Welcome back to my episode-by-episode recap and reaction to Highlander: the Series. There aer spoilers for the episode ahead but nothing beyond this episode.
This is the season 1 finale so buckle up.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
The season finale begins exactly as it started… with Duncan and Tessa in bed. Also like the pilot, Duncan suddenly senses the presence of another Immortal. Someone knocks and asks why he cannot get an apartment like everybody else.
Duncan opens the door for someone he calls Fitzcairn (played by Roger Daltrey.) (Would it have been too much, Highlander writers, for Duncan to just ask, through the door, whooo are you? Who, who? Who, who?)
Fitzcairn notices that Duncan has picked up a sword and he says casually that he hopes it is not for him. Duncan notices that Fitzcairn is staring at Tessa, covered only in a bed sheet, and says the sword is for him if he continues staring. “Fitz” – still staring – starts a conversation with Tessa but Duncan more or less shoves him out the door so that he and Tessa can get dressed.
On the deck, with everyone now dressed, Duncan and Fitz clink cups over mead, “the honeyed nectar of the gods.” Fitz says he has not had mead since King Richard’s day and Duncan tells him that Darius brews it himself.
Fitzcairn has come to see MacLeod because three Immortals he knows have gone missing. He had spoken with all of them recently. Duncan blames The Gathering but Fitzcairn doubts that one of their kind would take three heads in such short succession.
Darius is alone inside his church when a group of men pull up in a car. They are all well dressed in business attire, with long coats over suits. We know that the men are mortal because the musical score does not tell us that they are Immortal.
Duncan and Fitzcairn attempt to call Darius from Duncan’s barge. He does not answer.
The group of men flee the church in their car moments before Duncan and Fitzcairn arrive at the church to check on him. As the two Immortals approach the church, neither of them feel his presence. When Fitz suggests that he is not there, MacLeod replies that he is always there.
Inside the church, Duncan first finds chairs knocked to the ground in all directions. Then he finds the lifeless headless body of Darius. Disbelieving, he screams.
Duncan struggles to hold together his emotions as he and Fitzcairn pick the chairs up. Fitz notes that Darius must have put up a tremendous fight. The two Immortals have hidden his body. Duncan states that the police will not do anything about the fact he is missing for a couple of days. He says that after he finds who killed Darius, then they can give Darius a decent funeral. Fitzcairn points out the obvious. No Immortal would kill another Immortal on Holy Ground.
Back on the barge, Duncan and Fitz prepare to go search for the killer. Fitz has made notes from what he can remember of his last conversation with Thackery – one of the Immortals he mentioned early who also went missing. They plan to start there.
Just then, Richie boisterously enters the barge. Richie wants to share good news when he notices the solemnity of the room. Duncan whispers and explanation in his ear causing Richie to apologize and offer to help. Fitz tells him that this situation is best left to Duncan and himself. After they leave, Richie says to Tessa…
I never thought one of the good guys would lose.
We see Fitz and Duncan discussing the situation. Fitzcairn points out that if it was not an Immortal, isn’t it a huge coincidence that they beheaded Darius? Duncan answers, “Unless they know about us.”
Duncan and Fitz enter a building. They notice some suspicious men sitting at a table. MacLeod walks past the group of them to see what will happen. A man follows him. Then a major brawl ensues. Four nondescript men in business attire begin attacking both Duncan and Fitzcairn. The two Immortals hold their own well enough to cause the men to abruptly retreat and flee the building. Duncan and Fitz chase them to a van that is speeding away. One of the four men fall out of the van and cannot get back in. He runs away from the rest of his group. Duncan chases him. After a short scuffle, the man stabs himself in the heart with a dagger rather than explain to Duncan who he is or what he wants.
Duncan is stunned. He then notices a strange tattoo on the man’s wrist.
Duncan and FIitzcairn are working together at some point in what looks like the 1600s. They are attacked by a group of sword wielding men. After the duel is over, one of the dead men is wearing a medal on his cloak bearing the same symbol that MacLeod just saw tattooed on his recent attacker’s wrist.
Back in the present, MacLeod rushes off to find his friend and Fitzcairn is gone.
On the barge, MacLeod is clearly rattled. He is blaming himself for splitting up with Fitz. Tessa suggests that perhaps the men are working for the government and Duncan counters that working for the government does not explain the tattoo or why he saw that symbol hundreds of years earlier. He is trying to find the origin of that symbol.
T: That man chose to die rather than talk to you. Mac I’m scared!
D: Well you should be!
Tessa suggests that maybe an Immortal has hired out these men and Duncan tells her that even the most evil among Immortals would not dare desecrate Holy Ground. She asks him then, if Darius knew about these men, wouldn’t he have told Duncan? That question seems to give Duncan an idea. He kisses Tessa and tells her that he is returning to the church rectory.
Richie meets MacLeod outside the barge as he is leaving. Duncan tells him that the men have taken Fitz. Richie asks him if these guys are just regular human beings, who cannot sense Immortals, how they know when they have found one?
Cue up the Who Wants to Live Forever background music.
Duncan remembers good times with Darius… like that time Darius gave him something to drink and only told him it was from a mold spore after it was in Duncan’s mouth. Duncan spit it out and Darius laughed.
Duncan remembers his first meeting with Darius on the field of battle, when Darius made him question his belief in just wars.
Duncan remembers sitting with Darius across from one another at the chess board in his rectory.
In the present, Duncan finally notices a notch in the wall of the room. Duncan’s clan colors are next to a block of wood in said notch. He removes the block of wood and finds an ancient book inside. The book includes the symbol.
Tessa is walking down the street. The men who killed Darius are following her. One of them bumps her with his bicycle while the other catches her. The member of their group that seems to be the leader is the one who catches her. He sees a band-aid on Tessa’s hand. He insists that she let him look at the cut because he is a doctor and without consent he pulls the bandage from her hand. He sees a cut there. He tells her that the cut looks like it’s healing and that she should be careful of infection.
On the barge, Tessa shares this experience with Duncan. She notes that they must have been following her all day without her noticing. Duncan says that they wanted to find out if she is Immortal. If she were Immortal, the cut would have been healing more quickly. MacLeod asks where Richie is and Tessa tells him that he is with an Antique dealer. Duncan tells Tessa to lock the barge up tight and to not let anyone in.
We see Richie leaving the antique store just as Duncan arrives. MacLeod immediately spots a person who he identifies as someone just watching things and tries to talk to the man. The man does not respond – despite Duncan talking to him in several languages. As the man walks away, Duncan follows continuing to talk to him. Finally, several men charge and attack Duncan in a relatively open square. As they begin to overwhelm him with sheer numbers, Richie shows up on a motorcycle and slides it into some of the attacking men. This creates enough of a scene that a crowd begins to gather. The attacking men disperse.
When Duncan asks why Richie returned…
Richie: Well, Mac, uh, I’d like to say that I sensed you were in danger but the truth is there’s a really cute blonde that works in the antique store.
Duncan: I never thought that I’d be thankful for your libido.
Fitz lives! Well, he is still alive for right now at least. He is chained up and the men who killed Darius are gathering around him for some reason. They shoot him with an arrow, killing him. One of them says to another to remove the arrow.
Duncan, Tessa, and Richie are all on the barge. MacLeod is trying to uncover the secrets of the book he took from Darius’ rectory. The book is written in a form of German which predates Duncan’s life. However, he determines that it seems to be about Immortals. When Duncan goes to another room in the barge to study the book, Richie asks Tessa an interesting question.
Richie: What’s it like for him, Tess? To have a friend for two hundred years and…
Tessa: I don’t know.
Fitz revives. The men are now sure that he is an Immortal. Their leader asks Fitz where “the Fifth Chronicle is” and tell Fitzcairn that they know Darius had the book. The leader of this group says that he has often wondered how much pain an Immortal could bear before he went mad.
Duncan is walking down a street and being followed. MacLeod now knows to be on the lookout for this spots the man tailing him and loses him for long enough that the man begins to look around for him. When Duncan emerges behind him, he and the man lock eyes and the nondescript man takes off running. He gets onto a motorcycle behind another man and Duncan loses them as they drive away.
When Duncan returns to the barge, he finds Richie on deck keeping a lookout. Inside the barge, MacLeod shares more of what he has learned from the book. It was written by a secret order of men who know about Immortals and keep a chronicle of their history. According to the book, the men are to observe and record but not interfere. The lack of interference is why Immortals are unaware of their group’s existence. Richie asks Duncan what they are going to do and Duncan tells him that they are going to wait at the barge. Duncan seems to believe they will come to him.
Tessa and Duncan talk while they are waiting. She asks him if he is okay and says that he does not have to be okay. He tells her that Darius is dead and that he cannot bring him back. Tessa tells him that she wants him to let himself mourn. MacLeod tells her that he has buried more friends than he can count.
Duncan: Death is part of my life.
Tessa: Not his death.
Duncan: He was so wise. Taught me so much.
While they are talking, Duncan notices a man watching them from his car in the distance. He guides Tessa back inside the barge. We then see Richie approach the car and pretend to step in dog manure. As he is distracting the man in the car with his complaints about said manure, Duncan sneaks up to the side of the car and begins to absolutely pummel the man behind the wheel. The man refuses to talk to Duncan so MacLeod knocks him out. When he wakes up, the barge is gone and moving down the river.
We are back in the dungeon where Fitz continues to be chained up and is alive. The leader of the Immortal Killers calls for Fitzcairn to be brought to him. As they bring Duncan’s friend, we see that they have a guillotine in their lair. Fitz’s major concern is that there will be no Quickening and all that he knows will be lost. He is shouting about this.
The man from the car that Duncan pummeled earlier is returning to his home base. MacLeod tricked him. The barge went down the river with Tessa and Richie in it. Duncan followed the man to see where he might lead him. Duncan knocks him out again and puts them man back inside his car.
As Fitz pleads for his own life, he senses the presence of another Immortal. Fitzcairn starts to list off the great accomplishments of his life and calls the room ungrateful. The group’s leader – still nameless – tells Fitz that he is an abomination in the eyes of both God and man. Fitz tries to delay his own execution for as long as possible. Finally Duncan arrives. He fights off several men before being shot by a taser.
On the brink of succumbing to the taser, MacLeod cuts himself loose from it with his sword.
Is that how you killed Darius?
The man who shot Duncan with the taser is fanatical. He tells Duncan that even if Duncan kills him, more will come to take his place. He also shares that he knows about The Gathering. Duncan screams at him to tell what he knows. The man says that the Gathering is about power and that there is nothing greater than the power of man. Duncan fights off another group attack, his attackers flees, and then Duncan frees Fitz.
The women of the world will thank you, my friend.
Duncan returns to the barge. Quietly in the night, the two Immortals, with Tessa and Richie, spread the ashes of Darius in the Seine River in Paris, as we hear a reprise of Who Wants to Live Forever.
That’s a wrap on season 1. The finale delivered an eventful finale.
- Darius – Duncan’s friend and mentor – dies.
The first time I watched this, years ago, it was a complete shock. It is still a bit of a shock on a re-watch. In many ways, Highlander was well ahead of its time. Everyone was quick to pat Game of Thrones on the back for its willingness to kill off one of the main good guy characters. Highlander did the same almost two decades earlier.
Richie said it best. “I never thought one of the good guys would lose.”
It should be mentioned though that the writing decision was not by design. The writers had planned for the Darius character to continue on with the show. However, leading into the filming for “The Hunters,” German actor Werner Stocker revealed that he was dealing with a terminal brain tumor. He died five days after the finale aired. His health change led to significant re-writes. Stock footage was used to complete the episodes.
Losing Darius was a story-telling inevitability. If Duncan is the protagonist, it stands to reason that the older, wiser, holier mentor figure needs to die so that Duncan can assume the role of chief good guy Immortal. But I wish we had been given more time with Darius. His story is fascinating in its own right. It would have been fun to peel back some more layers to his personality.
- We are introduced to Hugh Fitzcairn – one of Duncan’s oldest and dearest friends.
This show has had musical guest stars. Big name guest stars. Roger Daltrey is on another level. Not only is he an all caps ROCK STAR he is also a phenomenal actor.
Fitz is the first of Duncan’s “old friends” in season 1 that actually felt like an old friend. Daltrey and Adrian Paul have phenomenal on camera chemistry. Fitz is also yet another of Duncan’s friends whose primary motivation appears to be… libido. When we meet him, he is almost overwhelmed by an almost unclothed Tessa. Literally the first thing that Fitz says at the end of the episode after Duncan saves him is that “the women of the world will thank you, my friend.” I do not think most people can play a character like that and remain likable. Daltrey not only pulls it off, he becomes one of this show’s all-time favorite guest stars.
Duncan appears to have a friendship type. He’s the honorable warrior Scotsman. He seems to prefer friends who are ruled by a desire to just have fun. We are starting to see Duncan’s friend preferences emerge in Richie now, too.
- Speaking of Richie, Mr. Ryan finally has a chance to save Duncan in the finale. His mentor-student relationship with Duncan is evolving into friendship. Duncan sends Richie out to help him with dangerous assignments. Richie increasingly comes through for Duncan. Actually saving Duncan from death is another step forward in Richie’s evolution.
Richie has a lot of the best lines of this episode. He gets right to the heart of Duncan’s turmoil and asks Tessa what it’s like to lose a dear friend of over 200 years. It’s a perceptive question. If a normal person agonizes over the end of long relationships, wouldn’t that pain be worse when the duration of the friendship is decades or centuries longer? [I suppose if anyone were to lose a friend of centuries, then Duncan’s despairing (screaming) reaction in the rectory to losing Darius makes sense.]
Of course, Richie is only occasionally deep and introspective. One of the best lines of the entire finale was from Richie. “Well, Mac, uh, I’d like to say that I sensed you were in danger but the truth is there’s a really cute blonde that works in the antique store.”
- The show does a major re-direct and introduces an ancient secret society that has been observing and chronicling the lives and times of Immortals. We were promised in the finale that this arc has only just begun.
I will do a Season 1 wrap-up in a few days. Until then, don’t lose your heads.