"Hercules on Trial"
by Michelle Erica Green

The First 'Trial of the Century'

"Hercules on Trial" Plot Summary:

Kazankas, a would-be hero, claims to be Hercules and tries to rescue two children and their father from a mine cave-in. Hercules arrives in time to help get the children out, but not to save Kazankas. The local magistrate arrests him and charges him with manslaughter at the behest of Spencius, a prosecutor who wants to bring Hercules down.

In jail, Hercules promises not to break out until the trial has run its course. The venue is moved to Athens. Spencius charges Hercules with sedition and failing to obey the gods - his argument being that when people try to be heroes, they abandon their families, get killed in wars, and have no respect for local laws. Ares shows up to taunt Hercules that this is where his affection for humans has gotten him. Iolaus encourages Hercules to break out, but Hercules says he wants to prove that he does have respect for laws, so he keeps his word.

Iolaus recruits Circe as Hercules' attorney, and she calls impressive witnesses like Jason (of the Argonauts) and Daedalus (the inventor). But Spencius twists their testimony, arguing that Hercules got innocent people killed on a hero's mission with Jason to bolster their own reputations, and that Hercules was responsible for Daedalus's son Icarus's death, since the boy acted as if he might be immortal like Hercules. Heroes are irresponsible and lead people astray from responsible, orderly lives, says Spencius.

Hercules becomes demoralized, thinking that he might be responsible for the deaths of his own wife and children because he couldn't save them. Iolaus testifies for the prosecution; though his testimony is very favorable to Hercules; the prosecutor uses him as an example of the special treatment Hercules gives his friends, since he brought Iolaus back from the dead but didn't do the same for others. The trial is interrupted by a giant trashing a village. Hercules reluctantly breaks his word (and jail) to do something about it; turns out the big guy merely had a toothache, and needed some help.

Hercules goes back to court and says that he's guilty - he's not afraid to risk his life for another, nor to urge others to do the same. If the gods want to treat us like animals, he argues, then we need to prove that we are noble - that we follow the spirit of the law rather than the letter. At this, Iolaus announces that if the magistrate banishes Hercules, he'll have to banish Iolaus too, because Iolaus is Hercules. Jason rises and says, "And I am Hercules." So does Daedalus. Soon the whole room is saying "I am Hercules," including the magistrate, who dismisses the case. Hercules smiles and goes off to stop Ares' latest war.


This was a dopey episode. So the point is, it's OK for certain people but not for others to follow their hearts and break the law as long as the law is wrong, and it's OK for people to try to be heroes but it's a pain in the butt when they screw up and then a real hero has to come undo the damage? I guess the writers wanted to show Jason as a lead-in for next week's episode about young Herc and Jason and Medea, but it seems to me that they could have had LOTS of heroes on this one - Theseus, Perseus, etc. For that matter, they could have had an Illegitimate Sons of Zeus meeting and made an excellent case for it being the gods' own fault that there are heroes messing up the status quo.

Instead they did an episode about the problem with heroes, without ever talking about the REAL problem with heroes, namely that they're imperialist interventionists who tell people to overthrow their governments only when such ideas are in keeping with the hero's ideology, not when he has a vested interest in supporting said government. Obviously this show has no intention of making a deep statement about the way Hercules has interfered with the cultures he's influenced, diverting them from the course of development they might have taken without his meddling. So there's no point in analyzing that aspect of the hero. But then why bring up the question of his relative value at all?

I think I will settle for mentioning the things I liked, namely that there were women on the jury, and that we got some gratuitous Ares appearances. We might as well have a progressive fake Athenian society, and as many shots of the gorgeous Kevin Smith as possible...no complaining, boys, you get plenty of lovely women on this show. I always enjoy watching Hercules have angst about the pain and suffering he can't do anything about - watching this episode about heroes and politics during a week when our president is being accused of all sorts of ugly things was sort of poignant. At least no one Hercules knows ever had to plead the fifth.

Both Hercules and Xena had some interesting commentary going on about fans this week...on this show, there seemed to be subtle encouragement not to take the hero too seriously, while on Xena, both fan fiction (the rewriting of the "real" universe) and fans who'd worship the warrior princess instead of the 'correct' god of their religion caused no end of trouble. I'm not sure what it means when the series start bringing the heroes down.

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