XENA: Cradle of Hope / The Paths Not Taken


Well I’m back with more XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, aka the breakdowns that (more than all the other ones I do every day) are purely because I’m an uber-dork-level fan of the show. I don’t think I need to spend too much time explaining this. By now you know the drill, so let’s get started!


King Gregor fears the birth of a child born to a servant. Sends his guards out to find it.

A servant ships the baby down a river in fear.


Xena and Gabrielle find the baby in the river. They decide to find its mother.

Gregor regrets his actions so his advisor, Nemos, manipulates Gregor to push further to find the child.

Xena and Gabrielle come across villagers preparing to hang a woman. They save her life.

The woman is Pandora. The pair hear her stories and how she carries the infamous box that holds the hope of mankind. Gabrielle is enthralled.

The ladies head into a tavern. The innkeeper is acting strangely. Xena keeps an eye on him.

Gregor’s soldiers arrive looking for the baby. Gabrielle is scared.


Xena battles the guards, during the fight Pandora’s box is knocked into the open and taken by a guard while the ladies are distracted.

Xena threatens the innkeeper. He quickly gives up information on Gregor.

The guards return to the castle with the box. Nemos and Gregor argue over killing the child. Gregor is still upset by the thought as Nemos argues for a new plan. Gregor agrees to meet with Xena.

Pandora tells Xena that they have until midnight to reset the box. They all panic.


Xena meets with Gregor. The king wants to swap the box for the baby. Xena refuses, so they give her 24 hours to decide.

Gabrielle brings Ophelia to see Xena and Pandora. Xena’s thrilled when she learns Ophelia can help get them into the castle.

Ophelia says there’s a party that night. Xena decides to disguise herself as a dancer to get in.

Xena dances among a group of women to distract the guards. Gregor interrupts and takes the box for safe keeping. Nemos feels undermind by Gregor and plots the king’s demise with the guards.

Back with Gabrielle, the baby begins crying. Pandora soothes him.

Xena is taken to Nemus’s room where she knocks him out and goes searching through the castle.

Xena listens in as Gregor cries over his dead wife and son. She knocks him out.

Nemos wakes and sends the guards after Xena and the box. It appears they’ve caught her with Xena stuck at a wall.


Xena escapes and goes to Gabrielle. Pandora resets the box just in time and they are all able to relax.

Xena tells them they will return the baby to Gregor as they wanted. He needs an heir. Gabrielle reluctantly agrees.

Gregor wakes to find the baby and Xena. He hears her argument and agrees to raise the child.

Nemos is against taking on the baby. He and the other guards attack. Xena wins.

Gregor offers Pandora a safe place to stay and help raise the baby. She agrees.


A young couple, Jana and Agranon, discuss their family’s feud and their impending marriage. They are very much in love.

The pair are attacked. Agranon attempts to defend them both but is knocked out and Jana is kidnapped.

Xena protects her and Gabrielle as they head into a tavern. Agranon watches from the sidelines an wants to hire Xena to help find Jana.

Agranon tells his story and how he believes the warlord Mezentius is behind it. Xena refuses.

Agranon pleads. Gabrielle is enamored with his story and Xena agrees so long as Agranon help the needy people surrounding them with his fortunes.


Xena tells Gabrielle the plan to go in and talk with Mezentius directly. She’s not happy but agrees though she’s worried.

Xena sees Marcus. Clearly there is a shared affection between them.

Agranon tells Gabrielle the story of how he met his fiancee. Gabrielle insists that he tell Jana’s father the story to calm down the growing family feud.

Xena is introduced to Mezantius by Marcus. Mezantius doesn’t trust her and has his soldiers surround her.


Mezantius says he wants to work with Xena. She is hesitant to accept his offer.

Gabrielle gets her and Agranon to Jana’s castle. They are arrested.

Marcus flirts with Xena. She sees the princess and says they have to focus on work.

Xena wants to make a deal with Mezantius to work together. He agrees.

Jana threatens to kill herself as she tries to escape. Xena will handle it.

Xena talks Jana off the ledge by proving her connection to Agranon. They plan to meet later to escape.

Xena talks Mezantius into not sleeping with Jana. He’ll consider it.

Xena goes in search of a way to get Jana out of captivity. She is caught by Marcus and Mezantius.


Marcus covers for Xena with Mezantius. Mezantius calms down and leaves.

Xena and Marcus have a heart-to-heart about what she’s doing. She convinces him that she is loyal to him.

Gabrielle and Agranon are in prison. They fear they will be executed.

Xena and Jana meet. They hear Mezantius so Xena hides Jana while she distracts him and gets him to leave.

A soldier tells Marcus what Xena did in the previous episode with King Gregor and how she has played Marcus. They fight but Marcus is ultimately forced to agree.

Xena hides Jana in a crate to be shipped out. Marcus catches her and Xena is worried when her plan is revealed.


Xena tries to convince Marcus to turn to the light. Marcus refuses her.

Marcus and Xena fight. Mezantius shoots and hits Marcus. Xena pleads with Marcus to be strong as she watches him die.

There is a funeral for Marcus. Gabrielle consoles Xena as she repeats my friend” while looking off at Marcus’s casket.

Serialized Storytelling

I broke this down a little differently than the previous one for Xena: Warrior Princess in that I am just giving you the major beats and breaking them up where there were commercial breaks. Before I gave you mini-paragraphs on what happens in each act. If you change ever “commercial” to an act, you will wind up with four acts and can see the episodic structure is very straight-forward with really one main story arch for Xena and maybe a mini one for Gabrielle.

What worked out with these two episodes is that we’re only five episodes into the first season of a show and we’re already seeing serialized elements. This wasn’t new for television. You can back to the beginning of drama writing to see overarching plotlines (if possible, check out THE FUGITIVE. It’s pretty fantastic and plays right into this idea). This episode is interesting in that the overarching serialization isn’t plot driven but emotionally driven.

In the first episode we see Xena do the kinds of things that she has done in the first three episodes: fights for the good of mankind with little or nothing in return for herself. Episode 5, Paths Not Taken, leans heavily into Xena’s actions in the previous episode. Xena wants to convince Marcus to leave his mercenary life behind. She cares for him and he is living a life that could easily have been hers (hence the episode title). Marcus’s learning of what Xena did for Gregor means that Marcus cannot trust Xena. He could easily have survived if he had left with Xena when she asked, but he was loyal to his boss the same way the old Xena would have been. At his friend, Xena says repeatedly “my friend,” reminding herself to remember as the person she cared for not the terrible job he held and not to judge him because she was able to walk away and he couldn’t. It’s an idea that plays out through the entire show and it was great to see it impact her both internally and externally so early on in the series.

As I was breaking down STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and KILLJOYS earlier this week, I had to remind myself to leave out moments that were not beats so much as breadcrumbs for the over-arching series or, in the case of Star Wars, dealt with the military and other extra-personal entities. Another great thing about 90s television is how economical they are with their time. Every moment on the screen counts and drives the plot forward while still serving the style/tone of the show. They’re also able to do it without the episode feeling overwhelming with plot or characters, something that happens all too often in binge-centric writing.

Most of this is just random thoughts as I watching. I will likely only break down the first season of this series since there are SO many episodes, but after the first season I think we’ll do a “best of” because the writing definitely evolves with television as the series went on.

Check back tomorrow for a break down of my favorite episode of the cult-gone-too-soon series FIREFLY.

Happy Writing!

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