It's the End of the World As We Know It...
"Armageddon Now" Plot Summary:
At the cremation of Gabrielle's daughter Hope and Xena's son Solon, ashes rise from Hope's pyre and take form near an old man. She steals his life force and solidifies, then breaks Callisto free from the cavern which trapped her, telling her that she must rid the world of Hercules. The hero is visiting his mother, Alcmene, until a message warns him that Tendarius is with Ares, raising an army to prevent his daughter from eloping.
Hercules sends Tendarius home to throw a wedding feast and fights with Strife, but when he destroys the armory, Ares gets angry. Meanwhile, Callisto tells Hope that "hope" is the one thing she doesn't have or want, but Hope promises her freedom from her demons if she will help rid the world of Hercules. Callisto agrees, and goes to Ares, suggesting that they get rid of Hercules in a way even Zeus can't complain about. They free the Sovereign - Hercules' evil twin - from the portal between the worlds.
When Hercules realizes that the Sovereign is loose, he traps his double. But when Ares and Callisto open the portal, both Hercs are trapped inside after Ares steals the Sovereign's necklace full of hind's blood - the only substance which can kill a god. Callisto fights to get the necklace for herself and, aided by Hope, uses a bit of the blood to kill Strife. The heavens thunder; even the trapped Hercs feel the reverberations.
Ares believes that the end of the world is nigh, but Iolaus points out that Hope needed to get rid of Hercules, who must be important to saving everything. While Hercules watches helplessly from a mirror pool in the wasteland between the worlds, where the Sovereign has been fighting him, Hope sends Callisto back in time to stop Hercules from being born. Iolaus realizes that she plans to kill Alcmene and convinces Ares to send him back through time to stop her. He finds Alcmene, but Callisto arrives and aims a bolt of fire right at the pregnant woman...
Part One of Two or more, obviously, and delightfully - double Hercs, Ares and Callisto sniffing each other, and the death of a god made this episode great fun in addition to bringing several plot threads back into play. I have no idea what Hope wants - presumably the death of Zeus, if she wants to bring the Kingdom of Dahok to fruition, but I'm not sure how wiping Hercules out of existence will assist that cause.
I'm willing to bet, however, that she promised some of that hind's blood to Callisto herself. Callisto believes her life is meaningless and wants to end the torment: the only way the immortal goddess can do that is to die. Which will be a real loss for both this series and Xena. If possible, this was an even more manic Callisto than we've seen in the past: without her pursuit of Xena to give her life meaning, she seems completely out of control, and beyond comprehension. I enjoyed seeing her and Ares together again a lot, and the way she ground him underfoot.
The cinematography was a blast in addition to the dueling dual Hercules and the sexy sparring between the lovely Hudson Leick and the luscious Kevin Smith. Lots of homages to other shows here - in addition to the obvious ones from Apocalypse Now, Hope's return was a ripoff of the first Hellraiser, and the two Hercs reminded me of the two Lazaruses trapped between the universes from Star Trek. The Iolaus time-travel sequence was a hoot too.
Next week, we get Xena and/or her evil twin thrown into this mix, and I bet the two Hercs work together, possibly with Ares as well. Yum.