Young Heroes in Love
"Medea Culpa" Plot Summary:
Hercules, Iolaus, and Jason go fishing together and reminisce about their youth. Just after Jason became King of Corinth, Hercules and Iolaus visited him. Jason's airs led Iolaus to tell him he needed a kick in the royal highness, but the three quickly settled into good-natured competition. A chariot race was interrupted by a little girl whom Hercules nearly ran over, who told him tearfully that the Gydra had destroyed her village. Hercules decided to go after the monster, and his friends agreed to accompany him.
Jason teased Hercules that he only wanted to be a hero to impress women, and laughed at the discovery that the son of Zeus was a virgin. Hercules insisted he wanted to wait until the right woman came along. Just then, they discovered a girl alone, but when they tried to spy on her, she threatened Iolaus until Hercules convinced her they were not out to harm her. She introduced herself as Medea, and joined their quest to kill the Gydra.
Hercules and Medea became close when he helped her deal with the loss of her family to the Gydra, but when he refused to make love with her, she got angry and started coming on to the already-jealous Jason. Hercules witnessed the two kissing, threw Jason into a tree, scorned Medea, and set off with Iolaus to find the Gydra. Medea took care of Jason's wounds, and was congratulated by Hera for splitting up the two heroes, since that would make it easier to kill Hercules. While Hercules and Iolaus fought ineffectually against the two-headed, poison-tailed, fire-breathing Gydra, Medea defied Hera and took Jason to help the others.
The four were successful in defeating the Gydra, but Hera took Medea away with her to be punished, explaining that she must punish Zeus for going around fathering bastards like Hercules. Hercules forgave Jason for betraying him with a woman he'd been falling in love with himself. In the present, the two agree that Medea was the real victim of Hera's wrath.
When I heard the names "Jason" and "Medea" in the same episode, I was all ready for infanticide and bride-burning. This story was actually a pleasant surprise; young Jason and young Medea are far easier to like than their tragic counterparts. In fact, this episode reminded me more of a George Lucas film than Euripides: the shot of the burned bodies of Medea's parents outside their ruined house, after which Hercules told her there was nothing she could have done, was an obvious homage to the scene in Star Wars where Ben Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker the same thing. I really like the dialogue in Young Hercules stories, like the lengthy exchange in which Jason accused Hercules of wanting to impress women "to give your arm a rest," to which Iolaus responded that since Hercules is a superhero, his arm never gets tired. Much funnier in context than the lame masturbation jokes on Dawson's Creek.
Medea was a very sympathetic character - it seemed pretty evident that we were supposed to think her stepfather had abused her sexually, so her alliance with Hera was entirely forgivable, as was her supposed infidelity to Hercules. I found his knee-jerk reaction to her aggressive moves rather insensitive, though it rang true that an insecure teenage boy who'd never had sex wouldn't know how to handle a proposition by a girl who pretty clearly knew what she was doing. He never called her names, though, and I liked her yelling at the boys that neither of them had a claim on her when they fought over her. Right now I like the way this show is dealing with teen sexuality better than Buffy.
There was nice chemistry among all three of the younger men, and I was glad we didn't get any foreshadowing or even reference to the commonly-known mythology of Jason and Medea. I don't quite get the title, since Medea wasn't really culpable of anything and indeed got punished for Hera's hatred of Hercules, but I hope she comes back, even if it's as a pawn in the goddess' game - Medea is after all best-known as being the most vengeful wife in the history of the human race when discovering her husband's infidelity, so she and Hera have that in common.