Spoilers ahead through the end of Season 3. Proceed accordingly. You can find my episode reactions HERE.
For the third installment of Highlander: the Series, the show went in several new directions.
- Charlie DeSalvo leaves the country, to work in the Balkans, and Richie replaces him as manager of Duncan’s dojo.
- Duncan dates Dr. Anne Lindsey for most of the season, including eventually a confession about his Immortality (after she sees him die.) Then they break up.
- Duncan gets more involved in Watcher business, learns that one of them is Immortal himself (the oldest known Immortal, actually, named Methos) and then Duncan saves their organization when it is compromised by the Immortal Kalas.
- Duncan dies publicly, as an American, and thus leaves the country for France.
- Duncan has a multi-episode arc against arguably his most entertaining Immortal opponent to date – Kalas.
The writers decided to let Charlie survive his horrific injuries from the end of Season 2, only to ship him out of the show by the end of season 3’s third episode, “The Revolutionary.” Given the direction that the show ultimately decides to go, the move makes sense. If the story lines are going to be primarily “Immortal” focused going forward (as they were for most of this season,) then Richie makes more sense as a Duncan sidekick than Charlie does. In some other iteration of this show wherein Immortals show up less regularly, then I think a Duncan-Charlie partnership would have worked relatively well.
The decision to let Immortals drive the plot made sense and improved the quality of the show. Duncan’s skillset works in a series that is crime procedural adjacent, and you can see why the writers pushed for that quite a bit in the first two seasons, but those episodes are not as much fun as the Immortal episodes, even when they are done well. The writers decided that asking characters to suspend their disbelief regarding Duncan, indefinitely, does not work and I agree. It also would not have worked to let Charlie in on the secret as that would have deflated a lot of the suspense of the story-telling.
The show integrates Amanda more fully into the cast in this season. We see her first in The Cross of St. Antoine, and she is mentioned again in the next episode, Rite of Passage, when Duncan sends a young Immortal woman to her for training. In the very next episode, Duncan meets a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Amanda, Dr. Anne Lindsey, and begins a multi-episode romance arc with her. I’ll go into more of that below. Just as soon as that relationship ends, Amanda returns in the very next episode, Reasonable Doubt, knowing that Duncan is once again single. Amanda is present for the remainder of the season and confesses aloud to her that he loves her – something he has never done despite literal centuries of sleeping together in an on-again, off-again, basis. This season thus creates the impression within the context of the show that Amanda is Duncan’s “great love” and that he has been working toward that realization for a while, including through his relationship this season with Anne.
The Anne and Duncan relationship never really works on-screen. The chemistry between herself and Duncan is never great and her strong personality does not mesh well with Duncan who needs his mortal significant others to take less notice of what his life entails. Duncan clearly admires Anne but he seems just as frustrated by her as he is attracted to her. As a result, the extent to which their relationship drags out over the course of the season weighed down a lot of the stories in its middle episodes. However, once I made the connection in my mind, between her and Amanda, I could not help but view her as a sexual stand-in for Amanda as Duncan sorted out his feelings for his long-term Immortal love interest. To drive that point home, even after he tells Anne his secret, nothing really changes, and it is clear she does not fit within his world. She leaves him due to discomfort with her growing desire to cheer him on in killing other people and then Amanda – with none of those reservations about killing – returns in the very next episode and renews her romance with Duncan. Duncan responds to her almost as though Anne never really existed.
Duncan gets more involved in The Watchers due to Kalas taking an interest in the Immortal Methos. Duncan believes that Methos is a legend, but learns otherwise, as Kalas inadvertently leads him to a Watcher named Adam Pierson – who turns out to be Methos using an alias. Peter Wingfield’s Methos fills a void on this show that has been present since Darius’s death at the end of season 1. Duncan – the character – needs someone to provide him with advice and help, in order to round him out as a character. The only kind of in-story person who could fill that role is a much older Immortal. Methos fits the bill. I loved the interpretation of this character, too. He views himself as “just a guy” and the passing millennia have made him cynical, though not heartless. This really balances the sometimes too noble, too self-sacrificing Duncan. When the season comes to an end, and Duncan believes all Immortals are about to be exposed to the world, Methos – who was largely at fault for that exposure – simply tells Duncan to relax and not to worry about it. (Of course, as the maker of the digital files, Methos can afford to be relaxed because he is not mentioned therein – a fact that no one else seems to remember.)
Kalas is the “big bad” of Season 3 and he is by far my favorite Duncan adversary . Kalas is bombastic, evil to his core, just as smart as Duncan, and his motivations are well understood. Nearly a century ago, during a duel, Duncan slashed Kalas across the throw with a shard of glass. The neck wound took from Kalas his most prized possession – his singing voice. The writers this season slow-played that reveal, giving us a Flashback Kalas who is uninjured to contrast with the present-day Kalas who has the gravelly voice. After multiple episodes of introduction, we finally learn what Duncan did to him and why he is so bent on getting even. Kalas kills, in front of Duncan, his best Immortal friend, Fitzcairn. The arc even effectively sews seeds of doubt as to whether Duncan is better with the sword, showing both in flashbacks, and in the Seacouver present-day duel, that Kalas might be better. When Duncan wins the final duel, the victory is thus all the more satisfying.
Worst Episodes of Season 3:
- Vendetta. Duncan is visited by a hapless Immortal gangster wannabe, from his past, and that guy gets him into trouble. This episode is an attempt at comedy, I think, but it largely falls very flat.
- Obsession. Duncan’s Immortal friend David becomes obsessed with a mortal woman named Jill and will not accept that she rejected him. Jill finds Duncan, pleads for him to intervene, but he does not. Ultimately David kills Jill. In the flashbacks, we see Duncan similarly obsessed with a married woman a century earlier. Pretty much nothing about this episode works.
- Shadows. An evil Immortal named Garrick psychically projects hallucinations at Duncan, causing him to believe that he is losing his mind. After he has a public hallucination, completely with a sword fight against air, Anne illegally looks up his medical records and learns he has none. Duncan then too easily defeats Garrick and breaks up with Anne. The episode is just a mess all around.
Best Episodes of Season 3:
- Star-Crossed. Duncan returns to Paris, spends time with his best friend Fitzcairn (Roger Daltry), and then see Fitz die at the hand of Kalas. This episode exemplifies the best of the series – fun, high stakes circumstances, and heavy emotional weight.
- Methos. In a race to find Kalas, and to prevent Kalas from finding the legendary Immortal Methos, Duncan himself finds and meets the ancient Immortal. Peter Wingfield’s Methos introduction is great. The multiple duels in this episode are great. The pacing of the episode is great.
- Finale Part 1: While both parts were good, I actually enjoyed the first half of the Finale more. Amanda returns, Kalas returns, Methos returns… the stakes are high throughout and there is not much of a lull throughout. We even get a surprising but welcome flashback featuring the now deceased Immortal, Xavier St. Cloud (Roland Gift.)
This was the best season of Highlander so far and I think, at the end, that it has finally figured out what it wants to be and what it should be. This is now a show firmly rooted in its own mythology with episodes, and a supporting cast, existing within that mythology. There were certainly some low moments when the show lost focus, but all in all I think this was a very good season and I enjoyed the re-watch quite a bit.