Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Herc and his li'l buddy Iolaus.

"This is the story of a time long ago, a time of myth and legend, when the ancient gods were petty and cruel, and they plagued mankind with suffering. Only one man dared to challenge their power: Hercules!
Hercules possessed a strength the world had never seen, a strength surpassed only by the power of his heart. He journeyed the Earth, battling the minions of his Wicked Stepmother Hera, the all-powerful queen of the gods.
But wherever there was evil, whenever an innocent would suffer, there would be Hercules!"

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys followed the life of the legendary hero throughout ancient Greece as he fought tyrants, monsters, and the machinations of the Olympian gods with the help of his trusty sidekick Iolaus. It never took itself too seriously, it started out cheesy and got campier and campier as it went on, but it retained a good sense of humor throughout its run (And it had a kickass theme song). Hercules was closely tied to its spinoff Xena: Warrior Princess, which soon overshadowed it in popularity. It also spawned another spinoff, Young Hercules, starring a young Ryan Gosling, which didn't fare quite as well.

The show began life as a series of TV movies which proved successful enough to go on to a series (which had a good deal of cosmetic and thematic differences, the events of the movies were not referred to in the show proper), and being filmed in New Zealand gave it an unprecedented level of Scenery Porn that other shows couldn't manage. It put a new spin on Greek Mythology, deliberately avoiding the white togas normally associated with this time period. It was delightfully tongue-in-cheek (including a hearty serving of Anachronism Stew and lots of awful Puns) and impressively epic in its scope, using a lot of Wire Fu action sequences. It was also one of the first television series to make extensive use of CG creatures.

It was created by Sam Raimi of Evil Dead fame, who would later go on to direct the Spider-Man movies. Speaking of Evil Dead, Bruce Campbell directed a few episodes (including the series finale), and played Autolycus. As an interesting note, the writing duo Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci got their start on this show, and have continued to complete a nerd trifecta of scripting movies for Mission: Impossible, Transformers and Star Trek.

Tropes used in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys include:
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: No kidding.
    • Seriously, if a trope mentions "amazons" in its title, it probably showed up in this series. Or in the Xena spinoff.
  • All the Myriad Ways: Subverted; Iolaus's alternate-universe twin gets developed into a main character in his own right for about a season.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Atalanta. Played by Real Life Amazonian Beauty Cory Everson to boot.
  • Anachronism Stew : Where to begin... probably that it was done intentionally for Rule of Funny. Apparently, the big rule in the writers room was "Anything B.C." Of course, by the end of the series, even that was up for debate.
  • Ancient Grome: Hercules goes by his Roman name; all the other gods go by their Greek names.
      • Possibly because his Greek name, Heracles, has the ironic meaning "Hera's Glory". Even if people do not know the meaning, it would sound odd to have his name sound so similar to hers.
    • Except Cupid who also goes by his more well-known Roman name rather than the actual Greek Name Eros.
  • And I Must Scream: In "Descent", Hercules discovers Dumuzi (gatekeeper to the Sumerian Underworld) is using human souls as nourishment.
  • And Starring: After becoming a regular, Michael Hurst had a "Also Starring" credit. And as seasons wore on, Bruce Campbell and Robert Trebor got this kind of treatment - varying between "And ... as" or "Special Guest Star".
  • Animated Adaptation: A Crossover with Xena: Warrior Princess called Battle for Mount Olmypus.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Despite their supposed immortality, the Olympians are powerful enough to kill each other. To prevent ensuing chaos, however, Zeus long ago forbid the Olympians from ever doing so and promised severe punishment for any that do. He later included Hercules into this rule to protect him from his godly enemies.
  • Archangel Michael: Appears in the appropriately titled fifth season finale, "Revelations". This version of the character (along with his actor) later had appearances on Xena.
  • Ascended Extra: Iolaus. When the character died in the first TV-Movie, Hercules and the Amazon Women, he was originally going to stay dead. But Michael Hurst impressed the producers with his performance, so they re-wrote the ending to leave Iolaus alive. The only reason Iolaus doesn't appear in the next three movies is because they were written before the change was made. Iolaus returned in the fifth movie and was a recurring character in the first two seasons before becoming a regular in Season 3.
  • Asshole Victim: Strife, who made frequent trips across the Moral Event Horizon, and was quite amused about it too.
  • Back from the Dead: Iolaus, repeatedly. Lampshaded in "For Those Of You Just Joining Us" after Rob Tapert suggests killing Iolaus again, as Liz Friedman responds, "How original. We've only done it twice already."
    • Iolaus lampshades this himself when he is bitten by a vampire:

"Am I dead again?"

  • Badass Normal: Iolaus, Autolycus, and of course Xena.
    • Jason, too.
  • Baleful Polymorph: "Porkules".
    • Nemesis was also known to change into a bird when she had her godhood.
  • Batman Gambit: In "Reunions", Hera has Apollo provoke Hercules and threaten a village. Of course, this distraction allows Hera to overthrow Zeus without any difficulty.

Apollo: And you could've stopped it to if you'd been there instead of here.
Hercules: And how many of these people would be dead if I hadn't?
Apollo: Well, that was sort of the point of it all. Who cares... other than you?

  • Beta Couple: Iolaus and Nebula.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Hercules is probably the nicest, most easy-going guy in the series. Course, if you threaten innocent people or those he cares about - well, remember, he has super-strength.
  • Big Bad: Hera in the earlier seasons, Dahak in Season 5. Zeus is the Big Bad in the last episodes, being the real reason behind Hercules misfortune...mostly by just being a Bad Father.
    • Alternately, Ares serves this function in Season 4 and (after Dahak is defeated) Season 5.
  • Big No
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The Olympians are far stronger than Hercules, but often instead rely on mooks to face him. Whenever they actually do fight him directly, he wins despite their purported power. This, however, is justified (at least by Season 4) in that the reason the Olympians pull their punches is because of Zeus. He granted Hercules special protection and the others know violating it means serious punishment.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Like in mythology, this cropped up, though the writers seemingly relied on Fridge Logic for the viewers to realize it. Ares and Discord have a blatant sexual relationship on this series, and the Young Hercules movie confirmed her to be Hercules' sister (which makes her Ares', as well). And in different episodes, Aphrodite and Hephaestus are confirmed to be children of Hera.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In "The Enforcer", Hera takes away Nemesis' godhood for refusing to blindly follow orders and kill Hercules.
    • In "When A Man Loves A Woman", Hercules willingly surrenders his powers in order to marry Serena (who also gave up her powers to do the same).
  • But for Me It Was Tuesday: Subverted in that Hera is well-aware that she murdered Hercules' family; it's just one action among many and she just doesn't see it as a big deal anyway.

Hera: I wanted Zeus to understand what he had done to me. The world was incidental.
Hercules: Not to me!

  • Butt Monkey: Ares in his later appearances.
    • Strife.
  • California Doubling: New Zealand for ancient Greece.
    • Hilariously Lampshaded in the DVD commentary for "For Those Of You Just Joining Us" during a clip set in Eire.

Michael Hurst: Strange, that beach looks just like--
Kevin Sorbo: Very similar to Greece.
Michael Hurst: Yeah.
Kevin Sorbo: Or New Zealand or... Norway.

"I owe you? You have permitted the greatest sorrows of my life. Where was your protection then? I owe you nothing!"

    • Iolaus gets his own chance to do this to his father in "Not Fade Away".
  • Camera Abuse: Non-stop.
  • Camp: And how!
  • Chaste Hero: You'd be surprised how often Herc turns down women.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Iolaus. He was shown to get involved with a number of women - so much so that "The Cave Of Echoes" had a montage about it. Still, true to the trope, he showed the up-most respect to each one.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Ares. He wants to be top god and some of his plans and actions revolve around achieving that. Lampshaded and justified by Ares himself:

"Zeus stuck it to old Cronus like Cronus stuck to his old man. What can I say? It's a family trait."

"You're blinded by your own goodness. In a way, you're your own worst enemy."

  • Classical Mythology: Chewed up, spit out, and hung out to dry.
  • Clear Their Name: Hercules has to do this for Iolaus in "The King of Thieves".
    • How could you forget "Hercules on Trial"? There he has to clear his own name, with help from Iolaus, Dirce and previous guest characters.
    • And also in "Judgement Day", where he's framed for murdering his own wife.
    • Hercules and Iolaus for Amphion in "The Sword of Veracity".
  • Clip Show: Five overall:
    • Hercules And The Maze Of The Minotaur: The fifth TV-Movie featured a number of clips of the preceding four.
    • "The Cave Of Echoes": Hercules, Iolaus and a one-shot character enter a cave to rescue a Damsel in Distress, recapping old adventures. Notable in that clips from the TV-Movies (which aren't regularly re-broadcast) were also reused.
    • "Les Contemptibles": Set in revolutionary France, a pair of con men (played by Sorbo and Hurst) are educated about the heroes of Greece by a pair of seeming aristocrats. This and succeeding clip shows would see the regular and recurring actors playing different characters.
    • "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Hercules": One of the most clever uses of this trope ever. All of the supporting actors play a part in the modern day as actual members of the production staff, panicking over Kevin Sorbo going missing. They desperately try to figure out how to carry on without Sorbo, including Spinoff Babies and an animated feature. Pretty much epitomizes the humor of this show. Bruce Campbell as Robert Tapert, etc.
    • "For Those Of You Just Joining Us": A sequel episode of sorts, as the Ren Pics staff go on a corporate retreat to come up with ideas for the fifth season (recapping every important development up to that point).
  • Composite Character: Hercules first wife Deianeira on the show is actually closer to Heracles wife Megara from the myth. Although Heracles did marry a Deianeira she was his third wife and she wasn't killed by Hera directly or indirectly.
  • Continuity Snarl: Jason and Corinth. In "Once A Hero", it was made explicitly clear that he was much older than Hercules. His next appearance "The Wedding Of Alcmene" indicated he was a contemporary of Hercules' mortal stepfather, who died before Herc was born. If you saw Young Hercules, you can imagine the awkward retconning performed to make Jason Herc's peer. Additionally, in his first appearance, Jason was king of Argos (as in the myth), but his second appearance changed it to Corinth. This was particularly bad, as that same season had already given us "Highway to Hades" (where Sisyphus was king of Corinth). The snarl becomes real evident because the Sisyphus storyline is a follow-up to the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Death in Chains". The Jason retcon also subsequently affected Xena, such as the previously mentioned Battle of Corinth. Apparently, despite Herc and Iolaus never having heard of Xena before Season 1, she attacked their best friend's kingdom (a place that was even retconned into being their hometown, so to speak).
  • Covered in Mud: At one point, Iolaus is on the run from somebody and their mooks, so he hides himself by covering himself in mud and lying in a mud puddle. He stays covered in mud for a few scenes afterwards.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Herc spends a season hanging out with the Celtic and Norse gods, and later fights the Babylonian ones. He even fights Michael and the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse...for some apparent reason, since they had to find even tougher Gods for him to fight.
    • And then they had the episode where they walked through Bethlehem and saw Christ and his family in the stable.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Autolycus may be comical, but he earned the right to be called "the King of Thieves". Heck, he once stole items from two different gods... in the same day.
  • Crusading Widower: Hercules.
  • Dark Action Girl: Xena before the Heel Face Turn.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Iolaus used be to a thief prone to getting into trouble. He credits his friendship with Hercules for turning his life around.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Hades rules the Underworld and usually dresses in all-black. Though understandably feared by mortals, he's actually a pretty nice guy in general.
  • Dawn Attack: "Hercules and the Lost Kingdom" has:

Hercules: We attack at dawn.
Telamon: Dawn? Why don't we attack tonight?
Hercules: Because we attack at dawn.

  • A Day in the Limelight: There are several episodes primarily starring Iolaus, Autolycus, and/or Salmoneus.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Hercules does this regularly and gets away with it thanks to Zeus' protection.
    • Iolaus does this to Ares in "Porkules". Ares spends the entirety of "One Fowl Day" making him (and by extension, Autolycus) pay for it.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Every time Hercules faces one of the gods, he wins. It's a subversion with the Olympians, who have been forbidden from killing him directly (the rare times where they do choose to violate the rule, Hercules only manages to survive via good fortune and not just his strength). Played straight, however, when he faces gods from other lands that aren't bound by said rule.
  • Disappeared Dad: One of Hercules' complaints about Zeus is that he took no visible role in his life. From "Regrets... I've Had A Few":

"Look, I appreciate that the other gods realize I exist, but it'd be nice to know that my own father does... even if he does think of me more than I know."

    • Iolaus' father abandoned his family and later died in war.
  • Disguised in Drag: Autolycus and Salmoneus in "Men in Pink".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Hera repeatedly tries to kill Hercules because Zeus had an affair with Alcmene.
    • In "One Fowl Day", Ares goes out of his way to make Iolaus and Autolycus miserable simply because the former showed him disrespect. Played for Laughs in this case.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted with Aphrodite. She does prefer the materialistic, easy side of life, but as Hercules notes in her first appearance, she's smarter than she lets on.
  • Effortless Amazonian Lift: Atalanta does this to Hercules in a bout of playfulness.
  • Elseworld: Hercules in the French Revolution!
  • Emergency Impersonation: In two episodes, Iolaus has to stand in for his lookalike King Orestes.
  • Enemy Mine: Hercules and Iolaus team-up with Ares in "Revelations".
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Ares generally uses "loved ones" for his own goals, but he demonstrates some genuine fondness for family, such as Aphrodite. In "Two Men And A Baby", after Discord threatens to drown little Evander (Nemesis' son with Ares) out of jealousy, the god of war has a genuine Papa Wolf reaction. ("He's my son. You don't wanna try me.")
    • Echidna, the Mother of All Monsters. Before her Heel Face Turn, she was very unapologetic about her actions or those of her children. However, she dearly loved said children and her husband.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In "The Gauntlet", Xena is against killing women and children. She even saves one baby that survived a slaughter her army carried out while she was away.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Thankfully averted.
  • Everything Is Messier With Pigs: The episode "Porkules".
  • Evil Counterpart: The Sovereign, literally. Ares also counts, as he is a antagonistic son of Zeus.
    • Discord falls into this for Aphrodite.
  • The Faceless: Hera, until the fourth season and the final episode.
  • Fan Service: Pretty much every female character on the show... and the male heroes as well. This show had some of the skimpiest clothes on television since Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Fantastic Racism: Hera and Ares have referred to Hercules as either a "half-mortal mongrel" or "half-breed". Also, Centaurs are regularly depicted as an oft-mistreated minority.
    • However Hera only does so because she hates Hercules as a symbol of Zeus' infidelity.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: This is implied to be the fate of any Olympian that violates Zeus' rule about not killing each other or Hercules. Nobody knows what the punishment is, but nobody wants to find out, either.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dahak. He presents himself as a pleasant being that wants "to bring freedom to the world." Of course, among his deeds are: using Iolaus' good intentions against him, temporarily driving Nebula insane, slaughtering the Druids and nonchalantly killing anyone in his way.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Iolaus and Autolycus in "Porkules" and "One Fowl Day".
  • Flanderization: For "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Hercules", real-life quirks of the production team (such as Rob Tapert enjoying to fish) were incorporated into their fictional counter-parts and purposefully taken to extremes for laughs.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: In "Rebel With a Cause", Antigone and Hercules sneak Oedipus out of Thebes in some underground tunnels that Antigone used to escape through as a child. Later, when Antigone attempts to sneak back into Thebes undetected, she tries to do so through the front gate. Naturally, King Creon catches her.
  • Freudian Excuse: In Other World, the Sovereign was abandoned by his mother, his father went insane when he was a child and his headmaster instructed him to be a tyrant. It's also implied that losing his family prompted a Despair Event Horizon.
  • Friend to All Children: Hercules and Iolaus.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Iolaus 2.
    • "Doomsday" features none other than Daedalus.
  • Genius Bruiser: While not the smartest people to walk the Earth, Herc and Iolaus tend to win not just by hitting people, but by outwitting them.
  • Genre Savvy: Strife of all people in "Armageddon Now, Part 1". He is dead set against trusting Callisto and tries to warn Ares, but is brushed off (Ares doesn't trust her either, really, but he's foolishly overconfident that he can handle her).
  • Giant Spider: Arachne in "Web of Desire". Her upper body remains human (if slightly monstrous), but her lower half...
  • Girl of the Week: Almost every woman Iolaus meets falls for him in one way or another.
  • Gladiator Revolt
  • God of Evil: Dahak.
  • Grand Finale: "Full Circle".
  • Heel Face Turn: Xena, when she got her own series. Also, Hera, the former Big Bad, turned good in the last season just in time for Zeus to turn bad on Xena.
    • In Zeus's case, he had always been selfish. Hera finally allowed the mother aspect of her divine role to gain supremacy, and like the best of mothers, she will defy her husband, who considers his own survival to be of primary importance, and die for the sake of her children.
  • Heroic BSOD: Hercules suffers this several times following the deaths of his family, Serena and Iolaus. Iolaus' death in Season 5 proves to be the gravest, as it takes Hercules a couple episodes to recover from the loss.
    • Iolaus, meanwhile, goes through this in "Hero's Heart" after failing to save a woman from falling to her death.
    • Salmoneus experiences this in "Unchained Heart", when he freezes up during a crisis.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • Hero of Another Story: In some of Iolaus' focus episodes, Hercules is either shown or implied to be busy performing heroic deeds elsewhere.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Hercules and Iolaus.
  • Hidden Depths: Salmoneus often displays a cowardly streak (justified in that he doesn't know how to fight) and is quite greedy, but that doesn't stop him from stepping up when needed. In his second appearance, he helps a blinded Hercules against three Centaurs.
    • Hercules views Autolycus as an egotistical thief when they first meet, but then he learns about his past. Turns out his older brother was cheated out of his land and then murdered. When the authorities did nothing, Autolycus robbed the murderer blind and gave every spoil to the poor.
    • Contrary to her valley girl-like persona, Aphrodite is rather smart, falls for a god that considers himself ugly and cares more for mortals even more than Herc thinks.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: There is a famous one where Kevin runs onto the set of Xena and says "Woops, wrong show" before running off.
  • Historical In-Joke
  • Hobbes Was Right: Callisto claims in "Surprise" that all mortals are wicked and should be punished. Though Hercules doesn't outright invoke Rousseau Was Right, he says he's seen too much good in the world for that to be true.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Salmoneus.
  • Hot Amazon: Atalanta (see below), Nemesis, and of course Xena.
  • Human Mom, Nonhuman Dad: Hercules, of course.
  • I Am Spartacus: In one episode Herc was put to a trial for being essentially a vigilante, inspiring other people to try and repeat his feats to disastrous results and some other bullshit like that (it was all set up by Ares). In the end first the judge and then other participants indicate that they share Herc's views and are ready to share his responsibility by saying "I'm Hercules as well".
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: In "Two Men And A Baby", Hercules alludes to feeling this way during his childhood.
  • Improvised Weapon: Iolaus - he was especially good with frying pans.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • Insult Backfire: After clobbering Ares for the umpteenth time, Hercules calls him a masochist. Ares doesn't know what the word means, but he does "like the sound of that."
  • Invincible Hero: 100 ft tall monster? Piece of cake. Immortal God? No sweat. The monsters might be okay, but how a mortal half god can kick the hell out of an immortal full god not just once but on a regular basis is a mystery to me.
    • Not just any god, but the god of freakin war!
      • Though, in the actual mythology, Zeus's children by his actual wife tended to be the least impressive. Ares in particular loved fighting on whatever side was already winning, and would run back to Olympus as soon as he was wounded, despite being immortal.
    • They actually covered that, Zeus had told the other Gods not to kill Hercules, so every time they fought Ares was forced to pull his punches.
    • It doesn't work quite that way. While Hercules got his mother's mortality and lack of godlike powers, his strength is all from Zeus's side. He can physically fight Ares as an equal, but can't match him metaphysically.
      • Eventually, Hercules upgrades to fighting Archangels, Archdemons, and the head gods Zeus and Hera themselves. Not won easily, mind you...technically, he lost the physical fight but won the metaphysical fight instead.
    • Also, while never actually put to the test or confronted directly, it is hinted more than once that Hercules is actually immortal.
      • It should be noted that in actual mythology, Hercules was not only capable of beating Ares in a straight fight, But was powerful enough to fight Apollo on equal terms, to the point that Zeus had to break up their fight with a lightning bolt. He also gained a favor from Helius, the Sun God, with nothing more than a Death Glare. Remember, in mythology Hercules, unlike his fellow demigods, was actually more god than man--he was intentionally sired by Zeus to be a god who would live as a mortal, so that when he died he would rise to Olympus, so the gods would have someone with experience to give them advice on how to deal with mortals.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: Subverted with the "Armageddon Now" two-parter. Hercules isn't in distress about his life, but thanks to a time traveling Callisto, he and Iolaus witness what the world would be like without him - Xena never experiencing a Heel Face Turn and ruling all of Greece with an iron fist.
  • It's Personal: Hera's vendetta against Hercules.

Hercules: That's between you and Zeus.
Hera: No, you're what's between us. But if you die a horrible death, maybe he'll think twice next time his eyes start to wander - before he fathers any more half-mortal mongrels like you.

    • The Sovereign has it out for Hercules due to his trapping him in Netherworld, but it escalates when a bout of Fridge Brilliance hits him.

Sovereign: You must've had a family just like I did.
Hercules: I did. Hera killed them.
Sovereign: So she kills your family for something you did and when yours died, mine did, t--!
Hercules: I'm sorry that happened. I'm sure you loved your family very much.
Sovereign: You're to blame for everything that's happened to me. You can forget about getting out of here. You're mine.

  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: After his second wife Serena is murdered, Herc eventually goes back in time and manages to save her life but at the cost that she no longer remembers him and their time together technically never happened.
  • I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine: Bruce Campbell, again working with old colleagues Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. When it came time to cast Autolycus, Tapert immediately thought of Campbell and personally called to offer him the role.
  • James Bondage: Iolaus, the male damsel in distress.
  • Jerkass Gods: The show got that part of the mythology right, anyway.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In "Not Fade Away", Hades tells Hercules he has until sunset to save Iolaus because those are the rules.

Hercules: Who makes these rules?

  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: "Yes Virginia, There is a Hercules" claims that Kevin Sorbo is the real Hercules, subtly influencing his real adventures into the show.
  • Loophole Abuse: Zeus' protection only specifies that the Olympians themselves aren't allowed to kill Hercules. Hera and the like typically send everything from mooks to monsters after him instead. Ares lampshades this in "Two Men And A Baby".
  • Loveable Rogue: Autolycus.
  • Love Goddess: Aphrodite.
  • Manly Tears: To be shed whenever someone dies, isn't dead anymore, or when your best friend tells you you're his family.
  • Meta Casting: Atalanta (one of the few Action Girls in Greek Mythology) was played by well-known female body-builder Cory Everson, who probably could beat Kevin Sorbo in arm wrestling.
  • Mirror Universe: The Alternate Universe ruled by the Sovereign, Herc's Evil Counterpart (complete with beard).
  • Missing Mom: This happens to Hercules in the fourth season. Meanwhile, the Sovereign said his mother abandoned him, which explains a lot.
    • Iolaus is an inverse of this trope. His mother is very much alive, but he left her and stayed away out of shame for the way he behaved while living with her.
  • My Beloved Smother: Demeter towards Persephone.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: One episode centers around legendary femme athlete Atalanta hiding her strength so not to intimidate men; it ends with An Aesop about being true to yourself.
    • Subverted in the same episode, though, as Salmoneus has always demonstrated a fondness for Atalanta.
  • Noodle Incident: Several of the Twelve Labors (e.g. slaying the Nemean Lion or capturing the Erymanthian Boar) are specifically referred to, but never shown on-screen.
  • Nostalgia Heaven: This happens a time or two when Hercules goes to the Elysian Fields and sees his wife and kids.
  • Not So Different: Ares tries this in "Hercules On Trial", with a little We Can Rule Together thrown in:

"We've had our differences, but it's because you refuse to look past what you think you see in me. We want the same thing for this world. ... Order. Perfect order. It can be a place without crime, without vice. Think how happy that'd make your beloved mortals. And wouldn't it set Zeus back a step? You and me? Think about it."

    • Inverted with Gilgamesh. Both he and Hercules are half-god heroes that lost their families to pointless violence and were effectively betrayed by their godly fathers. However, these comparisons are made before Gilgamesh is revealed to be a servant of Dahak.
  • Not So Harmless: Strife. Now, there is no doubt that he was extremely goofy and often harmless, but there where moments where he was actually a genuine threat, even bordering on Magnificent Bastard to the point that he even impressed Ares from time to time. In fact, he would be a much bigger threat if not for Hercules, something that tends to be forgotten thanks to his over the top silliness. In the series Young Hercules this is expanded even further, actually making a much bigger threat and more than capable of going head to head with Hercules and playing him like harp. Let's not forget this guy was The Dragon for Ares.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Hercules jokingly accuses Iolaus of doing this so he won't have to do anything.
  • Odd Friendship: Iolaus and Aphrodite. Unsurprisingly, Iolaus 2 develops one with her as well.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: An episode that is a Whole-Plot Reference to Some Like It Hot, a guy sees Salmoneous in drag, and pictures doing this date with him.
  • Older Than He Looks: Iolaus is actually two-years-older than Hercules.
  • One-Sided Arm Wrestling: Hercules vs Atlanta.
  • One-Winged Angel: In "Ares", the god of war does this in his fight with Hercules - taking the form of a massive, well-armed monster.
  • One Head Taller: Hercules is taller than pretty much everybody, but specifically he is this to Iolaus.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Actor Michael Hurst (Iolaus) was supposed to sound ambiguous (read: American), but his native Kiwi accent slipped in every now and then, especially in the beginning.
  • Opening Narration: See the page quote
  • Our Vampires Are Different: In "Darkness Visible", Hercules and Iolaus face vampires led by Vlad. Typically, the vampires have no reflections and drink blood (being able to turn a mortal or just feed). They also possess healing abilities. Note that these are explicitly referred to as vampires (or Strigoi) - not Bacchae, who appeared on Xena: Warrior Princess and Young Hercules.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Iolaus is skilled, resourceful, and a kickass fighter. He is not, however, a superstrong demigod, so he sometimes winds up as this. Sometimes he is angry about it ("Pride Comes Before A Brawl" and "The Warrior Princess"), or introspective ("A Star To Guide Them"), or very aware of it ("Medea Culpa"), or it is used to mess with his head ("Redemption").
    • Iphicles might have it even worse, where he has to live in the shadow of his little brother. It's a major plotpoint in "What's In A Name?".
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege: Works only partly with the Sovereign.
  • Pirate Girl: Nebula.
  • The Power of Friendship
  • The Rival: Ares.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the first episode, after Hera kills his family, Hercules proceeds to destroy all of her temples in the area. It takes Iolaus falling victim to the She-Demon to cause him to shake the vengeful streak.
  • Sadistic Choice: In "Stranger In A Strange World", after switching places with his double, Iolaus finds himself as the assassin in a resistance plot to kill the Sovereign. Killing the Sovereign would mean stopping a brutal tyrant with a Omnicidal Maniac-type plan, but it would also mean Hercules' death, too. Iolaus actually does try to go through with the assassination, but the Sovereign knew about the plot all along and effortlessly stopped him.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Obviously. Numerous members of production have commented that they were well-aware an established myth was being twisted, but did so anyway in the interests of the story.
  • Sand Worm: Of the manta ray variety in "War Wounds".
  • Sex Slave: When Hercules wants to infiltrate a Kingdom that engages in gladiatorial games (to the death) in "Gladiator", he allows himself to be captured and sentenced to slavery. The Queen of this Kingdom is intent on making Hercules one of these, after having her servants rip his shirt off to inspect his muscles.
  • Shirtless Scene: Kevin Sorbo said in interviews and on the DVD commentary that the producers wanted the shirt off in every episode, but he did not. He said there were more shirtless scenes in the first season than in the rest. See particularly, "Gladiator," the TV movies "Hercules and the Amazon Women," and "Hercules and the Lost Kingdom."
  • Shout-Out: Unsurprisingly, Evil Dead got quite a few: 1) the Mr. Goody Two-Shoes routine in "The End of the Beginning"; 2) "Gimme some sugar, baby" in "Men in Pink"; 3) Klaatu Verada Nikto being a passage in the Egyptian Necronomicon in "City of the Dead". Parts of Joe Lo Duca's score for Army of Darkness' were also re-used in a few episodes.
  • Shown Their Work: For all the griping about the series not following established myths, the writers clearly knew what they were considering the many references to people, locations and events in various episodes.
  • Sidekick: Iolaus.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Being Zeus' son, Hercules usually has to deal with anyone with an ax to grind - almost always Hera. Comes up also in "Web of Desire":

Arachne: You'll pay for your father's crime.
Hercules: What else is new?

  • Sky Surfing: Apollo gets around this way.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Evander was born early into Season 4, but was already about grammar school age two years later in Season 6. Possibly justified by his father being the god of war and his mother being a former goddess.
  • Spin-Off: Xena: Warrior Princess, then later...
  • Spinoff Babies: ...Young Hercules.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Hades and Persephone in "The Other Side", although they are eventually allowed to be together (for half of each year, yes, but still).
  • Story Arc: The series was largely episodic, but there were Callbacks and follow-up episodes to build on previous events ("The End of the Beginning", for example, to the Golden Hind trilogy). However, Season 5 was a highly serialized one - the first half featuring the Dahak storyline, the second half depicting Iolaus 2's teaming-up with Hercules and some stand-alone episodes for good measure.
  • Stripperiffic: Anything worn by Aphrodite.
    • Anything worn by most female characters. Low cut top, short skirt, and (usually) bare midriff were standards for them.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: In Iolaus' focus episodes or the Autolycus/Salmoneus episodes, Hercules either has very little screentime or outright doesn't appear.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Nebula 2/The Empress for Xena 2 in "Stranger And Stranger". The original intention was for Lucy Lawless to appear in the episode, but when that fell through, she was replaced by Gina Torres. Word of God states that the script was not changed to reflect this, however, barring any name changes of course.
    • Iolaus 2 is an inversion, being a different character but played by the same actor.
  • Take That Us: Oh, so much of it in "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Hercules" and "For Those Of You Just Joining Us".
  • Temporary Blindness: Hercules in "As Darkness Falls" via a drug in his drink. Rather than wait to see if it will wear off, he chooses to (with some help) go after the Centaurs responsible and rescue their captives.
  • Temporary Substitute: Iolaus 2 in Season 5.
  • The Time of Myths: Parodied in Season 1 episode 2. This was so long ago that togas were new at the time.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Iolaus 2.
  • The Unfavorite: Ares sees himself as this to Zeus - especially when compared to Hercules.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: A good number of male characters, effectively.
  • Walking the Earth
  • Wallpaper Camouflage
  • War God: Ares.
  • Watch Where You're Going: Used in the Animated adaptation, and may have been employed in the regular series as well. Tricking two Mooks into knocking each-other out was a good time saver.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: This is more true in Young Hercules, but the flashback episodes show a young hero who wants nothing more than to meet his father and be acknowledged.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Salmoneus was a fairly prominent recurring character early in the series' run, but made fewer appearances later on - stopping with an early Season 5 episode. This was Lampshaded in a Season 6 episode:

Iolaus: Hey, Herc, you'd hear what happened to Salmoneus?
Hercules: Yeah, he got sent to prison for tax fraud.

    • Jason also stops making appearances by the end of Season 5. His last episode ("The Academy") arguably gives him something of a send-off (a rekindled romance with Lilith, a daughter in Seska and taking over as headmaster of Cheiron's academy). However, "A Wicked Good Time" features Seska going through a rough time and absolutely no mention is made of Jason.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: The four Young Hercules episodes ("Regrets... I've Had A Few", "Medea Culpa", "Twilight" and "Top God") and "Just Passing Through".
  • World of Badass
  • World of Ham
  • World's Strongest Man
  • Xanatos Gambit: "You see, he thought he stopped Dahak from entering the world. But... all Dahak needed was a warrior heart. So, when little Iolaus sacrificed himself for the fair maiden Nebula, Dahak had everything he needed!"
    • Dahak pulls it again in the same arc by trying to get Hercules to kill him and send him back into his realm. Doing so would condemn an innocent soul (Iolaus) to the same fate, thus shattering the balance between good and evil - plunging the world into chaos and darkness. Of course, if Hercules does nothing, then Dahak "will take the world soul by soul" and win regardless.
  • You Look Familiar: Herc's two half-brothers Ares and Iphicles bore an awfully strong remarkable resemblance to each other, despite not sharing any blood relation (out of universe, both were of course played by the late Kevin Smith).
    • In one episode, Aphrodite turns a pig named Catherine into a human (It Makes Sense in Context). Catherine's human form is played by Alexandra Tydings, who plays Aphrodite. The goddess of love even compliments Catherine's attractiveness.
    • Besides Iolaus, Michael Hurst played both Orestes and the Widow Twanky. Orestes is Iolaus' half-cousin and the two looking alike is a plot point for both episodes he appears in. Instances of something "familiar" about the Widow Twanky, though, is played as pure Lampshade Hanging. He also played Charon, although it's harder to tell under the prosthetics.
    • Before playing Xena, Lucy Lawless appeared as Lyla, the human girlfriend (and then wife) of a centaur. In "Outcast" (which was produced after Xena was established), Salmoneus notes the similarity.
    • Lisa Chappell played three different characters over the course of the series--Lydia, Dirce, and Princess Melissa--with a lampshade hanging when Dirce met Melissa in "Hercules on Trial" and commented that she was "uncommonly beautiful".
    • Those who only remember Renee O'Connor as Xena's sidekick Gabrielle may be surprised to see her playing a totally different role in the second Hercules movie, "Hercules and the Lost Kingdom", as a young Trojan princess who is quite smitten with our hero.
    • Joel Tobeck played a villain of the week in a Season 2 episode. He later returned to play Strife. After Strife was killed, he turned up as cousin Deimos. The resemblance between the two gods was Lampshaded in "Fade Out":

Ares: They look enough alike, don't you think?
Deimos: Do not. I'm taller, and he's dead.