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YMMV / Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

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  • Awesome Music: Even people who don't care for the show seem to agree that the title theme by Joseph LoDuca is this.
  • Badass Decay: Ares gets hit with this the hardest of all in the show, especially for someone known as the god of war. None of his very early appearances were played for laughs and whenever he was involved, his stories usually involved serious matters like recruiting child soldiers or human sacrifice. When he made his physical debut in the show in the Golden Hind trilogy, he was an outright Knight of Cerebus whose very presence took the show to a darker and more tragic level when he took away Hercules' strength, had Herc's new wife Serena killed, framed Hercules for her murder, and nearly took away everything from the demi-god. When they fought for the first time, Hercules struggled against him and only won a very narrow victory because he had a Hind's blood soaked dagger on him which he managed to use to his advantage and force Ares to surrender and submit to his demands. From the fourth season onwards, Ares pretty much gets turned into a punching bag for Hercules and almost every fight they have ends with Ares getting beat down. By the end of the series, Ares' dignity is completely gone and when Hercules and Iolaus make fun of him, the god of war's self-esteem is pretty much crushed and he walks off crying. In Xena, Ares appears to subvert his decay when he convinces Zeus to lift his ban on killing Hercules but nothing ever comes of it because he gets knocked out by Hera before he can even fight Hercules. And if the Hercules-in-modern-times episodes are anything to go by, Ares feuded with Hercules for centuries leading up to the late 90s and still had absolutely nothing to show for it.
  • Bizarro Episode
    • The 4th season episode "... And Fancy Free", in which Hercules enters a dance competition with a girl called Althea. Nothing rests on this competition other than his partner's self esteem, and a nice trophy. The town magistrate finds this competition important enough that he spends most of the episode sending assassins after Hercules and his partner to stop them from winning. No other motivation is given, he just wants his daughter to win. It guest stars Michael Hurst in drag as the dance instructor.
    • "Stranger in a Strange World", which is referred to as a "Bizarro World episode" by the writer in the interviews feature on the DVD. This episode features an alternate universe with Hercules an evil tyrant marrying Aphrodite, the Xena cast in different roles, and a battle using a wedding cake. And Iolaus as a jester.
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    • There is a later episode featuring the same characters in struggle over fashion, which is about as goofy as "...And Fancy Free". Also, the same actor who played the magistrate in "...And Fancy Free" returns to play a completely different character as the lover of the girl who was Althea's rival, which could double as Squick for some people since he played her father in the previous episode.
    • The episode set in the present day which is all about Kevin Sorbo having gone missing, the show's staff trying to find him while keeping the show from being cancelled and features the memorable and hysterical restroom whistling scene.
      • There was another one in the same setting where the staff go on a teamwork-building retreat hosted by Sunny Day (played by Renee O'Connor; normal role Gabrielle). It leads to a Scooby Doo ending where Sunny is revealed to be B.S. Hollinsfoffer (played by Robert Trebor, normal role Salmoneus), who is 1. a lot taller than Sunny, 2. at least a hundred pounds heavier, and 3. male, and concludes with Ares revealing himself to the cast. On top of that, most of them aren't even all that surprised to learn that Greek god of war is real; one of them even claims "I find the thought rather comforting myself."
  • Complete Monster:
    • Darphus, from season 1's "The Gauntlet" and "Unchained Heart" (as well as an Alternate Continuity in Part 2 of season 4's "Armageddon Now), is the former second in command of Xena before her Heel–Face Turn. Darphus earns Xena's disfavor by sacking innocent villages and slaughtering women and children for fun. When Xena objects, Darphus stages a coup on her after trying to force her to murder a baby. When Xena survives the gauntlet to leave the army, Darphus tries to have her killed anyways. After being killed by Xena, Darphus is revived by Ares and carries on a brutal campaign of slaughter where he also has care of Ares' monstrous pet. Darphus feeds innocent victims to said monster and shows no hesitation in killing his own men as well just for displeasing him.
    • Mayhem, from season 4's "Prodigal Sister", is the leader of a renegade band of Amazons that routinely terrorizes the countryside in Greece and massacres entire villages, except for the little girls she turns into her weapons. Most Amazons who did raids would go for minimal loss of life, and are appalled by Mayhem's actions. She personally blinds Ruun, (just after killing his parents and kidnapping his sister who she turns into a mindless killing machine) who's only five years old. Fast forward years later, when most of the renegade Amazons have rejoined the Amazonian Nation, Mayhem still leads raids which Rape, Pillage, and Burn entire villages for fun. When confronted by Hercules, she laughs off that her actions will lead to an Amazon Civil War which will be crushed by the outside world. And finally, when confronted on what she did to Ruun and his sister Siri after she is beaten by Hercules she flat out says "So what, I turned her into the greatest Amazonian Warrior!"
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Iolaus for reasons stated in Ascended Extra on the main page. Autolycus and Salmoneus also became fan-favorites.
    • Xena, who got popular enough to her own spinoff series that actually surpassed this one in popularity.
  • Follow the Leader: The portrayal of Loki in the Norse two-parter has him as a son of Odin, much like the Marvel Comics portrayal.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The disclaimer included in "A Star to Guide Them" (see below) becomes a lot less funny knowing that Kevin Sorbo has since become a Holier Than Thou religious zealot on par with Pat Robertson.
  • Growing the Beard: The fifth season brought a more serialized (and at points, darker) approach to storytelling than previously, as well as giving the main cast members wider acting opportunities. The season also benefited from Kevin Sorbo having fully recovered from a series of strokes that prompted lessened roles the previous season. Both Sorbo and Hurst have spoken highly of Season 5, citing the energy that Kurtzman and Orci brought in as showrunners.
  • Harsher in Hindsight
    • In the Amazon Women TV-Movie, while talking about Iolaus' impending wedding, Hercules off-handedly brags that he might get a wife or two himself one day. His two marriages ended very badly, and he did not take any of that well.
    • "A Star to Guide Them" (which includes the presumably-humorous disclaimer, "No unnamed Baby of key biblical and mythological importance was harmed during the production of this motion picture") might also count given Sorbo's later turn to fundamentalist Christianity.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In "Les Contemptibles," Michael Hurst's French character suggests calling their La Résistance group "the Powerful Rangers." When Power Rangers production was moved down to New Zealand, a number of local Hercules/Xena actors obtained various roles, including Michael "Vexacus" Hurst himself.
    • In "Porkules," Autolycus argues with a talkative, intelligent parrot. Became kind of a staple of another series starring Campbell.
    • In "Two Men And A Baby," Discord places Iolaus and Nemesis in a trap to fall their deaths. It starts out as a Sadistic Choice for Hercules, but he manages to pull off a third option to save both his heroic sidekick and Love Interest. Sounds like another production that Sam Raimi would be involved with.
    • In the fifth season, Hercules battled against Gilgamesh who was associated with Dahak, a dark god based off the Persian deity Azi Dahaka. Well over ten years later, the anime Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] featured another fight between different incarnations of Hercules and Gilgamesh, who this time was associated with the dark god Angra Mainyu, a Persian destroyer god who was known as the creator of Azi Dahaka. Also doubles as Harsher in Hindsight because in both battles, both incarnations of Gilgamesh end up killing the people closest to Hercules with Gilgamesh murdering Iolaus in the live action TV show and Gilgamesh slaughtering Illya, the little girl who happened to be Hercules' master in the anime.
  • Ho Yay: Herc and Iolaus aren't quite as explicit as Xena and Gabrielle (not that this is saying much), but have you read some of the Fan Fiction or the original myth?
    • Hercules and Iolaus are pretty damn prominent in the Ho Yay department without the fanfic. For example, every time Iolaus dies, Hercules is at first grief-stricken (insert Big "NO!") and then he immediately goes to whatever Underworld is nearest to get him back. Iolaus' death in season 5 puts him in the biggest Heroic BSoD ever, with him not eating, sleeping or shaving for 3 days, and then him getting angry at the fact that Nebula and Iolaus were together and that her grief isn't as great as his, and then, after failing to get him back from the Underworld, he gives up helping people entirely and takes Nebula's ship for a suicide run into a storm screaming "I don't care anymore!" The fact that Iolaus' death is more damaging and painful for Herc than the deaths of both Serena and his own family, moving him to nigh suicidal depression and making him say that he never wants to go back to Greece again is pretty damn suspicious.
      • And then, when Dahak traps Iolaus inside his own dead body and won't let him move on, he comes to try to seduce him into opening his heart to him. First he tries the form of Iolaus' father to try to make Iolaus think he is in the Elesian fields. And then he tries a number of forms to appeal to him. First he tries Nebula with "is this what you want, lover?" And then tries Hercules, which he stays in. The entire sequence is so full of subtext that even writers of Xena would be applauding. YMMV whether you consider Hercules going inside Iolaus when he's trying to exorcise Dahak means anything.
      • Afterwards, when Herc takes Iolaus' double to Iolaus' grave (yeah, bringing Iolaus' double back from another universe in order to partner up with him doesn't look suspicious...), Iolaus' double says "I'll leave you to spend some time alone with him" and Herc says "I've had hundreds of those." However you interpret that, it at the very least means he has come back to Iolaus' grave a ridiculous number of times.
    • Even in the earlier, campy series, there are constant references to how close they are. They are always "partners", each "part of each other", and even at one point when Iolaus goes off for a quick one-night stand with a sex friend of his, Aphrodite quips "what, you and Herc don't do that for each other?" with both of them just smiling knowingly. Even Iolaus' long list of short one-night-stands with women but never any real relationships looks suspicious (and Hercules has no casual sex whatsoever, and no real relationships until after Iolaus is dead and he's grieved).
      • Then there's this in season 4:
        Nebula: Quite a firm handshake between you two.
        Iolaus: Yeah, so?
        Nebula: So I think it's great.
        Iolaus: Well I'm glad you approve.
        Nebula: Yeah. So, how long you two've been together?
        Iolaus: We've been partners since we were kids.
        Nebula: Oh, "partners."
  • Memetic Mutation: A clip of the Sovereign Narm-tastically shouting "DISAPPOINTED!!" has achieved some popularity, particularly among ProtonJon's fanbase.
  • Moral Dissonance:
    • Herc will not kill anyone, however he will also condemn anyone who chooses to kill (except in battle). E.g. in one episode, the sole sheriff of a town is about to die (he has one day left). His town is over-run with gangs of cold-blooded killers and thugs (guys who kill and torture defenseless men, women and children indiscriminately and loudly boast about past crimes and plan new murders in public) who he takes to court, but everyone is too scared to testify or to convict them (when they should have been hung long ago). This man is the only one who who stands up to these thugs, and he has a new-born son with no relatives that he knows he won't be there to protect him. So he goes out and kills these men so they can't kill anyone else. Despite the fact that if justice would have had its way, these men would have been dead by hanging long ago - and this sheriff was the one who took all these men to court in order to be punished by hanging - Hercules calls his act "evil" and Celestia - the messenger of Death - agrees with him. This isn't "these people did not have a fair trial to decide their innocence", these men were clearly guilty and would have been convicted for any one of their numerous crimes, and the sheriff is now 'doing evil acts that must be stopped' (as Hercules says).
      • In fairness, Hercules moralizes loudly while the sheriff is going after actual murderers and rapists, but doesn't actually try to _stop_ the guy until it's turned into a full-on rampage and he's about to start executing teenagers for being insubordinate and engaging in petty crime.
    • Herc goes to ridiculous lengths to Save the Villain, in many episodes. However, for people like Xena and Dirce, he lets them go, despite their manifold crimes, as long as they promise to stop, while for many people who have done much lesser crimes, he forces them to "face justice" even though they have accepted the error of their ways and want to atone. Basically it works like this: killed manifold people in cold blood, conquered entire countries, oppressed people's way of life and sold people into slavery = freedom; performed many robberies, became part of a gang with a bad reputation, killed a couple of people in cold blood = death by hanging (according to justice). And the times that Hercules thinks that the court is unfair, he will free people or stop the court from performing punishments (despite the fact that the point of justice by court is that a magistrate or group of people decide according to their interpretation of the law and the crime). So it boils down to: Hercules decides someone's fate (including delivering them to a court knowing they will be killed), and then allows the court to kill the people that deserve it rather than by his own hand, because he doesn't believe in killing.
      • Possibly Deliberate Values Dissonance — in the bronze age, killing your neighbor or stealing his cow was a terrible crime, but getting twenty of your buddies together and conquering the next town to kill them and take their cows was politics as usual.
      • Actually lampshaded in an episode where he lands in 'enlightened' (read: anachronistically liberal and modern) Athens and is immediately put on trial for, essentially, being a vigilante rather than following the law. He's called out very specifically on giving Xena and another former assassin/mercenary a free pass while killing others that did far less.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The murder of Hercules' family was this for Hera. Before, their antagonistic relationship was more like business as usual. Afterwards, it became personal.
    • As far as Hercules is concerned, Zeus arguably has two of these - 1) for not stopping what happened to Herc's family (he was having an affair at the time), and later 2) for not stopping Serena from being killed. Both cases involved members of Zeus' pantheon waging a war on Hercules and Zeus not keeping them in line despite opposing what they do.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Hercules' daughter Ilia grew up to be Ranger Operator Series Yellow and Liv Moore.
  • Seasonal Rot: Season six is considered to be the weakest season, due to a combo of season five being regarded as the high point for the series and Kevin Sorbo wanting to retire the character. Reportedly, Kevin Sorbo wasn't too happy with how the final season went down and also felt that the Series Finale was rushed.
  • Special Effects Failure: Some of the earlier CGI and blue screen effects have not aged well. (To be fair, the budget wasn't exactly high.) Hilariously, this was referenced in "For Those of You Just Joining Us":
    Ares: What about those cheesy blue screen effects? They look so fake.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Hercules often chastises people for their sacrifices and blind worship, telling them that the Olympians don't care about their suffering and won't help them regardless of what they do. He's usually right in that regard, but sometimes he's faced with everyday, good people that aren't lucky enough to be half-god. From Circle of Fire:
    "It's easy for you to go around disrespecting the gods! There'll always be a place at the table for you up on Mount Olympus, but we're at the gods' mercy! Our faith, our sacrifices is all that stand between us and death!"
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A late episode has Zeus raise Hercules to full godhood after the death of his mother. When Hercules finally confronts him over some odd behavior Zeus admits that he did this because he wanted Hercules to protect him from the other gods. After Hera is banished to Tartarus this plot point is never brought up again and we never see much to suggest that the other gods are considering getting rid of him.
    • On the other hand, it might not have been a problem afterwords. It would take all the gods including Hera to confidently overthrow Zeus. She was one of the most powerful so without her they did not have the raw power. Her getting thrown into Tartarus would have scared the others into falling back in line. Finally, the gods quarrel with each other as Zeus. Without a strong leader to unite them they could not get their act together to do anything to Hera.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Hera. While she is responsible for a great deal of tragedy in the series, the sheer horribleness of Zeus's infidelities are very much overlooked and outright disregarded by almost every character. As Hercules is the Main Character and also the product of one of Zeus's affairs, we're meant to sympathize with him, with Hera canonically as the Designated Villain. One forgets that she's not only a Woman Scorned repeatedly by her unremorseful husband, but also she's the Goddess of Marriage. That means marital fidelity matters to Hera more than anyone. One might be able to understand just why she became so malicious, looking at her from that perspective.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The centaur Deric and his human lover Lyla, despite being portrayed as victims of hatred and bigotry, manage to come off as this in the episode Outcast. We were clearly meant to sympathize with them as the new town they move to is easily stirred into an anti-centaur mob frenzy and in all fairness, their son was actually innocent of wrongdoing and didn't deserve any of the persecution. However, by no means were Deric and Lyla innocent victims themselves. In their previous appearance, the two blinded Hercules for much of the episode and they even helped another centaur Nemis to kidnap some brides at a wedding. While the two did perform a minor Heel–Face Turn and decided to leave the service of Nemis, they didn't even bother giving much help to Hercules despite having helped cause much of the episode's troubles in the first place. Not once did they at least try to do anything to remedy the situation, like help Hercules rescue the brides they helped to steal to begin with. Because of their actions(and even inactions) in their previous appearance, both Deric and Lyla can come off as less the sympathetic victims of racism that the writers intended them to be and more of a Jerkass couple who deserved all the persecution they received considering the two helped to terrorize innocent families, blinded Hercules, and couldn't even be bothered to do the bare minimum to right their wrongs.


Example of: