Highlander:The Series Retrospective Season 3

Hello and welcome to the definitive recap of the classic television series Highlander. This third season is definitely the hardest one to write about thus far, primarily because, well, I find it easier to bash bad stuff than praising what I do like. And in season three of Highlander, there is nothing bad to bash.

The Story

This season starts differently from the last two. Both of the first two season premieres are significant points in Duncan MacLeod’s life: the first was his introduction to Richie Ryan as well as the time when he returned to the Game; season two’s premiere was when he discovered the Watchers, met Joe Dawson and got his revenge for Darius’s death. This season premiere? It could be any other episode. Except for a few lines about Duncan returning to Seacouver from Paris, there is literally nothing connecting this episode to the end of Season two. Instead, we see the origin of Duncan’s sword! Trust me, it’s much better than it sounds.

The first several episodes are quite important to the Highlander mythos. Episode 2 (Line of Fire) has Duncan avenging the death of his Sioux wife, Little Deer, by killing Kern, the most horrible Immortal since the Kurgan. Now, Duncan had told Tessa (and later Anne) that he’d never been married, but the show’s promotional material does refer to this woman as his wife, and he was married briefly in Endgame so I’m led to believe he lied to them. The third episode, The Revolutionary, has Duncan stopping another war, and it’s also the introduction to Dr. Anne Lindsey and the last episode with Charlie DeSalvo (who leaves with a beautiful woman to help rebuild a war torn country and have lots and lots of sex. We later find out that he actually joined her rebel group, despite the lesson learned in this episode). Dr. Lindsey does become Duncan’s girlfriend over the course of the season. The next eleven episodes are quite memorable villain-of-the-week episodes that delve into the questions surrounding immortality. There’s an episode about a new, young Immortal coping with her new life (Rite of Passage) one that answers the question of what happens to child Immortals (The Lamb) and one that explores the other possible supernatural powers being available to Immortals (Shadows), amongst others. We even get a glimpse at the the lives of the Watchers in They Also Serve, which I’d rate as probably the best single scene of this season.

Then, the best villain thus far in the series arrives. Kalas, the former monk and Opera singer, appears in Song of the Executioner. He’s hell bent on revenge, and after eliminating Duncan’s friend Paul, he sets his sights on MacLeod. He does everything he can to ruin the lives of all Duncan’s friends, including causing Anne and Duncan’s breakup. He even ventured to Paris to kill Hugh Fitzcairn (which HURT). Thankfully, they immediately replace him with an even more charming Immortal friend for Duncan – Methos, the fabled “oldest Immortal”. More on him later.

Kalas was a looming threat throughout the much of Paris segment of this season, though Methos helped to ensure he was arrested. That wasn’t the end of the story for Kalas and Duncan’s feud, but it was put on hold. Anne and DuncanĀ  got back together, and found out Anne got pregnant during their time apart. Anne found out Duncan was an Immortal and, eventually, decided she wanted no part in it after witnessing a Quickening. Meanwhile, Kalas’ search for Methos (whose Quickening should have given him the power to beat Duncan MacLeod) led him to discovering the Watchers, since Methos has been posing as Watched Adam Pierson. Kalas actually murders a Watcher to get his Watcher Chronicle (a book full of information on Immortals) which leads to his arrest. That Watcher’s widow decided that she’s use a database her husband developed to expose the Immortals to the world. The last two episodes of the season, Finale Parts 1 and 2, concentrated on the race to stop this. When Kalas got the disc, the focus shifted to Duncan trying to destroy the disc and Kalas, with Kalas using that disc to bait Duncan into giving up his head. It didn’t work, and the season ended with a beautiful fight scene on the Eiffel Tower.

Characters:

This season marks the return of Hugh Fitzcairn (Roger Daltry of The Who), as well as the return of Xavier St Cloud (Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals) in a flashback. It also introduces another Canadian actor, Lisa Howard, in the role of Dr. Anne Lindsey. It seems she was unpopular, and I can sort of see why: she’s not as conventionally attractive as Duncan’s other love interests, and she came into the picture 6 months (series time) after Tessa’s death. However, I found Anne to be a likable character, though Howard had less natural chemistry with Adrian Paul than Alexandra Vandernoot did. Oh, yeah, and we’re introduced to the most popular character from the series, Methos. We don’t get a lot of time with the Oldest Immortal, but in the time he is on screen, especially in the episode Methos, he’s charming and lovable, smart-assed, and generally awesome. I’m fairly sure the only reason he didn’t get a spin-off series is that he has a silly name.

The established characters developed in ways that were unexpected, but believable. Joe lost a girlfriend to an Immortal killer, and was arrested after Kalas framed him, so that drove him more toward the idea that Watchers should be more active in the Game. Richie continued his growth by finally (sort of) becoming a father to his ex girlfriend’s kid, then giving them up for their own protection. Charlie, well, he basically spent his time nagging Duncan before being written out. Duncan’s descent into moral ambiguity continued and hit new levels of unpredictability, stopping friends from becoming murderers or saving people from a life of crime one episode, letting killers who aren’t “all bad” live and cutting people off from their families in others. It did become a negative at one point, but generally, his actions fit with the idea of a Neutral Good character forced into a situation where he had to kill people regularly. As for his love life, well, it became clear to me this season that Duncan is polyamorous, though he remained faithful physically to any woman he was with. That’s the only possible reason that he can get it on with people so quickly after the death of Tessa, and why he acts as if he’s still in love with all hit Immortal exes, and his mortal ex from Studies In Light. As far as fan theory goes, it’s probably the best one I can think of to explain this aspect of Duncan’s character.

The villains continue to shine in this series. In many ways, Highlander: the Series is like Batman, in that the main character is less interesting than his villains. Aside from Kalas, the deep-voiced vengeance-obsessed madman, and Kern (think the Kurgan if he was American) we have Lucas Kagan, Kenneth, Michael Kent and Lyman Kurlow (yes, this franchise has a lot of “K” villains…). Every one has an interesting hook: Michael Christian finds Immortals who are weaponless and takes an easy Quickening. Kenneth, a child, gets good Immortals to protect him and then betrays them. John Garrick uses a form of magic to drive his targets crazy before finishing them off. Axel Whittaker finds new Immortals (always women), promises to protect them, then kills them when he gets bored of them. They almost sound like Batman villains, now that I think about it, and that is not a bad thing.

As far as famous guest stars, aside from a one episode with Barry Pepper, and another episode with Gabrielle Miller (playing another character other than the one she played in season 2) and, uh, Roger Daltrey and Roland Gift reprising their roles for an episode each, we didn’t get a lot this season.

The Good:

Basically everything was good here. Is it a cop-out? Yes, but it’s bloody well true.

One thing I’d like to specifically point out is that this show is unabashedly multi-cultural, and this season showcases it better than any other thus far. We see Duncan bond with a Japanese man and learn an appreciation for Japanese culture in The Samurai, and we see him essentially becoming a Sioux in Line of Fire, and in They Also Serve, he gets it on with a Chinese Immortal (in a flashback). His friendship with Charlie is never forced (though I have issues with Charlie in this season) and at every opportunity he fights racism. For an especially good racist-bashing episode, we have Mortal Sins, where Duncan takes out an entire neo-nazi crew and kills a nazi Immortal. Any time a nazi dies on screen, it undoes some of the damage my soul withstood from re-watching Red Sonja.

The Bad:

As far as negatives go, there are only two I can think of, and both are mitigated by the rest of the season. The first is the treatment of Charlie. In the second season, he might have been clearly less awesome than Duncan, but he was a cool cat, and there was more to him than complaining about everything Duncan did. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I said that all he did was nag Duncan this season, before getting written out of the show.

The other one was the episode Obsession. Not because it was a bad episode (far from it) but because of how it makes Duncan MacLeod look. In the episode, Duncan’s friend David Keogh comes to him to ask him to be his Best Man at his wedding to a woman named Jill. The problem is that Jill wants nothing to do with him. David proposed, then killed himself in front of her to show off his Immortality. This freaked her out, she broke up with him, and he took to stalking her. Duncan did try to talk some sense into him, however, it didn’t work. Keogh kept trying to, essentially, force Jill to love him, and she ran as far as she could. Eventually she got so afraid of him that she climbed off the edge of her balcony to get away. When Duncan tried to help her down, Keogh reached out for her and she pulled back and fell to her death. The only reason Duncan fought Keogh is that Keogh blamed Duncan for Jill’s death and attacked him! When Duncan won, he let him go and stated he’d not chase after him. Just to repeat that: our hero let an emotionally abusive stalker who caused a woman’s death walk away because he was friends with him a long time ago. While I prefer morally ambiguous heroes, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.

The Ugly:

This series did re-use a lot of actors for different characters. Dustin Nguyen played Chu Lin in The Road Not Taken and Jimmy Sang in Revenge of the Sword. Emile Abossolo-M’bo played Luther in Legacy, and apparently played an orderly in the season six episode Patient 7. Gabrielle Miller plays a woman named Bess in Epitaph for Tommy and Michelle Webster in Rite of Passage from this season. Also in this season, there was one that I almost called a real negative, since Mary Woronov played the Watcher who cheated to help Michael Christian in They Also Serve and another character a few episodes later – but then I found out that it was actually an actress who looked nearly identical to Woronov. Why they did that, I have no clue.

Another “ugly” is that the Watchers are sworn to not interfere, and yet that seems to be all they do. It is a sort of running joke amongst fans of this show, but it goes to ridiculous levels here. It even gets to the point where Duncan and Amanda work with all the Paris area Watchers (not just Joe and Methos/Adam Pierson) to stop Kalas. In They Also Serve (which barely missed my Top 5) it’s actually strongly implied that most Watchers end up developing a strong connection to their Immortals, which actually makes sense when you think about it. Their whole lives are dedicated to watching one of these people. Who would not grow to love or at least be charmed by Duncan MacLeod, Amanda, Darius, or Hugh Fitzcairn?

Worst Episode:

For reasons stated above, Obsession. However, it’s not that bad an episode overall.

Best Episodes:

A note: Most episodes of this season are top notch, brilliant shows. Not counting a few Kalas episodes, there were about four or five episodes I almost listed here.

5: Rite of Passage, which answers the question of how a young Immortal would cope with a good teacher and with a bad one, while also tackling the very real issues of losing a daughter, making a mistake with your first love, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

4: Line of Fire, where Duncan is pushed over the edge, kills a memorable villain in a memorable way, and has may be the weirdest Quickening ever.

3: Take Back The Night. Ceirdwyn should have become a recurring character. She was goddamned awesome.

2: Song of the Executioner.

1: Finale parts 1 and 2. I wanted to put every episode with Kalas on this list, but I’ve established that I only do a “top 5” and I didn’t want to somehow say that Kalas was the only good thing here. Song of the Executioner gets put in here because of how excellent it was as an introduction to Kalas. Finale probably had the highest stakes and greatest threat to the Immortals in general, and MacLeod in specific, and it handled that perfectly.

Best Quickening:

A Quickening on the Eiffel Tower that causes a massive blackout throughout Paris earns this award for Finale Part 2, but special mention goes to the bizarre Quickening from Line of Fire.

Final Verdict:

10/10. Most fans of this series say that seasons 3 and 4 are the best, and I can definitely see why. This is why I prefer the series to the movies. You can’t help but fall in love with the characters and root for them to succeed in all their endeavours. The first movie may have done something great, but this is why there’s an actual fandom for this franchise.

You can watch the series here, or on Hulu or iTunes.

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