Xena: Warrior Princess – Series Finale (Friend in Need)
Xena: Warrior Princess ran for a total of 134 episodes before concluding its sixth season in June of 2001. The series finale was a two-parter titled Friend in Need and is presented on this DVD uncut from the original broadcast showing, though I believe this "Director's Cut" version was aired on TV later. The series starred Lucy Lawless as Xena and Renee O'Conner as Gabrielle; Robert Tapert directed these final episodes.
When Xena receives a message from Akemi summoning her to Japan, both she and Gabrielle depart at once. On the voyage there, Xena tells Gabrielle about Akemi, a long-lost and dead soul mate. Akemi had tricked Xena into helping slay her evil father, Yodoshi, and in the process, helped her discover love. However, Yodoshi has returned and now threatens to destroy Higuchi, the city of his family's burial grounds. Xena and Gabrielle arrive in time to prevent the village's utter destruction, but afterwards learn a terrible secret from Xena's past. To redeem herself from her past sins, Xena must slay Yodoshi in her greatest and final battle.
Though I only occasionally watched Xena on TV, I was anxious to see the series finale to learn how everything wrapped up. Yet, after viewing it, I was somewhat disappointed. The finale does a decent job of tying up the series and even explains how Xena got the scar on her chest. The finale was well paced, always engaging, and had some terrific action scenes. However, I was disappointed to see Xena's demise and how it was handled. The concept of Xena and Gabrielle being soul mates was mostly ignored and the ending, with Xena remaining with Gabrielle as a ghost so the two can still share adventures, felt like a copout.
Friend in Need is presented in 1.33:1. The transfer is very clean throughout, with only one or two specks and some light grain in a few scenes. Colors are natural and vibrant, with accurate flesh tones and rich blacks.
Friend in Need is presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo. The track adequately presents the material with crisp dialogue throughout. No optional subtitles are included.
The main extra on the DVD is a commentary with Tapert, Lawless, and O'Conner. Though Tapert leads the track early on, Lawless and O'Conner soon take over. While there is some silence occasionally and the participants do frequently shift into "watch and react" mode, I still had an enjoyable time with it. However, the track wasn't nearly as informative as I expected. I thought, this being the only Xena DVD in Region 1, that the commentary might focus more on the series as a whole, at least initially, rather than only on these two episodes, but this was not the case. The participants also discuss some of the show's lesbian overtones and how several sequences in the finale were staged and shot.
Also on the disc are thirty minutes worth of behind-the-scenes footage, a photo gallery from the finale, and a screen saver. The behind-the-scenes footage was fairly interesting, though most of it was focused on the staging of several of the finale's action scenes.
Friend in Need, Xena's two-part series finale, is worth watching for fans of the long-running series, if only to see how it ultimately ended. While I would have much preferred season sets or a disc of the first few episodes from season one, I'm hopeful that these will eventually turn up. Recommended.