child with her spirit to take a second chance at a mortal life. Also, when they first met Eve as an adult, after the timeskip, she was raised as a ruthless pillager like Xena herself once was; it was only because of Eli that she got her chance at atonement.
Gabrielle wasn't asked, she was tricked into magic glowy lights that made her have a surprise baby. IIRC, Xena wasn't asked either, simply touched by magic glowy lights that made her have a surprise baby. She was, at least, more willing to be in an angel's hands than Gabrielle was to be in a demon's. But neither of them consented beforehand to be used as baby-vehicles, and it is a little creepy that the instances are treated so differently just because Callisto was pretty at the time.
In the first episode of the fifth season, Xena assumes all responsibility for the person Callisto became when she takes Callisto's place in Hell. Presumably Callisto and Xena felt that knocking Xena up with Callisto's soul was a better way to repay the damage Xena did to Callisto the first time around. And strangely enough, for Xena it probably felt like redemption: "In her past life, she was a savage, brutal warlord; we're counting on you to prevent her from turning out that way again." As for the consent issue...did God rape the Virgin Mary? Hopefully there's some divine intuition or something that tells angels when impregnating a mortal is a good idea.
Callisto had nothing to do with Xena conceiving Eve, that was all "God". It was only after that had been done that the same entity decided that Callisto's soul would also be reincarnated as Xena's child.
There were a number of hints that Hope might not have been quite so Always Chaotic Evil - she clearly did want Gabrielle's love and approval. However, she was too powerful to be controlled long enough to be reasoned with.
Could be more of a female variant of Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas, though. Remember that Hope strangled a man to death a few hours after she was born.
It's all rather odd, however, that Xena and Gabrielle never question the possibility everything Eve-related could be a repeat of everything Hope-related. The basics are the same: a being possessing amazing power and devoted followers sires a child, with the ultimate endgame being wiping out "lesser gods." You'd think after the hell they went through in Season 3 that Xena and Gabrielle would be a bit cautious.
Eli told Gabrielle that she must stop hitting bad guys with a staff because that is violent. She must kill both good people and bad people with sais because sais are non-violent???
The sais came after Gabrielle's peace arc. She dumped her staff, got a magical compact, did yoga, watched Xena get her spine broken and become crippled due to her (Gabrielle's) refusal to commit violence, snapped and killed a bunch of people before being taken down, was crucified, pulled into hell, rescued to heaven, and brought back to life with a pregnant (and not at 100%) Xena. Picking up the Sais was Gabrielle realizing she cannot be a person of total peace, and she accepts violence in defense of others. It was completely logical with her character arc.
"The sais came after Gabrielle's peace arc." Sais were totally part of Eli's doctrine. He watched her buy them and approved. She continued to be a skin-head racist, she continued to hate Xena, all according to Eli's faith. She killed the innocent Arab boy in the dust-storm saying "I have a Warrior's reactions, but not a Warrior's instincts." Boy was on Xena's side, he held a message scroll, but in the dust-storm it looked like he was threatening her with a knife, so Gabby killed him. That episode could have motivated Gabrielle to revert to non-lethal Staff, but she continued to obey Eli and continued to use non-violent sais.
Ides of March", Gabrielle takes up arms and fights for Truth, Justice and the Athenian Way. I thought that was the end of her being an Elijan.
There's some major dissonance over what's non-violent. The staff, which she uses to whack people and KO them (but they get up again) is too violent. Using her little compact to knock people out so that Xena can kill them, however, is acceptably non-violent. Admittedly her whole character arc there was sort of intended to show that this non-violence idea was ridiculous for the lifestyle she was leading.
There is no dissonance, the doctrine of non-violence is clearly explained. Siege of Amphipolis, a Peasant puts his hand in his pocket to get his handkerchief. "Gabrielle" kills the Peasant with sais and that murder is a non-violent act. Likewise, when the Amphipolitans murdered Xena's mother, they burnt her to death, so that counts as non-violent. Eli is prophet of the One True God, so any weapon that Eli approves of is by definition non-violent. I am a puny mortal. I think that KO-ing people is less violent than killing them with sais which proves my inferiority to the One True God.
In "Chakram," the same episode where she picks up the sais, she confirms that her departure from nonviolence in "Ides of March" was deliberate and permanent. When she finally came to the painfully obvious realization that traveling with someone who regularly engages in combat and refusing to strike another person even in self-defense were completely incompatible lifestyle choices, she chose Xena over nonviolence. There's a suggestion in one episode—possibly "Between The Lines"—that future incarnations of Xena and Gabrielle get to lead nonviolent lives because of the good karma they've been building up over the series(but we don't get to see those lives because those are the boring ones).
"Gabrielle" uses sais to pull a sword out of a Mook's hands and throw that sword to non-violently kill another mook. Elijianity = if you hold a sword by its handle and kill bad guys, that's violent; if you use non violent sais to kill people with swords, but don't touch the handle, it#s non-violent.
Cluedo / Clue episode, "Gabrielle" thought she had killed the Bounty Hunter with Joxer's poisonous gravy. According to Elijianity, poison is a non-violent method of killing people.
Clue episode was that one of Xena's friends had killed the Bounty Hunter in self defence. The resolution was that Argo killed the Bounty Hunter in self defence, but according to Elijianity, when a Horse does self defence, it is less sinful than a Human doing self defence. Eli pulls new non-violence rules out of his ass every single episode.
No, season 5 was all about "Xena" and "Gabrielle" hating each other because Xena killed people will a violent sword whereas "Gabrielle" was morally superior because she killed people with non-violent sais. "Gabrielle" NEVER criticizes "Xena" for killing people with New chakram because according to Elijianity, new chakram is a non violent weapon and non-lethal staff is super-violent weapon.
No, the path of peace requires nonviolence, but Gabrielle switched to the path of friendship, which isn't nonviolent. I think Eli's explanation was that the (nonviolent) path of peace was best, but the other paths weren't necessarily bad, just not as good.
Although I found the Goliath episode interesting and "A Day In the Life" to be one of the all-time greats: I still don't quite get it. How exactly does flashing sunlight off mirrors compel giants to take their helmets off?
The reflected sunlight heated the air, making the giants hot. One of the quickest ways to cool off is to cool your head, so they logically removed their helmets.
What happens to the spirits of Olympians after they are killed?
That was never addressed. The Gods that Xena killed were very rarely even referenced after their deaths, let alone given an episode to depict any sort of afterlife. It's kind of a cool philosophical question: do gods have souls? Do they have their own afterlife? Do they go to Heaven or Hell like Callisto did? Xena doesnt know.
Not that she'd care. Killing someone once was always enough for her. Not that she didnt enjoy killing Callisto again. and again. and again.
Seems safe to assume they go to Heaven or Hell whichever is deemed appropriate. We know what happened with Callisto and aside from a formal seat at the table no distinction is made between her and the Olympians.
Which doesn't answer the question. We know Callisto went to Tartarus when she died as a mortal and to Hell when she died as goddess. I don't recall seeing any Centaurs in the afterlife but perhaps like Amazons they have a special afterlife. (Which in the rare cases of Amazons with lovers must be pretty crappy since it's clearly established that even if Gabrielle wasn't destined for reincarnation for no clear reason that she is not destined to meet her husband in the afterlife.) The question is what happens to dead Gods and the closest to an adequate explanation given is they go to Heaven or Hell just like Callisto and apparently Aoleus was a big enough fish not to go to the Elesian fields (again with his loved ones.)
This is more a Hercules and Xena headscratcher but are the gods really cruel or are they just petty and bored? Unlike the humans who believe in an after life Ares knows for a fact that any good person who dies because his warlords burnt down a village are going to the Elysian Fields to experience bliss. Technically he's doing them a bit of a favor and he certainly isn't doing them anymore harm than you or I do when we start up a game of Warcraft and march dozens of elves off to their deaths.
They're both; their cruelty stems from pettiness and boredom. Ares gets bored, so people die horribly to amuse him. This is hardly an either/or situation. And let's be fair, paradise or not, to describe horribly murdering someone as 'doing them a favour' is, at the very least, a pretty callous (if not outright sociopathic) attitude. The creatures in Warcraft are animated pixels, the humans Ares' armies are butchering are living people. There's a pretty big difference.
So as we later find out Xena's Warrior Princess title comes from Alti, but in her debut episode in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys titled "The Warrior Princess" no less. Without ever having heard of her, or being told that is her title Hercule refers to her as a Warrior Princess as a nickname. Wait what?
Like a lot of things that happen with shows that last long enough in general or Spin Offs in particular some of the details clearly weren't worked out long term. Xena is sufficiently famous that she is recognized on sight in most villages, unlike Hercules who often has to introduce himself to people who imagined him taller. The idea that Hercules had never even heard of Ares number one warrior is absurd beyond belief. Its been a while since I watched the episode in question perhaps she was somehow better known as the Warrior Princess than as Xena so he recognized her title and not her or her name.
What exactly was holding Callisto and Valasca in place when they got dumped into the lava flow? Gods can teleport. Nothing we've seen suggests that any gestures or motions are required. They simply want to be someplace else and they are. It would make some sense if perhaps it was something you needed to be taught but Callisto seems to pick it up as soon as she's free of the lava. From what we've seen a lava flow should have kept two gods busy for however long it took them to stop panicking and realize it's not fatal, just really uncomfortable.
During the Twilight Arc the Gods are trying to kill Xena. They go so far as to personally summon death to personally do the deed. Now perhaps killing Xena was actually beyond her power either because God was protecting her or because of some law but the implication was that she refused which angered the other gods. Fine and well, the episode ends with Xena dying by the hand of three Gods. None of whom question why Death didn't show up to claim her? None whom bothered to contact (nor were they contacted BY) the fates who should have been quite aware that they didn't cut the string? It would be an acceptable oversight if the Fates and Death weren't in the episode itself but they were.
The whole Twilight Arc has been rightly criticized for shoddy writing. The Olympians became extremely stupid. One example being Xena cannot see invisible being and the gods can effect things while invisible. But none killed Xena.
It seemed to have been implied that she was under the protection of a greater power, presumably Elijah's God. Clutching the Idiot Ball is probably the best answer here but it is a gross oversight that none of them noticed. Faking your death doesn't work on people who can say "I'll see you in Hell!" and mean they'll see you on a day trip just so they can rub in that you're dead.
Acceptable Breaks from Reality and general Rule of Cool aside, just how does Xena get abilities which seem practically superhuman (extraordinary leaping ability, improbable chakram-aiming skills, etc.)? I have read rumours that (despite being revealed to have a very human father) Ares was (creepy though it may sound) her real dad, but is that really substantiated? Would it at least make some sense if she were a demi-goddess, making her a true Distaff Counterpart of Hercules?
You answered your own question for the most part. Originally Xena was a Distaff Counterpart to Hercules as the daughter of Ares but that was dropped in favor of the romance angle between the two. Though one episode has Xena convince the Fates that Ares was her father and the facts line up well enough to cause her own mother to question it. However Xena's superhuman powers aren't exactly unique. Callisto and Najara both match Xena skill for skill, including Callisto apparently being just as skilled with the Chakram despite apparently not owning one. Every Amazon seems to be nearly on par with Xena as well, close enough anyway that the differences can easily be chalked up to experience and natural skill.