Highlander (Season 2, Ep 34): Under Color of Authority

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:

Richie helps a young woman named Laura escape from Immortal bounty hunter, Mako. This leads to Richie going on the run with the girl and getting in over his head with the much older Immortal who is merely attempting to enforce the law. Duncan is familiar with Mako from past experience and views him as someone without compassion but who upholds right and wrong.

Mako eventually catches up with Richie and Laura. Unfortunately, she trips and falls in front of his car as he speeds to catch up with them while they are on foot. Despite attempting to stop, Mako kills Laura. Furious, Richie duels Mako. Despite being overmatched, and despite Duncan and Mako both giving him an opportunity to walk away, Richie insists that the fight continue. Richie wins the duel when Mako trips and presents Richie with a killing blow opportunity. After the fight, and Richie’s first Quickening, Duncan tells Richie that he is no longer a pupil and says that Richie must go out into the world on his own.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Our episode begins with an attractive young woman running from something unseen. Soon enough, though, we see that she is running from a man. She jumps into the street in front of Richie’s motorcycle. He asks her if she has a death wish. She begs him to take her away saying that there is no time. Richie sees the man approach. He senses that the man is Immortal, and vice versa. Richie drives off with the girl as the other Immortal looks furious.

Richie takes her to Duncan’s apartment. He indicates that she has a head injury. Duncan asks why he did not take her to a hospital and the girl says “no hospital” as Richie explains that he tried. Richie whispers in Duncan’s ear that she was being chased by one of them as Duncan sends him to get a couple of cloths and some water. Duncan notes that the cuts are only superficial and tells her that her pupils are not dilated. He suggests though that it is too early to tell if she has a concussion. The girl apologizes for bothering them and says she should get going Duncan gently pushes her back down on the couch and tells her to stay right there. He gives her a cloth to put on her head and tells her that they will get her something to drink.

Duncan asks Richie for the lowdown on the man and Richie gives the details. He tells Duncan that the other Immortal was mean-looking with a nasty scar on one side of his face that made him look scary. Suddenly Duncan looks concerned and Richie asks Duncan if he knows him.

Duncan: His name is Mako and yeah, I know him.

FLASHBACK!

Duncan is discussing a potential gold rush, in Alaska, in a western American town in the 1800s. The man believes that a person could get rich selling supplies to people passing through their town on their way north. Duncan gives him a hard time for being greedy. He replies that a man has to think about his future. He notes that Duncan is a newspaper man and does not know the biggest scoop in town – his wife is expecting. Duncan congratulates the man – named Tim – and shakes his hand. MacLeod takes the man inside a building saying that he has something he has been saving for an occasion just like this.

After they go inside, Immortal Mako rides into town wearing a badge. Inside, Duncan and Tim are drinking “Uncommonly Smooth Fine Old Brandy 1820.” Tim points out that the brandy is sixty years old. He says he is not used to anything that did not come out of the washtub last week. They clink glasses to the newest member of the Ramsey clan and to his father. Abruptly, Duncan senses another Immortal’s presence. He looks out the window and makes eye contact with Mako. The badge-wearing Immortal dismounts and ties his horse to a post. Tim excuses himself to purchase something from the apothecary for his wife Judith.

Mako is speaking with the town sheriff. Mako has a sketch of a man wanted for train robbery and the murder of a Wells Fargo man. He holds it out to the sheriff and displays it to the small crowd of peole gathering around to learn the purpose of his visit. The Sheriff suggests that he and Mako speak inside, in his office, and Mako tells him “in a minute” before greeting MacLeod. The two Immortals know each other. Mako tells Duncan that he is not here for him and that he is only here to do a job. He asks Duncan if he plans to get in his way and Duncan asks him as a reply if he should. Make insists that everyone has a job to do and Duncan says that everyone has to do what is right.

Duncan goes to the stables and finds Tim saddling a horse and preparing to flee. MacLeod asks him if what Mako says is true. Tim replies that he has never killed anyone in his life. He relays a story saying that when he was sixteen, his brother rode with the Dalton gang. He went out with them one time when the Wells Fargo man tried to stop them. Tim says he did not even know they had shot anyone until they were all riding away. Duncan asks him, if he did not kill anyone, why he is running. Tim replies that the Marshall has already judged him guilty.

Duncan tells him that Mako is different. He warns Tim that he will not give up or go away. Then he tells Tim about a place by the river where he can hide. MacLeod offers to bring him supplies in a couple of days. Tim rides out into the night and tells Duncan that he is a good friend.

Later that night, Duncan runs into Mako again. The other Immortal comments on MacLeod being out late and Duncan says that it’s good for the constitution. Mako notes that their kind usually does not worry much about the constitution.

Mako: And a newspaper man? Last time I saw you, you and Fitzcairn were just learning to read.

Duncan asks him what he wants. Mako says that he has always been under the impression that Duncan believes in the law. Duncan replies that he believes in justice. Mako differentiates between justice and the law. He then gives an impassioned speech about the law. He says that he has been a lawman for six hundred years – even before he was Immortal. He says that law is what separates man from the beasts. He talks about having seen cities burn when men stray too far from the law. Duncan asks him if there is any room for compassion in the midst of his law.

Mako tells Duncan that the townsfolk say he is a good friend of Tim Ramsey. Duncan replies by asking if that is against the law. Mako says that it is, if Duncan is harboring him. Duncan asks if it makes any difference that Tim has lived the last ten years living a decent hard-working life. Mako points out that those ten years are ten years that the Wells Fargo man’s family has spent grieving. Duncan states that Tim Ramsey did not kill anyone.

Mako: Says him. And maybe the judge will see it the same way. That’s the beauty of the law, ain’t it.

Make warns MacLeod saying that if Tim comes willingly, he will have his day in court. If he does not come willingly, though, Mako says that his warrant says “dead or alive.” Duncan nods and walks away.

Back in the present, Richie asks Duncan if he believes Mako is a cop. Duncan tells Richie to ask himself why the girl did not want to go to the hospital or to the police. Duncan asks Richie what he knows about the girl and Richie says not much other than her name, Laura, and that she was scared, looking for a place to hide out. Duncan advises Richie to find out what she is hiding from.

The two Immortals approach her. Richie says her head is looking better. Duncan asks her if she has any idea why the man was chasing her. She says she does not. Duncan asks her if she is sure. She again insists that she does not know.

Duncan: Then you won’t mind me bringing the police in, will you?
Laura: No. Please. Oh, maybe I do know.

She starts her tale by saying that where she comes from, there is still a right and a wrong side of the tracks. [Note: From what we have seen of Seacover, there is only a wrong side of the tracks.] She goes on to explain that she married Earl Morrison – the son of the richest guy in town – so that she can get to the good side of the tracks. Laura says that two weeks into their marriage, Earl started drinking, seeing other women, and abusing her when she complained about it. She says that as a result, she had to go.

Richie: So that’s why he sent this guy after you?
[she nods]
Duncan: Why don’t you go to the police, Laura?

She explains that her father-in-law owns half of their town. Her father-in-law told a judge that she stole from him and the judge charged her. Duncan suggests that she could get a lawyer and she replies that half of the people in town would lie for Earl’s daddy. She asks them if they are going to turn her in and Richie replies that they will not and that they are going to help her. Duncan remains silent.

Downstairs in the dojo, Richie and Duncan are alone. Duncan warns Richie about getting too deeply involved with this girl. Richie replies by asking him if she looks like a criminal to him. Duncan says that they should at least check into her story to see if she is telling the truth. He also warns Richie that Mako in no one to mess around with. Richie says he will go out and check her story out. Duncan warns him again about Mako.

Richie: Mako is not gonna find me, Mac. He has no idea who I am.

Later, Laura is outside. Duncan walks up to her and startles her. He asks why she is outside and she says that she had nightmares. She says that she worries that staying in one place for too long will lead him to find her. Duncan says that going outside makes her an easy target. Duncan tells her that Mako will not sleep like other men and he will not give up when he is this close. He also tells her that where they are now is not safe even in the best of times and he says “these aren’t the best of times, are they Laura.” She suggests awkwardly that she should thank him for looking after her and he replies, frostily, that she should thank Richie, not him.

Laura: You don’t exactly trust me much, do you.
Duncan: I don’t know you.
Laura: You don’t believe me.
Duncan: No, I believe that you’re frightened. And I believe that you’re running from something. I’m just not sure what.
Laura: Yeah, well, Richie believes me.

Duncan tells her that Richie cares about her so he will believe anything she says. He asks her what she thinks will happen to Richie if he gets in Mako’s way. Laura argues that she did not make Richie do anything. Duncan says that when you are young and you care about someone, you think with your heart and you don’t see clearly. She tells Duncan that he acts like he’s Richie’s father. Duncan says that he is not his father but he says that Richie is like family to him. Laura says that, if it helps, she does not want to see Richie get hurt, either. Duncan puts an arm around her and says that they better get out of there.

Richie is taking a shower. He suddenly senses another Immortal. When he pulls back the curtain, Mako punches him in the face. He holds Richie by the hair and asks where the girl is. He points out that their kind sometimes does not have a liking for one another and that the dislike occasionally leads to someone losing a head. He asks where the girl is and Richie lies, saying that they talked for a while before he dropped her off by the bus station. He asks Mako why he doesn’t just let the girl go – arguing that she did nothing wrong. Mako says he does not care about the how or the why, he is just going to bring the girl back.

Mako: Now you can have yourself a nice long life if you don’t get in my way again.

The next day, Duncan finds Joe Dawson looking out at a park and asks if he is keeping surveillance on the birds. Joe replies that it’s a lot less dangerous than keeping an eye on Duncan. MacLeod asks Dawson for a favor. He says that there is a girl named Laura Daniels on the run for a crime that she says she did not commit. Joe points out that prisons are filled with people who say that. Duncan says that the girl told him the man who is after her owns the local police. Joe asks Duncan for the rest of the story pointing out that he does not need Joe’s network for this. Duncan says that an Immortal named Mako is after her. Joe knows that Mako was a Sheriff in England in the 1700s and a U.S. Marshall in the late 1800s. MacLeod says he knows. He asks Joe to find out who Mako is working for now. Joe says that they should both stick to watching birds as it would be safer than looking into Mako.

Later, Duncan is doing pull ups in the dojo when Richie enters to tell him about the confrontation with Mako. Duncan says he tried to warn Richie that Mako is the best there is. Richie cannot believe that Mako would not talk with him about the girl and Duncan tells him that the only thing Mako cares about is the letter of the law. Richie insists that he will not like “that psycho” take Laura. Duncan tells Richie that Mako is not a psycho. Richie points out that Duncan helps people all the time. MacLeod says that the only way he will stop Mako from taking Laura is to kill him – and he says that Richie is not good enough.

They ride the elevator up to Duncan’s apartment and find that Laura was just about to leave. She tells Richie that she does not want him to get any more involved. Richie says that it’s too late for that as the guy who is chasing her already paid him a visit. He says that his ego is bruised but he is fine. Laura says again that she needs to run and she points out that she would rather die running than go back to Earl’s daddy. Duncan asks her where Earl himself fits into all of this and says that it seems Earl is the one she should be afraid of. She apologizes to Richie and says she needs to go before Richie says that he is going with her.

Duncan: What?
Richie: I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself.

FLASHBACK!!

A little boy is telling Duncan that Tim Ramsey has a gun and that he said he is a big boy who can take care of himself. Duncan asks him where Ramsey is and the boy says he is out on the street. He says that there is going to be a shootout. Duncan tells the boy to stay there and he goes outside.

Tim Ramsey and Mako are facing each other on the street, several feet apart. Duncan runs between them. He tells Tim that he cannot kill Mako. Tim replies that once he does, nobody in the town will turn him in. Duncan asks Mako not to do this and says he will bring Tim in himself. Mako points out that is not Duncan’s job and then instructs him to get out of the way. He tells Tim to come with him. Tim yells no and reaches for his gun. Mako draws first, fires, and Tim drops dead onto the street.

Mako: This was never between us, MacLeod.
Duncan: You didn’t have to kill him.
Mako: I didn’t kill him. The law did.

Back in the present, Duncan tells Richie that this is a mistake and the younger Immortal replies that it is his mistake to make. As they are about to leave, both Duncan and Richie feel the presence of another Immortal in the vicinity. Duncan instructs Richie and Laura to take the stairs. He takes the elevator down. In the dojo, as Duncan exits the elevator, Mako greets him. MacLeod replies that it is nice to see him. Mako notes that the dojo is a long way from the newspaper business. Duncan asks why he is here.

Mako: I’m looking for a girl.
Duncan: [smirks] Try working on your personality.

Mako says that he knew the boy would lead him to the girl but he did not expect to run into Duncan. He asks where they are before sensing Richie. He says – now knowing – that they are outside. Duncan tells Mako that he cannot let him do this and Mako reminds him that they have been here before. After a long staredown, Duncan draws his sword and holds it to Mako’s neck. He tells Mako to let them go and says that the other two are only children.

Mako: I can’t do that.
Duncan: Is it worth your life?
Mako: It’s the law. It is my life. [glances at the sword at his neck] Is this your idea of justice?

Duncan lowers his sword. Mako walks past him and walks out.

Richie and Laura check into a rundown hotel. She tries to assure him that Mako does not know where they are. He tells her that Mako will find them. She asks him why she gets the feeling that they know something about this guy that they are not telling her. Richie says that Duncan had a run-in with him some time ago and that there is still some bad blood. She says that there is more to it and Richie just tells her not to worry about it. She takes Richie by the hand and pulls him toward the bed where she is sitting. He sits next to her. She asks him why he is doing this.

Laura: Here you are, you turn your whole life upside down to help me and you don’t even know me.
Richie: I know enough. You needed help.

Their faces get closer together and she smiles and says he became her knight in shining armor.

Richie: I’m a h*** of a hero. All we’ve done so far is run.

She tells Richie that if she had half a brain when she was younger she would have been dreaming about someone like him instead of Earl and his money. She says that she would like to thank Richie and then she kisses him. He kisses her back.

Richie finally breaks off the kiss and tells her that they do not have to do this. She smiles and says that she knows.

Duncan meets with Joe Dawson again. Joe tells Duncan that Mako is working for the Texas state courts bringing in bail jumpers. Duncan asks if there is any chance he might be freelancing – doing private jobs for people with political muscle. Joe replies that there is no chance and reminds Duncan that Mako is a law and order fanatic. Joe then tells Duncan that Laura is wanted for murder and says that she killed her husband.

Joe: Stuck him with a carving knife.

We cut back to Laura in the motel room combing her hair. She hears footsteps outside but smiles when Richie comes in carrying food. They kiss again. He has burgers, fries, and $600 from the bank. As Laura tells Richie that they will be okay if they just keep moving, Richie senses an Immortal. They peek out the window and see Mako in the parking lot. Laura asks if they can make it to Richie’s motorcycle and he says no. They leave the room through a back window rather than out the front door. When Mako kicks open the door to the room, Richie and Laura are gone.

Richie and Laura arrive at the dojo. Richie asks to borrow Duncan’s car. Duncan tells Richie that they need to talk. As Richie says there is no time, Duncan tells him, in front of Laura, that she is not wanted for theft, she is wanted for murder. Richie asks her if it’s true and she sheepishly admits that she did it. She says that one night, Earl came home drunk while she was in the kitchen.

Laura: He called me a lazy b**** and he started hitting me. The next thing I knew, I had the carving knife. And then the next thing I knew it was in him.
Richie: So it was self-defense.
Laura: Not in Earl’s daddy’s town it wasn’t.

Laura says that Earl’s father-in-law told her she would not live long enough to stand for trial so she ran. Richie asks why she did not tell him before and she says that she wanted to but she was afraid he wouldn’t help her.

Duncan tells Richie that he has spoken with a lawyer. He says that they can fight the extradition but also says she has to go back to face the charges. Richie asks why and Duncan replies that those are the rules. Richie says that they are Immortal so who cares about the rules. Duncan says sometimes the rules are all that we have. He asks Richie if he is willing to kill a mortal cop that might recognize her while they are on the run. Richie says he does not know.

Richie: All I know is that I’ve got to help her. Mac she needs me.
Laura: [staring out the window some distance away] Richie, I just saw his car!

Duncan gives them his car keys and tells them to leave through the back. The car doesn’t start. Richie and Laura flee on foot. Inside the dojo, Mako has two men with him. Duncan asks if they are his deputies. Mako says that he cannot have Duncan interfering with justice again. Mako also replies that the girl is a killer and that Richie is obstructing justice. Duncan says that they can call the police and asks how far the two could get.

Mako: There will be no police. They’re mine.
Duncan: I thought this was about the law.
Mako: I am the law.
Duncan: No you’re not, Mako. You may come here under the color of authority but you’re placing yourself above the law. Nobody is above the law not even you.

The two men with Mako begin fighting him as Mako leaves through the back to follow Richie and Laura. He sees Duncan’s car has not left and begins walking after them on foot. Duncan finishes the two men off in a few moments and follows.

Mako is in a truck chasing after Richie and Laura who are on foot. Richie senses that Mako is close. Laura tells Richie that they need to go and he replies to her that “if not here, somewhere else.”

Laura: We can’t stay.
Richie: Laura, we can’t run.

Laura pulls on Richie’s hand, to get him moving, and she falls into the street. Despite Mako slamming on his breaks, he plows his truck into her while she lies on the street, killing her instantly. Mako gets out of the truck and says to Richie that it wasn’t supposed to end like this. He says that all she had to do was give herself up. Richie, furious, pushes Mako through the glass storefront window of an adjacent building.

MacLeod finally catches up everyone and sees Laura’s body on the pavement surrounded by onlookers. Not far away, Richie and Mako are dueling with swords inside an empty building. Duncan sees the broken glass window from the street and climbs through it. As Mako and Richie duel through an empty building filled with painting tarps, Duncan draws closer to the sound of steel clanging against steel. He looks deeply concerned.

Duncan finally catches up. He tells Richie that the fight can end now. Richie tells Duncan that Mako killed her. Mako says in reply that the death was an accident and that he was just doing his job. Duncan tells his pupil that this does not have to go any farther and Richie says that it’s already gone too far. After taking a stab in the chest from Mako, Richie brings his sword around and cuts loose a rope. Something weighty drops on Mako, immobilizing him.

Mako: Remember MacLeod, all that separates us from the beasts is the law.
[Richie beheads Mako before he can stand back up]

Duncan steps away as Richie receives his first Quickening.

Sometime later, Richie enters Duncan’s apartment. He notes that the weather outside is getting colder.

Duncan: You have to leave.
Richie: It’s that time? Was I wrong… about Mako?
Duncan: It’s done.
Richie: It just never figured it like this. I was gonna have friends, get a job, meet a girl… it’s all backwards now.

Duncan, distantly and soberly, tells him that while somethings will never change, other things will. He also says that Richie will learn to live with them. Richie says that he guesses he will see Duncan around and Duncan – still distant in tone – tells him to take care of himself. Richie steps closer and says “thanks Mac” but Duncan turns his back to his pupil. Duncan’s eyes water as Richie walks back toward the elevator.

Richie: Mac, will we ever have to face each other?
Duncan: [still facing away from Richie] Maybe.

As the elevator goes down, Duncan sits on the floor putting his chin on his hands.

roll credits

REACTION:

This was a great follow-up episode to The Fighter inasmuch as we are given another opportunity to study Duncan’s moral code. In The Fighter, it is clear that Duncan is willing to look the other way occasionally when a friend breaks the law – even including murder. In the last episode, he was willing to look the other way for multiple Tommy Sullivan murders until finally deciding that his old friend crossed the line too often. Here, we see Duncan face-to-face with an Immortal who is a fanatical upholder of the law. Duncan really seems to struggle within himself to oppose Mako’s worldview. He opposes Mako’s lack of compassion but he also agrees with Mako’s belief in law and order. Based on what we have seen of Immortals, Mako comes across as a rarity and undoubtedly falls into the “good guy” camp in Duncan’s brain – even if he would probably also say that he does not like the man. To some extent, I think Duncan agreed with Mako regarding Laura. She was a murderer who needed to return home to face justice. She lied to Richie and Duncan from the get-go. She knowingly manipulated Richie and got him into trouble. To that end, Duncan seemed deeply troubled by Mako’s demise. Mako died doing the right thing and for good reasons. Duncan really wanted there to be bad reasons. He even had Joe go look for bad reasons and Joe didn’t find them.

Well, there was one thing.

The writers gave us a bit of a swerve with Mako near the end of the episode. He told Duncan that he, himself, is the law. That’s really it, though. Duncan did not witness Laura’s death but the audience did. It was clearly an accident despite what Richie said. Duncan seemed to know instinctively that Mako would not kill her on purpose. In fact, Mako had nothing to do with Laura falling into the street in front of his car. The audience heard the squealing tires as he tried to stop. It’s hard to blame him for her death – except that he was pursuing her per his job in law enforcement. And for that? Richie ended the life of a rough around the edges Immortal who spent six centuries arresting dangerous criminals.

Duncan has a much greater perspective on, and appreciation for, the scope of the tragedy of Mako’s death than Richie. Duncan likely has a greater sense of the loss than even the audience which has a torn allegiance to Richie and does not have Duncan’s lived experience. In any case, that is likely why Duncan and Richie’s parting of ways lacked warmth on Duncan’s end of things.

Do we blame Richie for any of this? Not really. From his perspective, Laura was a victim – even if she was also a murderer. He is probably not entirely wrong in that perspective. From Richie’s perspective, Mako’s (unnecessarily?) aggressive pursuit was just as responsible for her death as was the fact she fell down in front of his car. If Mako isn’t driving so fast, he could have stopped when she fell in front of him. Richie was also correct to be angry at the way Mako handled the aftermath of the accident. If the six hundred year old Immortal had jumped out of the truck and checked her pulse then maybe Richie reacts to him differently. He did not do that. Instead, he expected Richie to have six centuries’ worth of emotional callouses to match his own. Richie is nineteen. Richie does not have those callouses yet.

When you can get to the end of an episode like this and empathize with all of the competing sides to the story, the writers have done a great job. That’s where I stand on this one.

Notes:

* Duncan’s eyes watered yet again. Two episodes in a row. This has been a particularly rough season for Duncan MacLeod.

* Richie’s Quickening was cool… with the paint flying around and everything. He had absoultely no business winning that fight but I wonder if getting a powerful Immortal right out of the gate, through sheer luck, will help him in the future.

* Imagine being Mako, being MUCH better than Richie, and losing your head in such a flukey way. I suppose that’s the danger every Immortal faces in every single duel.

* Mako was portrayed by Jonathan Banks. He was really great in the fanatical law and order man role. You might remember him as Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul.

* I really enjoyed Mako making the reference to Duncan and Fitzcairn learning to read. I wish we had been given a flashback to Duncan’s first encounter with Mako when that occurred. But maybe it was a bit much to ask Jonathan Banks to give us an English accent for a five minute scene? It’s also possible that if we (the audience) didn’t side enough with Richie, on balance, that the episode would not have worked.

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