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Death In Chains
Death in Chains.jpg
King Sisyshpus Surprises Xena
Series Xena: Warrior Princess
Season 1
Antagonist Sisyphus, Toxeus
Setting Corinth
In-Universe Date Year 0
Production # 76903
Filming Dates October 1995
Original Air-Date 13 November 1995
Story By Babs Greyhosky, Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster
Teleplay By Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster
Directed By Charles Siebert
Episode Chronology
Order in Series 9 of 134
Order in Season 9 of 24
Order in Franchise 37 of 304
Previous Episode in Series "Prometheus"
Next Episode in Series "Hooves and Harlots"
Previous Episode in Franchise "Cast a Giant Shadow"
Next Episode in Franchise "Highway to Hades"
Title Image
Death in Chainstitlecard.jpg
"When Gabrielle has her mind set on something – nothing can change it. You’ll learn that soon enough. - "

Hades, God of the Underworld and Lord of the Dead, asks Xena to undertake the daunting task of freeing his sister from the clutches of King Sisyphus, who has captured her in hopes of living for eternity. With Celesta unable to hold her death candle, it quickly begins to melt away, and all of mankind is unable to die - even when fatally wounded.


Death is captured by Sisyphus

As his wife Queen Karis nervously looks on, a confident King Sisyphus greets Celesta, the embodiment of Death, who has come to escort him to the Underworld of her brother Hades. Through trickery, the King captures and chains his visitor, rendering her helpless by seizing her eternal flame.

Meanwhile, Xena and Gabrielle travel through an apple orchard in the forest. Gabrielle attempts to pick an apple from a tree, she moves to pick one when an arrow shoots through it. They are attacked by the evil thug Toxeus. In the heated battle which follows, Toxeus tries to stab her with a hidden dagger but Xena narrowly escapes, driving the knife into the chest of her attacker. As she and Gabrielle walk away, however, they do not see that the imprisonment of Celesta has already begun to have an effect - Toxeus' eyes pop open and his mortally wounded body is suddenly very much alive.

Hades arrives to ask Xena for help.

As Xena and Gabrielle continue on their way, they are intercepted by Hades, who comes rumbling up from the Underworld to ask Xena to rescue his sister. He explains that if Celesta's flame is allowed to burn out, no one will be able to die. Eternal life -- filled with suffering -- will be the fate of all mankind. Xena agrees to help.

Gabrielle and Telus meet

On their way to Sisyphus' castle, Xena and Gabrielle are faced with the terrible realization that as long as Celesta is imprisoned, the ill will find no relief in death. When they stop to give comfort to a group of sick and injured people by the roadside, they meet Telus, a handsome and compassionate young man who helps Gabrielle dispense first aid.

Toxeus attacks Gabrielle forcing Xena to a rematch.

Telus and Gabrielle are strongly drawn to each other and upon hearing about Celesta's capture, Telus insists on joining them in their mission. He reveals he can be of special help to them since his mother worked for the King when he was a small boy and he knows Sisyphus' castle quite well. At the same time, Toxeus, enjoying his newfound immortality, demonstrates to his band of thugs that they cannot be killed and convinces them to join in his campaign to hunt Xena down so they can capture Death for themselves.

Xena tries to escape the traps of Sisyphus

Xena dispatches Gabrielle and Telus to the local hospital to help the injured as she leaves for Sisyphus' castle. Pursued by Toxeus and his men, she scales the castle wall and steals into the fortress. At the hospital, Gabrielle is warned by an old woman that Xena will die if she touches Death or allows it to touch her. Fearing for her friend's life, Gabrielle sets out for the castle with Telus.

Gabrielle almost gets caught by Toxeus army.

After battling her way past several guards, Xena confronts Sisyphus in a dimly lit chamber, but falls prey to one of his tricks and falls through a trap door into a pit. After Gabrielle and Telus sneak into the castle, Telus, too, falls through a trap door into the same pit. Gabrielle successfully evades Toxeus' men as Xena and Telus escape the pit to face a succession of deadly traps.

As Celesta's flame burns still lower, Karas finally offers her help, knowing that her husband's selfish attempt to cheat Death is wrong. She and Telus convince Sisyphus to release Celesta, but as he begins to unlock her chains, Gabrielle rushes in, followed by Toxeus and his men, who take her hostage. Xena fends off the thugs and manages to save Gabrielle's life by smashing the last lock holding Celesta with a direct blow from her chakram.

Gabrielle is heartbroken by Telus farewell

As soon as Celesta is free, Toxeus and his men fall to the ground, dead. Sadly, Celesta then comes for Telus, who has been ill for some time, but not before Gabrielle bids a heartfelt farewell to her new friend. They hug and Telus moves to Celesta. She touches him and the two move through the door to the afterlife. Gabrielle hugs Xena and Xena tries to comfort her as Telus walks away.


No Jumbo Sized Cocktail Rats were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

Background Information[]

Behind the Scenes[]

"“I thought they’d be [using] lovely little lab rats [in that scene], and I just let them dump these crates of vermin on me in the fiberglass sewer. I was supposed to dive hard to the bottom of the pipe, as soon as I felt them on me. But there was a long trail of slime at the bottom of the pile, so I really didn’t want to, I left two inches between me and the pipe, just resting on my elbows and toes, I dropped my head, and they just kept dumping rats, and they yelled, ‘Cut[!] Cut[!]’ and these rats had all nestled on my body, nestled into my cleavage and legs, it was so disgusting! Oh, God, and they stunk, they stunk, they just pooed everywhere … It was really harrowing! Anyway, you ‘dine out’ on those [stories], and you laugh a lot afterward. But it was far more disturbing than I thought it would be. I don’t know what I was thinking.”” "
― Lucy Lawless on the rats scene

Source: (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998) and many thanks to http://jacksonupperco.com/ for personally researched, and transcribed

  • This episode is also known by the title "Death is M.I.A.".
  • This episode was the third to be written, after Sins of the Past and Chariots of War, but ended up being filmed as the tenth. It explains why Gabrielle isn't carrying her staff in the episode and it makes sense why they placed it before Hooves and Harlots. So the continuity error is simply Gabrielle wearing the wrong outfit.

Key Events[]

"“In this [episode] … when Hades comes in, Xena draws her sword and he says, ‘Hey, relax. I’m a fan. Well, once you’re into that world, you can do just about anything.’” "
― Charles Siebert (Director)

Source: (What You Didn’t Know About Xena – Exclusive Bonus on Best Buy Season One DVD Release) and many thanks to http://jacksonupperco.com/ for personally researched, and transcribed


  • Gabrielle is wearing her amazon attire in this episode - an outfit she doesn't recieve until the following episode.
  • Toxeus and his men all suffered fatal wounds, just like the people who were involved in the landslide and even Telus. This means that they should have been in pain, like Telus and the victims of the landslide were.
  • Celeste comes for Sisyphus but in the end she takes Telus with her. Did she expect to find him in the castle or why did she come there in the first place?


  • Chakram Count: 2
    • 1) To cut the branch so it would fall on Toxeus.
    • 2) To prevent Toxeus from killing Gabrielle and to release Celesta.


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