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The Legendary Journeys continue!
on 16 January 2007
The second season of the adventures of everyone's favourite half-god continues in much the same vein and at the same pace as the previous one, with Hercules and Iolaus battling gods, monsters and the occasional warlord in their usual, lighthearted way.
It's also nice to see some (albeit heavily amended) original stories from ancient Greek myth popping up, in episodes such as 'The Apple' and 'The Other Side', as well as some storylines of what would have happened after the original myth ended, like in 'All That Glitters', where we see how King Midas ended up, and 'Once A Hero' with a reunion of the Argonauts as they reprise their quest for the Golden Fleece. And between battles, Hercules also finds the time to invent things like surfing and the Olympian Games.
This season tends to be slighly "lighter" than the first one, going easy on the gore and the dark themes, and providing more broad entertainment for the whole family. Of course, there are still some major ethical lessons to learn, such as tolerance, honesty, trust, and letting go.
Favourite episodes in this season include: 'Mother Of All Monsters', in which Echidna tries to avenge the deaths of her monster children by Hercules' hands, and Hercules is for once the vulnerable one, and 'The Other Side', a particularly poignant episode in which Hercules has to rescue Persephone from the Underworld and is reunited with his late wife and children. Episodes 'The Apple' and especially 'King For A Day' are very special in a way that their star is not Hercules, but Iolaus. Michael Hurst proves here that his 'sidekick' character is capable of carrying an entire episode, which is pretty amazing for a show only in its second season.
The only real drawback about the season 2 episodes is the season finale, 'Cave Of Echoes', in which the series producers apparently ran out of money and in which we have to watch Hercules and Iolaus walking through a cave for almost the entire 45 minutes as they flash back to all the things they did this and last season, which gets quite boring though the actors clearly try to make the most of it.
More regular characters to the Hercules/Xena universe are introduced in this season, beginning with fan favourite Autolycus (the immensely funny and charming Bruce Campbell) in the season opening 'The King of Thieves'. Who we also meet for the first time are the inventor of fastfood drive-by, Falafel, and Hercules and Iolaus' good friend Jason, leader of the Argonauts. Lucy Lawless gets to reprise her role as Lyla the centaur's wife in 'Outcast' (Salmoneus and Hercules make an amusing comment of how she reminds them of someone they know), and Liddy Holloway appears as the third and final Alcmene. We also see more of the gods: Hades, Demeter, Persephone, Artemis, Athena, and of course everyone's favouite goddess Aphrodite, portrayed delightfully by Alexandra Tydings.
Another couple of fan favourites, the late, great Kevin Smith and the lovely Joel Tobeck, make their debuts to the series as Hercules' mortal half-brother Iphicles and King Beraus, respectively. Their better known characters Ares and Strife do not appear until next season, though.
The extras in this set are what almost made me rate this 4 instead of 5 stars, because the commentaries are rather thin on the ground, not as amusing or informative as the previous ones, and there was no Michael Hurst! However, the extra 'surprise' disc made up for that with a long interview with series Daddy Rob Tapert, and a 30-minute blooper reel of the entire series! This was great.
Perhaps not as good as Season 1, Season 2 still contains more than enough fun stuff to keep you entertained for hours on end. Any Herc fan should definitely add it to their collection!