Highlander (Season 3, Ep 49): Rite of Passage

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:

Duncan is at his friend Craig’s house when he has an argument with his teenage daughter, Michelle. Michelle drives away after the argument, angry, and she crashes her car and dies. Duncan steals her from the morgue because she is Immortal. Duncan’s role as tutor is challenged by another Immortal named Axel. Axel wants to partner with the 18 year old, using her as bait to lure other Immortals into bed and away from their swords, so that they are easier targets for him to behead. Duncan knows that Axel kills the young Immortal women he partners with when he gets bored or when they stop being useful.

Michelle tries unsuccessfully to sleep with Duncan. She ultimately decides to leave Duncan for Axel because Axel does not treat her like a kid. When she calls Duncan to tell him where she went, Axel picks up the phone and tells Duncan to come join them. Duncan shows up. Axel and Duncan fight, Michelle decides she needs to learn to protect herself, and Duncan ultimately sets her up to be trained by Amanda.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Duncan is with a man named Craig who is complaining about his rebellious 18 year old teenage daughter. As they are talking, the girl speeds up toward the house and parks her car. As she strolls forward confidently, her mom rushes out to ask where she was. The daughter tells her mother that she was out and that she did not call because Steve did not have a phone. When asked who Steve is, she says she did not learn his last name.

Duncan finally intervenes and tells the teenager girl, Michelle, to chill and to give her parents a break because they are worried. Michelle retorts that they are not her parents. Craig yells back that it’s true and that he doesn’t know who she is. He orders her into the house. She tells him to go to h*** and returns to her car. Her mom runs in after her. Duncan tells Craig that he will go after her but he tells Duncan to forget it.

Craig: If that’s what she wants then let her go.
Duncan: All she wants is for you to stop her.
Craig: I’ve had it.

Michelle speeds away at great speed. As she is crying, she begins fiddling with something in her car and stops paying attention to the road. When she looks up, she has to swerve to avoid oncoming traffic. Her car fishtails off the road and down into a ravine.

We see her wheeled into a hospital in bad shape. Dr. Anne Lindsey enters the room where her gurney has been parked and asks about her vitals.

In the waiting room, Duncan, Craig, and Michelle’s still unnamed mom wait. Craig says he feels bad and wishes he had gone after her. Duncan tells him that it happened the wait might be a good sign. While Craig goes to console his wife, Nancy, Dr. Anne Lindsey comes out to talk to them. It’s not good news and Nancy bellows out a long emotive “no!”

Duncan walks the two parents to a cab and tells them to let them know if there is anything they need. As the cab pulls away, he pauses. A few moments later, we see a wall of freezers where the hospital places dead bodies. Duncan opens the freezer where Michelle is lying, pulls her body out, and then uncovers her face. She gasps for a breath and shows no sign of injury. She sits up and cries asking what is going on. Duncan throws some clothes her way and tells her to put them on. She begins explaining to him about her car accident but he tells her to hurry.

When she is finally dressed, she loudly asks why she was in a morgue. Duncan tries to get her to be quiet and when she asks why, he tells her that they are trying to sneak out. When a hospital worker comes hear, he pushes her inside a closet. The hospital worker is Dr. Anne Lindsey! She recognizes Duncan from their previous encounters. She asks how he is doing and then why he is down there. Duncan awkwardly tells her that he is looking for a friend. She asks if he is looking in the morgue and he just awkwardly smiles at her. Anne walks away after some prolonged silence. Once Anne is gone, Duncan covers Michelle’s face and pushes her quickly down the hallway.

Later, in the dojo, Duncan has explained everything to her. She says she will never get to turn 19 but he replies that she might live to see 1,000. She stares at him and then says he is serious.

Michelle: You’re telling me this is for real.
Duncan: I think you know it is.

She asks him how long he has known and Duncan tells her that he has known this day would come since the first time he saw her with her parents. Duncan takes her up to his apartment as she tells him that she always noticed him watching her and keeping tabs on her. She smiles once she sees the inside of his apartment and asks what comes next. Duncan tells her that he will see her through it and she says that she likes the sound of that.

Michelle: You and me together forever.
Duncan: That’s not how it works.

She starts flirting with Duncan, telling him that she has always had a thing for him since the first day she saw him. Duncan protests that she was eleven years old and Michelle replies that she matured early. Duncan’s phone rings. He answers and Craig is on the other end of the line. Craig tells Duncan that the hospital called and informed him that they cannot find Michelle’s body. Duncan assures him that he is certain it was not intentional and he promises to help take care of it while they make plans for the funeral. As they are talking, Michelle retrieves a wine bottle from Duncan’s collection. As he gets off the phone with Craig, he hurries over to Michelle to ask her what she is doing.

Michelle: So what you’re saying is that I could down every bottle here and it wouldn’t kill me, right?
Duncan: No, but you’d wish it did.

She is elated as she starts talking about all of the drugs she could take without worrying about overdosing. Duncan tells her it is not that simple and promises to explain when he returns. He tells Michelle that he has to go to the hospital for her father because the hospital has misplaced her body. He tells her to stay in the apartment and keep the door locked. She picks up on his paranoia and asks why and he warns her that others might come looking for her. She asks what others and he again promises to explain later and again reiterates to stay put.

In the morgue, as Duncan is looking at Jane Doe bodies, Anne enters and finds him in there. She asks Duncan why he is doing this job and points out that he is not the girl’s father. Duncan tells her that he is a glutton for punishment. She says that she guess that makes two of them. As Duncan leaves, she suggests that might also just be a good friend. He stops and smiles at her but continues going.

In Duncan’s apartment, Michelle is dancing and listening to records. Suddenly she senses an Immortal and panics. After a while, she goes to a window and looks out. A handsome Immortal is standing on the street below. He sees her and smiles up at her. She goes outside and walks toward the man who is now hiding around a corner with his sword drawn. She asks aloud if someone is there. He puts the sword back into his coat and steps out to speak with her.

Immortal baddie: Lovely.
Michelle: You’re like me, aren’t you.
Immortal baddie: Yes, you could say that.

She introduces herself as Michelle and he tells her that his name is Axel. He then tells her that he likes her freshness. He offers to be her teacher. Michelle replies that she does not need another teacher. Axel tells her that he knows her current teacher is Duncan MacLeod. She asks Axel if he is a friend and Axel replies that he and Duncan are acquainted.

Michelle: He is like out of control with his taking care of me bit.
Axel: Yes, he would be. Eh, but whatever turns you on.
Michelle: I didn’t say that.

Axel asks her where they should go but she tells him she should wait for Duncan to return. He tells her that she can either have a daddy or a partner. She asks him why not both and he tells her that he hates to share. Axel then tells her that when she gets bored with Duncan treating her like a baby that he will be around. He roughly kisses her. She asks how she will find him and he tells her that she will feel him. She licks her lips and seems happy to have met Axel.

Duncan returns to the apartment and finds Michelle missing. A moment later though, he senses her return. She smiles and tells Duncan that he has it, too, and says she did not notice it when she met with him at the hospital. Duncan tells her that sensing other Immortals works both ways. Duncan reiterates that she needs to do what he tells her. Michelle tells Duncan not to be mad and that she just went for a walk.

Duncan: Who’d you go with? You said I had it, too, who did you meet?

She tells Duncan that he sounds just like Craig. Duncan asks her for an answer and she admits to meeting Axel. She tells Duncan that she and Axel had a connection. Duncan tells her that what she felt, what she feels with him now, is how Immortals recognize each other. He also tells her that Axel could have gotten her killed.

Michell: Wait, I thought you said we are supposed to live forever.

Duncan tells her that the sensation is how Immortals prepare for combat… to the death. She tells Duncan that she has been there and done that. He tells her that when an Immortal takes her head, she is dead for good.

Michelle: So is that what you guys do? You run around chopping each other’s heads off?
Duncan: Until there is only one of us left alive.

Michelle mouths off that she doesn’t think so. Duncan tells her that he is not her father… then he swings a sword at her neck and shouts that this is not a fairy tale. He tells her that she will either learn the game or she will die.

As Duncan is attending Michelle’s funeral, Michelle watches from a distance. As she is watching, Axel walks up to her. She tells Axel that this is weird and admits to having had a fantasy about watching her own funeral before. He tells her that the real fantasy begins now. He says that the two of them can travel the world and invent themselves over and over. He offers to show her how. She asks him why and he tells her that he wants to see the world through her eyes.

At the funeral, Nancy is complaining that they are burying an empty box. Duncan ries to console her by saying that it is not her body they are remembering, but her life. He suddenly feels the presence of another Immortal. He sees Axel watching him from a giant stone cross on the other side of the graveyard.

FLASHBACK!

Boston, 1896

A well-dressed Duncan is attending a musical. Suddenly a young woman walks up to him and nervously tells him that they are in a public place. Duncan promises that he will not harm her and that he is no danger to her. She confirms that he is one of her kind and asks if he will buy her a drink. She introduces herself as Sharon and begins vigorously flirting with him. Duncan informs her that they are in a public place. She tells him that her room is upstairs. Duncan tells her that he is here with a date and tries to excuse himself. She grabs his arm and pleads with him to help her. She pulls Duncan aside and tells him that she does not know how to fight, that she does not even own a sword, but that a man has been following her and that she knows he means to kill her.

Duncan: You could have asked me without the games.
Sharon: I didn’t think you’d want to help me without getting something in return.

Duncan promises to help her. Sharon asks Duncan about his date and Duncan says she will understand. The camera pans over to the beautiful woman who has been singing throughout this scene a suggestive song titled “You are the honeysuckle, I am the bee.” Duncan tells Sharon that he will meet her in her room as soon as he can. He then goes over to speak with his date.

Later, in Sharon’s room, Sharon senses an Immortal Duncan announces himself and she tells him to come inside. When he finds Sharon inside, she is dressed for bed. He tells her that they already discussed how she did not have to do this. Just then, Duncan feels another Immortal. Axel runs into the room but his sword strike is blocked by Duncan. Duncan calmly greets Axel who in turn tells Duncan that he almost had him. They start a duel that runs outside into the now empty music hall. As they fight along the balcony, Axel falls over the side. When he lands, several people run over to check on him. Duncan hides himself.

In the present, Duncan tells Axel that he cannot have Michelle. Axel replies that Michelle will decide. He tells Duncan that they will be seeing each other again soon before leaving. Duncan looks around the cemetery and finds Michelle. He tells her that showing up here was not smart and he takes her to his car. She asks him if he ever wondered what his own funeral would be like. Duncan concedes that everyone needs to know that they will be missed. Michelle says she will not be missed by Craig and Duncan tells her that he hopes she will live long enough to learn how wrong she is.

Michelle tells Duncan that she saw him talking with Axel. She asks if they are buds or something and Duncan just repeats “or something.” She tells him that Axel did not try to chop off Duncan’s head, or her own, and Duncan tells her that they were on Holy Ground. She tells him she does not know what that means before adding that she does not feel like a little girl when she is with Axel. Duncan tells her that Axel is very clever in that way.

FLASHBACK!!

Axel has a sword to Sharon’s throat. He is complaining to her that she failed to seduce Duncan and separate him from his sword. He tells her that if they do not take Duncan’s head, he will gladly take their heads. She is sobbing and apologizing. He then kisses her, tells her how she was ocne so lovely and so innocent, and then they kiss some more.

Sharon finds Duncan downstairs, apologizes, and tells him that she needs his help. Duncan asks if they have not already had this conversation. She tells him that Duncan fought him and got away. He tells her she can get away too but she says she does not think so. Sharon tells Duncan that Axel showed her the world, who she is, and she says that Axel taught her how to be. Duncan replies that the only thing Axel taught her how to be is bait. He tells Sharon that there is more to their lives than that. He also tells her that a boat is leaving for London at 3 o’clock. She asks if he will come with her and he tells her no. She asks who will protect her and Duncan promises to arrange for her to meet someone who can teach her what she needs to learn.

Then Sharon begins defending Axel again. Duncan tells her that she will not change him. Duncan promises to come for her at 2 o’clock to take her to the boat. She flatly tells him fine and that she will be here. When Duncan arrives at 2, he hears a woman scream and then sees a lightning storm coming form the direction of Sharon’s room. He runs upstairs and finds her body.

In the present, Michelle is in disbelief about The Game and tells Duncan that this is a bad acid trip fairy tale. He replies that it is not a fairy tale and that this will all not seem so bad once she learns to look after herself.

Craig knocks on the door of the dojo. Duncan ushers Michelle into his office and tells her to get down and out of sight. Craig is in emotional crisis. Michelle listens as her adopted father blames himself for her death and shares how much it hurt him that Michelle always seemed to feel as though he was not enough as her father. He tells Duncan that he knows he was not enough of a father for her.

Craig: Look how she hated me in the end.

Duncan tells Craig that it was not about hate, it was about separation. Craig cries as he tells Duncan that he just could not get through to her. Craig says that everything Michelle did and felt was bigger and that he wanted her to do something with that rather than waste it. Michelle stands up and watcher Craig crying through Duncan’s office window. She starts to walk as if she means to come out. Craig cries that she died not realizing how much he loved her. Duncan sees Michelle and tells Craig that he needs to go home to Nancy who needs him. Craig pulls himself together and tells Duncan that he is right.

As Duncan closes the door behind Craig, Michelle runs out of Duncan’s office bawling. She wants to go after him and Duncan stops her. She cries that she was terrible to her father and expresses disbelief that he continued to love her anyway. Duncan tells her that he loves her because he is her father. Duncan tells her that she is special and that he would not have been around for so long if he also did not believe that. She hugs Duncan and tells him that she needed to hear that. She says she does not feel so scared now.

Michelle goes from crying in Duncan’s embrace to kissing his neck. Duncan pushes her away after she begins kissing him on the lips. She asks Duncan why he just said she was special. He tells her that he is her friend. They walk together to the elevator up to his apartment and she presses herself against him again. Duncan tells Michelle that he does not think it is a good idea for him to be her teacher. He suggests that she should e taught by someone closer to her perspective. She replies that Axel does not look at her like a little kid. Duncan explains to her that Axel will feed off of her youth and excitement and then kill her when those things are gone. She tells him that he is lying and that Axel would love her. Duncan tells her that even if Axel does love her, she needs a teacher, not a lover. Duncan tells Michelle that he is going to take her to be taught by a friend. He tells Michelle that she will really like her. He adds that they will leave in the morning.

Michelle suggestively tells Duncan that the morning is a long time away and he tells her not to even think about it.

Michelle: You really are an old man.
Duncan: Go to sleep, Michelle.

Michelle says okay, takes off her shirt, and gets in Duncan’s bed. Duncan looks at her and says he will use the couch.

The next day, at a gas station, Duncan is telling Michelle that she will like her teacher.

Michelle: Oh yeah I bet we’ll really hit it off. Me and some dried up old teacher from St. Mary’s School of Sword Fighting and Manners.

Duncan tells her “not exactly” but she gets angry and tells him that his dad-speak is not very good. She gets out of the car and he asks where she is going. She walks over to a leather wearing man on a motorcycle and he asks if she wants to go for a ride. As Duncan makes his way over, she rides off and waves at him.

Sometime later, as Michelle is walking along a wooded path, alone, she senses another Immortal. She looks up ahead at a boat dock and finds Axel getting off a boat. He asks if it is his turn to be her teacher. She walks determinedly toward the boat, walks up the steps, and then begins making out with him immediately.

Later she is in a thin pink dress, with fancy earrings, and she tells Axel that living on a boat is so cool. He tells her that it’s all hers. He asks if she has ever seen Paris and she replies she only has seen it in the movies. He starts telling her about where they can travel and make love. She asks him, with all the traveling, when she will need to learn to use a sword. He tells her that she will never need to.

Michelle: Maybe you won’t always be around. I’ve broken up with boyfriends before.
Axel: I’m not exactly your every day boyfriend.

She tells Axel that Duncan was going to teach her to fight. Axel reluctantly agrees to do the same. When she mentions Duncan again he angrily tells her that Duncan is not here. They make out again.

Later, Michelle calls Duncan to apologize for running away. She lets him know that she is with Axel. Duncan tries to convince her to leave Axel – even if that is not to come back to him. Axel takes the phone from Michelle and tells him where they are and suggests that Duncan come by to say goodbye.

After a short time, Duncan strolls up. Michelle goes out to him and apologizes. Duncan pulls out his sword and she asks in disbelief if he is here to kill her. Duncan tells her not to be ridiculous and Axel chimes in that Duncan is here for him. Duncan tells her that it’s not just about her. He asks Michelle if Axel told her about Sharon or the others. He tells Michelle that Axel will keep her alive right up until Axel kills her. Michelle tells the two men that she is out of here. Axel then charges at Duncan and their duel begins. They fight evenly right up until the moment they both go over a rail and into the water. Duncan emerges from the water first. When Axel’s head comes above water, Duncan beheads him. Michelle watches from a distance as Duncan receives his Quickening.

Later, Duncan and Michelle are at Michelle’s tombstone. She asks him if her parents will ever know. He tells her that telling them could do more harm than good.

Duncan: They’re in your past now, it’s time to look to your future.
Michelle: [flirtatiously grabs his arm] I was hoping to do that with you.
Amanda: [walks up] She does remind me of someone. I just can’t remember who.

Amanda – looking anything but dried up – tells Michelle that she thinks they will get along just fine. Duncan mutters that is what he is afraid of. Duncan tells them that he has arranged for them to go to an old abbey. Amanda tells her that there is always Paris. Duncan tells both of them that the abbey is all she needs. Michelle asks Amanda if she and Duncan have ever and Duncan tells her that is none of her business. Amanda tells Michelle that they will talk. Duncan says that they will not. The two women leave together.

REACTION:

This episode is… okay. Eh, I actually don’t think it’s very good. It covers some interesting ground (female Immortality in the midst of the male-dominated Game, how do Immortals find future Immortals, etc.), but none of it really landed for me.

The plot asks us to accept that Duncan has had a super close friendship with some random guy named Craig (super close from Craig’s perspective at least), behind the scenes of events in the series, and we just haven’t met him yet. Right. We learn that Duncan initiated this friendship because Immortals can somehow sense future Immortals before they’ve turned and at some point when Michelle was 11, he met her dad and knew what she would become. (This is the same reason he takes interest in Richie in the pilot.) That aspect of things might have been more interesting if the episode had shared with us how this “I know you’re gonna be Immortal someday” thing works. It does not.

This episode also asks us to buy that Duncan just-so-happened to be there on the day when Michelle died. The family is *so close* with Duncan that they let Duncan handle important tasks – like ID’ng their daughter’s body on their behalf. How are his frequent disappearances to Europe not a hinderance to that closeness? If Duncan is keeping such a close eye on Michelle… he has a weird way of showing it. She’s not exactly nearby his barge in Paris.

There’s something creepy about all of this (beyond just the overt sexual advances the 18 year old puts on Duncan.) It’s creepy that the entire friendship Duncan has with this guy Craig is phony. You know it’s phony, too, because Duncan cares about him so much we have not met him yet and we’re on the 3rd season. A fake friendship is tolerable – when done for a good cause – except that Duncan is clearly distracted as this father is grieving his dead daughter and blaming himself for it. Meanwhile, Michelle is actively trying to sleep with Duncan and he is struggling to resist her.

The story probably leans too hard into her immaturity. She was too sexual with someone she viewed as her dad’s friend (and then a total stranger, Axel, and then a random biker) and too excited about taking illegal drugs without dying. Rough edges are one thing but the story presented hers in a way that made her harder (than it should have been) to like her. We are supposed to like her.

The best scene of the episode is when Michelle overhears Duncan’s conversation with Craig in the dojo. That was well executed and moving. He was devastated over how their relationship ended. Hearing him say that changed how she felt about him such that she now feels bad about her part in how that relationship ended. She is devastated in turn. It’s the most real part of the episode and the scene that makes the rest worth watching.

Then it all got creepy again because she started kissing Duncan just seconds later as he tried to console her.

Axel was not a terribly interesting bad guy Immortal. He’s a standard issue handsome psychopath. That said, the tactic of using an Immortal woman as bait, to take heads, makes a lot of sense. The Game is ruthless. A lot of Immortal women would probably sign up for Axel’s offer of protection. Duncan correctly points out that the tactic is imbalanced in favor of Axel and it was nice to see that the incredibly immature Michelle finally realized that not being able to defend herself at all was not a good long term approach.

Speaking of Immature… can you even imagine this girl meeting Richie? That would have been a disaster.

I suspected that Duncan was passing her off to Amanda, the moment he mentioned finding her a female teacher, and I was happy to see the Immortal Thief walk up at the end of the episode. Amanda has survived for centuries as much with wiles as with her sword and she has a thrill-seeking side that is a match for Michelle. Michelle will listen to her. Amanda does not strike me as a natural teacher but I think this one is a good fit. I suspect Duncan believes that Amanda will *at least* get Michelle to a point where she will understand the benefit of being taught more. She’ll also be able to connect Michelle to Immortals who are not psychotic (which is a small percentage it seems.)

The episode gives us another shoehorned visit with Dr. Anne Lindsey. I think this is a slow burning love interest for Duncan but Duncan seemed to have more actual physical interest in the newbie immature, barely-a-legal-adult Immortal than the mature adult doctor. Creepy but true.

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