Exorcist II: The Heretic
"Redemption" Plot Summary:
As the exorcism begins, Iolaus is tied down in the light since Zarathustra says that the light is Dahok's enemy. The body of Hercules' friend writhes, speaks in tongues, and sends his followers a message to seek out the god who was once Dahok's ally - Ares. Hercules sends Morrigan and Nebula to protect his half-brother on the theory that if Dahok wants Ares dead, the God of War's death will make Dahok stronger. As part of the ritual, Hercules must make an incision into Iolaus' body. When his friend's voice cries for him to stop, Hercules does, but Zarathustra reminds him that it is more important to save the soul than to preserve the body. Dahok cackles maniacally.
Though Morrigan says Ares couldn't possibly be stupid enough to hide in his own temple, she and Nebula find him there, stripped of his powers and fighting feebly against the white-robed priests of Dahok. He reluctantly permits them to help him escape, then turns on them after some slimy flirtation, insisting that Hercules' regard for Iolaus may prevent him from killing Dahok when he has the chance. Turning the white-robed priests against the women, Ares heads for the temple where Hercules is performing the exorcism.
Inside, Dahok has made Zarathustra's dead son appear to him, asking questions which the god puts in his mouth: "Why can't you be with us? We miss you!" Zarathustra is distracted and tries to embrace the image of his son, but the youth turns on him, attacking him with Dahok's face. The immortal is hurled around the room while Hercules puts a knife to Dahok's throat, but knowing that killing the demon is what he wants, the hero throws the knife away. After a violent struggle, Zarathustra falls to the floor, dying. Hercules tells him that his family is waiting and he is at last free to go. The immortal dies and crumbles to dust. Hercules believes this is an act of mercy which Iolaus caused Dahok to perform, but the god cackles maniacally again, pointing out that only Zarathustra knew how to perform the exorcism. Now Hercules will have to battle him alone. Dahok brags to Hercules that he brought the serpent into man's garden and promises to show the son of Zeus how he seduced Iolaus.
In a vision, Hercules sees Iolaus' arrival in the afterlife. His friend believed he was being greeted by his father in the Elysian Fields, but realized that since he didn't die in Greece, that could not be so. The figure morphed into Nebula, then Hercules, but by then Iolaus realized it was Dahok. The god offered Iolaus god-like powers, promising that he could help mankind directly instead of remaining a sidekick as he always had to while he was at Hercules' side. Dahok showed Iolaus a vision of a man crossing a chasm on a frayed rope. When the rope began to unravel, the man screamed for help and Dahok advised Iolaus to save him with his new powers...although, if he chose to do so, he would be saving a man who would go on to murder a family in a bloody scene which Iolaus witnessed as well. Iolaus chose to let the man fall to his death, at which Dahok called him a murderer for executing someone for a crime he had yet to commit. He promised to serve Iolaus, stressing the indeterminate nature of good and evil and insisting that the Greek gods had no more right to their powers than Iolaus had to his own.
Hercules accuses Dahok of tricking his friend, stressing that Iolaus was a true hero and the most important person in his life. The body of Iolaus begins to tremble and a hole opens in the chest where Hercules made the incision earlier. A hand reaches out, and Iolaus' voice begs Hercules to help him. Hercules reaches for the hand, but Dahok knocks Hercules away with his powers. As the arm slides away, Hercules implores his friend to resist Dahok while the god informs him that after the sun sets, he won't need to hide behind Iolaus any longer. At sunset, Ares enters the temple, distracting Hercules and Iolaus at the moment of Dahok's greatest weakness. Hercules tosses his brother across the room, but Dahok himself tries to strange the God of War in order to gain his powers. Nebula and Morrigan rush in just in time to hold Dahok's priests outside. As the sun sets, Hercules reaches into Dahok's chest and is pulled inside.
In the spiritual realm of the flashbacks, Hercules sees Iolaus and greets his friend, but Dahok shows up in the form of a hideous serpent (the same one that gave Loki his blood to poison Balder). Hercules saves Iolaus and is forced toward a precipice, but the two recreate a trick they used once before at Thermopylae and use Dahok's own momentum to throw him over the edge into a fiery pit. Iolaus' body stops thrashing in the temple, the priests blink and wander away, Ares regains his powers and vanishes. Dahok is gone.
Iolaus thanks Hercules for not giving up on him, and begs forgiveness for betraying him. Hercules calls Iolaus the best friend he ever had and adds that he already has forgiven him. As they speak, a radiant glow surrounds Iolaus. Zarathastra appears inside the light, calling to Iolaus and telling him that he has earned his place in the light. Hercules and Iolaus hug each other, and Zarathustra tells Hercules that the impulse to create does have a name. The two dead men vanish, and Hercules awakens in Morrigan's arms.
A very satisfying ending to this season's arc, with one exception: Iolaus is still dead! How can he still be dead! We were led to believe all along that if Hercules could exorcise Dahok from his friend's body, Iolaus would be restored, since he wasn't supposed to die in the first place. Besides, in "For Those Of You Just Joining Us," Kevin Sorbo - I mean Hercules - said that Iolaus lived a long life! Sorry, but I WANT IOLAUS BACK!
Now that I have that out of my system...Iolaus really met a very suitable end. Though he had some regrets and we have some for him - he never had kids, he didn't get to have any more adventures with Hercules - he died fighting for a cause he believed in and a woman he loved, in the arms of his best friend. We had Zarathustra in the episode pointing out that no one really wants to live forever and Hercules' possible immortality is more curse than blessing - we have already seen that as Herc survived the deaths of his family. Zarathustra made an eminently satisfying person to take Iolaus into the afterlife. I squacked a little at Herc waking up in Morrigan's arms - I like her for the most part, but she's no Iolaus, and they better not try to replace him with her. In general Kurtzman and Orci's writing has been very strong for this set of episodes.
Bruce Campbell did a nice job directing the eerily-lit exorcism, and Dahok's twisted humor worked very well despite the serious theme. I was glad they worked Ares into this storyline, though he's back to being completely shallow where on Xena I thought he might be getting some depth last season. This series has obviously reached a turning point: next week Hercules battles a volcano, but when the smoke settles, it will be interesting to see where he goes next.