Xena & the “Groundhog Day” Premise

Happy Groundhog Day everyone! Since it was a new month, needing a new theme for breakdown choices, I figured this one was much more “me” than doing straight romance or romantic comedies.

The classic Bill Murray comedy, Groundhog Day, has been repeated many many times in both film and television. And I wanted to see which projects used the same overall journey vs. which only used the premise. I also wanted to look at both film and television examples because we can see how the format constrains or expands on the premise.

Since I already did a breakdown of Groundhog Day last year (which you can read here), I’m not going to do it again, but I will add to each post for this month links to the other installments so you can find them easily while I continue to make changes to the site.

Lastly, one of my biggest struggles with adjusting to the blog format and also putting out posts quickly has been self-editing. I think it’s clear that I tend to be very stream-of-conscious with my writing style and I want to be much more clear about the actual, palpable beats that define a sequence/plot point. TV breakdowns make this more easy (as we’ll see below) but hopefully it’ll make for easier reads too. I’m also not going to do “conclusions”. Everything that expands on the things to look at in a breakdown will be at the top so that if you don’t want the analysis you can scroll past to what it is you’re looking for and then there’s not more text afterwards.

Anyways, today we’re looking at Xena: Warrior Princess! … again, because I love this show! I was actually on a podcast celebrating the 25th anniversary of the show that you can listen to here! A while back I had meant to breakdown each episode of the show but that obviously burned me out pretty quickly. This month’s premise of the “repeating day” though felt like a great way to get a bit more of my favorite girl power-duo.

In the episode, Xena and Gabrielle are joined by their honorary wing-man, Joxer, as they journey through a town with a pair of warring families. The opening sequence seems like any other day though Joxer is extra determined to prove his worth and Gabrielle is somewhat cranky with Joxer getting on her nerves. Xena is always a stoic individual, so her episodic emotional journeys are very small. Here is seems like she’s somewhat numb and not getting involved as much as she normally does when there’s chaos in front of her. They’re in a dangerous town and she’s not really interested in trying to break up any fights. These kinds of stories are often about teaching gratitude (much like the narcissists we saw in the last few posts as well as with Bill Murray’s arc in Groundhog Day) but there is often another element.

Xena episodes can sometimes have arcs for other people who are simply guests in the episode, but that didn’t happen here because there are a lot of minor characters in play. In television, it seems that the premise takes precedence over character, while features utilize the emotional journey a lot more. Looking it over and at other shows that have done this concept, I wonder if they’re utilized simply for the fun of creating the inevitable-montage sequence these stories always include. What do you guys think? Considering they were doing 20+ episodes a season, it wouldn’t seem crazy for that to be true, except that this is pretty early on in the show and the season (season 3, episode 2). I’d be really curious as to how this episode ended up happening in a season where the show really is at its best.

Before we get to the breakdown, here are the links to the other posts in this series:

Palm Springs
The Mindy Project, “Hot Mess Time Machine”
Edge of Tomorrow

Here’s the breakdown. Let me know your thoughts and what your favorite uses of the Groundhog Day premise are!

The Breakdown

Protagonist: Xena (duh)
Want: To stop the day from repeating by figuring out what’s causing it
Need: Focus on the emotions, gratitude, instead of the typical fighting

Antagonist: The warring families

ACT ONE

Pre-Existing Life: Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer go about their day with Joxer getting on Gabrielle’s nerves. A fight breaks out in the town and Joxer is killed.

Inciting Incident: Xena wakes up to the day starting over and tries to make sense of it in her mind that it’s not just a dream.

TITLES

Plot Push/First Act Decision: Xena saves Joxer this time but someone else dies. The town families take their revenge on Xena out on her horse Argo. When the day starts again, Xena decides to figure out what’s going on with the families.

ACT TWO

Reversal: Xena saves an elderly family member from being run over in the street but then Gabrielle is killed and the day starts over.

ACT THREE

Midpoint: Xena is slowly losing her mind as the days continue to repeat as she struggles to figure out the reason. She even gets fed up at one point and kills Joxer herself. Xena starts interviewing townspeople to better understand what’s happening.

False Climax/Low Point: Xena manages to stop all the fights in one day by using the new knowledge she has but the day still repeats! She’s furious and feels like she’s losing her mind.

ACT FOUR

Plot Push/Decision: Xena finds Hermia with a bottle of nightsbane she took so she wouldn’t have to marry her betrothed. Xena learns that the reason the day keeps repeating is because Hermia’s secret boyfriend from a rival family wished “tomorrow would not come” so the nightsbane wouldn’t kill her. He also is repeating the day with Xena and it will go until a “warrior” can save Hermia and stop the fighting.

ACT FIVE

Climax: Xena can’t get to Hermia and everyone else in time, so she figures out a way to throw her chakram so that it saves everyone who is in harms way and then runs in to stop the fighting.

Resolution: The day starts and Xena fears it’s the same again… but it’s finally the next day and Xena is thrilled, throwing her arms around Gabrielle in gratitude.

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