War, Terror and Discord Make Hercules Vanish
"Fade Out" Plot Summary:
Hercules awakes to find Iolaus working out, practicing skills he learned as a jester. Iolaus has invented the waffle - he couldn't decide what to call it, hence the name - and feeds one to his friend, who promises to keep teaching him heroic skills in exchange for the cooking. Then they hear a scream for help. "Everywhere I go," grumbles the son of Zeus, heading off to see the problem. Behind him, Damos - Strife's twin brother, apparently - pops up and laughs. Discord appears behind him and is furious to hear that Ares is considering the wussy God of Terror to be his new second in command.
In the nearby village, Hercules finds a crowd trying to stone a person wrapped in shawls. He and Iolaus fight off the crowd, but discover that the person is literally fading away; he's nearly invisible. Inside a barricade, Hercules finds a whole crowd of "faders," who disappear bit by bit until they vanish and die. The crowd outside wants to kill them all in case their condition is catching, but Hercules sends Iolaus to investigate the grain house where the plague apparently started, promising to save them. Damos watches nervously, pretending to be an old man who says the gods want the faders killed. Discord asks her cousin what's bothering him, and discovers that this is all a trap for Hercules but the half-god isn't taking the bait yet. Offering to help, she disguises herself as a girl hiding in the grain storage facility, leading Iolaus directly to the catalyst - a giant gold rock in the shape of an eye
Hercules identifies the stone as the Rock of Argus. Three cyclops rebelled against Zeus so he turned their eyes to stones, which fell out after they died and curse those who find them. Anyone who smashes the rock can break the curse by taking it onto himself. Of course our hero destroys the rock, getting hit with energy beams while the faders solidify. Hercules starts to fade but through a great effort of will stops the process, believing that if he can find and destroy the other two rock-eyes - which are hopefully in the same nearby quarry this one came from - the curse will pass away with the stones.
Ares congratulates Damos on the approaching demise of his half-brother, but Discord pops up to inform the God of War that Hercules isn't quite dead yet. Hercules has become invisible, but that doesn't stop him from beating up the villagers spurred by Damos to pursue Iolaus. The nasty goddess snaps that Ares' new number two is definitely a piece of Number Two, stringing him up when Ares isn't looking and making him argue with himself. Meanwhile Hercules encourages Iolaus to be a hero even if he can't see his friend, and Iolaus gropes around until he manages to find Hercules - unfortunately he grabs him in a sensitive spot, and the shock of finding an invisible man makes the jester pass out.
Hercules has Iolaus pretend to be talking to him while he sneaks up invisibly on Discord, whom he drags along to the quarry to help look for the other two eye-stones. She decides she'd rather help Hercules than allow Damos to take her position with Ares anyway, but whines that there are millions of stones in the quarry - they'll never find the two they need. Damos meanwhile puts on the guise of the old man and tells the villagers they will all fade away if they don't stop Hercules, who has found the two remaining eye-stones: the problem is that he wouldn't ask anyone to smash them and take on the curse. When the villagers attack, Discord takes one of the stones and throws it at Damos; unfortunately he grabs her just as the energy beams leave a now-solid Hercules and strike him. Discord and Damos both disappear.
Unfortunately, Ares has captured Iolaus, who was guarding the last stone. Hercules hits his brother with rocks and calls him a masochist, saying he's tired of wiping the floor with Ares. "Let's rock," retorts Ares, who accepts the eye-stone from Iolaus and hurls it at Hercules. The God of War vanishes as Discord pops back into existence, grinning that she's off to see about this vacancy in the war department. Hercules inquires after Damos, but the God of Terror is once again hanging upside down arguing against himself. Hercules notes to Iolaus that once again the jester performed like a hero, proving that people are what they perceive themselves to be...even when they're invisible.
This ain't a deep episode but it did have some cute jokes about invisibility - "Heroes don't always die in battle or in bed, sometimes they just fade away," taunts Discord, while Hercules, looking on the bright side of his condition, announces, "I can sneak into the theater without paying for tickets." There was also a sweet if largely irrelevant theme about not allowing one's virtues to pass unseen by the world. Iolaus is rapidly turning into - well, Iolaus - making one wonder why they bothered to kill off Hercules' historic sidekick in the first place rather than just bringing back the original via some deus ex machina. The jester had some nice chemistry with Discord condemning her for depiriving him of his recent mermaid love Nautica, but she rightly pointed out that he never would have met the fish without her.
Damos, the God of Terror who's even more of a joke than Strife, has the most annoying laugh in the pantheon. I loved the scene where the God of Terror tells Ares that he now understands men: call their pride, ego, and masculinity into question and they'll do anything to prove you wrong. Damos doesn't get the fairer sex, however, leading Ares to comment that the secret to understanding women is to realize that they don't need men, but if they ever figure that out, it means the end of their way of life...so women must never be allowed to use tools, take out the garbage, or open doors for themselves. The God of War adds that if they ever start doing those things, he'll know Damos is to blame. Guess we know whom Ares blames for Xena and her friends.
This episode featured some cool effects with the invisible Hercules, especially when he was carrying an unconscious Iolaus, though I was expecting more visual jokes about fadeouts. I was glad Ares got what he deserved, but I do hope he gets his solidity back: getting to look at Kevin Smith in leather is one of the best arguments for having a God of War that I can think of.