Highlander (Season 1, Ep 13): Band of Brothers

… we’re the princes of the uuuuniverse… hey!

Welcome back to the episode-by-episode recap and reaction to Highlander the Series. Spoilers ahead. Don’t lose your head over them.

THE QUICK & CLEAN SUMMARY:

Tessa receives a job offer in Paris. Simultaneously, Duncan receives a warning from an ancient Immortal priest, Darius, in the mail, that the almost equally ancient Immortal, Grayson, is now targeting Duncan and a mortal named Paulus.

Duncan repeatedly thwarts attempts by Grayson to kill Paulus. As a duel with Grayson nears, MacLeod sends Tessa and Richie to Paris, and her new job, with a hope to follow soon. He fights Grayson, and despite being outmatched early in the fight, Duncan beats the almost 2,000 year old Immortal. The episode ends with MacLeod – and the show – relocating to Paris.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP & REACTION:

NOTE: There is a LOT going on with this episode. So the following recap is longer than usual.

Unless my eyes are deceiving me, the episode opens with a shot of the arc de triomphe. We are in Paris!

A man is running through the streets, though we do not see from who or what he is running. We next see another man hooded like a monk. Gregorian chanting quietly in the background score seems to confirm that occupation. The monk runs outside of the chapel/cathedral to call for the running man. The running man stops, abruptly, because a third person has throw a dagger into his back.

The monk appears to be Immortal because the musical score tells us that he senses the third man. For his part, the third man is well dressed with mid-length sandy blonde hair and a stern expression.

Through their conversation, we learn that the Immortal Monk was the former teacher of our newcomer Immortal, Grayson. We further learn that the now dead man was planted by the monk to spy on Grayson. So that teacher-pupil relationship went sour. Grayson is a straight-forward bad guy (or so it seems.) He declares that he will kill all of the Monk’s proteges, one by one, until the monk leaves Holy Ground to fight him.

The world of Immortals got a lot older in this scene. The Monk went into Holy Ground seclusion 1,400 years ago. Grayson has resented this choice for 1,400 years. These two men are MUCH older than anyone we have met so far.

Back in Seacouver, Tessa has been offered a job at a museum… in Paris. She is French, and attended art school in France, so that offer is not implausible. HOWEVER, much more implausibly, just a moment later, MacLeod receives mail from the aforementioned Monk (Tessa says he is a Priest.) We now know the Monk/Priest’s name is Darius. Darius sent MacLeod a message, by mail, in an extinct 2,000 year old runic language – as one does – letting Mac know that Grayson will be coming for him.

In the next scene, Duncan and Richie are jogging through a snowy landscape. Duncan is doing an outdoor wintry training regimen reminiscent of Rocky Balboa’s training montage in Russia. While the two are talking, we learn that Grayson is 1,400 years *older* than Duncan. MacLeod lets Richie (and us) know that Grayson is now one of the most ancient Immortals left alive. Further, he has been an active fighter throughout his life.

More background / info dump from the Duncan-Richie conversation: Darius was “one of the great generals” and Grayson was his second in command. 1,500 years ago, instead of marching his armies across Europe, and ruling for 1,000 years, Darius abruptly quit fighting and instead dedicated himself to being a peace maker from a hideout on Holy Ground. Grayson never forgave him.

According to Duncan, “legend has it” that Darius killed a holy man at the gates of Paris – the oldest living Immortal at the time. “Then suddenly he changed.” Richie asks Duncan if that means, the inverse could also happen. If a really good Immortal chopped the head off an ancient bad Immortal…. but Duncan just gives him a look in response.

In the next scene, back at the Antique Store, Grayson has arrived and is talking to Tessa. He lets her know that he is also an art collector. Tessa does not play games here, and point blank states that “you collect them because they remind you of Darius and how much you hate him.” Bold strategy, Queen Tessa. Let’s see if that works out for you.

It does! Grayson is impressed with Tessa and decides that bargaining with MacLeod is unnecessary. The challenge will just be straight-forward.

Back in the snowy wilderness, we learn some more about what is going on. Duncan and Richie are looking at the runes. One of the runes indicates a man named “Victor Paulus” is in danger. Paulus is a mortal student of Darius and knows nothing about Immortals. Paulus is also somewhat famous. Richie has heard of him. Duncan does not know whether Grayson will target Paulus, or himself, first.

FLASHBACK!!

MacLeod is fighting on the side of the Duke of Wellington against the army of Napoleon. If this is Waterloo, then the year is 1815. Duncan is carrying an injured soldier, across a snowy field strewn with ruined cannons, and dead men, when he meets Darius. The Immortal Priest is hooded and tending to the wounded on the battlefield. He chides Duncan for taking part in the fighting. Then he gives the incapacitated soldier that MacLeod is carrying some medicine that was apparently lost and long forgotten to present day doctors. His words about fighting and violence give MacLeod something to think on.

In the next scene, Duncan is back at home with Tessa. They have some NSFW time together.

After a few seconds of that, we cut to shirtless Duncan practicing sword forms while Duncan also narrates about hope and defeating a superior adversary. Tessa, as disheveled as we have ever seen her by far, comes into the room and asks Duncan, coyly, “you still have energy for this?” Suddenly Duncan senses an Immortal outside. He opens the door and finds a headless toy soldier sitting in front of the door.

In the next scene, we see an important seeming helicopter land while we hear Randi the Reporter… reporting… that Victor Paulus is arriving. She lets her audience (us) know that some consider him a future candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. MacLeod, wearing the disguise of a baseball cap and some sound canceling ear muffs is also present.

The driver of the car, set to pick up Paulus from his helicopter, gets out of the car with a gun in hand. Mac sees him, charges him from the crowd of nearby media, and disarms him. He along with the rest of Paulus’s team hurry Paulus into the now unoccupied car and MacLeod drives them away.

Randi the Reporter recognizes MacLeod behind the wheel of the fleeing car and she sees his T-Bird not far away in the parking lot. The camera focuses on his car as we see the day turn to night. MacLeod returns, gets in his car, and finds the intrepid reporter sitting in his passenger seat with a smile on her face.

This might be the most likeable Randi has been in the series.

D: [surprised] Need a ride?
R: Wherever you’re going.
D: Excuse me?
R: I mean, all I have to do is stick to you and you’ll lead me to a breaking news story.
D: I’m just lucky that way.
R: C’mon MacLeod. If the FBI and CIA were half as good as the outfit you work for I’d sleep better at night!

Randi – who definitely believes MacLeod is some kind of secret agent – fishes unsuccessfully for intel on Paulus. He eventually gets her to exit his car and shares with her that he sincerely hopes to see her again. “Wait a minute, you might not?”

Duncan returns to the loft and encourages Tessa to pursue her job offer and to visit Paris. She surmises that he plans to face Grayson and asks him whether facing an immensely more powerful Immortal will protect Victor Paulus.

In the next scene, we see Paulus giving a speech, filled with platitudes about peace, at a Seacouver cemetery. MacLeod is watching the speech, again covertly, while the media covers it.

FLASHBACK #2!!!

A church robber (is that a term… like bank robber or train robber?) and his two henchmen try to rob Darius’s church. We appear to be in the early 1800s. This must not be long after Mac’s first meeting with Darius. The leader of the group of thieves stabs Darius in the gut and leaves him bleeding on the sanctuary floor after learning that he has no gold for them to steal. When the robbers leave, Duncan is waiting for them outside. After MacLeod fights off and disarms all three, Darius, now recovered, runs outside and begs for their lives. Duncan does not kill the men, but he tells Darius that he cannot stand aside and do nothing. The statement appears to be a declaration that his time as Darius’s student is at an amicable end. He continues on and tells the Immortal priest that he is leaving for America.

Back in the present, Grayson arrives at the cemetery to offer Duncan a deal. If Mac stands down, and does nothing, no harm will come to anyone that Duncan loves. If he does not, then no person that Duncan loves will ever be safe.

Just as Grayson leaves in a car, Duncan says “no one is ever safe.” Randi the Reporter – who was at the speech – catches up with Duncan as Grayson’s car door closes. After a barrage of questions, about who Grayson is, and what he was talking about with respect to being safe, MacLeod finally admits to her that he and Paulus have a friend in common. She looks intrigued as Duncan walks away.

Back at the loft, Tessa is packing up most of her belongings for a quick move to Paris. Richie appears to be worried – though not expressing it directly – that his meal ticket is leaving. Tessa tells Richie that she believes Duncan will think more clearly against Grayson if she is not around to cause him worry or distraction. At that moment, Duncan comes in and gives Richie paperwork of some kind (plane tickets?) and tells Richie that he is going with her to Paris to protect her “from all those French dudes.”

Tessa insists on saying goodbye at the loft as opposed to at the airport. As they part, she tells him “remember… Paris is our city. I will be waiting for you.”

MacLeod meets Grayson that night… in a city park? It’s hard to tell. Grayson appears to be a fan of Duncan and tries to dissuade him to give up on Paulus so that they do not have to fight. The honorable Mac says “there can be only one.” The two only get a couple of sword swings in before some headlights shine on them and we hear some teenagers laughing. The two Immortals put swords away and promise to meet again.

The next day, we hear Randi reporting that Paulus is giving his final conference in Seacouver. The conference is at a fancy hotel. Grayson, one of Grayson’s henchmen, and MacLeod are all present. Randi – eyes on Duncan – is making MacLeod’s job of covertly protecting Paulus difficult by following him around.

Mac finally ditches Randi as he gets into an elevator with Grayson’s henchman. Randi says “good luck, MacLeod” quietly to herself as the door closes. When the door opens again, the bad guy falls unconscious out of the elevator. MacLeod walks down the hotel hallway just in time to successfully interrupt another assassination attempt of Paulus. Mac lets Paulus know that he is a friend of Darius.

In the room where Paulus is slated to speak to the press, we (and Randi) see Grayson look at his watch and smile. When the guest of honor emerges to speak, Grayson angrily leaves the room. Randi – with more courage than sense – follows him out of the room, and asks him if he has any idea who is trying to kill Victor Paulus. She also points out that she saw him at the previous event and heard his name. He does not immediately kill her but I feel certain she is now on his to-kill list.

In the next scene, Duncan meets up with Grayson at a sulfur plant. I guess this is a plant. There are piles of sulfur in all directions. Usefully, for any history buffs, Grayson gives a short lesson on the history of sulfur during hit small talk with Duncan before their fight.

Then… the two men fight. They fight across a field of sulfur. They fight up a stair case. They fight across a walking bridge. Grayson is better. Duncan is doing his best just to survive. At one point during the fight, right after punching Duncan in the face, Grayson notes that with another century, MacLeod might have beaten him. Slowly… inevitably… Grayson knocks Duncan’s sword from his hand. Just before Grayson takes Duncan’s head, Mac sweeps his leg, knocks the baddie down, and jumps off a landing and in the direction of his sword. Grayson leaps after him. The two men hit a hill of sulfur below them and roll down. Grayson is on his feet first but Mac finds his sword. While on his knees, facing away from the direction of his opponent, MacLeod holds his sword and waits. As Grayson swings for Duncan’s neck, MacLeod’s sword blocks the would-be killing stroke, and counters with a deep cut across Grayson’s abdomen. Grayson is stunned. Both men are now on their feet and Duncan takes the offensive. He cuts Grayson deeply through his right arm. And then another clash of steel disarms Grayson.

There can be only one. Duncan takes an ancient head and he has leveled up.

In the next scene, Duncan walks down a street in Paris. He sees a familiar church and he is greeted there, with a hug, by a deeply relieved Darius. A moment later, Tessa runs from inside the church to greet him with a kiss. Richie strolls out behind her looking happy to see his friend again. Richie tells Duncan that he is enjoying himself in the City of Lights, but confesses that the language barrier is hindering his efforts with Parisian women and “breaking the ice.”

Duncan and Tessa leave together… hurriedly. Darius tells Richie that he was not always a priest.

When I was a young man, the first thing you had to do when introduced to a woman is compliment her father’s horse.

We see Duncan and Tessa discussing her job. She wants to stay in Paris… for a while. Duncan says that he will not mind staying at home while she brings home the bacon. Then he surprises her by letting her know that he owns a house barge in Paris.

Roll credits

REACTION:

Oh man, a lot happened in this episode. The show relocated from hellish Seacouver… to Paris! This show *looks* so much better in Paris. If men and women are hundreds of years old, it just feels right that they would live in and around buildings that are even older. Although… that is probably still not the case for two thousand year old Darius.

Grayson was definitely Duncan’s biggest challenge up to this point. He was smart, smug, detached emotionally from the mortals around him, and all of it seemed earned. If you closed your eyes to listen to Grayson’s dialogue, his delivery had a very (to a modern me) Tyrion Lannister matter-of-fact quality. “I’m the most clever man in the room and we both know it.” I do not fully understand how tallying up Quickenings works, but if each one you get contains the life force of the person you bested, then Duncan is a MUCH more powerful Immortal now than he was prior to this episode.

Speaking of Quickenings, this episode introduced a new concept: Light and Dark Quickenings. If you kill a sufficiently good person, then the Quickening you get will change you for the better. If you kill a sufficiently evil person, the Quickening might make you evil. Duncan appears to have avoided any major change to his personality after killing Grayson. That might have something to do with Grayson not being a purely evil character.

The showdown fight was fantastic. Grayson was clearly better and I am glad the show did not shy away from that. Duncan had to surprise him to get the upper hand. And once he accomplished that, he *had* to capitalize quickly. He did. My only disappointment from the fight was that the sulfur did not burn up during the Quickening scene. Given the setting, and Grayson’s speech about fireworks and gunpowder, I was expecting the powder keg to explode.

Have we seen the last of Randi the Reporter? Angie? Seacouver? I suppose only time will tell.

I am most looking forward to seeing how Richie adjusts to Paris. His fish-out-of-water stories should be high comedy.

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