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 plot 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:
Immortal Paul Karros is leading a revolution in The Balkans. He reaches out to Duncan when he comes to the U.S. seeking arms to support his cause. While here, Duncan sees that his old friend is corruptly sabotaging peace opportunities and framing the legitimate government for war crimes – in order to get good press for himself.
Duncan fights and beheads Karros. After, Charlie decides to go with Mara, a compatriot of Karros, to help her rebuild her country and because he is interested in her romantically.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
The episode begins with “The Balkans” flashing across the bottom of the screen. A voice – apparently from a TV – tells us that violence continues to effect this once peaceful mountain region. The voice tells us that the only hope for peace is a truce between the rebel leader Paul Karros and the better armed forces of President Bourchek.
The episode then jumps into a battle scene. Some men are leading a prisoner – covered from head to foot in black, and cuffed – through the war zone. We go inside the bunker of rebel leader Paul Karros who is telling someone named Mara that wars and revolutions have their own pacing. He says that the question is not if they will win, but when.
Mara: The city is falling around our ears and you still believe that?
Karros: Well, how can I lead these men and believe anything else?
The cuffed and covered prisoner is brought into the bunker. Karros takes his black face covering off and the prisoner is revealed to be one of President Bourchek’s secret police. Karros asks Mara is this is what she fears immediately before shooting the prisoner and killing him. Karros speaks to the others in the room now and asks them if they are still frightened. He tells all of them that the men they will face tomorrow are just like this one and that the will die just as easily. He then starts a chant “to victory.”
Elsewhere, we see Karros in a government building. He is telling a gathered group that thanks to Father Stefan, Congressmen have begun to see things their way. Just then a reporter named Mason approaches Karros and asks if the Congressman will vote to end the arms embargo. Karros replies that the Congressman is a man of peace and that he will vote his conscience.
Duncan and Charlie are walking down a sidewalk discussing Karros. Charlie tells Duncan that he has heard stories about Karros from people in Africa and Central America.
Charlie: They say he can turn villagers into Green Berets in a couple of weeks.
Charlie asks Duncan how long he has known Karros and Duncan answers vaguely “a while.”
Charlie: Ah, so you’re not gonna tell me about him?
Duncan: Probably not.
Charlie: You’re a real public library, MacLeod.
As Duncan approaches Karros, the rebel leader’s interview with Mason is still on-going. Karros senses Duncan as Mason’s questions get more heated. Karros tells the reporter that he has been cast in the role of a warrior but says that those who know him know that he is a man of peace.
Mexico – 1867
Karros is leading a chant of “viva la revolution!” After, Karros approaches Duncan who is sitting. Karros tells him to wake up and celebrate because, he says that tomorrow they will be in Queretaro.
Karros: And all of Mexico will be ours.
Duncan: Not ours, Karros. Theirs.
Karros: OK, theirs. What’s the difference? We’re on the same side, aren’t we?
Duncan tells Karros that Maximilian has been trying to abdicate and go home to Austria for two years and adds that he thinks the man would go home if they would let him. Karros laughs and says never thought Duncan would change and he laughs again at the idea of Duncan MacLeod, the pacifist.
Karros points out that Duncan was never a slave. When Duncan asks what difference that makes, Karros talks about his time as a gladiator during the Roman Empire and his deaths for the amusement of the crowds. Duncan replies dryly that Karros must have been a disappointment to the crowds in that case. Karros tells Duncan that he knew Spartacus, that he and Spartacus were both Thracians, and he revels in what a great leader the other man was – marveling that he convinced slaves that they could defeat the Roman Empire.
Karros: 90,000 of us ended up with him.
Duncan: Yeah, all of which ended up crucified, burned, or hung.
Karros: The died free. Spartacus may be gone, Mac, but I still hear his voice and I carry his fight.
Duncan: Be careful when you hear voices from the past, Paul. Time can make you a liar.
A battle ensues. We see Duncan bring a wounded man back to the medic tents. One of the nurses asks Duncan how the battle is going and he tells her that he thinks they are winning. She points him toward the tent of injured – one of which is a boy – and asks if they will be celebrating. She apologizes and says that she is very tired before Duncan tells her that she has a right to be. They discuss the wounded and whether freedom is worth the cost of their lives. She asks Duncan if he would die for their revolution. He does not answer and instead says that he has to go.
Back in the present, Mason is still talkin to Karros.
Mason: Bourchek says that you lead your men into suicide in order to get into the evening news.
Karros replies that Bourchek is a liar. He says that if the President wants peace, he can come to the table. As they are talking, an armed man approaches and begins to shoot. Duncan yells for everyone to get down. The man shoots Father Stefan and runs out of the room. Duncan chases him and manages to trip him before the man turns and shoots Duncan as well.
Father Stefan is being wheeled on a gurney through a hospital. Dr. Anne Lindsey tells Karros and Mara, after the surgery, that Stefan will live. Karros’ first question to her is when he will be able to speak with the press. As he is asking, Duncan enters the hospital. Duncan says that he would like Father Stefan make it out of intensive care before he sets up a speaking tour for him. Dr. Lindsey thanks Duncan and leaves.
Karros introduces Duncan to Mara before telling her that if they had Duncan on their side they would not need an army.
Duncan: You and me against an army, Karros. You must have gotten better since the last time we met.
Sometime later Duncan, Charlie, Karros, and Mara are gathered together. We learn that Mara was previously a journalist and that she joined Karros after Bourchek leveled the building where she works – killing her publisher.
Mara: Sometimes the free press means free to be murdered.
Charlie then tells Karros that he served time in El Salvador at around hte time that Karros was there. Karros asks if this means that he and Charlie were on opposite sides and Charlie replies that he was there as an advisor and not on a side. He notes that in that war there was neither up nor down. Karros tells him that there is always right and wrong.
Duncan: At least that’s what the spin doctors want you to believe.
That creates some silence. Karros finally breaks the silence by suggesting that perhaps Duncan has changed more than he thought. He says it is not like him to leave a friend standing with an empty glass. Duncan replies that Karros with an empty glass is exactly like the old days. Duncan and Karros walk away together leaving Charlie and Mara alone together.
Mara thanks Charlie for helping Father Stefan today after the shooting. She approaches him and looks at him suggestively enough that he becomes flustered. Finally Charlie asks where she is staying. Mara tells him that a man from her country made his fortune in the U.S. – she says that two days ago her country was crumbling around her and today she is staying in a mansion. Charlie laughs and says that he remembers the experience of ducking bullets in El Salvador one day to being at home in the U.S. drinking beer in his buddy’s basement the next.
Mara tells Charlie that she is still dodging Bourchek’s bullets. She points out that if he can get to them here, in the States, it would send a strong message back home. Charlie tells her that they will have to make certain he cannot send another message. The smile at each other for a long time before Charlie offers Mara more wine.
Karros looks around Duncan’s apartment and suggests that perhaps he is right to give up the life of a warrior for all of this comfort. Duncan replies that the boredom of his life would kill Karros.
Karros: Remember the old days when all you needed was the right cause, a good horse, and a good blade?
Karros complains that armies today are run on money and high tech weapons. he says there is no passion. Duncan argues that it was always about money. Karros asks Duncan to come back with him and suggests that two old relics might hbe ale to lay Bourchek to rest faster than just one of them. Duncan tells him that he is not looking for any new fights and adds that some of his old fights will not leave him alone.
Duncan tells Karros that he has the press on his side and points out that it is only a matter of time until Bourchek negotiates. Karros in turn says he will never negotiate with men like Bourchek. He finishes his drink and tells Duncan that his glass is empty again. Duncan seems to look at his friend with some pause but smiles and says “so it is.”
Sometime later, Mara and Karros are in the mansion where they are staying. Karros says that they will see what the press says about the shooting. She tells him that he does not need to look so happy about it. He argues that he is worried about Father Sfefan, too, but that he will not let that stop him from using it to get out the truth about Bourchek.
Mara: How about the truth that our people attacked those guys?
Karros: The truth is, it was necessary.
He tells her that sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war. He adds that one must never confuse people with what they do not need to know. She reminds him that they were talking about truth. Just then, his phone rings. Karros tells Mara that one of their people has proof of Bourchek’s involvement. SHe offers to come with him but Karros leaves and tells Mara to wait where she is.
Karros meets with a man named Anthony at the Seacouver docks. Anthony is the man who shot Father Stefan. Karros tells him that the priest was supposed to die. Anthony tells him to blame the doctors. Karros tells him that he needed a dead priest to stop an arms embargo. Anything tells him that he did what he was told and he demands to be paid. Karros tosses him money. As Anything counts it, Karros draws a sword and kills him.
Duncan is at a morgue. The man working there offers Duncan licorice and confirms that Duncan is the one who got a look at the shooter. The coroner tells Duncan that there are a lot of bodies in right now. He knocks on a freezer door, yells out “I hope you’re decent” and then pulls out the body inside. Duncan sees that the dead man is the one who shot Father Stefan. Duncan asks if the coroner has any idea who the man is. He tells Duncan his name is Anthony Dourcef. He says that he is from Europe somewhere.
Duncan: The Balkans?
Coroner: Yes! That’s the place.
Duncan is about to leave when the man asks if he wants to see the interesting part. He shows Duncan that the man was killed with a sword.
Elsewhere, Karros is giving an interview. He tells the press that the shooting was not war – it was murder. As Duncan walks up, they look at each other, and…
Karros and Duncan are still fighting in Mexico. They are winning. They kill some of the Emperor’s private guards which alerts Duncan to the fact that Mximilian is fleeing. He tells Karros that they are done here and to let the people have their own victory.
Duncan: It’s their revolution.
Karros: No, it’s my revolution.
Duncan: The emperor’s finished, Paul. Do you need to see him die with your own eyes?
Karros: No, Mac, with my own hands.
Karros rides away. Duncan surveys the battlefield and finds the nurse, Elda, who he spoke with at the medic’s tent earlier. He wants to get her out but she says no, and tells him that she has seen enough wounds to know that she is dying. She asks Duncan not to leave her while she dies. He tells her that he won’t.
Elda: Maybe you should ask me if I would do it again. I would.
She dies and Duncan kisses her forehead.
In the present, Dr. Anne Lindsey approaches the press conference – which is occurring in the hospital. Karros tells the press that she saved Father Stefan’s life. She asks everyone to go as they are turning her hospital into a zoo. Karros tells her angrily that Father Stefan would want the world to know what happened to him.
Karros: He’s one of my people.
Anne: Newsflash Mr. Karros, now he’s one of my people.
Karros asks her if she knows what she is doing. She replies sternly that she does and she tells him that she knows what he is doing, too. She then tells security to clear the floor and they begin doing exactly that. The press conference ends. Duncan hangs around for last, long enough to flirt with Anne, before she orders him to leave, too.
Back at the mansion, Charlie visits Mara. He tells her that he has come to offer his help – hands, light weapons, or someone generally just to watch his back. He adds that maybe someone could watch her back, too. When she tells him that she is not that important, Charlie says that maybe to some people she is. She asks him if he is coming on to her and he says that maybe he is. He then asks if she and Karros are together.
Mara: There was a time that we could have been, but Paul’s only love is the revolution.
The door bell rings. The reporter, Mason, is at the door. He asks her what Karros’ response is to the news. She asks him “what news?”
We later see Duncan and Karros talking by the docks. Karros is angry that Duncan agrees with Dr. Anne Lindsey. He says that if Father Stefan was conscious, he would call the press conference himself. Duncan tells him that he is not conscious and is hanging on by a thread.
Karros: You’re getting soft Mac. You’ve lost your fire.
Duncan: I haven’t lost it. I just don’t let it eat me up anymore, or anyone else.
Duncan tells him that the police found the man who shot Father Stefan and that he was killed by a sword. Karros tells him to save his suspicion for Bourchek. The two men walk into a building where the press is gathered. President Bourchek is there.
Karros: Bourchek, what are you doing here?
Bourchek: Taking up your challenge, Karros – to begin the process.
When Bourchek extends his hand, as cameras take pictures, Karros responds by embracing him and kissing him on both cheeks.
Back at Duncan’s apartment, Charlie greets Mara with champagne. He tells her that they have a lot to celebrate. She seems doubtful and tells him that she hopes he is right. Mara tells Charlie that Paul is sure this is a PR trick from Bourcheck to get Congress on his side.
Charlie: But what if it’s not?
Mara: It’s too much to hope for. I’ve been at war too long. I don’t tink I’d know how to be at peace.
Later, Charlie and Duncan are playing chess. Charlie asks Duncan if he has ever been to the Balkans. Duncan replies “not recently” and then asks Charlie if he is thinking of going. Charlie tells him yes. Charlie tells him that Karros thinks the truce offer is bogus. Duncan asks what this conversation is about. Charlie says he wants to do something important with his life and he says that Karros will use him. Duncan repies that he is sure Karros will.
Charlie: What’s that supposed to mean?
Duncan: Some people aren’t what they seem, Charlie.
Duncan: So watch yourself around Karros.
Charlie tells Duncan that he thinks Karros is fighting the good fight. Duncan stares at the chessboard…
Men are lined up for the firing squad. Duncan rides up and tells Karros that he does not need to do this. Karros replies that they would have done the same thing to them if they had won. Duncan points out that the men slated to die are neither the government nor the opposition. They’re just boys in uniform. Karros tells Duncan that they chose their side and that this is what war comes to every time. He gives the order to fire. The men die as Duncan yells “don’t!” Duncan is upset but he walks away.
Later, Karros approaches Duncan about celebrating. Duncan is angry.
Duncan: What have we won?
Duncan: For a bunch of dead men?
Karros: They died nobly.
Duncan: The war was won! How many children would still have their fathers if we’d talked peace a few days ago?
Karros points out that now they don’t have to talk at all. Karros tells him that he would have agreed 100 years ago. Duncan says now he believes the noblest thing a man can do is live.
Back in the present, Duncan takes Mara to the morgue to show her Anthony’s body. He asks her if she knows him. Rather than respond, she leaves the room. Duncan follows and asks again if she knows him. She will not confirm overtly but Duncan knows he is one of Karros’ men.
Later, Mara confronts Karros. She tells him that she knows he used one of their own in an attempt to martyr Father Stefan and she adds that she knows Karros killed Anthony to cover it up. Karros grabs her by the arm. She tells him that he must accept the truce or she will call her own press conference. He then asks if she is threatening him and she tells him to accept the truce or it all comes out.
At the dojo, Charlie tells someone on the phone that they did the right thing. Duncan overhears and asks what is up. Charlie tells him that was Mara. He adds that Duncan was right all along and that Karros is just another battle junkie.
Duncan: What’d she say?
Charlie: She threatened to call a press conference and blow his a** out of the water if he didn’t start to negotiate.
Duncan asks where she is staying. Charlie asks if he thinks Karros would try anything. MacLeod tells him that Karros does not want to stop the fighting – he needs it too much. They leave together in a hurry.
We see Mara pull up to her mansion. She is about to unlock the gate – which appears to be rigged with an explosive – when Duncan and Charlie arrive. They try to talk to her but she pushes the gate open. Before she can get it all the way open, Duncan stops her and notices that the gate is rigged to explode Duncan instructs Charlie to get her away. As he says that, another car drives by with a gunman hanging from the window. Charlie yells for Duncan to get down.
Duncan senses Karros from the car. After verifying that the other two are alright, he tells Charlie to take care of her and follows Karros. Duncan and Karros park at the docks. Both men exit their cars with swords drawn. Duncan asks him if he is going to kill friends now as well as enemies. Karros tells him that he will do whatever it takes to lead his people to freedom.
Duncan: You have no people.
They duel along the docks. When Duncan cuts his arm, Karros tells him that’s not bad for a pacifist. Eventually Duncan disarms Karros and puts his sword to the other man’s neck.
Karros: You can’t do it, can you?
Duncan: There can be only one.
Duncan beheads him.
Later, Charlie is in the dojo with a packed bag. He tells Duncan that it’s funny that this time he is the one leaving with the girl while he is stuck behind running the dojo. Duncan asks if he is sure about going. Charlie tells him he is needed and that he likes the way that feels. They shake hands and Duncan tells him to be safe.
Peace is hard enough to achieve without adding Immortal beings who want war into the equation.
Karros is an interesting personality profile, as far as Immortals go. He was deeply inspired by Spartacus early in his Immortal life and then proceeded to spend more than two thousand years trying to live up to, and recreate, that inspiration. Along the way, that effort became corrupted. He began to back causes that were not right and to avoid peace when opportunities for it presented themselves. However, I do not think you can actually call him “evil” in the overt sense. He is “wrong” in that he exploits conflict that was likely to happen anyway and exacerbates it. It’s pretty unfair, too, inasmuch as he is asking mortals to die while knowing that he will not. That said… he’s a true believer in his causes. If he and Duncan had avoided each other for a few centuries, it is not hard to imagine a future scenario wherein Karros and Duncan are allies again – assuming Karros ends up backing a cause that Duncan believes in again.
This appears to be goodbye for Charlie. It also feels a bit like “hello” for Dr. Anne Lindsey (Lisa Howard.) Duncan did not flirt with her in the hospital for no reason.
Overall I think this episode was just okay. I am disappointed in the way that Karros feels underutilized. He might be the oldest Immortal that Duncan has killed. This episode did not present Duncan as even remotely concerned about the fight (in contrast with his fight against almost-as-old Grayson where Duncan seems convinced that he is about to die.) In truth, Karros does not feel like a real threat, either. Maybe he has spent his immensely long life leading revolutions instead of getting better at dueling.
I also do not understand why foreign revolutionaries seem free to just walk around without surveillance, diplomatic escort, police escort, etc. In real life, if you invite someone like Karros over to your apartment, you get onto the radar of intel agencies. Nobody seems to care at all what Karros is up to – even after the president of the unnamed country in the Balkans arrives.
Karros is interested in winning over Congressmen to his side regarding an arms embargo. He’s doing that… in Seacouver? Not in D.C.? I am pretty sure Duncan lives in the United States. None of this makes a lot of sense to me.
The best part of this episode was the flashback. Duncan dressed as a Mexican and fighting in the revolution was a lot of fun just from a set and costuming standpoint. I *really* want Duncan’s hat from that scene. This entire episode felt ambitious in those respects and I felt like they did a good job on a relatively low budget. I also liked that the show did not paint Karros as entirely wrong. In the flashback, Elda the nurse – even as she is dying – backs up Karros’ point of view. Duncan was right to kill him, I think, but their disagreement about war and peace is not completely black and white.
This is a good filler episode but not great overall due to some missed opportunity elements with Karros. I look forward to seeing where the story goes with the dojo, Joe Dawson’s bar, Anne, and Richie.