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The strange loves of Xena: Warrior Princess
Social norms of the time might have dictated that Xena and Gabrielle spent most of the Xena: Warrior Princess series as a noncanonical love story, but, listen, they were pretty obviously a couple, OK? Still, that didn’t stop the two of them from playing the field from time to time. Though her main focus in life was Gabrielle, Xena was out there meeting new love interests and reminiscing about her doomed relationships left and right.
Though we are on the record as adamant Xabrielle shippers, that doesn’t mean our girls didn’t get up to some pretty zany romances over the years. Xena had to go through a lot of hard knocks in life to become who she eventually became, and let’s face it, she wasn’t always lucky in love. Before becoming one half of the greatest love story of our time, here are some of Xena’s other (less important but still valid) love affairs.
The Season 1 episode "Fistful of Dinars" introduces us to Xena’s ex-fiancé, Petracles. In this story, Xena has to call upon her questionable ex in order to stop yet another evil warlord from terrorizing yet another countryside. Despite all appearances to the contrary, Xena warns us repeatedly that Petracles is persuasive and dangerously attractive. Still, he and Gabrielle begin to form a bond with one another, at which time Xena threatens to eviscerate him if he hurts her... roommate. We'll go with "roommate." Oh, the power! The danger! The drama!
This is one of those weird TV moments where two women both show interest in a guy whose apartment doesn’t have shower curtains when they should be focusing on each other, but because it’s only one episode, we’ll let it slide. We’re okay with Petracles getting killed at the end of the story, though. Trying to come between two star-crossed lovers? Truly criminal. Punishable by death. Goodbye forever, Petracles.
Caesar and M'Lila
Did you ever wonder why Xena became the monster she once was? Well, you’re in luck, because the Season 2 episode "Destiny" tells us all about it. Sure, Xena became a remorseless killer in part because Caesar betrayed and crucified her, but it’s also because Caesar killed her girlfriend M’Lila.
When Xena teeters on death’s door after being stabbed, she hallucinates, falling into memories of her past. She once met the ruthless Caesar as a captive but she freed him, flirted with him, kissed him many times, and allowed him to return to Rome under the assumption that they would someday conquer the world together. Meanwhile, M’Lila trained with her and the two became close… friends. We’ll go with “friends.” Xena was on cloud nine until Caesar betrayed her, stole her ship, and killed M’Lila, who is easily our favorite person in the whole episode. M’Lila didn’t benefit too much from helping Xena, but she did try to warn her about Caesar, and Xena’s regret over not taking her more seriously haunts her at least until the end of this episode.
Borias and Lao Ma
Say what you will about Xena, our girl was all about the throuple. The Season 3 two-parter "The Debt" begins with Xena in a relationship with the warlord Borias, who would eventually become the father of her son, Solan. That’s a whole thing in and of itself, but what we came here for today is Lao Ma.
When Xena and Borias attempted to negotiate new deals with Lao Ma’s husband, she appeared in his stead and used all of her charms to broker a beneficial deal for them all. Xena is seized by jealousy and attempts to kill Lao Ma, but is easily beaten. Double-crosses abound and Xena nearly dies until Lao Ma accepts her as an… ally. We’ll go with “ally.” Of course, this all ends in tragedy because what episode of Xena doesn’t? Still, Lao Ma is incredible, and she more than makes the episode. We discover that she is the one who healed Xena’s legs after they were broken by Ceasar and had even attempted to form an alliance with Xena that would have allowed them to become beneficial rulers. That didn’t exactly come to be, but Lao Ma definitely remains one of the great lost loves of Xena’s life.
Of all Xena’s non-Gabrielle love interests, Marcus was truly one of the greats. Though he remembered Xena as a ruthless warlord and was himself an arms dealer, he was still a sentimental kind of guy. When he met up with Xena in the middle of one of her missions, she leaned into his prior knowledge of her as an evil person to let him believe that her intentions were bad. When she flipped and used her proximity to Marcus to free a princess from captivity, Marcus felt betrayed, but he still gave his life for the greater good. Marcus! You big old softy. It definitely didn’t do him any favors, but his conscience was clear.
Unfortunately, the gods are not often kind, and Marcus ended up in freaking Tartarus for all his trouble. When Xena and Gabrielle discovered his suffering, they risked life and limb to ensure he got a transfer out of there and went to the Elysian Fields where he belonged. Marcus might not have been long for this world, but he was a great character and definitely deserved a few more episodes at the very least.
We’re not just saying this because we’re Xabrielle shippers: Ares is the worst. Yes, he and Xena had a passionate thing going, they made for a ridiculously attractive couple, and we love actor Kevin Smith and his whole role on the series just as much as anyone else does. Yet, we do not ship it, and here is why.
Of all the characters that tried to drag Xena back into her unsavory past, Ares was the most consistently evil about it. Ares is an abusive jerk throughout most of the series, and he constantly tries to undermine, manipulate, and gaslight Xena for his own purposes. Though Ares does eventually begin to see the error of his ways, it is well after he has lost Xena’s interest. It may have been subtextual, but let’s face it, Gabrielle and Xena are in a whole committed relationship by the time he starts to wise up and treat Xena better. A classic case of the guy who has to lose the girl to see what he had, Ares is fun, goofy, and even kind of likable in the end, but he was always trying to mold Xena into who he wanted her to be rather than who she was, and over time Xena realized that and left him behind. Still, we got a kinder, gentler God of War out of the whole thing, so that’s a happy ending in and of itself.
The last two episodes of Xena have some issues, and it’s true that fans and even showrunners have admitted that the finale was, in a lot of ways, flubbed. However, to discount it entirely would be to discount the presence of Akemi, another one of Xena’s amazing exes.
While most of Xena’s past relationships are marked by betrayal, Akemi was one who tried beyond all reason to do the right thing and it ultimately cost her everything. She was freed by Xena, who was drawn to her peaceful resolutions. Xena vowed to return her to her home, but Akemi didn’t tell Xena the full truth and ultimately ended her own life due to a need to uphold the honorable traditions of her family. Years later, Akemi’s spirit returns, and she and Xena combine forces to stop a powerful villain at the cost of Xena’s life. These episodes were pretty weird, but none of that can be blamed on Akemi, who brings out a sense of peace in Xena that was seldom seen. Though the series finale was all over the place, Xena’s past with Akemi informs her present-day relationship with Gabrielle, while Akemi herself is a compelling character that deserved a lot more screentime.