"As Darkness Falls" Plot Summary:
On the way to an old friend's wedding, Hercules meets Tyron, who is bringing the body of a dead comrade back to the man's family. Tyron blames himself for his friend's death and refuses Hercules' assistance. A group of centaurs are also headed for the wedding, along with the human Leila (played by Lucy Lawless), the lover of Derek the Centaur. Nemos, the leader of the centaurs, intends to kill Hercules with a club given him by Hera, and ravish Penelope, the bride.
Hercules meets up with Salmoneus, who takes bets on his physical prowess. The son of Zeus beats the centaurs at some javelin and shooting competitions, then greets Penelope and Marcus, the bride and groom. He encounters Leila who attempts to seduce him and poisons his drink with something that wilts flowers. Hercules stays standing, but slowly begins to go blind. Though the half-god is sociable with the centaurs at the wedding, Nemos wants Hercules dead to avenge Hercules' killing of Nemos's brother, who tried to ravish Hercules' own bride years before.
Once they realize that Hercules has lost his vision, the centaurs attack, kidnapping Penelope and her maid of honor. Tyron, who has arrived with the body of his lost friend, dies defending Marcus. But when Hercules sends Salmoneus to protect the wounded groom, he is left blind and alone. Derek and Leila refuse to kill Hercules for Nemos, but Nemos still has the bride and her best friend trapped in a cave.
Salmoneus creates a diversion so that Hercules can attempt a rescue, but Nemos returns and swings Hera's club at Hercules, nearly causing a cave-in before the weapon strikes Nemos in turn. Hercules risks his life to hold up the walls while the maid of honor unchains the bride, whom Nemos loves. When the wounded centaur realizes that her life is in danger, he supports the wall himself and tells Hercules to get the women to safety. Hercules brings Penelope back to Marcus, and makes Salmoneus give them all the money he earned gambling on Hercules' prowess.
This was an early installment of the series and one of the least impressive; it's full of gratuitous sparring, a pie in the face, damsels in distress, and a dorky blindness plot, a conceit Xena made much better use of in a similar episode. Kevin Sorbo doesn't always appear to remember that he's supposed to be blind - we're supposed to believe that his superior hearing tells him which way the wind is blowing, but he's still looking right at events he shouldn't be able to see a little too much of the time.
The biggest thing to recommend "As Darkness Falls" is Lucy Lawless, who's not nearly as smart or tough as Xena here, but still sexy and strong. There's a certain thrill in watching her try to seduce our hero, sounding very much like the unreformed Xena of early Hercules episodes, and it's a lot of fun to hear our hero announce that he's too noble to risk leaving behind a string of fatherless children, even after she assures him that she's not a virgin.
Penelope and Charis, her maid of honor, did far too much shrieking and wailing instead of coming up with resourceful solutions, and the bride was far too quick to forgive her would-be rapist; she sounded shallow and artificial. I liked Tyron, who turned out to be a hero, and I liked Derek the Good Centaur, though it was hard to figure out his motivations in all this - if he didn't approve of Nemos' plan to murder Hercules out of revenge, why did he ever go along with it in the first place?
The directing in the sequences where Herc went blind was uneven and not entirely believable. My favorite shot was a ripoff from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where Herc's javelin split a centaur's spear straight down the middle. Still, any episode with a food fight can't be all bad.