I have a rule now that I’ve been pretty good about following: “favorite” in terms of season or episode or whatever is the one that I watch the most. It doesn’t mean it was the best – I’m a huge fan of Surf Ninjas and have watched the movie more times that I am willing to admit, despite its genuine terribleness – but for whatever reason, I always seem to come back to it. And for me, Season One is my favorite, hands down.
I don’t usually go for first seasons. In all honesty, the first seasons are more often than not closer to least favorite: they’re just figuring out who they are, tone is uneven, etc. But with Xena, being a spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, they had already kind of established the loose interpretation of Ancient Greece and were like, “Yep, I think we need to get weirder.”
Season One has its flaws – it’s much more episodic, Gabrielle can’t dress very well, the makeup artists are … iffy at best – but it knew what it was. It had a diverse cast and surprisingly progressive views on a lot of topics, and the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle was established early on (subtext didn’t really get started by the fandom until Season Two, but it was there), even if it was inexplicable. Like … sure, she saved your life when your hometown wanted to stone you, but you could just drop her off in whatever random town you happen to pass through and then go? But I guess that’s just me being my old dead-souled self.
There’s also a lot of nostalgia with the first season. I watched it as it aired in the U.S. and got excited every time a new episode would come, even when my mom started to feel uneasy about the direction the show was heading (she preferred Hercules, which is actually kind of telling). There were so few television shows that kept my attention like Xena did, and Season One just grabbed me from the first episode, making a lifetime fan. I’m 37 now, and I love the show more than I did when I was a young teenager, so I guess that’s saying something.