The first season of Hercules closes with the two part story that will spurn a companion series."Gauntlet" part 2 of the Xena trilogy features the return of the Lady Warlord. She's much more the noble warrior in this even while leading a band of vicious bandits (of the type she will commonly fight against in the run of her series). She's also a lot more Butch then she was in "Warrior Princess", more like the Xena I know and adore from her own series. For that reason alone, this is my favorite of the Xena Trilogy. Early into the episode, after raiding a village, Xena encounters Salmoneous, who she sort of takes on as a personal prisoner. But she does so for her own amusement and hardly mistreats him. Despite Salmoneous being a prisoner, you can tell they're becoming fond of each other as friends. The characters/actors have excellent chemistry as good buds and it's clear this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Since Salmoneous is Hercules' friend he turns out to be the bridge between Xena and Hercules. However, the break between Xena and the dark side starts with Darphus, Xena's second in command. While Xena is away Darphus slaughters a village, including women, children, old folks, and babies. Like I said, Xena's a noble chick... so that's not okay with her. She comes upon the ruined village and finds a single baby alive. Darphus is ready to kill it and Xena won't allow it. I guess her men saw this as "weakness" and so aligned themselves with Darphus and made Xena walk a fierce Gauntlet that she barely survives... but she does survive (duh, she's Xena).
Hercules, meanwhile, is traveling with his cousin Iloran (Dean O'Gorman). They are pursuing the evil warlord and when Herc discovers it's Xena it becomes a personal issue. Only he discovers (through an escaped Salmoneous) that Xena is not really his enemy, Darphus is. Despite their issues, they end up uniting against Darphus. Eventually Xena kills him, but thanks to Ares it doesn't stay that way, he raises the guy from the dead and gives him his pet dog to play with.
While like I said, Xena is very likeable bad guy here, barely anything like the evil unfeeling woman we see in "Warrior Princess". She is also clearly very young in some scenes. Unlike in Warrior Princess, there's almost a childlike innocence in her eyes at times. She can be fiercely wild (like when she attacks Hercules), strong and silent (like when she takes the Gauntlet) and at other times almost sweet (when she turns to Herc and ask what she's expected to do now that she's turned away from her old life) and it's still very much in character for her to be so. It's hard not to fall in love with Xena after this episode, it's no wonder Hercules does... for a little while at least.
In a bit of Trivia worth mentioning. Dean O'Gorman (who plays Herc's cousin) will also come to play Young Homer in a Xena episode, but is probably best known in the Herc/Xena world as Young Iolaus in the Young Hercules series. So even though Iolaus wasn't in this episode, his Younger version sort-of was.