Series / Young Hercules

In an age of light and darkness, Zeus, king of the gods, rules the universe. He had a son: young Hercules! Half-god, half-man, young Hercules longs to find his place in the world, the father he's never known, and what it means to be a hero. Before the man became legend, before the legend became myth came the greatest story of all! Young Hercules!

A spin-off/prequel series of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys about Hercules, Iolaus, and Jason's teenage adventures that ran back for one season in 1998-1999 on Fox Kids, airing 50 episodes. It starred Ryan Gosling as the titular Hercules, with Dean O'Gorman as Iolaus and Chris Conrad as Jason. Executive Producer Rob Tapert co-created the show with Andrew Dettmann and Daniel Truly. Another one of the executive producers was Sam Raimi.

The entire series is available on Hulu. In 2015, Shout! Factory released the series on DVD.

This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Contrary to his claims, Bacchus is never seen seeking his revenge against Hercules and no such event was ever referenced in the parent series.
  • Academy of Adventure: Cheiron's Academy
  • Adorkable: Hephaestus. Hercules, Jason and Iolaus all have their own moments
  • All Men Are Perverts: In "Winner Take All," Hercules makes an effort to befriend his new half-brothers and have the cadets get along with them. Iolaus is willing to give it a try on the condition that he'll eventually meet one of Herc's sisters.
  • An Aesop: Considering the series aired on FOX Kids, this was a given.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Zeus forbid the gods from killing each other. Extending the rule to include Hercules is the only thing keeping Ares and the like from killing him.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: In "The Skeptic," a new student refuses to believe the gods exist.
  • Ascended Extra: Strife, who only appeared in six episodes of the parent series, appeared far more often.
    • Jason also counts as well. When the pilot movie was produced, Jason had only appeared in about four episodes up to that point. Here he's a main character.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Hercules and friends have found an Ares lookalike, and need to convince Strife and Discord he's the real thing.
    Jason: Don't hit Hercules or I will hurt don't throw me backwards Ares!
    Ares: (to Discord) You are insolent, and disobedient...and naughty!
And later
Jason: Oh no it's Ares! (cringing badly)
  • Bad Boss: Ares often punishes Strife and Discord for their failures or just because he's in a bad mood.
  • Badass Normal: Iolaus, Jason and Lilith.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • In the "Battle Lines" two-parter, Discord and Strife manipulate a war between Cheiron's Centaurs and Cyane's Amazon tribe by kidnapping members of both sides and making it look like they were killed. They also impersonate Cheiron and Cyane's top advisers to properly goad them into a fight.
    • Hercules quickly figures out in "Ares On Trial" that the war god was framed for attempting to kill him. Knowing that Discord wants the job herself, he figures she got Strife to impersonate Ares for the fight. Hercules goads Strife into admitting the truth by insisting "Ares"'s fighting abilities were off, even claiming he made him cry.
    • The fire in "Forgery" not only changes Hercules's personality, but being a half-mortal means he'll be burned from the inside out. The only way to return him to the normal is to get him into some water. During a fight, Jason tosses Iolaus into a nearby lake—saying Iolaus can't swim and needs Hercules to save him. It works, though Jason learns that Iolaus really can't swim.
  • Be Yourself: The point of "Forgery." The fire in Hephaestus's forge can change a person's personality if so desired. Hephaestus says he once used it to be the warrior son that Hera wanted, but he found it impossible to get any work done. With his friends saying he's no fun, Hercules asks to be more like a typical son of Zeus—becoming an uninhibited party animal.
  • Berserk Button: In "Mommy Dearests," Lucius presses Herc's buttons hard by going after Alcmene and then Jason.
    "Nobody, NOBODY, hurts my mother and my friends!"
  • Big Bad: Ares.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Strife in "Golden Bow." He wants to be the next major god and to carve out a following for himself, but what mortals he finds don't take him seriously at all.
  • Big Brother Bully: Ares mainly, but Apollo also causes trouble in one episode.
  • Body Horror: "The Head That Wears the Crown" reveals that Hercules's birth was difficult; he and Alcmene only survived because of a midwife named Galinthia. As revenge, Hera cursed Galinthia into becoming a monstrous giant covered in scales.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: "Cram-ped" is about the cadets struggling to help an unprepared Iolaus study for the big final exam. Nothing is sinking in, soon causing everyone but Hercules and Lilith to just give up. However, Iolaus does demonstrate a good deal of knowledge about the Cerulean region. When Jason returns from Corinth, he explains that Iolaus's father is currently fighting a war there, which is how he knows so much about the place. In the end, Fiducius notes that Iolaus could be a great student if he similarly applied himself on the other subjects.
  • Brother-Sister Incest:
    • Averted with Ares and Discord. They are siblings in a sexual relationship on the original series, but that is ignored here for obvious reasons.
    • Discussed in "Mila" between Hercules and the titular Amazon. Mila believes her father is one of the gods. Hercules is attracted to her and initially likes the idea of her being a fellow half-god, but when she suggests even Zeus could be her father:
      "Hey, that would make you [realizing] um... [lets go of her hand] my sister."
  • Bus Crash: In-between Pollux's appearances, Castor was murdered by Lucius.
  • Butt Monkey: Strife.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Herc's half-brothers Castor and Pollux subvert this. Pollux is openly antagonistic and Castor is completely good-natured, but they get along fine. It's everyone else that Pollux has a problem with.
    • Lucius is the Cain to Hercules's Abel, as well as every other half-mortal son of Zeus. He murdered Castor.
  • California Doubling: Filmed in New Zealand, set in ancient Greece.
  • Call Forward:
    • The pilot movie ends with Hercules and Iolaus discussing the possibility of fighting a three-headed monster. They do years later in Hercules And The Amazon Women (the first TV-Movie), where they fight a hydra (which ultimately grows three heads).
    • It was established on the original series that Hercules and Nemesis dated during his younger days. "Herc's Nemesis" shows how they met and their initial attraction. The episode also shows Hercules being made aware of what Hind's blood is.
    • Jason taking an interest in farming in "Cold Feet." In the original series, when he retires from being king, he becomes a farmer.
    • In "Hind Sight," Hellene expresses certainty that Hercules will one day get his rightful due "both here on Earth and up there."
    • In "Iolaus Goes Stag," Iolaus announces his intention to become a hunter. Hercules is a bit disappointed, as he was getting used to the idea of them being a team going on various adventures. The story ends with talk of Iolaus having a much bigger destiny ahead of him than being a hunter. The episode also helps explain how Iolaus learned the various "old hunter tricks" that he talked about on the original series.
    • "Mila" is about Ares tricking the titular Amazon into trying to kill Hercules. He's disappointed when the plan fails.
      "Oh, Mila, we could've been so useful for each other. A mortal protégé. Guess I'm gonna have to find another!"
  • Classical Mythology: Superficially.
  • Clear Their Name: "Ares On Trial." Ares is accused of breaking Zeus' rule about no god trying to kill Hercules. Who does he get to defend him? Hercules.
  • Clip Show: Two.
    • "Life for a Life": Ares kidnaps Cheiron and promises to kill him if Hercules can't find their location in time. Cheiron manages to provide a series of clues referencing prior adventures.
    • "Ill Wind": Cyane has been poisoned and her tribe is at risk of being taken over by their rivals. Through a mental power, she uses Hercules's own memories to send him messages about who among her tribe tried to kill her.
  • Cruel Mercy: The punishment for breaking Zeus's protection rule involves being condemned to a pit of Tartarus and tortured for eternity. Ares faces this in "Ares On Trial" for allegedly trying to kill Hercules, but when Strife and Discord's Frame-Up is revealed, Athena intends to condemn them to this fate. Ares intervenes—asking that they be turned over to him. Everyone is fully aware that he'll be able to think of an even worse punishment than this, to the point of Strife and Discord begging to be sent to Tartarus instead.
  • Deal with the Devil: "Fame" reveals Orpheus made one with Bacchus. In exchange for Eurydice being freed and for getting the fame he's always sought, Orpheus plays concerts where Bacchae can turn unsuspecting humans.
  • Disappeared Dad: Zeus is obviously this to Hercules, but Hephaestus says he doesn't see much of him, either. Castor says he and Pollux have never even met him.
  • Doomed by Canon: "Hind Sight" is about Hercules an Kora trying to save one of the creatures from hunters on the grounds that there are so few of them left. They succeed, but according to the original series, all but one of the Golden Hinds will eventually be wiped out by Zeus and the only survivor then turned into a human.
  • The Dragon: As on the original series, Strife is officially Ares's second-in-command. That doesn't stop Discord from constantly bossing him around and doing the heavy-lifting for various plots.
  • Enemy Without: Ares's plan in "In Your Dreams" forces Hercules to face a manifestation of his own dark side in the dream realm.
    Hercules: You're every evil thing that I'm capable of.
    Dark!Herc: You have no idea.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Discussed in "A Lady in Hades" when the man himself admits his image could use a boost.
  • Evil Counterpart: Lucius to Hercules. Appropriately, Iambe (Lucius's mother) is one to Alcmene.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Hades considers Bacchus "the biggest worm in the family"—worse than even Ares.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Hercules' quest to meet his father face-to-face, especially as HTLJ showed their first official meeting. Subverted, though, in the last episode in which a character Hercules encountered turned out to be Zeus in disguise. So, Hercules did meet his father; he just didn't know it at the time.
    • To say nothing of the gods' plots to kill Hercules.
  • Fantastic Racism: As on Xena: Warrior Princess, Amazons and Centaurs openly dislike and think the worst of each other. Cheiron subverts it in "Amazon Grace" (where he welcomes Cyane's Amazon's to the Academy), but it flares up in the later "Battle Lines" two-parter.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Hercules, Iolaus, and (to a lesser extent) Jason.
    • Towards the end of the season, Hercules and Theseus.
  • Foreshadowing: "Amazon Grace" opens with the three cadets heading home through the woods. A marker informs them they'd be trespassing if they take a shortcut. Iolaus is content to ignore it, but Jason says he doesn't ignore the law whenever it's convenient. This comes up in the main plot when King Leeseus claims the Amazons as his slaves. Iolaus is deeply opposed to slavery on moral grounds, while Jason (though opposed to it himself) says that Leeseus is within his legal rights.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • In "No Way Out," Lilith says she came from a village that was under constant bandit attacks. She wanted to be a warrior like her brother, Marcus, who died in one of the attacks.
    • Iambe spent years telling Lucius how they were destined to be on Olympus with Zeus, but only if he killed all his mortal half-brothers.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Hercules himself provides a hero variation. According to the backstory, while Hera despised Hercules, other gods spent years thinking he was beneath their notice. Ares admits in the pilot movie that he hadn't given Hercules a second thought in years, only to then see him foil his takeover of Corinth and defeat him in combat.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Hephaestus.
    "Ideas come to me. I look at something, and I see what it could be."
  • Give a Man a Fish...: In "Cold Feet," the farming community that Jason finds is held hostage by a gang of thugs constantly demanding payments. Jason teaches the locals how to fight using moves he learned at the Academy.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Hercules is half-god, half-mortal. Ditto for Castor, Pollux, and Lucius.
    • Also Cheiron who is a centaur.
    • Subverted with Mila. Ares has her thinking she's his daughter as part of a plot against Hercules, but he reveals that's a lie and that she's fully human.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In his first appearance, Pollux was an antagonistic bully with a Hair-Trigger Temper. When he makes a return appearance, he has gained inner peace and become much kinder.
  • Hidden Depths: "The Prize" sees both Ares and Iolaus demonstrate a good deal of singing talent.
  • Humiliation Conga: In "Con Ares," the cadets need to keep Strife and Discord busy so Jason can hold peace talks between Sparta and Thebes. They get an Identical Stranger to pretend to be Ares, who proceeds to order the two gods to do menial labor at his farm.
  • I Owe You My Life: Years ago, Artemis saved Kora's life. This came with a price, as Kora had to serve her however the goddess saw fit. Deconstructed in "Golden Bow" where she says her obligation to Artemis means never having a normal life.
    "I can't make friends, Hercules. I don't dare. If it turned into anything more... I can never let myself fall in love."
  • Identical Stranger: Timor in "Con Ares" for, well, Ares. The cadets have him pretend to be Ares in order to keep Strife and Discord distracted, while Jason tries to prevent a war.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Lucius believes he'll stand out to Zeus if he kills various half-brothers like Hercules and Pollux.
  • Irony: In "Ares On Trial," Hercules is stunned Ares would name him as his defense council after being accused of trying to kill him. Ares says the irony of the situation appealed to him.
  • It's Personal:
    • Ares's vendetta against Hercules. Discord says in "Ares On Trial" that he'll constantly talk about finding ways to kill him.
      Discord: It's his favorite topic.
    • Bacchus grows to despise Hercules after suffering two major defeats.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Kora starts serving a new foreign drink that she describes as heated beans strained through water (in other words, coffee) with milk added. Hercules is rather put off by that unflattering description and is further unsettled when he notices that Kora is incredibly jittery from drinking so much of it.
  • Jerkass Gods: Almost every god that Hercules regularly interacts with fit this trope. Hephaestus is the only subversion. He has his bad moments, but he is genuinely one of Hercules' friends.
  • Just Think of the Potential: Stated by Hephaestus himself to be the reason he’s such an incredible inventor. He has the ability to see what anything can become, their potential
  • King of the Gods: Zeus.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • In the opening three-parter, Ares manipulates Hercules into stealing a prized chalice from Hera. Ares knew that Hera was promised whoever stole the chalice would be put in their proper place—meaning Zeus's protection would be invalidated and that he'd have the leeway to finally kill Hercules.
    • Cyane's Amazons were made slaves and sold to Leeseus, king of Athens. He intends to collect on this in "Amazon Grace" and the heroes struggle to find a way out. After looking over the laws, Hercules proposes combat by champions, where each side names a fighter and the first one to hit the ground loses. The episode proceeds to exploit a couple loopholes, as Leeseus can name whoever he wishes, so he picks Hercules and says the law allows him to claim the half-god as a slave should he lose. Ultimately, Hercules beats Cyane in the fight, but the law also says that the winner is entitled to a reward of his choosing and can't be denied. Hercules immediately asks for slavery to be abolished in Athens.
    • Ares's scheme in "No Way Out" relies on this. He wants to poison Hercules, but he can't give him the poison himself, so he tries to trick Lilith into doing it.
  • Momma's Boy: The only one Lucius is intimidated by is his mother, Iambe. He is desperate to keep her happy and make her proud.
  • Mr. Fanservice: And how. Just look at the three main characters.
  • My Greatest Failure: In "Teacher's Pests," Hercules and Jason discover that Fiducius's much praised son actually washed out of the Academy and ran away.
    Fiducius: He was a good boy once, good student. Made me proud. Then he started getting into scrapes—small ones at first. I went easy on him, covered for him, let him get away with things. He got wilder and wilder, uncontrollable. I didn't know what to do with him. One day, he just ran away. You wonder why I'm so hard on you boys? It's because I don't want the same thing to happen to you. I don't want to let you down the way I did him.
  • Mythology Gag: In the Pilot Movie, Hercules wears the same outfit that his adult counterpart wore years later in the Hercules And The Amazon Women TV-Movie.
  • Nice Guy: Hephaestus. He’s the only god that has no desire whatsoever to harm Hercules or his friends. Hercules is this as well.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Regularly, the heroes would have to get themselves out of a situation that they got themselves into in the first place. To be fair, they are younger and less experienced.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • How Artemis saved Kora's life.
    • Cheiron once received a commendation from Agamemnon.
  • Not Quite Dead: In "Ares On Trial," Iolaus and Jason think that Hercules is actually dead, but viewers know he's simply on Olympus for the trial.
  • Not So Different:
    • Lucius claims this to Hercules during their fight in "Mommy Dearests," as Jason's life is in danger.
      "You can save him, but you so wanna finish me. You're just like me."
    • In "Hind Sight," Hellene observes that she (a Golden Hind) and Hercules (a half-mortal) are both like a moon somewhere between new and full: "part there, part here."
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Cheiron is normally the sensible, level-headed teacher, but in the "Battle Lines" two-parter, he's made to think his brother and nephew were killed by Amazons, so he's blinded by rage.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: In "What a Crockery," Ares could've simply allowed Hera to kill Hercules, but he wanted the pleasure of doing so himself.
  • Opening Narration: See the page quote.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Iphicles is mentioned in the Pilot Movie as having run away from home out of frustration over being in Herc's shadow.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Like on Xena, the Bacchae have fangs, can transform into wolves, and have voracious appetites. Unlike on Xena, men are among the Bacchae instead of just women. note 
  • Out of Order: "Down and Out in Academy Hills" depicts the first time Hercules met Hephaestus, but it originally premiered after he already made a few appearances.
  • Parental Favoritism: A recurring theme discussed throughout the series. Hercules, Lucius, and even Ares vie for this.
    Lucius: [to Hercules] You wanna be Zeus's favorite so badly you can taste it.
  • Parental Neglect: "Parents' Day" shows that Iolaus has this complaint against both of his parents.
  • Parental Substitute: Iolaus says as much of his uncle in "Iolaus Goes Stag":
    "Uncle Flatus was always there for me, Herc. When no one else had any time, he always did. He made time. He never married, never had any kids. I guess now he's getting older, I think he needs me. I think I need him, too."
  • Pet the Dog:
    • "Valley of the Shadow" ends with the reveal that Zeus orchestrated the whole adventure so Hercules could get over his Heroic B.S.O.D..
    • If Iolaus fails the exam in "Cram-ped," he'll be kicked out of the Academy and sent to jail. His only chance of passing is the geography essay, but the topic won't be revealed until the time of testing. Overhearing Iolaus's struggles, Fiducius convinces Cheiron to make the topic about the one region that Iolaus actually applied himself on.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • Ares truly despises Hercules and spends a good deal of time every day thinking of plans to kill him, but he's not going to incur Zeus's wrath by outright breaking the protection rule.
    • Strife spends "The Skeptic" obsessing over a new cadet who refuses to believe the Olympians exist. Ares can't be bothered to care, until he learns the cadet knows Hercules. Ares then decides to tell Strife how he can deal with the non-believer and "accidentally" kill Hercules in the process.
  • Put on a Bus: Jason after being crowned king of Corinth. He makes a couple scattered appearances afterwards and is otherwise replaced by Theseus.
  • Pygmalion Plot: "My Fair Lilith," in which the guys try to pass Lilith off as a princess to help get Jason out of an arranged marriage.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The otherwise timid Timor from "Con Ares" condemns the war god to his face.
    "You're the joke, Ares. Call yourself a god? Well, you're not the kind of god I'd ever want to worship. You make people suffer. You demand respect, but do nothing to earn it. You're nothing but a bully."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Cheiron
  • Red Shirt: Marco from "The Beasts Beneath." Deconstructed in that the major characters take the loss very hard, with Hercules's regret being a plot-point in "Valley of the Shadow."
  • Refusal of the Call / Resigned to the Call: In "Cold Feet," the pressure of being king someday gets to Jason, and he runs away. He ends up in a farming community and finds it so much more satisfying, but when trouble ensues, he has to step up as a leader.
  • The Resenter:
    • Ares deeply resents Hercules for being Zeus's favorite and constantly besting him.
      "Supplanted by a half-mortal. I could have destroyed you long ago, if not for Zeus's special protection!"
    • Hercules is this to Orpheus. He loves Eurydice and can't stand seeing her with a guy more concerned with fame than anything else.
    • Hades isn't terribly fond of Zeus or Poseidon—saying they're Top God and Lord of the Seas, respectively, while he's in the Underworld and surrounded by dead people.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Subverted with Ruff the Basilisk. He is generally kindhearted (particularly towards Iolaus) and only causes trouble when he's scared.
  • Retcon: In his first appearance on HTLJ, Hephaestus said his father wasn't Zeus and even lamented that. On this series, that was changed in order to make him and Hercules half-brothers.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: If you know what franchise this series is a part of, you already know the answer.
  • Shadow Archetype: Lucius to Hercules. Both are half-mortal sons of Zeus with super-strength and so eager to meet their father, but Lucius will do the things that Hercules won't do.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Theseus's backstory. He served in the army, but one battle was so devastating that he deserted. He came to the Academy to start over, but in his first appearance, he freezes up during a crisis.
  • Ship Tease: Hercules and Cyane
  • Shirtless Scene: Hercules got one shirtless scene. And he wasn't the only one. Iolaus (played by the lovely and talented Dean O'Gorman) had at least three, and Jason (played by the equally-if-not-moreso lovely and talented Chris Conrad)...well, it's easier to find episodes where he isn't shirtless, really.
  • Shrouded in Myth: According to "A Serpent's Tooth," Basilisks are thought to be legendary creatures because no one has ever seen or heard of one until Ruff turned up. The end of the episode suggests there are many Basilisks out there and that they just stay away from humans.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Not only between Hercules and Ares but many of Hercules' half siblings as well. Everyone just wants to impress Dad.
    • With the notable exemption of Hephaestus
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Ares and Hephaestus
  • The Smurfette Principle: In the pilot movie, Yvenna. In the series proper, Lilith. Over time, the show featured a few female extras at the Academy, though only Lilith had any prominence.
  • Spinoff Babies: Well, teenagers.
  • Stern Teacher: Fiducius
  • Take a Third Option: In "In Your Dreams," Hercules faces a manifestation of his own dark side in the dream realm. It can kill him, but him killing it would mean his own death, too, since it is a part of him. To win, Hercules must face his fear of his dark side and embrace it.
  • Terrible Trio: Ares, Strife, and Discord.
  • Thieves' Guild: Iolaus was part of a bandit group.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Guess who...
  • Visionary Villain: Bacchus initially antagonized Hercules not to kill him, but to bring him into his cult. He saw having a super-strong half-god as key to his forces beginning a take over of the mortal world.
  • War God: Ares.
  • Warrior Prince: Jason.
  • We Will Meet Again: As on the other shows, Ares constantly vows this.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Hercules' main goal in this series is to meet his father and be acknowledged. It's kind of subverted, though, as viewers are well-aware that Zeus knows who Hercules is and even considers him his favorite child.
    • Hephaestus initially was this for Hera, but he grew out of it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Though the movie provided an explanation why he wasn't around, some found it odd that Iphicles never made an appearance on the show or was even mentioned.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?:
    • In "Herc's Nemesis," Hera orders Nemesis and then Stregna to kill Hercules if he keeps interfering with her orders. They're both goddesses and would be violating the protection rule if they killed Hercules, but Hera didn't bother telling them that because she doesn't care about either of them.
    • Averted in "Valley of the Shadow." Hera is outraged over the loss of the Protector since he was so valuable to her.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: In The Teaser to "In Your Dreams," Lilith, Iolaus, and Jason say this of spiders, drowning, and fire, respectively. The main plot focuses on how Hercules fears people getting hurt because of himself and his own dark side.
  • Written-In Absence:
    • Jason misses the first three parts of the Bacchae storyline. Hercules says he's away studying up ahead of his coronation.
    • Iolaus misses the adventure in "A Lady in Hades"—said by Jason to be in the dunking booth for the Academy's festival.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Discussed between Bacchus and Orpheus. It's Orpheus's job to lure unsuspecting people to Bacchus's caverns. Bacchus reminds him that that is the only reason he hasn't been turned into a Bacchae.