The Hercules television movies had proven so popular that a full series was soon commissioned.
One of the main hurdles of this episode is to make the transition from the five movies into a regular series. After opening with a well choreographed but rather regular bar fight, Hercules returns home for Deianeira and his children to be suddenly wiped out by a fireball from Hera. This seems very sudden and abrupt.
It is a real shame that Tawny Kitaen doesn't appear as Deianeira in this episode, to make her sudden death more realistic and hard hitting – the woman in her bed is clearly not her (just a double with a wig) and we only see her briefly in a flashback montage. Kitaen makes a couple of return appearances as Deianeira in future episodes, so I don't know why they didn't use her in this one.
In myth, Hera drove Hercules mad and it was he who killed his family. This would have made a great story, but although the series might have delicately trod into this sort of territory later on, it was far too dark for the first episode of the series. It is a shame that they didn't make a 'in-between' movie, transitioning from the first five movies to the series, and telling this story, in a dark vein similar to 'Hercules in the Underworld'.
Also with move to a regular series, there is no Anthony Quinn as Zeus. Quinn's scenes with Kevin Sorbo were one of the highlights of the five TV movies, and it is a real shame that he couldn't be convinced to appear in the series, even if it was on a small, semi-regular basis. The sudden disappearance of Zeus after such a constant presence in the movies is another thing that makes this transition episode a bit bumpy. Zeus would finally appear much later in the series, but played by a different actor, and severely lacking Quinn's presence.
As it is, we get this watchable but slightly disjointed and uneven series of events. For all of the unevenness and sudden, disjointed events, it is still a great adventure, and gets the series off to a good start.
With Hercules swearing vengeance on Hera, it is left to Iolaus to try and defeat a half woman, half snake she-demon that is luring men from a nearby village towards her and turning them to stone with her tail.
Iolaus, by the way, seems to have suddenly lost his family too, but is not played upon here or any episode to any real extent. This episode showcases how Iolaus is a hero in his own right, but – with him being turned to stone – also shows that he works better as a team with Hercules.
The outline for this episode is much as it would be for the bulk of the series – action packed and sometimes mildly scary, but definitely tongue in cheek, and slightly camp at times, but not over-the-top. It also has some good effects for a quite moderate television series budget, particularly one in its experimental first season.
Of course, after Hercules has unwittingly saved a feisty damsel in distress from one of Hera's temples, he eventually becomes convinced to spend his life coming to people's aid, and deals with the snake-woman himself. The battle of wits in the snake-woman's cave is well shot and has some very reasonably effects.
[Very mild spoiler] Of course, after Hercules has tricked the snake-woman, all of her victims – including Iolaus – are suddenly, miraculously turned back from stone to their living selves. No explanation of why this happens is really given, but the episode doesn't really need it (and it allows for a nice moment of Iolaus telling Hercules that he said Deianeira and the children in the Underworld). [End of mild spoiler]
The ending of this episode is a bit strange, as it really plays out like Hercules and Iolaus are parting ways. Of course, it's quite the opposite – but watching this episode for the first time, you'd be forgiven for thinking it is the last time we shall see them together!
All-in-all, this first episode his noticeably uneven in places, but beyond that acts as a very good starter to the regular television series, and leaves you wanting to see the next episode.