Highlander (Season 2, Ep 38): The Vampire

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 attends the wake of his friend Barry who recently drowned in a swimming pool. After the wake, he sees Nicholas Ward, an Immortal with whom he had an unfinished fight two hundred years ago. The episode is done mostly in 19th century Paris, in flashback form, as we revisit Duncan’s first encounter with Ward. Ward – posing as a vampire – killed the three owners of a shipping company named Belaire while courting the daughter of one of them who is slated to inherit the entire company. When Duncan puts all of the pieces to this plot together, Ward flees rather than fight.

In the present, Ward is doing the same again. Duncan learns that Ward killed Barry and other owners of a record label in an effort to take control of it via Barry’s daughter Helene – who he is slated to marry. Duncan tracks down Ward by lying to Helene and implying that he and Ward and old friends who just ran into each other. Duncan later interrupts the wedding before it is set to begin. Ward excuses himself to talk to Duncan. In reality, he duels, dies, and never returns. The episode ends as Duncan tells Helene Piper that Ward left her because he had other responsibilities and a past life that are more important than his own happiness.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

The episode begins in a swimming pool with a man we have not yet met swimming laps. As he approaches the edge of the pool to turn back and swim once more in the other direction, a hand grabs him by the hair and holds him underwater until he drowns.

A few moments later, we see a woman in a black dress ascending up a staircase toward a party. As she reaches the gathering, we hear Duncan talking.

Duncan: I can’t believe Barry would want his wake at his pool.

Another man says Barry will be buried near Jim Morrison so that he will have someone to party with. Duncan asks the man if the police know what happened and he tells Duncan that the police think he was drunk, slipped, and drowned in his own pool. The man confirms to Duncan that Barry used to swim drunk in his pool all the time. The woman in the black dress stands near the picture of Barry and says “Dad.”

Sometime later, the woman is at a piano and she says that it’s time to go. Duncan is there with her, calls her Helen, and says he knows it has been rough on her. Helen goes to wake a man, Peter, from a nearby couch. Duncan offers to take Peter home and he says that he is home. Helen says he can stay for the night, takes the bottle of booze from him, and places a blanket over him.

Outside, Helen is walking with Duncan while holding his arm. She tells him that he is a good friend and that her father was very fond of him. Duncan tells her in turn that he will miss her father, too. She cries and hugs Duncan, asking how she will get over this. Just then, Duncan feels the presence of another Immortal. He sends Helen inside to get some sleep and goes to look for the other Immortal.

FLASHBACK!

Duncan, from the 1800s, calls out for a man named Ward. Ward replies and tells Duncan that he turns up in unexpected places. Duncan says to Ward that he was thinking the same about him.

Back in the present, Duncan sees a shadowy figure from a distance. The person tells Duncan that he will see him around and then vanishes. Duncan follows. A few paces later he senses someone watching him. He approaches the person, as ominous music plays, and then surprise punches the person in the face.

Duncan: Dawson?
Joe Dawson: Nice to see you too, MacLeod.

When Joe is back on his feet, Duncan says that he thought Joe had left Paris. Joe replies by saying he is surprised that Duncan cares. MacLeod tells him to be careful because Paris can be a dangerous place. Duncan then gets to the point.

Duncan: You were following Nicholas Ward, weren’t you?

Joe nods yes.

FLASHBACK!!

Duncan, dressed as though he stepped off a stage production of Les Mis, is watching a street performance in Paris about a vampire. He is standing with two men regarding some type of business. One of the two partners, that Duncan is speaking with, says that the performance is how the public is dealing with its fears and he says that they are right to be afraid. Duncan asks afraid of what and the man tells him, quite seriously, that there is a vampire walking the streets of Paris. The other of the two men says that his partner is superstitious and tells Duncan that he does not share his partner’s fears. The first man asks Duncan what he believes.

Duncan: About a vampire? Well, I think Paris is a fashionable city, and vampires are in fashion. can we get to the business at hand, gentlemen?

The partner who does not believe in vampires asks Duncan what he knows about their company. Duncan replies that Belaire imports goods from most of the world and exports finished products. They are happy to bring Duncan on as an investor but they want to be clear that the investments are long-term. Duncan tells them that they are. With that out of the way, the three men set an appointment to meet in the morning and discuss details.

The superstitious partner remains behind and speaks with Duncan some more. Duncan tells him that he is taking the vampire issue too seriously. The man tells MacLeod to go speak with the crowd not far away. He tells Duncan that they, unlike himself, have no specific reason to believe in vampires. Just as Duncan is asking the other man about his own reasons for believing, he senses the presence of another Immortal. As he asks the man to excuse him, they both hear a woman scream in the distance.

Duncan runs to find a man dead on the ground. The dead man is William, the business partner who does not believe in vampires. Duncan asks the woman what happened and she replies that she does not know but says that there was a man leaning over him. Just then, another man points Duncan toward a place to look. Duncan sees a man and shouts for him to stop. The man, instead, runs away. Duncan and others give chase. One of the men chasing alongside Duncan shoots the man and he falls into some water and disappears.

Back at the dead body, it is revealed that the pale dead man has two puncture marks on his neck. The body is pale from the loss of blood and there is no blood on the cobblestone around the body. Duncan takes the other business partner, Henry, home.

At Henry’s home, the older (seeming) man asks Duncan if he believes in vampires now. Duncan still says no and that there must be an explanation for the puncture marks and loss of blood. Henry tells Duncan that he will find out eventually. He goes on to tell Duncan about a venture he helped to fund six months ago, to Transylvania, wherein they were able to acquire artifacts cheaply.

Duncan: What went wrong?
Henry: Everything. The locals turned against us, our own men fought amongst themselves, It was doomed from the start.

Duncan tells him that archaeology is a risky business but Henry replies that the artifacts were from an ancient church. Duncan asks if they robbed it and Henry replies, “like savages.” He says that one night, they dug up a gilded coffin, but left it for the morning to open because it was late. Henry says that when they returned the next day the coffin was gone. MacLeod says that someone stole it and that he still does not believe in vampires. Just then, another man enters the room and asks MacLeod how he accounts for Stillwell’s death and the death of the other partner of Charles Voight.

Henry introduces to the new man, Alan Baines, and Duncan immediately describes him as “the vampire chaser.” Duncan leaves but Baines follows him to the door and talks to him as Duncan puts on his coat.

Baines: You saw Stillwell’s body. How can you not believe?
Duncan: Stubborn, perhaps.
Baines: Princes of darkness, creatures of the night, Immortals, do they not exist for you?

Just then, Duncan senses another Immortal. Ward enters the room with a woman who Baines addresses as Miss Jacom. Baines offers his condolences in light of recent events. She thanks him but says that she believes Stillwell was murdered by a man, not a monster. She greets Duncan and asks if he is another of Baines’ associates. Duncan says no and gives her his name. She tells him that her father, Henry, has told her all about him. She introduces Duncan to Nicholas Ward, her family’s legal counsel. She excuses herself.

Ward, alone with Duncan, says that it is a pity that they are meeting at such an awkward time. Duncan says that he thinks that they may have met earlier this evening. Ward says he does not think so and believes he would remember if they had. Duncan sees the cane that Ward is carrying, taps on it, and says that it is unusual. Ward replies that it used to be but nowadays everyone has one.

Baines leaves. As he is going, Ward says that he will continue hunting for vampires for as long as Henry Jacom pays him. Baines tells him to laugh all his likes but notes that Henry’s two partners laughed and both are now dead. Duncan asks Ward what he believes is occurring.

Ward: An animal from the zoo, a maniac. But the thought of someone living forever — absurd, don’t you think?

Baines is alone with Henry Jacom. He speculates that vampires may be able to create an illusion using light refraction to be invisible. He hands Henry some holy water and a cross, and Henry laughs, asking if that is the best he can do. Baines replies that it works and that is a fact of history. Baines leaves to go track down the vampire.

Later, Henry is alone in his home. He hears noises and walks around with a lantern asking who is there. As he calls out for Baines, we see first the shadow, and then Nicholas Ward himself appear behind Henry. Henry turns and throws the holy water. Nicholas complains to him that he just got the coat from London as Henry is relieved.

Henry: What are you doing here?
Nicholas: I’ve come to collect.
Henry: But I don’t owe you anything.
NIcholas: Oh, but you do. Your life.

Henry looks suddenly horrified and backs up. Ward puts his cane against Henry’s neck. It seems to puncture his skin and drain his blood.

The transition to the next scene features red covering the screen like blood.

Back in the present, Duncan is talking with Joe about what he has learned. Joe tells him that the French police are investigating a few murders but nothing unusual. Joe suggests to Duncan that maybe Ward has stopped killing.

Duncan: Not Ward. He hides one murder with another.

Joe says that there is no evidence of a serial killer in Paris and Duncan tells him that there will be.

In the next scene, we see a woman swimming in a pool. Ward is standing on the edge of the pool. He helps her out. She says that today is her last day as Helene Piper.

Helene: It’s ball and chain time. Your musician friends will have to find someone else to party with.

He asks what he gets to do instead and she suggests that she has other ideas. They both state their intention to be “very bad” but decide to wait until after the wedding. Helene notes that after that, it will be until death do they part. Ward says he would not have it any other way.

FLASHBACK!!!

Ward arrives… somewhere… and finds Duncan waiting on him. Duncan compliments his coat and then asks him where he was the previous night. Ward says that he took Juliette Jacom home and then went home to sleep himself. Duncan tells him that he saw another Immortal the night before who looked very much like him.

Ward: Lucky him.

They discuss what Nicholas may have to gain by play-acting as a vampire. Duncan suggests that the idea may be to draw attention away from himself as a suspect. Ward asks what he would get out of that and Duncan asks him about his relationship with Juliette Jacom. Ward says that they are just friends and Duncan points out that she will get the entire company .

Just as they are discussing this, Juliette arrives. Duncan gives her his condolences. She says that Paris police have told her that they have their best people on the case. Duncan excuses himself to leave but Juliette interrupts him and says that she wants him to know that she and Mr. Ward are going to be married.

Juliette: From now on, we’ll be making all business decisions for Belaire, together.
Ward: That’s wonderful. [smugly] Is it not, Mr. MacLeod?

Duncan congratulates them and wishes them both a long and happy life. As Duncan is putting his coat on to leave, Ward approaches him and acknowledges that this all looks awkward but he says that he knows a fellow Immortal will not judge him without proof.

Duncan: Then I’ll have to find some, will I not?

Baines is in his laboratory looking at fabric under a microscope. As he says “got you” Duncan knocks on the door. He lets a top hat wearing Duncan inside. Duncan brings him another fabric fiber. Baines says that it is black cashmere and a perfect match with his current sample. Baines also correctly guesses that the sample brought by Duncan came form Nicholas Ward’s cape. Duncan tells Baines that he does not know what he is dealing with in Ward. Baines says that Ward is a vampire and he is prepared to deal with him. Duncan says “so be it” and leaves him.

Duncan goes straightaway to Juliette’s home. He acknowledges that she does not know him well but he says he has something important to tell her. She replies by saying that her father is a good judge of character and that her father trusts him. Duncan tells her that he believes Nicholas Ward kills her father and the other two. She does not take that pronouncement well and says that Duncan is just as much a suspect as her soon-to-be husband. Duncan tells her that he does not care about the company, he cares about her life. He notes that her life is the only thing between Ward and sole control of the company once she marries him.

In the next scene, we see Baines sneaking up on Ward. He knocks the Immortal out and then hammers a stake into his heart. As Baines turns his back to do something that we cannot see on camera, Ward pulls the stake from his chest. He stands and approaches Baines.

Ward: Now that wasn’t very sporting, old chap. I do hope you get my point.

Ward then stabs Baines in the heart with the stake. Unlike Ward, Baines dies.

Later, Duncan and Ward encounter each other outside. Ward says he is out getting fresh air and that he has heard walks are good for health.

Duncan: Even with a vampire on the loose?
Ward: Oh, doesn’t the thought give you goosebumps.

Duncan hands him something – but with the camera shot focusing on their heads we cannot see what it is. He tells Ward that he believes this something belongs to him.

Ward: So it does. Where did you find that?
Duncan: In the room where they found Baines’ body.
Ward: Oh dear. You found me out.

Duncan asks him how many people he had to kill to get control of Belaire. Ward asks if it really matters. He says that Jacom creates the hysteria about robbing the church in Transylvania and all he had to do is make his worst fears come true. Duncan asks him about Juliette. Ward replies that he can see Duncan is the type who marries for love. He tells Duncan that he marries for money – lots of it. He asks if they are going to live and let live. Duncan throws off his top hat and draws a sword.

Their duel is soon interrupted by a passing carriage. Ward boards the carriage and tells Duncan to say goodbye to Juliette for him.

In the present, in a very foggy Paris, Joe meets Duncan with more information about Ward. He tells Duncan that Paris police now believe they have a serial killer on their hands. Three recent murders in the city are similar. All three victims are in their early fifties and attended the same boarding school in Switzerland together. Joe says that there are seventy-six people in Paris who attended that school and says the police cannot notify all of them in time.

Duncan replies that they will not have to. He tells Joe that Ward earns his money the old fashioned way – by marrying it.

Duncan visits a church. He tells a woman at the reception desk there that he is in a bind and needs help. She asks him what the issue is. He tells her that his brother is marrying someone tomorrow that he should not. When asked if that is not his brother’s business, Duncan says that he just wants to talk to him. He tells her the problem is that he does not know the bride-to-be’s name. The woman looks in her registry and tells Duncan that Ward is marrying Helene Piper tomorrow.

Duncan – who knows Helene Piper and met with her earlier in the episode after her father’s death – goes by her home. He tells Helene that he is coming by to congratulate her on her upcoming marriage. She asks how he knows about it and he tells her that he ran into Ward.

Helene: Ah, you know Nicky?
Duncan: Yeah, we go back a ways.

Duncan asks her if she knows where he can find Ward. She tells him that he is probably in some dive, looking for a garage band to take platinum. Helene mentions that Ward never mentioned Duncan and MacLeod replies that they have not seen each other in a few years. He kisses her on the cheek once more to congratulate her.

She tells him that she knows the wedding is sudden but she thinks that sometimes you have just got to go for it. Helene also tells Duncan that while Ward makes out like he is wild and crazy, she has also never seen a man with such a head for business.

Duncan asks her where her father went to school. She remembers that it was a private school in Switzerland. Duncan asks if Le Rosey is the name and she says that is right. She mentions that Peter – the man who slept on her couch at the beginning of the episode – was her father’s roommate in school. Duncan asks for his number and calls him. The phone rings several times as Peter is bringing groceries inside. Duncan hangs up moments before Peter gets to the phone to answer.

Duncan kisses Helene on the cheek and tells her that he will see her later. We see Ward arrive at Peter’s apartment at that moment, also.

As Ward is strangling Peter, he suddenly feels the presence of an Immortal. Ward hides as Duncan arrives and finds Peter’s body. He notices Ward running away and chases him. Ward gets away.

Later, Duncan updates Joe. Dawson asks if Duncan believes Ward will run away. Duncan says that he thinks Ward is too arrogant to run away. Just then, police arrive and arrest Duncan. Sometime later, at the Church, Joe tells Duncan that the party arrives ten minutes ago. MacLeod tells him that Ward told the police that he believed a serial killer was outside his apartment and he gave the police Duncan’s description. Duncan points out that Ward did not know about Joe. [Joe must have been an alibi for Duncan.]

Duncan walks into the wedding venue just before it is time for Ward and Helene to marry. Helene is pleased that Ward asked Duncan to be their witness. He tells her that he and Duncan have something to talk about, now, and that he will not be long. In view of everyone, they talk quietly with one another. Ward says that Duncan will never go away and MacLeod agrees that he will not. He asks Duncan how a man is supposed to make a living. He offers Duncan a deal and MacLeod says no. He tells Ward that he wants to fight him immediately.

Helene asks the two of them what is going on over there.

Ward: Everyone brings a little baggage into a relationship, Helene. MacLeod and I need to talk about mine.

He tells her that she should wait for him at home. Helene angrily thanks Duncan.

Before their duel, Ward tells Duncan that this is a joke. Duncan says that it is not a joke to the people he has killed. Ward replies by saying that they’re just mortals and nobody cares about them. Duncan asks how long he has been doing this and Ward replies that he has being doing it for longer than Duncan has been alive.

Their duel starts. It includes a long fall off a balcony where both men land on their feet. Finally, and surprisingly, Ward temporarily disarms Duncan. With MacLeod’s back to Ward, the other Immortal begins to celebrate.

Ward: When I’m good, I’m good, but when I’m bad, I’m great.

As he swings to behead Duncan, MacLeod blocks the blow with his head facing away from Ward. He stabs Ward in the gut, tells him “not great enough.”

Ward: Everyone’s a critic.

MacLeod beheads him. As MacLeod is receiving the Quickening, a bunch of paper starts blowing through the air for some reason. The Quickening starts with some orange fire before the more customary lightning. There are several explosions after, also.

Sometime later, Joe is waiting for Duncan outside a building and asks him how Helene took the news. Duncan asks Joe how he thinks she took it. Joe then asks Duncan what he told her and Duncan replies that he told Helene Ward has another past, another life, and other responsibilities that are more important than his own happiness.

Duncan: You know, sometimes one truth is kinder than another.

They discuss how time sometimes feels like a circle. Duncan asks Joe if he will be following him and Joe replies that it what he does. Joe suggests that if Duncan invites him for a drink that he would not be following. Duncan says only drinks with his friends and he gets into the car.

As Joe is walking away, Duncan sticks his head out of the car window and tells him that the bar opens at five. Joe smiles and walks away.

roll credits

REACTION:

I’m really torn about this episode. On the one hand, I love the visuals of doing most of this episode via flashback. Duncan with the sideburns and top hat was just outstanding. Paris is just a beautiful city, visually, and seeing everyone in 19th century garb just accentuated it. I mean, I think that among the myriad of reasons people are drawn to plays and movies such as Les Misérables and A Tale of Two Cities is just the period-specific visual appeal.

I liked Ward (Jeremy Brudenell) as an Immortal villain. He is smug, funny, and with an undercurrent of… bored. He had a bunch of great lines throughout the episode:

  • Re: MacLeod seeing someone who matches his description: “Lucky him.”
  • Re: vampires in Paris: “Oh, doesn’t the thought give you goosebumps.
  • Re: Duncan’s retort just before his death: “Everyone’s a critic.”

His duel with Duncan was mostly great, too. Ward was good with a sword. Duncan in black and Ward in white made for a fun visual. The Quickening was mostly really good.

But what about the bad?

I just could not get invested in Ward’s victims. That would have been fine if this storyline were mostly being played for dark comedy. Ward was certainly written to be somewhat comedic. The plot did not go all-in on the comedy, though, and as a result a lot of this story just felt disjointed and did not work for me. The show did little to make me care about those who died while simultaneously wanting me to care about the evilness of Ward – who kept making me laugh. I think Baines was probably supposed to be the one victim into whom the audience invested but the moment of horror I should have felt for him – when Ward pulled the stake out of his own heart – just did not land. Maybe it had something to do with the too casual way that Baines killed Ward in the first place? He did it so easily and effortlessly – as though he has killed many other “vampires.” That obviously raises some moral questions about Baines. As a result, I had no, err, stake, in his success and survival.

I was also waiting for a twist at the end where we find out that Helene Piper was in on the murder of her father and uncle but the show did not deliver the twist. The episode even set it up with their swimming pool chat about being “very bad.”

Two other things that kind of took me out of the episode a little bit. In what was otherwise a really good duel, Duncan and Ward fall a considerable distance and land on their feet as though nothing happened. That fall should not have gone so smoothly. The fight scenes in this show normally include some degree of realism but that moment lacked it in a jarring way. The other thing that took me out of the episode was the first few moments of the Quickening. Where did all of that paper come from? Why was it flying around? The fire before the lightning was visually fun to see, though.

The subtle major plot arc achieved in this episode is that it positions Duncan and Joe as friends. I do not think that friendship has been earned by the plot – certainly not in this episode – but perhaps MacLeod feels a little bad for Joe that he killed* his brother-in-law James Horton in the previous episode.

Of course we all know that Horton is still alive.

All in all, this episode was a mixed bag. I think the writers wanted to experiment a little bit here by injecting Immortals as the explanation for other paranormal type things. The experiment just did not quite work. It’s too bad, too, because I thought there was a lot of potential with Ward as the Immortal baddie and the setting generally. I also like the idea of doing episodes mostly in flashback.

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