Our reviews of Highlander (Blu-Ray) (published November 12th, 2010), Highlander / Highlander 2 (Blu-Ray) 25th Anniversary Collection (published January 31st, 2011), Highlander: The Series, Season One (published December 17th, 2002), Highlander: The Series, Season Two (published March 18th, 2004), Highlander: The Series, Season Four (published June 8th, 2004), Highlander: The Series, Season Five (published September 22nd, 2004), Highlander: The Series, Season Six (published February 16th, 2005), and Highlander: Ultimate Collection (published May 16th, 2007) are also available.
"I now look back at it, and it's changed my life so profoundly. I mean, I now live 5,000 miles away, I have a child who will grow up with an accent that is completely unrelated to my own, at the bottom of a mountain where we will go snowboarding next to the ocean where the orcas swim by every year. And my acting—my craft is so totally altered by my work, my experience on Highlander. The places I've had to go with the character of Methos. I am profoundly changed by it. [pause] It's this strange little show about immortality, and here I am five years after we've shot the final episode still talking about it. It's a show that will not die."—Peter Wingfield (Methos)
As Highlander progresses, I'm continually amazed by how much intelligence is evident in the writing, acting, and production of the series. Highlander opens up the world to us, recreating far-off lands and times past. Richly detailed characters provide hearty emotional weight. The plots are full of action, humanity, and moral dilemmas. Highlander is imaginative and highly entertaining.
Facts of the Case
Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) seems to have put Tessa's death behind him. With the unlikable Horton off his back, Duncan is free to focus on another batch of friends and foes. He and Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) form a deeper friendship, while Duncan falls for a sprightly doctor named Anne (Lisa Howard). Richie explores the meaning of Immortality and learns that mortals can still make trouble for him. The season finds real purpose with the introduction of Kalas (David Robb), a malignant adversary with a cunning mind. But it's really about the beheadings, which occur with regularity.
There was a dramatic boost in quality from Highlander Season One to Season Two. Season Two had better video quality, extras, writing, and quality control. Season Three is better than Season Two, though the improvement is not as dramatic. Nonetheless, this boxed set is a close-to-perfect treatment of a television series on DVD.
The extra content is overwhelming in scope, variety, and detail. Each episode gets its own bevy of extras tailored to that specific episode. (Sometimes, great episodes get scant extras, while bad episodes are granted stellar extras to compensate.) Most notable is the honesty that comes through in the interviews. Executive producer Bill Panzer, writer David Abramowitz, and the rest of the production team really understand what they have created. Bill will be the first to tell you when something sucks, which makes later horn-tooting seem genuine. People apologize for bad calls and take pride in good ones. Some of the interviews are dry, but still manage to convey a deep respect for the series and reveal interesting production aspects.
I really like hearing from Bill and David, but the centerpieces of the extras are the video commentaries by cast members Adrian Paul, Anthony DeLongis, Elizabeth Gracen, and Peter Wingfield. These commentaries alone are worth the price of the boxed set for fans of the series. But wait, there's more! Someone has taken the time to write additional information about the Immortals, weapons, and Watchers in each episode. The blooper reel from Season One makes an encore, but it makes much more sense being paired with this season. The shooting scripts and other extras you've come to expect are back. What more could they possibly cram in? This set is absolutely stacked.
Season Three has something of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect. The writing is stellar at the beginning and end, but loses its way in the middle. (See the Rebuttal Witnesses for more information.) One's perception of an actor or show can hinge on moments such as this. Fortunately, the powers that be decided to introduce subplots that carried through multiple episodes, which immediately cement the creative vision and banish the memory of past misdeeds.
Season Three has loads of action and a fair amount of humor. The flashbacks are handled with aplomb. I've broken it down below; prepare for spoilers!
• "The Samurai," AKA "Duncan San Learns Meaning of
• "Line of Fire," AKA "Scowling Eagle MacLeod
Scalps Brutish Biker Dude"
• "The Revolutionary," AKA "Zealous Warmonger
Induces Awkward Love Scenes"
• "The Cross of St. Antoine," AKA "Golden Crucifix
Awes Uncultured Swineboy"
• "Rite of Passage," AKA "Hot Troubled Chick Bites
the Dust and Wakes Up Grumpy"
• "Courage," AKA "Just Say No to Drugs, Especially
if You're Immortal"
• "The Lamb," AKA "Immortal Kid Will Beat You Up
and Steal Your Lunch Money"
• "Obsession," AKA "Like Marky Mark in that
• "Shadows," AKA "Let's Spice Things Up By Having
Duncan Crack Up"
• "Blackmail," AKA "Lawyers Are Slime"
• "Vendetta," AKA "Pathetic Gangster Annoys
MacLeod for Centuries"
• "They Also Serve," AKA "Let's Show a Bunch of
Flashbacks Interspersed with Watchers Playing Poker"
• "Blind Faith," AKA "If Satan Opened a Soup
Kitchen, Would We Forgive Him?"
• "Song of the Executioner," AKA "Let's Get Back
to the Good Stuff"
• "Star-Crossed," AKA "Immortal Chef Falsifies
Computer Records to Impress a Lady"
• "Methos," AKA "Oldest Living Being is Just a
• "Take Back the Night," AKA "Punks Who Shoot
Immortals for No Reason Will Pay"
• "Testimony," AKA "Hey, Anne…Sorry About
that Fake Death Thing"
• "Mortal Sins," AKA "Unstable Priest Kills Nazi
Officer Three Times in a Row"
• "Reasonable Doubt," AKA "Immortals with Long
Blond Hair are Usually Evil"
• "Finale (1)," AKA "Duncan's Friends go
• "Finale (2)," AKA "Duncan and Amanda Sittin' in
a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…"
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Some things never change. The Watcher Chronicles still contain massive spoilers, so don't read them until you've watched all six seasons of the show. There are still no chapter stops after the opening credits. You know, I've heard it 22 times in a row, but I still cannot decipher what Freddie Mercury is singing in that last line: "Take me to the future of you all?"
The video quality is really not good, with some rough and grainy patches and overall malaise. The audio is often hard to hear. There are no subtitles, but I did employ closed captioning often. I would point out specific sections that were hard to hear, but they are so pervasive it would take too much space. Part of the problem is the 5.1 remix. The original audio wasn't good to begin with. Breaking it up into 5.1 discrete channels somehow emphasizes the emptiness, giving us lots of tertiary sonic info that doesn't coalesce into a true sound experience. I mostly listened to the series through headphones or by downmixing to 2.0 using the receiver.
There are new annoyances as well. The middle of the season has somewhat of a creative breakdown, where we are treated to unfocused plots, bad acting, and some really stupid characters, such as Benny and Robert Waverly. I felt despair, as though the once-great series was slipping through my fingers like sand. Season Two had "The Zone," which is worse than any individual episode here. But the block of "Obsession," "Shadows," "Blackmail," "Vendetta," and "They Also Serve" are collectively more damaging. Individually they range from okay ("Shadows") to wretched, but having them huddled in a big clump like that is worse. Fortunately the ship rights in a big way with the introduction of Kalas. Things get better and stay that way for the rest of the season.
Adrian Paul and Lisa Howard don't have quite as much chemistry together as did Adrian and Alexandra or Adrian and Elizabeth. I've always liked Lisa Howard and the character of Anne Lindsey; she is attractive, curious, and playful. Anne led to some of the best writing in the series, providing the tension that came from not knowing MacLeod's secret. However, there were several opportunities to sizzle that merely smoked a little.
This season is the master of its own destiny. The series is now truly separate from the movies—which is a blessing—and is consistently creative and engaging. Highlander takes us to another place, exactly as good fantasy should. The DVD boxed set is admirably handled, which makes it easy to recommend Season Three.
Long live Duncan MacLeod!
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