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What You Need To Know About The Hercules And Xena Crossovers

The syndicated television series "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" took mythology and turned it on its ear, giving viewers an irreverent take on the classical world that nonetheless provided them with characters to care about and action-packed fight sequences that were fun and thrilling to watch. But the "Hercules" spin-off series, "Xena: Warrior Princess," soon eclipsed its mothership in cultural capital, with the relationship between soulmates and partners Xena (Lucy Lawless) and Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor) inspiring reams of discussion about the show's lesbian subtext. The show made Lucy Lawless an action icon and launched her American career, and also provided early roles for actors such as Karl Urban and Timothy Omundson.  

For new viewers just discovering "Xena" as it streams for free on Tubi and is available to rent via other platforms, it might be confusing to puzzle out which episodes of "Hercules" intertwine with "Xena"'s mytharc and vice versa. Let us guide you through the wilds of life in ancient Greece and teach you what you need to know about the way the two shows intersect.

Hercules introduced Xena to the world

The best place to start your "Xena" and "Hercules" crossover journey is at the very beginning — the 9th episode of the 1st "Hercules" season, "The Warrior Princess." It introduces Xena as a villainess as she tries to seduce Iolaus (Michael Hurst) in a bid to take over the world. She appears again in the 12th episode, "The Gauntlet," where she finds herself reluctantly calling on Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) for help. Old Herc only wants Xena to embrace all that is good and light and turn her back on wickedness. It's a prospect that she does not yet embrace, but it allows her to become reluctant partners with Hercules and Iolaus to claim revenge on her lieutenant, Darphus (Matthew Chamberlain), who demanded that she run the titular gauntlet to restore her honor with their group of warlords.

Finally, in the 13th episode, "Unchained Heart," Xena embraces goodness once and for all and turns her back on Darphus, which provides a launching pad for Xena to spin off into her own program. Hercules and Iolaus then pop up in the Season 1 "Xena" episode "Prometheus," in which the twosome team up with Gabrielle and Xena to free the Greek god of fire Prometheus (Mark Ferguson), who has been kidnapped. There, Xena and Hercules — as well as Iolaus and Gabrielle — briefly explore their shared attraction to one another but agree to stay friends.

Taming the Callisto connection

Next up is the 13th episode of the 3rd "Hercules" season, "Surprise." In it, Hera (Meg Foster) resurrects Xena's sworn rival Callisto of Cirra (Hudson Leick) and offers her immortality in exchange for killing Hercules. Naturally, the plot fails, and Callisto ends up trapped in a cave. The "Hercules" episode can be watched at any point between "Xena" Season 2 episodes "Ten Little Warlords" and "A Necessary Evil"; in the latter, Callisto is released from her prison.

"Judgement Day," which is Season 3, Episode 15 of "Hercules," reunites Iolaus, Gabrielle, Xena, and Hercules. Herc has settled down with his new bride, Serena (Sam Jenkins). In exchange for wedded bliss, he has traded in all of his powers and is now functionally a mortal, which proves to be an inconvenience when Serena turns up dead. It turns out that Strife (Joel Tobeck) and Ares (Kevin Smith) framed Herc for the deed, and Xena, Gabrielle, and Iolaus have to race against time to prove their friend's innocence.

Multiverse madness in the 4th season

The "Xena" cast appears in "Hercules" once again during the Season 4 episode "Stranger in a Strange World." Marking the first Joxer the Mighty (Ted Raimi) appearance on "Hercules," "Stranger" is a dip into the Hercules/Xena multiverse, with Lucy Lawless, Kevin Sorbo, Renee O'Connor, Michael Hurst, and Raimi all playing different takes on their familiar characters. Herc is on the hunt for his universe's Iolaus, who has been kidnapped and carried through a time gate by The Sovereign (also played by Sorbo).

Season 4's "Armageddon Now" two-parter involves more timeline-related shenanigans. Following the events of the Season 3 "Xena" episode "Maternal Instincts," Hope (O'Connor again) — the wicked daughter of Gabrielle and Dahak (Hurst) — frees Callisto of Cirra from yet another imprisonment and offers her peace of mind in exchange for the elimination of Herc. Callisto heads into the past to prevent Hercules' birth, and Iolaus gives chase with Ares' assist. The ensuing mess results in both The Sovereign and Hercules trapped in limbo and Iolaus having to pull off some fancy footwork when he lands in a world where an evil Xena rules all. Both episodes should be watched before the "Xena" two-parter "Sacrifice" and after the "Xena" episode "The Bitter Suite."

Iolaus also appears in the Season 2 "Xena" episode "The Quest" to help Gabrielle mourn the temporarily dead Xena. "The Quest" is set after the 3rd season of Hercules.

Tying up loose ends

The whole 5th season of "Hercules" deals with the ramifications of the cross-series Dahak arc, with Hercules working to free the demon from Iolaus' body up through its 11th episode, "Redemption." But if you want to simplify your crossover watching experience, the season's 5th episode, "Render Unto Caesar," provides a glimpse of the emperor (Karl Urban) before he becomes an integral part of "Xena" Season 4. And Ephiny (Danielle Cormack), an Amazon who figures heavily into Gabrielle's Season 4 arc on "Xena," appears in episode 12 of this season, "Sky High."

Hercules makes one final appearance in the Season 5 "Xena" episode "God Fearing Child." There, he offers to protect Xena's unborn child from the Gods attempting to kill her due to a prophetic claim she will end their rule. Herc must protect a laboring Xena from his father, Zeus (Charles Keating), who wants to slay the warrior before she gives birth. It's also important to remember that characters like Autolycus (Bruce Campbell), Ares, and Aphrodite (Alexandra Tydings) often bounce between the two series for guest appearances with little carryover baggage, so the episodes in which they heavily figure can be watched in airing order without worrying about moving back and forth between the two shows. 

With all of this in mind, you should be able to understand the overarching storylines of two of the most popular '90s syndicated action programs with ease.