While there had been a loosely-basted continuity during the previous five seasons of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys -- held together by the never-ending efforts of half-god, half-human Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and his mortal friend Iolaus (Michael Hurst) to right wrongs and champion noble causes throughout Ancient Greece and the Known World -- Season Five was dominated by a single, basic thought line: Hercules' struggle to find purpose and meaning in life after the death of Iolaus, a struggle that would take him to strange, uncharted lands and a veritable legion of new and fascinating characters. Yes, it's true: faithful Iolaus is killed in the first episode of the fifth season. This, however, did not mean that actor Michael Hurst had departed the series. Instead, Hurst showed up in a variety of different incarnations: The demonic Dahak (a character whom Hurst had introduced on Hercules' companion series Xena: Warrior Princess); the campy "drag" character, Widow Twankey; and Iolaus II, the cowardly, buffoonish "alternate" version of the original Iolaus, who dwells in the parallel world first seen in the fourth-season episode "Stranger in a Strange World." As luck would have it, Iolaus II ends up relocating in the "real" world, where, newly emboldened, he strives to live up to the reputation established by his dearly departed namesake -- at least until another remarkable plot twist at the very end of season five. Getting back to Hercules, the heartbroken superhero, accompanied by pirate queen-cum-Sumerian princess Nebula (Gina Torres) (a character introduced in one shot during season four) is brought back as Iolaus' grieving sweetheart, trying vainly to bring Iolaus back from the dead. When this fails, he turns his back on Ancient Greece and heads to goodness-knows-where. His first stop is on the island of Eire, where he confronts -- and reforms -- a surly Druidic demigod named Morrigan (Tamara Gorski). He then travels to Asgard, land of the Norse gods, where he manages to prevent the End of the World -- with a little help from the mighty Thor (Ben Reed).
It is then back to Sumeria, thence to Corinth, and finally the aforementioned parallel world, where Iolaus II becomes part of the weekly action. That character takes prominence in the season's penultimate story arc, wherein Iolaus II falls in love with Nautica (Andrea Dotchin), the mermaid daughter of ocean god Triton. Meanwhile, Hercules is unexpectedly reunited with his lost love Serena (played by Sam Sorbo, wife of series star Kevin Sorbo), who obviously wasn't quite as dead as she seemed back during season four. Though virtually each and every fifth-season episode picks up where the previous episode left off, there are a handful of amusing self-contained stories. In "Genies and Grecians and Greeks, Oh My," larcenous supporting characters Salmoneus (Robert Trebor) and Autolycus (Bruce Campbell) find themselves in possession of a magic lamp inhabited by a beautiful but klutzy genie. And "For Those of You Just Joining Us," like season four's Yes, Virginia, There is a Hercules," takes place in the present, focusing on another creative crisis plaguing the production staff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. As before, the series' semi-regular actors are seen in modern costumes as the long-suffering producers, writers, and technicians, who this time are threatened with instant unemployment unless they come up with newer and better story ideas. And as before, star Kevin Sorbo shows up as himself -- in a manner of speaking. The fifth season of Hercules concludes with the spectre of Doomsday in the form of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At the time, there were rumors that the series would be canceled, hence the ambiguity of much of the action in the climactic episode (especially regarding the "resuscitation" of poor Iolaus). Ultimately, however, Hercules was renewed for a sixth season -- albeit an astonishingly short one. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst, (more)