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The Xena: Warrior Princess Scene That Went Too Far

Because "Xena: Warrior Princess" ran for six seasons, it's unsurprising that the writers occasionally pushed the hero to some dark places. The fantasy series pits Xena (Lucy Lawless) against all manner of monsters and villains while she attempts to atone for her violent past. Xena first debuted in the "Hercules" TV show alongside Kevin Sorbo, where she is a villainous warlord who eventually vows to change her evil ways.

Thankfully she's kept on the straight and narrow in her own series, thanks to her friend Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor). Many audiences originally expected them to be romantically involved because of how close they were, but unfortunately, the studio didn't want to put a lesbian relationship at the heart of the series. But that didn't stop fans from watching the series as if the duo were together anyway. And who can blame them? Especially when they fight so fiercely for one another.

Although "Xena: Warrior Princess" was a fun, action-packed adventure, the show often took some unpleasant turns. In Season 4, the villain Callisto (Hudson Leick) is released from a fiery dimension by the King of Hell, who wants to corrupt Xena. From there, the show pushes things too far.

Xena's crucifixion

After Callisto promises the King of Hell that she will corrupt Xena, the hero winds up in prison alongside Gabrielle, Amarice (Jennifer Sky), and Eli (Timothy Omundson). Callisto breaks Xena's spine using the iconic Chakram at her back, leaving her completely powerless. Although Gabrielle fights off the Roman soldiers for a while, she eventually surrenders, and both she and Xena are crucified together. The actual crucifixion scene is a tough watch for audiences — although it's not gratuitously gory, it's incredibly intense.

Sure, both Xena and Gabrielle are resurrected in Season 5, but this was a horrific way to end Season 4. And according to Lucy Lawless, it was equally tormenting to film. When speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the series, Lawless explained the horrific crucifixion scene took place "in the completely brutal dead of winter in New Zealand." The actress said "It is hands-down my least favorite way to die. I've been crucified several times and it's never good." 

It doesn't sound like a comfortable scene to shoot. The "Xena" star added, "It's always really windy and really miserable and you're up hanging from a cross for hours." She went on to say that it was scenes like this that made the end of the series a struggle because they took so much energy to film. "I thought it [ended at] the right time. I was struggling through that last year because it was relentless. It was nine months a year. I was out of gas by the end. It kicked my ass."

The Xena scene so gross it had to be recut

Xena and Gabrielle's crucifixion is pretty rough going but it's not the only time the show pushed the envelope with its content. During an interview with Entertainment Weekly for an oral history of the series, co-creator Robert Tapert revealed that the higher-ups only occasionally stepped in and asked production to tone something down. One of those times was for a scene in the Season 1 finale "Is There a Doctor in the House?"

The episode sees our heroic duo bringing their heavily pregnant friend Ephiny (Danielle Cormack), an Amazon warrior who is about to give birth to a centaur baby, to a healing temple that is pulling double duty as a field hospital in the midst of a terrible war. Ephiny's sudden labor is already inopportune. But when Xena realizes that the centaur baby is breech, she knows she has to act swiftly and deliver the child via a cesarean section.

Tapert told Entertainment Weekly, "we had this terribly gross cesarean birth of a baby centaur from a woman. They said, 'The advertisers will pull out,' and we did it anyways ..." However, one particular advertiser who refused to appear alongside a realistic centaur c-section led to the scene getting toned down. According to Tapert, "they said, 'Oh, M&Ms is pulling out,' and we had to recut."

Crucifixions and emergency surgeries are pretty grisly, but for fans of the series, there's another infamous scene that still gets debated to this day.

The infamous Gab Drag is still controversial among fans

Thanks to flashbacks to Xena's evil days, a few peeks into alternate timelines, and the influence of gods, demons, and other spirits, we've seen Xena do some pretty terrible stuff on the show. But for fans of the series, there's one act of violence that was so notoriously over the top that it earned its own nickname: the Gab Drag.

In the Season 3 episode "The Bitter Suite," Xena and Gabrielle's relationship is at a low ebb after Gabrielle inadvertently caused the death of Xena's son. Under normal circumstances, the pair might have found a healthy way to resolve this conflict. However, before that could happen, god of war Ares (Kevin Smith) visits Xena and encourages her to go down a path of vengeance against her friend.

Influenced by Ares, Xena tracks down Gabrielle and proceeds to tie her to the back of her horse and have her violently dragged along the ground.

This scene is controversial among fans for how far it pushed the already emotional storyline of Xena and Gabrielle's falling out. On a Reddit thread about the moment, user u/jdpm1991 wrote of the Gab Drag, "It regressed Xena's character a lot ... I know she was hurt by [Gabrielle's] betrayal but throughout season 3 I never looked at her relationship with X&G the same way ..."

Some users felt the intensity of the violence fit, given Xena's extreme rage and tumultuous past. However, others, like u/Agent8699, found it to be far too much. They said, "The Gab Drag was ... a lot. It wasn't helped by second unit and the editor going crazy with the brutality of it – dragged through fire, over rocks, etc."

You can decide for yourself by streaming "Xena: Warrior Princess" on Tubi.