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 fifth 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.
11. Season 1, Episode 6: “As Darkness Falls” (Aired: 02/20/95 | Filmed: 11/14 – 11/24/94)
Hercules attends a friend’s wedding where Nemis the Centaur arrives and kidnaps the bride and her maid of honor.
Written by Robert Bielak | Directed by George Mendeluk | Production No. 76607
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for the well-plotted story and the breathtaking cinematography, here.
12. Season 1, Episode 12: “The Gauntlet” (Aired: 05/01/95 | Filmed: 01/13 – 01/20/95)
Warrior Princess Xena joins forces with Hercules when her troops turn on her under the command of the cruel and ruthless Darphus.
Written by Robert Bielak | Directed by Jack Perez | Production No. 76612
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for its dramatic weight and the opportunity to see Xena change from evil to good, here.
13. Season 3, Episode 18: “Reign Of Terror” (Aired: 04/14/97 | Filmed: 02/19 – 02/27/97)
Hera plays up to Augeas’s delusion that he is Zeus by giving him a taste of godly power, which he can keep if he kills Hercules.
Written by John Kirk | Directed by Rodney Charters | Production No. V0112
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for the perfect premise and the use of Aphrodite as our hero’s sidekick, here.
14. Season 2, Episode 17: “The Apple” (Aired: 02/19/96 | Filmed: 01/08 – 01/17/96)
Iolaus is used as a pawn by the scheming love goddess Aphrodite to prevent a marriage between the children of two feuding kings.
Written by Steven Baum | Directed by Kevin Sorbo | Production No. 876824
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for the fun slapsticky story and the introduction of Aphrodite, here.
15. Season 5, Episode 8: “Darkness Rising” (Aired: 11/16/98 | Filmed: 06/23 – 07/02/98)
A dark vision sends Herc from Eire to Sumeria, where Nebulais in danger. Behind the trouble: Dahak—in an insidious disguise.
Written by Lisa Klink | Directed by Chris Long | Production No. V0709
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for its wicked cool darkness and opportunity to pit Hercules against (the possessed) Iolaus, here.
16. Season 4, Episode 13: “Armageddon Now (I)” (Aired: 02/09/98 | Filmed: 12/01 – 12/09/97)
Evil Hope, who survives her own cremation, frees Callisto and sends her back in time to keep Hercules from being born.
Written by Paul Robert Coyle | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V0319
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen primarily for the startling moment in which Callisto kills Strife, here.
17. Season 3, Episode 19: “The End Of The Beginning” (Aired: 04/21/97 | Filmed: 01/27 – 02/05/97)
Autolycus steals a powerful stone which causes Hercules to travel back in time where he meets up with his beloved Serena and the ruthless Ares.
Written by Paul Robert Coyle | Directed by James Whitmore, Jr. | Production No. V0124
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for the inclusion of Autolycus and the opportunity to give closure to the Serena storyline, here.
18. Season 3, Episode 14: “When A Man Loves A Woman” (Aired: 02/10/97 | Filmed: 11/07 – 11/15/96)
When Hercules proposes to Serena, he must deal with Iolaus’s disapproval, Deianeira’s hurt feelings and Ares’ plot to destroy the relationship.
Written by Gene O’Neill & Noreen Tobin | Directed by Charlie Haskell | Production No. V0116
Check out my thoughts on this episode, chosen for being the best of the Golden Hind trilogy, here.
Come back next Thursday for numbers 4-10! And stay tuned tomorrow for another Blondell Pre-Code Film Friday!
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add the episode to redemption
Hi, akoynas! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I’m not terribly fond of the series’ final Dahak two-parter; I find both episodes overblown and story-driven, featuring fewer great character moments than the installments from the beginning of this otherwise memorable arc.