Season Three gave us a long stretch of great episodes, but it also had a
sizable block of clunkers. Season Four is more consistent in terms of acting and
story quality, which is to say it hovers right around the B+/A- line for most of
the season. There are only three subpar episodes, but even this small handful of
misfires has more charm than did Season Three's. A few truly classic episodes,
such as the award-winning "Brothers in Arms," the exotic "The
Wrath of Kali," and the intense "Methuselah's Gift," ensure that
Season Four maintains Highlander's customary level of quality.
Season Four takes risks to keep the show fresh. One risk was to play a
couple of episodes as straight comedy. We've had comedic episodes before, but
they were neutered through incorporations of drama, violence, or surrealism.
"Double Eagle" and "Till Death" invite heartfelt laughs,
making no pretense at seriousness.
Another risk was to let Adrian Paul take a back seat in some of the
episodes. Paul does a fine job of anchoring the series with engaging acting and
an undeniable magnetism, but to have him front and center at all times would
eventually get stale. Methos, Amanda, and Joe all get to step into the
On the other hand, two episodes make Paul the undeniable main attraction,
and not in a friendly way. "Something Wicked" and
"Deliverance" show us a side of MacLeod we might rather not have seen,
which is a fascinating twist. Together, these risks add interest to the season
and constantly present us with new looks at the characters.
Last season's aptly named finale neatly tied off many threads, which left
Duncan's possibilities wide open. That is precisely what we get. Duncan is
unanchored, floating around from continent to continent with no strings. The
opening episode literally has him coming home to search for his roots.
Throughout the course of the season, few of his friends or lovers are
consistent. This widening of the highlander's field is both intriguing and
disconcerting. We want him to find peace and happiness, but the very nature of
his Immortality makes it difficult. The season deeply explores themes of
longevity and its effects on relationships, personality, and honor. The themes
are more mature than those in previous seasons, even if they aren't as
As a boxed set, Season Four is consistent with Seasons Two and Three, which
is to say that the extras are simply outstanding. Each episode has its own set
of extra content, ranging from cast and crew interviews to outtakes to deleted
scenes to audiovisual commentary tracks. Many episodes have more extras than the
running time of the actual episode. The last disc is again devoted to season
extras such as scripts, production notes, and bios. I cannot fathom a
Highlander fan being disappointed with this impressive treatment.
And now for the episodes, but beware: Spoilers are everywhere.
Adrian Paul's directorial debut is
pleasantly uneven. The downside is a healthy dose of eye-roll-inducing
cliché. Try this one: Doomed lovers meet near a cliff where the gal
threatens to jump. Duncan extends his hand. If you guessed that she'd decide not
to jump, but slip anyway and fall to her death before Duncan can save her
… you don't win anything because we all guessed it too. The tone of
melodrama is simply too thick. However, it is obvious that this overwrought
subtext is based in hearty respect for the legends of Scotland; the entire
episode is a play on legend and the characters of myth. Adrian the director
wrings verisimilitude from his understanding of Duncan, which gives the episode
an authentic vibe. The legend aspect draws you in, making Duncan even more
heroic than usual. His kinswoman eventually sees the truth, which is a powerful
moment equal to the best that the Highlander movie had to offer.
As Gillian Horvath points out in the interview, there is a blatant
difference between the brown footage shot in Scotland and the green footage shot
in Canada. Many technical glitches such as this plague the episode, but Adrian
got the episode made despite them. He shows promise as a director, and I look
forward to more.
• "Brothers in Arms"
In contrast, the direction,
set design, costuming, acting, and plot of "Brothers in Arms" are
beyond reproach. For a roughly $8,000 budget (a figure I gleaned from Bill
Panzer's comments about "Leader of the Pack"), the depiction of
Vietnam is remarkably detailed. I laughed at the faux Jimi Hendrix song, which
made the episode reminiscent of a popular big-budget Vietnam film that featured
Jimi in the background. Wolfgang Bodison (LCpl. Harold W. Dawson in A Few Good Men) plays Cord with nasty
charisma. The resolution of the episode is a little loose, particularly where
Charlie is concerned. Why Duncan doesn't just tell him what's really happening
is beyond me. Charlie knows most of the truth anyway, and it might have saved
his life. Duncan and Joe's constant shutting out of Charlie doesn't sit well
with me. Nonetheless, I appreciate the down ending. Jim Byrnes gets to shine as
he explores deeper feelings of rage and friendship. This is a solid episode all
• "The Innocent"
When Highlander explores
"different" Immortals, we are sometimes treated to great acting. This
is one of those times. Pruitt Taylor Vince (Monster) plays Mikey with a believable
combination of innocence and awareness of his own culpability. Mikey avoids
Duncan's queries by retreating into catatonic silence or repeating railroad
trivia. Richie grows some in this episode; Stan Kirsch mentions that he
approached the fourth season with fresh enthusiasm, and it shows. The ending is
one of the most dramatic and sad endings of the series. Richie has to take
responsibility, and so does Mikey. The montage is surprisingly powerful as we
realize how far we've come with Mikey in such a short time. Adrian Paul has some
good moments of humor in the Wild West flashbacks, and he somehow fits as a
• "Leader of the Pack"
Ahh, the trusty flashback
episode. There are long stretches of flashback; not period flashbacks, but
recycled footage. This always irks me, perhaps unfairly. In this case, I didn't
like the rest of the episode much, so I might as well complain about the
recycled footage. An Immortal who loves dogs (named Kanis, get it?) pops in to
hunt down MacLeod. While MacLeod is running away from pooches, Richie hunts down
Tessa's (and his own) murderer. Kanis is a forgettable Immortal (with goofy
yellow shades), the whole plot is generic, and Duncan makes boneheaded decisions
(such as jogging in a park without his sword when he knows dogs are stalking
him). There is a chilling moment when Duncan mentions his past revenges to
Richie, and there is great footage of Richie waking up for the first time. (If I
hadn't already seen this in the DVD extras from Season Two it might have more
impact, but it feels like another flashback.) The house-levitating quickening is
not Highlander's finest hour.
• "Double Eagle"
Highlander rarely goes
for the full-out comedy approach, which is why it took me so long to figure out
what was happening. When the lightbulb finally clicked on, I enjoyed the
funniest Highlander episode ever. Nicholas Campbell (Kit O'Brady),
Elizabeth Gracen (Amanda), Adrian Paul, and Stan Kirsch all display wonderful
comedic timing. It is hard to nail down the funniest bit, but I really enjoyed
Richie's response to Amanda's putdown of Kit. Kit is a hoot, an Immortal who is
allergic to the buzz and always looking for the big score. He reminds me of
Robert Redford with his placid zeal and earnest demeanor. Elizabeth Gracen is
always a welcome addition, and she is at her sexiest here. The Double Eagle
Saloon set was detailed, assisting the episode in capturing the fever pitch of
old-fashioned comedy. Fine job all around.
The surprising Miles Ferguson returns
while Amanda stays, which gives this episode a high level of guest star power.
Unfortunately, it comes off as a lighter version of The Bad Seed. We know that Kenny is bad, so
the tension and mystery of "The Lamb" are missing. The only suspense
comes from wondering when Amanda will wise up. Many stretches of scalding
dialogue spice up the episode, such as Kincaid's rant against Duncan and
Amanda's confrontation of Kenny. Lisa Howard looks distinctly uncomfortable in
her scenes. Aside from Kincaid's unfortunate island vacation, most of the
episode is pedestrian Highlander stuff. But pedestrian Highlander
is still pretty entertaining.
• "The Colonel"
The "let's strand an
Immortal somewhere unpleasant" concept posited in "Reunion" is
recycled here, but to better effect. A nasty undercurrent of emotion gives this
episode a patina of heartache and pain. Sean Allan's "you stranded me so
I'm gonna kill you" speech is even more chilling than Mike Preston's
diatribe in "Reunion." Duncan is subjected to a tortuous gauntlet
while Amanda's breezy adoption of a mortal protegè turns bad. Meanwhile,
Dawson wrestles with his own hurt. This one is dark but enjoyable.
• "Reluctant Heroes"
Kenny, Kincaid, Killian
… chances are that if your name begins with K, you're a bad Immortal. (I
can hear the jingle now … every kill begins with "K.") This week
we get Kinman, a malevolent hit man. The flashbacks in this episode are great,
especially those involving Nicola Cavendish (who plays Queen Anne). Peter
Outerbridge's portrayal might have been more engaging if I wasn't inured to
quiet-but-deadly Eurotrash Immortals. There seems to be a lot going on in this
episode, but it didn't fully draw me in.
• "The Wrath of Kali"
Somehow, this one is
classic Highlander yet groundbreaking at the same time. The episode is
simply outstanding, from the lavish sets to the brooding tone to the captivating
Immortal Kamir (Kabir Bedi). Highlander has always presented believably
exotic sets, but production designer Stephen Geaghan has outdone himself this
time. We feel as though we are in modern-day India, which is a feat in itself,
but to recapture the Raj period is incredible. The statue of Kali is downright
spooky, as is the possessed creator of the statue. What makes this episode
really tick is the duality of Kamir: wise and devout, yet impassioned and
bloodthirsty. Special mention must be made of the sexual heat between Adrian
Paul and Alice Ramsey (Titanic), who
gives us one of Highlander's most erotic performances. It is hard to beat
the classic tale of a frustrated English Lady meeting a lusty ruffian.
Meanwhile, Duncan MacLeod falls prey to the charm of an Indian woman. The
fantasy, both erotic and otherwise, is in full bloom here, ready to sweep you
Fresh off of Alice Ramsey's
explosive eroticism comes Ann Turkel (Modesty Blaise in Modesty Blaise). As Kristin, she plays a
sexy and assured Immortal who never lets morality stand between her and a good
lay. As captivating as Turkel is, Peter Wingfield (Methos) shows up to steal the
spotlight. I feel bad for anyone who has to act opposite Wingfield; he is so
compelling that even his commentaries are must see. In "Chivalry," he
has some great moments when Methos taunts Duncan about the trendy fad called
"chivalry" that he erroneously embraces. Methos puts Kristin down like
a dog, and his offhand dismissal seems so right: "Somebody had to do
it," he says, and waits nonchalantly for the quickening. Oh, by the way,
Adrian Paul shows off his backside. I tell ya, this show is quickening its
One thing that amazes me about
Highlander is the richly populated stories. "Timeless" has so
much going on, yet it all fits together. We have Duncan the cross-dressing
Shrew, Claudia the virtuoso pianist (who happens to be a latent Immortal), and
Walter the Immortal appreciator of genius. By the way, Methos sticks around to
fall in love with a barmaid. Tones shift and emotions collide to make this a
ride more than a passive experience. Methos and Alexa hold court over a
clichéd yet compelling few minutes of screen time that nearly dominate the
episode. Rae Dawn Chong (The Color
Purple, Commando) gives Claudia
just the right note of irascibility and charm. Classically trained swordsman Ron
Halder lends zing to his sword duel, while Ocean Hellman lends pathos to the
barmaid's plight. Adrian Paul maintains his usual standard of watchability, and
Peter Wingfield once again proves riveting. This is truly an actor's episode.
• "The Blitz"
Perhaps the return of Lisa Howard
is coincidental, but once again we find ourselves mired in a bland episode. It
is inexplicable. Lisa is sexy, quirky, charming—everything we could hope
for in a leading lady. But Bill and David have pointed it out before: If the
heat isn't there, it isn't there. "The Blitz" should have worked
because the sets and period decor are right on. Unfortunately, it doesn't come
together. David tells us in the extras that he blames the anticlimactic death
scene in the subway, but I blame the unnecessary modern component wherein Duncan
and Richie work to rescue Anne, who is in labor. That plot is so done. Better to
spend the bulk of the episode in flashback, which would have been nice for a
• "Something Wicked"
When I think about this
episode, unprintable expletives echo through my brain. "Something
Wicked" is incredible. The heist-like character intros immediately clue us
in to something different: a maelstrom of malignant energy. Despite brief
stretches of really corny acting, "Something Wicked" drives home an
air of corruption and evil that keeps you edgy throughout. The Dark Quickening
stretches our understanding of the event. When MacLeod emerges, his horrific
reign of evil attacks our love for his character.
The setup for "Something
Wicked" was so huge that the show wrote itself into a corner. MacLeod
spends most of the episode in "evil standby" mode, where he tries not
to rape and pillage but does so anyway. It is interesting even as we wonder
where it will go. The solution to MacLeod's malady is a letdown, but I don't go
for new-agey mysticism. I really liked how Methos handled MacLeod, and Duncan
has a great verbal sparring match with him. The reintroduction of Rachel MacLeod
was most welcome. The "Something Wicked" and "Deliverance"
two-parter is my favorite by far.
"Promises" is thorny grist
for the philosophical mill. Seeing MacLeod and MacLeod together is a
pseudo-incestuous thrill, although we sense from the beginning that she will
leave. The Immortal, Kassim (Ricco Ross, Private Frost in Aliens), has a "K" name
so you know he's due for a smackdown from MacLeod. The rub is that Kassim is
merely calling in a favor that MacLeod promised centuries ago. There is some
falderal about honor, which is nothing new in the Highlander world.
Equally tired is Duncan's assimilation and protection of a bumbling youth. And
yet again we see Duncan being questioned by a comely inspector (Peta Wilson of
La Femme Nikita fame). There isn't much here that we haven't already
seen, except (as Gillian Horvath points out in the interview) Duncan's mistakes.
Not a bad episode by any means; not particularly memorable either.
• "Methuselah's Gift"
Adrian Paul returns to the
director's chair and gives us one of the best episodes of the season. The
opening and closing sequences feature aggressive energy and ambitious stunts.
Peter Wingfield gives one of the best monologues of the series (including
alternate takes in the extras), and Elizabeth Gracen shows her stuff in several
tense action scenes. This one pulls it all together, even if we have to overlook
the bad wig Elizabeth wears in the opening sequence.
• "The Immortal Cimoli"
Yet again, Duncan
confronts a powerful and possibly benign Immortal for the sake of an innocent
cad. Damon Case (Simon Kunz) is a crusader with reflective calm, who treats The
Game as a holy duty. (Incidentally, Simon Kunz is responsible for one of my
favorite lines in movie history. As Martin, the butler in The Parent Trap, he sees Halle Parker in
the airport and says "And you've had your eAAAArs pierced! I love it! It's
the nEEEEw you." That cracks me up every time.) Damon sets his sights on a
young circus performer who has recently become The Immortal Cimoli. There are
neat twists in the plot, and the smoky quickening is the most artistic one yet.
I'm not sure why Adrian Paul did a commentary track for this episode, because he
doesn't have much to say. Why not have him speak on the episode up there ^^^
• "Through A Glass, Darkly"
meets Rashomon, without the panache.
An X-Files-ish darkness permeates the episode, which temporarily
distracts us from its emptiness. Once again, the creators know best: David gives
a good postmortem on what they were trying for. This episode is not as devoid of
interest as some other clunkers. We have Bonnie Prince Charlie, some guerilla
war against the British, and a dark atmosphere. Peter Wingfield is average for
once but still manages to drop subtle bombs of innuendo. The episode simply does
• "Double Jeopardy"
brings us the return of two previous characters. The first is Stacey Travis as
Renee Delaney, an assured government agent who is hormonally affected by
MacLeod's presence. She is both an entertaining character and a sexy woman; her
return is welcome. Even more welcome is the return of Roland Gift as Xavier St.
Cloud, one of the baddest bad Immortals. Of course, since he is dead we only see
him in flashback—but that's what is so great about this show. Characters
may be dead, but we can still see new aspects of their personality and history.
Seeing Roland sneer his way through another episode is like finding an
overlooked birthday gift. The plot is almost incidental to the thrill of having
these two back. I have one major gripe with it, though: Would MacLeod really
walk willingly into a trap? He knows that Bernard d'Estaing is a cheat. Why not
shoot him, take away all of his poisonous toys, then fight him on even terms?
MacLeod is honorable, not stupid.
• "Till Death"
If you think about it, it's quite
a risk to do pure comedy episodes in a show like Highlander. Levity is
not Highlander's forte. Yet it seems to work. Though not as richly
layered and outright hilarious as "Double Eagle," "Till
Death" has many great lines and a sweet story. Methos has some of the best
lines: "I haven't felt guilt since the 11th century." For a good
laugh, this one earns an A.
• "Judgement Day"
There's a lot wrong with this
episode, from the unfathomably dark, grainy image to the indistinct dialogue to
the overreliance on reused footage. But I respect the detailed examination of
the consequences that flow from Joe's actions. So many shows conveniently ignore
niggling details, and Highlander has certainly been guilty of it. This
time, the writers explore the result of Joe's duplicity. Having Duncan nearly
kill Methos by accident is a dramatic incidental moment. But when Duncan escapes
too easily from the Watchers, it weakens the episode. "Judgement Day"
has its share of tension, but it is nowhere near the spectacle that was
"Finale" part one.
• "One Minute To Midnight"
Day" had its flaws, but the payoff is "One Minute To Midnight."
The first half of this two-parter (which originally spanned Seasons Four and
Five) is the perfect setup for "One Minute To Midnight"'s nonstop orgy
of mayhem and tension. Methos, Joe, and Duncan all have dual roles that bog down
their decision making. This conflict of interest comes to a head when Immortals
and Watchers start killing each other. The three friends show nastier sides of
their personalities, and Joe's honor is tainted by the events. Duncan uses a
gun. It seems strange but makes perfect sense, and I was glad to see it. The
levels of conflict achieved in this episode must be seen to be believed. The end
takes artistic license (Watchers who were trying to kill Duncan seconds earlier
stand by and let him pass), but I can overlook it. Though "One Minute To
Midnight" earns the highest rating, the episode is ruined by wretched video
quality. Colors bleed badly, particularly reds and blues. In addition, a strange
registration problem causes some characters to be surrounded by ultramarine blue
outlines, as though they were radioactive weathermen.