Welcome to a new Xena Thursday! As a result of the popularity of my Hercules reviews and some requests I’ve personally received, today’s entry, echoing our initial Xena offerings, is the third in a series of posts counting down my picks for the fifty best episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (which also celebrated its 20th anniversary this year). While each of my initial posts on every Herc episode listed a few MVEs, you’ll notice that some seasons are much better than others — they’re not of equal quality. In other words, all the MVEs (and some non-MVEs) from early Season Two may be listed before any of the MVEs from the second half of Season Five, and because all of those choices were designed to represent only their specific season/half-season, the accompanying posts cannot properly reflect the true determination of qualitative preference and strength. Instead, these seven entries can serve as a reference for both hardcore fans, curious Xenites, and anyone interested in partaking in the fun that is Hercules. While Xena is far and away my preference, this series has such a lot to offer, and I’m certain that if you want to find it, you will.
27. Season 3, Episode 3: “Love Takes A Holiday” (Aired: 10/14/96 | Filmed: 07/23 – 08/01/96)
Aphrodite decides it’s time for a career change; a plot is afoot to kidnap Iolaus’ grandmother.
Written by Noreen Tobin & Gene O’Neill | Directed by Charlie Haskell | Production No. V0113
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for the development of Aphrodite and its cool Iolaus subplot, here.
28. Season 4, Episode 5: “Stranger In A Strange World” (Aired: 10/27/97 | Filmed: 05/12 – 05/21/97)
Herc and Iolaus find themselves in parallel worlds, each saddled with lookalikes of the other who act very differently. Meanwhile, Zeus appears to be dying.
Written by Paul Robert Coyle | Directed by Michael Levine | Production No. V0302
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for the delightful glee of the actors (including Lawless, O’Connor, and Raimi) in their AU counterparts, here.
29. Season 3, Episode 13: “Encounter” (Aired: 02/03/97 | Filmed: 11/27 – 12/06/96)
Saving a beautiful creature that is part woman and part deer pits Hercules against his half brother Ares and the vengeful Prince Nestor.
Written by Jerry Patrick Brown | Directed by Charlie Haskell | Production No. V0119
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for introducing Serena and launching one of the series’ best arcs, here.
30. Season 5, Episode 9: “For Those Of You Just Joining Us” (Aired: 01/04/99 | Filmed: 07/03 – 07/08/98)
The writers retreat to a camp and Kevin Sorbo must rescue them from a would-be murderer without revealing his true identity as Hercules.
Written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci | Directed by Bruce Campbell | Production No. V0712
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for being a truly hilarious follow-up to its iconic fourth season prequel, here.
31. Season 2, Episode 9: “The Fire Down Below” (Aired: 11/06/95 | Filmed: 07/14 – 07/25/95)
Salmoneus is cashing in on a treasure trove he found. Too bad for him—and for Hercules—that it belongs to Hera.
Story by John Schulian | Teleplay by Scott Smith Miller | Directed by Timothy Bond | Production No. 876804
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for its tight script and great final fight sequence, here.
32. Season 3, Episode 1: “Mercenary” (Aired: 09/30/96 | Filmed: 04/10 – 04/19/96)
A storm at sea maroons Hercules on an island where he deals with pirates, sand monsters and a wanted killer he is transporting to Sparta.
Written by Robert Bielak | Directed by Michael Hurst | Production No. V0102
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for its morally shaded guest character and notable direction, here.
33. Season 2, Episode 10: “Cast A Giant Shadow” (Aired: 11/13/95 | Filmed: 09/06 – 09/15/95)
Herc rescues a gentle giant named Typhon from Hera’s clutches, then discovers that the big guy is “the father of all monsters.” Yes, Typhon is Echidna’s husband.
Written by John Schulian | Directed by John T. Kretchmer | Production No. 876813
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for the wonderful balance of light and dark, here.
34. Season 3, Episode 22: “Atlantis” (Aired: 05/12/97 | Filmed: 02/06 – 02/18/97)
Shipwrecked on Atlantis, Hercules offers to help a psychic convince her fellow citizens that the destruction of their island is imminent.
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman | Directed by Gus Trikonis | Production No. V0121
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for its unique take on a fascinating mythological story, here.
Come back next Thursday for numbers 19-26! And stay tuned tomorrow for another Blondell Pre-Code Film Friday!