“I was born four hundred years ago in the Highlands of Scotland. I am immortal and I am not alone. Now is the time of the Gathering, when the stroke of a sword will release the power of the Quickening. In the end, there can be only one.”
How do you build a movie franchise around a character and mythos when everything is resolved in the first flick? Easy – you pretend that none of the subsequent movies ever happened, and you launch a kick-ass television show set before the original movie with sort-of the same character everybody loves, but from a different era. But you totally launch it with that character everybody loved from the movie and show him passing the baton.
That’s basically the gist of Highlander: The Series, of which Season 1 is available for streaming as of this writing.
Gonna admit, I loved this show. From the heyday of syndicated originals before cable truly took over that space, Highlander suffered from some budget constraints, but the stories were always compelling, the characters interesting and the actors amazing. For the most part. (Bull from Night Court played a metal-mask wearing Big Bad in the pilot. Oy.) I mean, you can’t really go wrong with time-spanning immortal characters dueling it out with swords while secret societies track their movements through time in expectation of who will win in the end, and get The Prize.
See, in Highlander, the immortals fight each other in single combat and never on holy ground. They can die like the rest of us, but unless you cut their head off, they’ll simply wake up and walk away from it and start again. If they do manage to win the duel, cut off the head of their enemy, the Quickening happens. This is a transfer of the energy that makes them who and what they are. The winner gains all the power and energy of the loser, including whatever they have from each and every head they have ever taken.
You might read that and thing – holy fuck! This show is a brutal bloodbath!
It’s not. Mostly it’s about Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, the Highlander, cousin to Connor, the original Highlander from the movie. In the movie, Connor has seen the people he’s loved grow old and die while he stays the same, immortal. He’s pulled back from that a bit. Duncan is still in the thick of it, still making relationships, still falling in love. It’s that thirst for life and love that tends to drive a lot of his story.
Are there people showing up every episode trying to cut his head off? Of course. But the stories are often about how Duncan and those he cares about deal with his immortality and the dangers that come with being close to him.
We also get flashbacks to ancient times when Duncan was forced to flee Scotland just as Connor did, because people aren’t supposed to ‘get better’ when they die, and everyone was superstitious. Those are fun moments and we see Duncan and other immortals, including Connor, throughout history.
There’s definitely distinct lines of good and evil in Highlander. Connor and Duncan are of the same clan, the same family, and share similar values and a moral code – mostly since Connor helped train Duncan. The ‘good immortals’ hope to never have to fight each other, but it could end up that way in the end. It all depends on how the battle goes and who are left standing. (They retconned everything in a movie, btw, that closed the circle and sort of made the original movie moot.)
Oh – did I mention the music? They use the Queen soundtrack throughout and for the theme of the show.
“Here we are… born to he kings, we’re the Princes of the Universe…”
Watch Highlander Season 1 on Prime and let me know what you think.