Highlander (Season 2, Ep 24): Studies in Light

Welcome back to Highlander: the Series. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Duncan, Tessa, and Richie meet two of Duncan’s old friends at a photo gallery. Gregor is an Immortal who has taken a dark and Nihilistic turn. Linda is Duncan’s mortal ex-girlfriend from the 1930s, now approaching the end of her life after a lauded career in photography – a career she credits to Duncan.

Throughout the episode, Gregor becomes erratic and dangerous, leading to a confrontation with MacLeod wherein Duncan helps him feel fear again by making him believe he is about to die. Duncan reunites with Linda long enough to let her know that he is Immortal and that he is proud of the life she lived.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

I have never had a nighttime showdown on the top of a parking garage. But this show makes it seem like that would be epic.

This episode begins with a couple of guys on motorcycles nearby to some boat docks. One of them, after taking some pictures, asks the other if he believes he can make a jump, over the water, from one dock to another. He then performs the jump himself successfully. The other man, younger and less sure of himself, seems to draw some confidence in seeing the first complete the jump. He, uh, does not make it. Rider and bike land in the water. The first guy laughs and sees the other man struggling to swim in the water.

Guy 2: Help me!
Guy 1: Are you afraid?
Guy 2: Yeah!
Guy 1: What’s it feel like?

Guy one continues on and asks him what it feels like to die. However, after waiting entirely too long to help, he finally puts a pole down into the water below and pulls the other man out. Guy 2 is pretty angry but Guy 1 (really need some names soon) says he would not have let him die. He laughs, rubs his friend’s wet hair, and walks away as said friend coughs the water out of his lungs on the dock.

Duncan, Tessa, and Richie are walking together. Richie is complaining that they are skipping a motocross event to look at pictures. Duncan tells him that he is meeting an old friend.

Richie: Old as in [mimes sword fighting.]
Duncan: Yeah [mimes sword fighting in return]

Duncan assures him that they will be at the motocross event before the first race. Inside the photo gallery, Richie notes that the photography is extreme.

Tessa: Extremely violent. He hasn’t labeled any of them yet. Which ones are his?
Duncan: Who knows. I’ve never seen any of Gregor’s word. I didn’t even know he was a photographer until he called.

Duncan suddenly feels the presence of another Immortal. Gregor walks up. It turns out that Gregor is Guy #1 from the motorcycle jump earlier in the episode. He and Duncan hug and MacLeod tells him that he has not changed a bit except for his fashion. Gregor tells him that looks can be deceiving. Duncan introduces him to Tessa and Richie. The two mortals then excuse themselves to look around.

After they go, Gregor asks Duncan if they know and MacLeod confirms that they do. The two Immortals walk around the show and Duncan stops to look at a picture. He tells Gregor is it beautiful and his friend tells him that is not one of his pictures. Gregor walks MacLeod over to one of his pictures.

Gregor: You don’t like it?
Duncan: Well, you know, it’s just a little dark for my tastes.
Gregor: I’m just showing it like it is, you know?

They are interrupted by Richie who calls them over to look at another picture. The picture is of Duncan standing outside a burning building. Richie suggests that it must be one of Greg’s and Greg says no. Duncan stares… into the past.

FLASHBACK!!

MacLeod is in a burning building. Outside, people are gathering and parents are crying that their boy is inside. MacLeod finds the boy and covers him with his jacket. MacLeod eventually stumbles out of the building with the boy where his picture is taken. A woman approaches him, after and notes that he has a burned hand. She smiles and says he should have someone take a look at it. He tells her he will.

She introduces herself as Linda Plager. She asks him why he ran into the building and he sarcastically answered that he ran in there because that is where the fire was. He asks if she is a reporter and she tells him she is a freelance photographer. They have a short conversation about her job and MacLeod encourages her to use her time making the world better instead of sensationalizing events.

Back in the present, a now much older Linda Plager sees Duncan at the show. Another woman approaches and tells Linda that this is a much younger man. Linda insists that it is Duncan and that without him she would still be shooting garbage. Duncan never speaks to the woman but she is led away by her assistant.

After she is gone, Gregor asks, surprised, if Duncan knows Linda Plager? Tessa walks up and asks if that is THE Linda Plager. Duncan finally speaks and says he never thought he would see her again. Gregor cannot believe Duncan did not know that Linda was such a big deal and he tells Duncan that all of her work will be worth a fortune in a few weeks.

Duncan: Why?
Gregor: Well, the old lady’s dying.

Outside, Duncan is still in a bit of a stupor of disbelief. Tessa asks him if he will tell Linda that she is right. Greg asks what the point would be pointing out that she has gone this long without knowing. When Tessa and Duncan glare at him, he says he is only playing devil’s advocate. Duncan says that he does not know what he will tell her but he feels obligated to tell her something.

Duncan tells Tessa that he will see her at home and leaves her alone with Greg. The other Immortal tells her that she and Duncan have something good. However, then he says that it must be hard knowing that she will continue getting older and MacLeod will not.

Greg: Hey tell me, how do you handle knowing that one day he is going to watch you grow old, wrinkle, and then die. And eventually move on to somebody else.
Tessa: Were you born sensitive or did you have to study?

He says he did not mean anything by it and says he is just curious. Richie arrives with hot dogs for everybody. Tessa takes her dog for the road and tells Richie she is going home.

Richie: That was weird.
Greg: Ah, well, she’s a woman, you know what I mean Richie?

Back inside at the show, Linda Plager is staring at the picture she took of Duncan. She yells at her assistant for hovering near her, telling the woman that she is fine. Then she says she should not have spoken so soon and collapses. Her assistant yells for someone to call an ambulance.

Richie and Greg are talking. Richie wants to know if Duncan has changed a lot over the last two hundred years.

Gregor: We all change.
Richie: Yeah, I mean, but how?
Gregor: How do you change?
Richie: Well that’s not the same. I just get older. Change is inevitable.
Gregor: What if you didn’t get any older? How would you feel?
Richie: Well, Greg, I wouldn’t feel anything. I’d be dead.
Gregor: What if you were one of us?

Richie says it would be fantastic. He talks about the places he would go, the things he would do.

Richie: The women I’d…
Gregor: Bury.

Gregor says Immortality is not all that it’s cracked up to be. He asks Richie if he is afraid of death, Richie says yes, and when Richie asks the same of him Gregor replies that he does not know.

Duncan visits Linda Plager in the hospital. She apologizes and says she realizes now that he could not be the same man. She asks if Duncan is related to him and Duncan says yes. When she asks, Duncan also tells her that he mentioned her to him.

She credits Duncan with her career.

Linda: It’s because of him, what he taught. Look for the light instead of the shadows. I realized how much he meant to me… how much I loved him.
Duncan: He knows.

FLASHBACK!!!

Linda tells Duncan that it is over.

Duncan: Why?
Linda: Because I love you.
Duncan: Well, that’s a good reason.
Linda: Don’t you understand? You’ve made me realize that I can be more than just a sleazy photography, that my work can move people, inspire them.

She tells him that she cannot handle Duncan and her work at the same time. She tells him that when he is around, and when she sees something beautiful, instead of thinking “where is my camera?” she thinks “where is Duncan?”

Duncan tells her that she does not have to choose and she says that she does. She says that if he does not leave right now she may never be able to ask him to do so again. He walks out somewhat angry. After he is gone, Linda says to herself that she is going to make him proud of her.

Back in the present, Linda tells Duncan that he looks just like him. She says it must seem funny for an old woman to want so badly for someone to be proud of her.

Duncan: He is proud of you. I’m proud.

Later, at their apartment, Tessa notes that Duncan never told Linda about his Immortality and he says he could not. She asks him how close he was to her and he asks if that matters. Duncan reiterates to Tessa that *she* is the only mortal love interest he has told about his Immortality. Richie arrives to find his two roommates kissing.

Richie updates the two of them on his plans. He tells them he is going by the studio and suggests that maybe photography will be in his future, too. Tessa tells him to be careful. Duncan asks her if something is wrong. She asks what kind of person Gregor is and says he said some things. Duncan replies, in a way that comes across as both expected and disappointed, that Gregor made her feel uncomfortable.

Tessa: He is not the way you described him. And all those pictures…
Duncan: Well, maybe he’s grown a thicker skin since I knew him.

Richie is some place, though not a photo studio, (in a warehouse maybe?) when a man on a motorcycle tries to run him over. Repeatedly. Richie evades until he finally lands on on the floor. The motorcycle parks next to Richie. Gregor takes off his helmet and tells Richie he can breathe now.

Richie: You’ve got a weird sense of humor.

Gregor says it was not a joke. It was a test. Richie asks what the test was for and Gregor says he wanted to find out of Richie is real or just MacLeod’s shadow.

Richie: Go to h***.
Gregor: [laughing] Richie, it’s too easy to push your buttons.
Richie: Look it’s been fun. I’ll see you around.

We see that Gregor has also parked next to another motorcycle. He leans over and pulls a helmet dangling from a handlebar and calls out to Richie, tossing him the helmet. Richie catches the helmet and Gregor asks if he can ride.

Richie rides around the room they are in and says he thinks he can fake it. Gregor and Richie ride out to the same spot where this episode began – next to a dock where a jump over the water was attempted.. Gregor tells Richie that Jonathan couldn’t hack it and that he did not have the stuff. Richie asks if this is some kind of initiation and tells Gregor to lead the way.

The two make the jump over the water at the same time. They make it. Richie crashes his bike after landing, though, and is angry at Gregor. Gregor asks if he would have let Richie do the jump if it was dangerous. Richie is bleeding and Gregor says he just needs a couple of stitches.

At the apartment / antique store, Duncan tells Tessa that he has checked in with the hospital and Linda’s condition has not changed. Gregor and Richie limp in. Gregor tells the concerned MacLeod that they had a little bit of an accident but that it’s nothing to worry about. Richie tells Duncan that he “dumped the bike.” MacLeod asks whose bike and Gregor says his but that there is no damage. Duncan points at Richie and says “that’s no damage” to which Gregor replies he did not realize that he is the boy’s father. Duncan and Gregor exchange a glare, Gregor slaps Richie on the shoulder, says “later” and leaves.

Duncan follows Gregor out. Greg tells Duncan that he is letting mortals get under his skin too much.

Duncan: You of all people.
Gregor: People MacLeod, is that what we are? Are we really still people?

Gregor goes on to ask if they are supposed to care about them… or anything. MacLeod is in disbelief. He asks Gregor what happened to him and Gregor tells him that eternal life happened to him. Gregor says it’s ironic and Duncan replies that it’s tragic.

Duncan: You feel nothing?
Gregor: Not even for myself.

Duncan tells him that he does not believe him. He goes on to say that Gregor’s pictures are not the work of a man who feels nothing. As they are talking, an ambulance goes by.

FLASHBACK!!!

In what looks like the late 1800s, Gregor is working inside a hospital tent. A young boy he has been treating is dead. He asks MacLeod what he will tell the boy’s father and MacLeod tells him that he is a doctor not a miracle worker. Just then, the boy’s father enters the tent and asks where his boy is. MacLeod tells him that the boy had cholera and Gregor says there was nothing he could do. The boy’s father says his son only had a small fever and his grief drives him into a rage. He accuses Gregor of murdering his son. The man pulls out a pistol and shoots Gregor. After, in disbelief, the man asks what he has done. MacLeod tells him to go home.

MacLeod carts Gregor’s body away. Gregor revives. MacLeod asks if he is okay and Gregor tells him that he forgot how much it hurts. He asks what happened to Ray, the boy’s father, and MacLeod tells him that he sent the man home. Gregor notes that he cannot go back and MacLeod says no.

Gregor: I can’t do this anymore. Anything I do… they all die. How do you do it? How do you go through the years without your friends.
Duncan: A day at a time.

Later, Duncan is with Tessa walking outside. She asks how Duncan’s friend is doing and he tells her that Gregor is unhappy with his life. Tessa tells him that Gregor scares her and that Richie could have been badly hurt. MacLeod tells her that Gregor is not evil. He asks her if she wants him to chop off his head. She says no but she wishes Gregor would go away.

That night, Gregor seems to have some kind of mental breakdown. We see him break into the photo studio – using a trash can to bust through the glass door. He seems to have having flashbacks to the death, violence, and anger in his own photos. He starts tearing the photo displays apart.

At the apartment / antique store, Richie hears a banging on the door. He gets off a phone call to answer it. Greg barges in and asks where MacLeod is. Richie tells him that MacLeod went to the hospital for a few minutes and that he is welcome to hang out. Greg responds by breaking a probably priceless antique with his fist. He tells Richie he destroyed them all. Richie asks if he means the photographs and Gregor says everything – including the negatives. An unhinged and laughing Gregor circles Richie and asks him why not destroy them. He asks Richie if he is afraid. Richie says he is not sure what he feels and Gregor shouts.

Gregor: That’s because you can feel, boy!

He asks Richie if he wants to know what it feels like to die. Richie says no, as one does in that situation. Gregor says he could send Richie to the grave and not feel a thing because he does not know how to feel. The Immortal opts to hit and knock Richie unconscious before leaving.

At the hospital, Gregor finds MacLeod in Linda’s room. He tells the Highlander that he destroyed all of his pictures without feeling a thing.

Duncan: Gregor, this has to end.
Gregor: But I’m having such a good time. [He walks over to a sleeping Linda and whispers.] Are you having a good time?

Duncan tells Gregor to leave her out of this. Gregor makes as if to attack Linda when Duncan grabs him and throws him out of the room. In the hospital stairwell, Gregor pulls a sword. Duncan tells him that he is unarmed. Gregor attacks him anyway. Duncan removes his jacket and uses it to fend off blows as he backs up the stairwell. The two men eventually spill out through a door and onto the hospital roof. MacLeod tells the man that he knows what he is going through but the attacks persist. Duncan finds a metal bar on the roof and uses it like a quarterstaff to defend himself. In short order, Duncan disarms his friend and knocks him to the ground.

Duncan puts Gregor’s own sword to his neck. He tells the man that he can die or change but that living the way he is now is no longer an option. Gregor tells Duncan to kill him. MacLeod makes as if to take his head but averts the blow at the last moment. Gregor is frightened and shaken.

Duncan: How did it feel?!
Gregor: [panting] Pain. Pain.
Duncan: You’ll be alright my friend.

Duncan helps him up and embraces him, telling him that it will be alright.

Later, Duncan is sitting in Linda’s room. She wakes and he asks her how she feels. She says she feels like an old photograph faded around the edges. Duncan hands her a present. She notes that it is beautifully wrapped and asks if it will hurt his feelings when she tears it to shreds.

Linda: I was always too anxious when it comes to presents.
Duncan: Yeah, I remember.

He hands her a framed newspaper article with pictures she took. She asks if his grandfather gave it to him.

Duncan: No. You did.

She realizes that he really is Duncan and he asks her not to ask him to explain. He tells her that what she needs to understand is that she has always been very important to him. Duncan tells her that he is not her imagination and that he wanted to confess when he saw her in the gallery. He tells her that he is so proud of her and that he always has been proud of her. He asks her to tell him that she believes him. She does and she says she should never have left him.

She thanks him. A few moments later, she dies.

REACTION:

I wish the episode had given us the conversation between Duncan and Richie that happened later. Duncan’s defense of an Immortal who lost his grip would have been worth hearing – particularly to the young guy that said Immortal just terrorized.

Overall I liked this episode even if it was a bit on the nose at times with the photography allusions. We are presented with Light and Darkness personified. Duncan taught mortal Linda to look for the good things in life – the Light. Duncan apparently failed to teach the same thing to Immortal Gregor. As for the coincidence of the two of them being part of the same show? Meh. The part of this that I did not buy was Duncan not keeping track of his mortal ex-girlfriend. How did he not notice her name when they walked inside?

Let me backtrack a little bit on Linda. She represents the Light in this episode. As a result of a life spent looking for the good… she is dying alone with no friends or family at her bed side? There is something twisted about the messaging in that. I suppose the irony is that had Linda chosen a life with Duncan, she would also not have had children, she would not have had the same career trajectory, and very likely, she would have ended up dying alone with the notable exception of Duncan’s presence at her bed side. Alternatively, she might have been murdered by an evil Immortal years or decades earlier.

Linda was not really the point of this episode, though. She just exists as a not-so-well constructed counterpoint to the more fleshed out Gregor. I did like that Duncan kind of told her about his Immortality before she died. That was a touching and well acted scene.

Gregor is an example of what might happen to a good guy Immortal who has a mental breakdown from the stresses and pain of their existence and just wants it all to end. Eventually maybe that kind of good guy goes bad just to find that ending. Duncan even mentions in the episode that it is not like Immortals can go to therapy. What might happen to someone like Gregor if a few hundred years go by, in that type of mental state, without someone like Duncan to bring you back? Is this how most evil Immortals become evil? That question might contextualize a lot of Duncan’s adversaries on this show.

Best line of the episode?

Duncan: Your camera sees what you want it to see. You can shoot hope or despair, garbage or flowers. It all depends on where you want to spend your life. 

This sums up the purpose of the episode quite well and it illustrates the difference between Duncan and Gregor.

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