I can't give this anything less than 5 stars but as Xena so eloquently put it in this one...it's "not exactly how I would've done it..."
Like many other reviewers here, I've been a devoted Xena fan from day one- through thick and thin, the tumult & triumpths... It seems to me that are three types of Xena fans out there- those who absolutely HATE the ending, those who LOVE it and those who continually vacillate between loving it and hating it the more times they see it. I'm the latter one.
When it first aired, I was infuriated how Xena ended with her trying to atone for her battered past, the seemingly thoughtless introduction of new characters, the artsy Japanese setting, the repeated use of the word "friend", the nagging feeling that everything was SO NOT Xena! Most of us fanatics wanted the lushness of ancient Greece in the backdrop, the traditional Xena & Gab costumes and demeanor, the sweltering emotional turmoil, the soul pinching dialogue, heartening bonds of love and loss, the complex struggles, the undaunting action sequences and every other great tool which helped define the INCREDIBLE 6th and final season. All of this was included in the finale but presented in such a way that was unfamiliar and unexpected...not very characteristic of the roughness and nobleness we've come to expect from the show and the show's writers. Sometimes I feel it was just downright bizarre- like it came from out of left field'; Other times, I respect Tapert's vision even though I don't necessarily agree with his tastes
The whole idea of Xena scampering off to an exotic place with hopes of fulfilling the wishes of a foreign female companion from her dark past (this was news to Gab!) had already been done in season 3! I just try to view this episode all on its own (if you don't, you'll probably be disappointed) The acting was remarkable, the scenery was fitting and warm to the story, the chemistry between X & G acceptable, the heroics were up to standard, the dialogue (except for the use of the word "friend" a few too many times) was enjoyable and very much characteristic of Robert Tapert's strangeness and obsession with foreign cultures and ideas.
I just finished viewing it with the audio commentary turned on (something I had put off doing on account that I felt it would take away from how I like to percieve Xena and Gabrielle on my own terms and how I simply value their characters so deeply.) Much to my disbelief, I was amazed! Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor are simply adorable- ragging on themselves, laughing, casually recollecting treasured moments and ideas, providing personal insight and glow, their takes on subtext (Lucy rocks when it comes to this! I have a totally new respect for her), reflecting on how they tried to view and portray their characters and why...they all really surprised me. Rob Tapert is more serious about it- explaining technical tidbits, overall regrets, the sources of his inspirations (mostly Chinese horror movies), how they pulled certain things off, his expectations, and voicing personal memories; It all seemed so rare; Most of my questions about the episode's intentions were eloquently answered. I know the point of commentaries are suppose to make you feel as if you're actually having a viewing with the director and actors...so often that's not the case yet this time, IT TRULY FELT THAT WAY! A very unique experience...
For a summary of what actually transpires, the editor's review is pretty accurate.