Herc Versus The Volcano
"Sky High" Plot Summary:
As a volcano smolders in the background, a village panics. Hercules attempts to direct traffic along with Ephiny, whose son lives with nearby centaurs; she gives the hero condolences on the death of Iolaus and discusses the injured villagers whom it will be impossible to evacuate. Hercules shows her exploding crystals from Atlantis which he has brought in hope of diverting the lava flow towards the sea, but they need four men to help carry the crystals to the peak of Mt. Pelion. Three villagers volunteer, but when Hercules searches for a fourth, the only man he can convince is Kurth - a criminal sentenced to death for killing the son of Nagus, a local centaur.
Nagus, who has remained in the village waiting with local thugs for the hanging, is furious. Still, he does not interfere as Hercules and Ephiny load up wagons and set out to climb the mountain. Before they are out of sight of the village, geysers caused by the lava-heated ground water kill one man, then frighten the horses into bolting. One of the carts explodes, killing another. Ephiny sends the last volunteer home after learning that he is very young and a farmer, needed to take care of his family's lands. Several of the local thugs then attack the remaining thug with crossbows; Ephiny knocks them out one by one, but not before the remaining horse is shot, and Kurth steals the remaining horse to flee.
While Hercules stabilizes the remaining cart and stops the crystals from exploding, Nagus corners Kurth. The centaur has a chance to kill his son's murderer, but chooses to let him live. Ephiny catches Kurth, dragging him back to Hercules, who tells Nagus that they have no horses and need him to pull the wagon in order to save the village. He reluctantly agrees, but the group comes to a rickety rope bridge across a ravine, and unload the crystals to carry across by hand so that the cart will weigh less when it must cross. Kurth slips and loses several of the crystals as Hercules and Ephiny save him, but the group are nearly safe when the lead thug, who has been abandoned by his gang members, cuts the ropes.
While Hercules wrestles Ephiny and Kurth to safety, Nagus fights the vicious gang leader, who declares that he never liked the centaur's son. Hercules rescues Nagus, but in order to do so he lets the wagon fall into the ravine, where it explodes. The group stops in a cave to regroup. Ephiny is too injured to continue, though she insists that she will. Nagus recognizes the Amazon as the mate of a centaur and listens when she explains the guilt she felt over her husband's death; it's similar to his feelings about the death of his son. Kurth has already explained to Hercules that the young centaur's death was an accident, but when he asks Nagus for forgiveness, Nagus tells him to go to Tartarus.
As they approach the summit, Hercules admits that they have lost too many crystals to blow a hole in the side of the volcano as he planned; someone will have to drop the crystals directly into the caldera. Nagus realizes that the hero intends to sacrifice himself and insists that he should be the one to go, since the world needs Hercules. While they fight, Kurth takes the crystals and steals away. Climbing the mouth of the volcano, he leaps in, creating an eruption which spills the lava out to sea, away from the village.
As people return, Hercules brings Ephiny a walking staff so that she can catch up with Xenon, her son. Ephiny says, "You ARE a god." Nagus admits that Kurth's death didn't make him feel any better. Hercules tells him that Kurth didn't kill himself for Nagus - he did it for the village, and for himself - and adds that if Nagus has learned to forgive his enemy, he has learned the most important lesson.
This was an entertaining though inconsequential episode, with the same theme as most of the previous centaur stories about the unfairness of prejudice and the need for forgiveness. Nagus was a likeable character so I was glad he survived, but we learned nothing new about the centaurs, nor about Ephiny, whom I am always glad to see but whose part could have been played by Morrigan, Nebula, or anyone else who could relate to Nagus' familial guilt.
Kurth was interesting - for a man who wasn't guilty of the crime for which he'd been sentenced, he didn't seem very troubled at first by his impending death, so his later acquisition of a conscience seemed more like a suicide wish than a conversion. The rest of the characters were throwaways, especially the thug. There was wonderful footage of the volcanic eruption at the end and the scenes on the bridge were very well filmed, so I wondered why there were also cheesy video shots of cracked cart wheels early in the episode; in some places the directing was breathtaking, in others mediocre.
Next week Hercules goes to the other universe and meets Iolaus' still-living double. This seems strange to me, since it was the parallel Zeus' illness affecting the Zeus in this universe which first drew Hercules through the portal, but then, the episode is titled "Stranger and Stranger" so maybe it will be explained.