"Reunions" Plot Summary:
Zeus and Hercules travel through a series of portals to Olympus, where Hercules arrives a full god. The gods can see all of recorded history on a giant viewscreen tapestry, including the present. Hercules and his father look in on Alcmene in the Elysian Fields, where she seems happy. Hercules wants to go back to Earth for awhile but promises that he'll be back. Elsewhere in Olympus, Hera seethes.
Meanwhile, Jason tells Iolaus that he knows leaving was hard for Hercules, and Iolaus announces that he's going to visit his mother whom he hasn't seen in years. Erithea is delighted to see her son and asks about Hercules, but her husband Pandeon is furious that Iolaus expects to be welcomed back after abandoning her. Hercules arrives near their village, rescues a drowning man with his godlike powers, and is contemplating all the good he can do for humanity when Hera appears. She announces that they have something in common - their contempt for Zeus. Hercules says that they have nothing in common, she's too selfish and greedy, but Hera warns him to figure out why Zeus really brought him to Olympus before he assumes it was to help mankind. Hercules confronts Zeus, who admits that he really wanted his hero son around to protect him from Hera and their children.
Declaring that he's on no one's side, Hercules returns to Earth, where Apollo torments him by threatening people and setting a school on fire. At the same time, Erithea tells Iolaus how abandoned she felt by him, and that she doesn't know him well enough to be proud of him. He heads into town, where he sees Hercules fighting the fire and rushes in to save the children while Hercules tries to stop Apollo from doing any more damage. While Hercules is distracted thus, Hera goes to Hades, imprisons Alcmene in a pit of eternal torment, and tells Zeus that if he doesn't give up all his power, she will keep the only woman he ever loved in pain forever. Zeus gives her his throne, and she makes him a mortal. The earth quakes.
Apollo continues his rampage destroying Iolaus's village, laughing to Hercules that while he was defending these puny humans, Hera took Zeus's powers and turned the king of the gods into a mortal - something Hercules could have stopped, had he been on Olympus. Pandeon apologizes to Iolaus for judging him too harshly, but Iolaus tells Pandeon that he was right - his treatment of his mother was inexcusable. Cast out of heaven, Zeus wanders into a nearby bar, where he proceeds to flirt with a woman whose boyfriend slaps him around. Hera declares that she should have known he'd find a bimbo, and sends Ares to kill Zeus. Hercules finds his father drunk and tries to take him away, but his half-brother arrives and they fight, weakening the walls of the bar. While Zeus proudly watches his boys, Hercules says that patricide is a low blow even for Ares. Ares says, "Like father, like son," Ares says, reminding Hercules that Zeus threw his father into the pit. When the walls collapse, Hercules kicks Ares free but cannot stop the ceiling from falling on Zeus.
When a badly-injured Zeus experiences pain for the first time, Hercules refuses to heal him until he knows what it's like to be dying and afraid. Hercules takes his father back to Olympus to challenge Hera, who tosses him around and prepares to hurl him into the pit of Tartarus, where Chronos, Zeus' father, is trapped forever. But Hercules grabs Hera from beneath the railing and throws her into the pit, where her eyes reflect on the giant viewscreen of the tapestry as her scream echoes. Hercules then tells Zeus, whose powers have been restored, that he wants to be as the fates made him, only half-god. He returns to Earth, where Iolaus has reconciled with his mother, and tells his best friend that he's his real family, not the gods.
Considering that this was the season finale, "Reunions" was a surprisingly low-key episode. The stakes were high - evil witch takes over the known universe, Zeus threatened with death, Hercules' all-powerful siblings out to get him - but it didn't feel as scary as the coming of Dahok on Xena, and there wasn't much suspense. The cinematography was terrific, particularly in the sequence where Hercules battled Hera - a direct steal from Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back except nobody's hand got cut off. I also liked Olympus visually - it was spare rather than opulent, but the tapestry through which the gods watch the world brought it into focus. There were a number of funny parallels between godhood and creating entertainment in this episode and woven through this season, and the image of the giant viewscreen of heaven was a marvelous addition.
Still, the gods themselves were sort of dull. Apollo was bratty, Ares was impotent, Hera talked big but fell far, Hercules didn't think to use god powers and resorted to his fists an awful lot. Zeus was just plain irksome - of course no one could want Hera in charge, but the drunken, womanizing lout really isn't much of an improvement, and I didn't blame Hercules for wanting to get out of there as fast as possible. As everyone from his mother to Jason to the women who pop up in his life occasionally point out, the one who loves him best is Iolaus; it was nice to get a little closure on his backstory.
I wish this show had been more of a reunion: this was the perfect opportunity to assemble the entire pantheon, Aphrodite and Hermes and Cupid and Artemis and all the rest of the gods, for an Olympian war with Hercules caught in the middle. Though perhaps after that, there wouldn't be anything left for the series to do. The ancient gods are still petty and cruel, but will the voiceover have to change next season when Hercules will no longer be battling the minions of his wicked stepmother Hera? It would be nice to see him come up with a plan of action, a purpose - i.e., a story arc - rather than just bouncing from adventure to adventure rescuing people. Then again, as long as Iolaus and Ares and Autolycus and Salmoneus and the rest keep showing up, I'm likely to be entertained.