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 returns to France on a cargo ship and seeks out Immortal Sean Burns, who is a psychotherapist. He wants help, but in the other Immortal’s presence, he cannot stop himself from taking his head. Methos sees this happen.
After, he finds Duncan in a Church, where he points out to him that Sean is now inside of him, adding his strength and goodness to Duncan’s. He says this is why Duncan has retreated onto Holy Ground. He gets Duncan to agree to leave with him and together they visit an ancient Holy Spring in the countryside. Once there, Methos gives Duncan the MacLeod Clan’s chieftain sword, and Duncan descends into the spring, sword in hand, and duels the evil version of himself, in his mind, while standing in the water. The two versions of Duncan struggle against each other, with the good one winning. After, Duncan finds that Methos has invited Rachel MacLeod to Paris as part of getting her to lend him the Clan’s sword.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Joe Dawson gives a “last week on Highlander” narration, before we see scenes from Something Wicked.
After the recap, we see that Duncan’s cargo ship is arriving at The Port of Le Harve, France. A very surly Duncan approaches the captain and demands payment. The other man tells him he will not be getting paid, due to the trouble and the damage he caused during the voyage. Duncan insists that the captain owes him, and when the other man tells Duncan to get off the ship before someone gets hurt, Duncan attacks him. Several crewmen respond by attacking Duncan. He holds them off for a while, but their numbers eventually overwhelm him. The men throw him and him and his belongings onto the dock. MacLeod gets up, laughs and tells the captain that he is not finished with him yet. He then walks off.
♫Take me to the future of your world.♫
Duncan walks away from the docks. He is being followed at a distance by someone who we can assume he is a Watcher. Duncan goes to a payphone and calls a man named Sean, who greets Duncan warmly on the phone. He tells Duncan that he will be in Paris for a conference tomorrow.
France – 1917
Duncan is working as a medic. He delivers an injured person on a gurney, to a Catholic hospital, and while inside he finds a scene of a crazed man threatening to kill a nun who is part of the hospital staff. Duncan tries to talk the man down and encourages everyone else to do as he says. The man is flitting in and out of reality, imagining the staff as armed gunmen with rifles pointed at him. Instead of hearing Duncan’s calm voice, he hears MacLeod shouting at him, in German. Suddenly Duncan feels an Immortal approaching.
The other Immortal addresses the madman as Antoine, and tells him that they are late. He adds that Antoine’s mother will be angry if they let the dinner get cold.
Sean: It’s me. How are you son?
Antoine: But, we’re at the front.
Sean: I told you if you needed me, I’ll come.
Antoine does not see Sean, but rather, he sees a hallucination of his father talking to him about how proud they are of him. He manages to talk Antoine down, while Duncan watches on in amazement.
In the present, Sean, on the phone, asks Duncan if everything is alright. MacLeod tells him no, and agrees to come to see him tomorrow. Duncan tells Sean that he has something to take care of, first. We see that Duncan has spotted the cargo ship captain some distance away. As the other man is now alone, Duncan successfully beats him up, robs him, and spots a picture of the man’s wife in his wallet. He ominously tells the other man that he will have to pay.
Sometime later, Duncan is walking down the street with a small bouquet. He looks through a glass window and sees himself inside. The other MacLeod looks back at him and smirks in an evil way, before returning to his work.
The man who followed Duncan as he exited the docks calls Joe and report to him on MacLeod’s whereabouts. Joe instructs him to keep an eye on him. Joe also tells him to stay out of Duncan’s way and that he is dangerous.
MacLeod visits the ship captain’s wife at her home. She opens the door suspiciously, but he tells her that because of a small problem on the ship, he asked him to bring his bag home for him. Duncan lets her know that her husband will not be home until very late. He gives her the bouquet and says he picked them up on the way. This disarms her and she invites Duncan inside. He feigns that he must be going, before entering.
Mrs. Davis: Why don’t you stay for dinner? If Robert were here, I’m sure he would insist.
Duncan: Okay, I’d like that very much. I haven’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks.
He excuses himself to wash up, but does so in a way where Mrs. Davis sees him washing himself off, without a shirt on. After she goes, he turns to look into the mirror and we see an aura flash around him, and the evil expression on his face from the previous episode.
Later, we see that Duncan has laid on a significant charm initiative, and Mrs. Davis is laughing and drinking wine with him over dinner. Duncan abruptly gets up from the table and says he has to go. She tells him no, and asks why, to which he replies that he cannot do this.
Duncan: Your husband’s a fool. There was no trouble on the ship. He asked me to come here to lie to you.
Mrs. Davis: Why?
Duncan: I saw him go off with somebody else.
She does not believe him, but he insists. Duncan tells her that her husband told him to come by, to tell her that she would be spending the night alone. He then offers her more wine and she says yes. Sometime later, we see that she has slept with Duncan. He gets out of bed, tells her that she was pretty good, and as he is getting dressed smirks that he should come back again tonight. He puts on some clothes from Davis’s closet.
Mrs. Davis is somber and making food in the kitchen. Duncan, now dressed, grabs her and she tells him to go and insists she shouldn’t have done what she did with him. Just then, they hear the ship captain Robert Davis, as he calls out to his wife. She asks Duncan to leave through the back stairs. Instead of doing that, Duncan calls out to Robert Davis that they are in here. He holds the other man’s wife down on the table and kisses her neck, against her will, as Robert enters the room.
Duncan: Oh Robert, you’re just in time, take a chair and watch.
When Robert goes to attack him, Duncan pulls a knife. Before he can stab the other man, Mrs. Davis throws boiling water on Duncan’s face. This gives Robert time to grab a pistol. He shouts at Duncan to get out, saying that he will kill him if he does not. Outside, we see Methos pull up to the home in his car. He hears Robert’s shouts. Inside, Duncan disarms Robert. He is about to bash the other man with a wine bottle when Mrs. Davis picks up the gun and points it at him. Duncan goes ahead and knocks out her husband with the wine bottle and then turns toward her, telling her about what it’s like to kill someone. Duncan thinks he has talked her down, but to his surprise she shoots him several times. Outside, Methos hears the gun shots from his car and he sees Duncan stumble out of the home. He is surprised to see Methos. Robert is now up and shooting at Duncan from his home.
Methos: What do you want, a written invitation?
The two Immortals speed away. MacLeod succumbs to his wounds in the car as Methos drives them both to a church. Duncan revives on Holy Ground. He tells Methos and Dawson and his Watcher friends are becoming a real pain. Methos tells him that he needs help and a very surly Duncan says he does not.
Methos: Duncan, I know what happened. First Coltec, now you. This is a Dark Quickening. This is not who you are.
Duncan: No. Maybe it’s who I should be.
Methos says it’s possible to fight this and he even offers to help. Duncan asks why he would want to do that and the other Immortal answers that it is because of who he is, adding that he is too important to lose. Duncan pauses, tosses his sword onto a pew, and says that he is not lost. Methos says that this could be his last chance to be saved. Duncan picks up his sword and says that there is just one problem, and then he places his sword against the other man’s neck and says he does not want to be saved. Methos shouts at him that this is Holy Ground, and that whatever evil is inside of him, he cannot do this. MacLeod violently shoves the ohter man to the floor and walks out of the church.
He sets off down the road and finds a young couple kissing in a car. He opens the door and tells them that he wants the car. The man replies that Duncan wishes, but he insists saying that he wants it.
Duncan: It’s a fine piece of German engineering. It’s my favorite color red! And it’s got all the modern accessories.
He has been walking around the car and abrutly opens the passenger door, and yanks the woman out, pulling her close to him. She pushes against hima nd he throws her to the ground. Methos exits the church and shouts at him to ask what he’s doing. Duncan smiles at him, gets in the car, and drives away, nearly running over Methos in the process. We see him driving far too fast down a French highway and blowing through stop signs.
Methos tells Joe on the phone that Duncan is worse than he thought. Joe suggests that he just stay away and adds that Duncan will kill him if he can.
Later, Methos meets with a French member of the Watchers and asks for help tracking down MacLeod. The other man notes that he is supposed to be working on the Methos Chronicles, rather than being in the field, but he repies that it is a special case, that Joe Dawson sent him, and that they believe Duncan has experienced a Dark Quickening. The other man tells Methos that Duncan called Sean Burns and suggests he might turn up there. Methos looks alarmed at this idea.
We see Duncan drive up to meet Sean Burns. The other man greets him warmly.
Sean: I called Paris and cancelled all my appointments until further notice. Appointments I can get. Good friends are harder to come by. You look like h***. What is it?
Duncan: Maybe this isn’t a good idea.
MacLeod seems to be sincerely struggling internally but Sean says again that whatever it is, he is here for him.
Duncan is walking with Sean, after their first encounter in the hospital, and the two men discuss World War I. As Sean comments on war, and the too many broken bodies and minds that come with it, Duncan asks how he got inside Antoine’s head.
Sean: Partly common sense. Partly Sigmund Freud.
Duncan: Psychoanalysis. Trying to understand how the mind works?
Sean: And heal it.
Duncan says that he knows the body can heal, but asks the other man if he really thinks the mind can be healed too. Sean says that Freud believes it, and laughs that Freud has a brilliant mind and disgusting cigars. Sean suggests to Duncan that he stay on and help him, but Duncan says no.
Duncan: The guns keep firing, the bodies keep falling, but I’ll remember this place, the peace… something to hold onto.
In the present, Sean says it does not take a psychoanalyst to see that something is bothering him. Duncan asks if psychotherapy can work on Immortals.
Sean: Oh, I suppose. But we’re so much more complex than mortals. Upon our page, so much more is written, but or core is similar.
Duncan asks him about Quickenings and those who may have had one too many. Sean says he has spent years thinking about it. He tells Duncan that in truth he does not know MacLeod turns to him and says he does Sean realizes Duncan’s intention.
Duncan: And when it happens, which one is real? The Immortal you are or the one you’ve become?
Sean: I could fight you Duncan, but you’re better. I know it and so do you. But you’re here because you want me to help you. Now I can’t do that without my head.
Methos arrives as Duncan tells Sean that’s too bad. He shouts at Duncan from his car as MacLeod draws a sword. Duncan shouts at Methos to not interfere. Sean tells him, hurriedly, that it is not too late, adding that who he is and what he loves is still waiting for him. Sean tells him that the memories and hate inside of him does not belong to him. Sean tells Duncan that he can help lead him back.
Sean: Your core is still good. You are still Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Come. [extends a hand]
Duncan: Not anymore. [beheads Sean]
Methos backs away in horror and watches the Quickening. After it’s over, Methos approaches him and says that maybe he is wrong and that maybe he cannot save him.
Methos: I’ve known a lot of us in 5,000 years, MacLeod. Of them all, you were the best I’d seen.
Duncan: I still am.
Methos. No, you’re not. And I think I have to kill you.
Duncan: Then I hope that you like what you see. You kill me, you become me. You become what I am.
Duncan tells him to go ahead, and taunts him to do it, and then charges at and knocks the ancient Immortal backward off a short cliff. Duncan shouts down at him that he’s a fool. Methos mutters that he is too old for this as he hears Duncan drive away.
Sometime later, Duncan is on his barge in Paris. He looks around his barge, at the things in it, and mutters “nothing” over and over, growing into a shout, as he begins throwing his possessions. Outside, a Parisian man asks him if he is alright. He sees Sean’s face in place of the other man’s, asking him if he is alright.
Duncan complains to Sean about how young the dying men are. Sean says that they always are. Sean tells him, while pointing, that he did no take away that man’s eyes, or that one’s legs. He notes that Duncan is trying to save them. Duncan says sarcastically that he is doing a great job, and Sean asks if that is Scottish guilt he senses.
Duncan: What are we going back to my childhood? Is it Jung or Freud this time.
Sean: It is Sean Burns. You were brought up to lead and protect a clan. You feel guilt because you’re whole, you’ll survive.
Duncan: I always survive.
Sean: I’ll send you the bill.
Duncan asks how he stops it (meaning his feelings) and the other man answers that it is not an illness. It is who he is and who he will always be. He tells him that it is somethin ghe admires.
We return form the flashback, and the Parisian man we saw initially stops being Sean Burns. MacLeod stares at the man in such confusion that he backs away. Duncan leaves and walks to the Church where Darius once lived. Outside the Church, he sees a vision of Darius outside its doors. Duncan goes inside. He throws chairs around and shouts to no one, in the empty room, asking what he has become. He drops to his knees in front of the alter at the front of the room, still shouting.
Duncan: Everything I was is gone! People I loved, things I cared about… I killed a friend! [sobbing] I can’t exist like this! Help me. If you can’t help me, stop me.
Later, Methos finds him inside the Church.
Methos: I was hoping I’d find you here.
Duncan: Leave me alone.
Methos: With God or with your demons?
Duncan tells Methos to leave him alone, and warns him that he will kill him. Methos asks why, and tells Duncan that he is not alone, either out in the world, or inside himself. Methos tells him that he is in a Church because Sean Burns is with him now. He tells Duncan that Sean’s goodness is now a part of him. He tells Duncan to feel Sean, and then to take Sean’s strength, and his own, and to come with him. Duncan nods, but as he bends down to pick up his sword, Methos suggests that it might be better if he carries that. Duncan reluctantly agrees.
The two men drive into the countryside. Methos tells him that there is a holy spring here and that it has been lost since the seventh century.
Methos: Nobody seems to know about it. There are indeed some who say it is magic.
Duncan punches him in the face and says he cannot do this. Methos retreats but tells him to fight this, like he has fought every other evil he has ever gone up against, because that is what he is doing. He shouts at Duncan to remember who he is. He then pulls the MacLeod Clan’s sword from the back of the car and tells him to remember this. Duncan sees it and pauses. We hear the voice of his father, telling him that he raised him to be the head of this clan. Methos extends the sword and tells Duncan to take it. Duncan comes to himself. He walks with Methos to the entrance of the underground spring. He rappels into the hole, sword in hand.
He walks around finds the water, which seems to glow. Sword in hand, he steps into the water. After a while of staring at his reflection in the water, he sees a vision of his evil self manifesting outside of the pool. Good Duncan is out of the pool. The two versions of himself begin to duel. Evil Duncan gets the first significant strike, stabbing Good Duncan in the side. Evil Duncan continues taunting his good version, slashing him again, and commenting that you cannot kill what you have become. He cuts Good Duncan again, causing him to retreat.
Good Duncan is back at the pool again where he sees Sean Burns, and he apologizes to him. The other man speaks to him ou tof the water and says that it was not him who killed him. He urges Duncan to fight him. Sean tells him that there is more that is noble inside of him than there is evil in those he has killed. He tells Duncan to summon all of the good inside of himself to aid him.
Returning to the duel, Good Duncan begins to verbally respond to the other version. When Evil Duncan notes that he knows his good version’s thoughts, Good Duncan speaks up and says taht this means he knows who he is.
Evil Duncan: You’re nothing.
Good Duncan: No. I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.
The good version finally gets the upper hand on the bad, and defeats him.
We see Duncan standing alone in the pool. This fight has occurred inside of him. However, a fire emerges from the middle of the spring water, thunder blasts from above, and it begins to rain on him.
Methos finds Duncan, still standing in the pool. The Highlander tells him that it’s over. Methos offers him his katana and gives him a hand to get out of the pool, laughing relievedly.
The two Immortals visit Duncan’s barge in Paris. Duncan warns him that he trashed the place and says he has not been himself lately. Methos jokes that he had not noticed. Inside, they find Rachel MacLeod. She says she hopes that he does not mind that she has been picking the place up.
Duncan: What are you doing here?
Rachel: Your friend said that you were in trouble and that you needed the sword, so I gave it to him. He’s a convincing lad.
She says that when she was in danger, and the Clan needed help, he helped them. She looks at him and says that he is trouble. Duncan sighs deeply and says that he is not anymore. She replies that she guesses she can go then. Duncan tries to stop her but cannot get words out, so she offers to stay if he likes. He says he would like that.
Methos breaks the tension by saying that he would love to stay and chat, but he needs to return to Alexa in Athens. As he goes, Duncan wants to thank him but again cannot get the words out. Methos just pats him on the arm and says it is no big deal.
Rachel notes that he has a good friend and Duncan says he is one of the best.
Wow, a jam-packed episode. An all-timer . Some thoughts:
Evil Duncan wears an earring and leaves his hair down. Lol. I actually liked the visual cue.
This show is so much better after its mid-season moves to Paris. The European backdrops (whether it be scenery or architecture) are beautiful and greatly additive to the fantasy story-telling.
The first half of the episode centers on Duncan’s story with the cargo ship captain. Evil Duncan gets revenge on the man by tricking his wife into voluntarily sleeping with him. He charms her and lets her believe Robert (the captain) is cheating on her. He had the whole thing planned out before he arrived. Yikes. By the next morning, having done what he wanted, he stopped being charming. If Methos doesn’t show up, they probably kill Duncan, and then he revives and kills them.
Is it notable that Duncan took the time to deceive and seduce Mrs. Davis rather than rape her more directly? Was seducing her a sign that Good Duncan was still in there or was getting her to sleep with him voluntarily even more evil? I cannot decide. It was seriously messed up in any case.
Between this and the lady from Seacouver whose jaw he probably broke in the previous episode, there were definitely serious consequences for this Dark Quickening. The biggest and worst thing he did was murdering Sean Burns (even though that is also probably why Duncan survives.) There will almost certainly be consequences for this, too, once word gets out with the other Immortals about what happened. (If non-evil Duncan had heard someone else murdered Sean, he would have made it his business to track that guy down and kill him.) Let’s not forget that Richie is now somewhere out there, on the run, terrified that Duncan is evil and that he might himself become evil by defending himself successfully.
Interestingly, in the vision Duncan has in the pool, Sean exonerates him. I don’t know if it’s that clear, though. Evil Duncan is still Duncan. He never actually killed any mortals (unlike Coltec.) He called Sean, seemed to want help, and then seemed to regret it when they met up because he abruptly knew he couldn’t stop himself from killing Sean. Duncan never completely lost control of himself around mortals. He just became a bad guy version of Duncan. He did seem willing to kill Richie and Sean, though. Maybe that was harder to control as it is more innate. He has Good Duncan’s memories, knowledge, and a lot of his personality in there, too. It’s understandable after seeing this episode why other Immortals never know for sure if Dark Quickenings are real, or whether someone just went bad.
It’s likely that Duncan did not go as bad as Coltec because he had Coltec within him helping. Once those two added Sean Burns, there was enough goodness to overcome the bad.
Methos tells Duncan that in his 5,000 years of life, Duncan is the best Immortal he has ever met. I actually spent some time trying to gauge his reasoning. Certainly Darius and Sean were at least as good and at least as wise. In fact, both were probably more good and more wise. What seems to set Duncan apart is that he does not retreat from the open fight against evil. Methos probably saw both Sean and Darius as ultimately and eventually doomed, whereas Duncan has a real chance to be The One. In the grand scheme of things, a good Immortal being “The One” is the most important thing because the consequence of the alternative is unthinkable. I suspect it is wildly frustrating to Methos that good Immortals tend to retreat from The Game. That is why Duncan is so important to Methos. His existence gives the good guys a better chance to eventually win. Duncans are few and far between. Methos likely wants to survive, and I suspect he is aware that his own survival odds improve if more Duncans are out there pushing back against evil.
The end of this episode is awesome. The duel was well-done, only happening in Duncan’s head. It did not look corny, either. I love that Methos got the MacLeod Clan’s sword. He seemed to understand that he needed to make an appeal to “the real” Duncan. That was a powerful symbolic gesture. Do we think he had a backup plan to kill Duncan in the event the pool thing didn’t work? My guess is yes. I’m guessing also that if worst came to worst, Methos arranges things so that Evil Duncan dies like Darius did – without anyone getting the Evil Quickening. He would consider the loss monumental, though. The swerve of having Rachel at the Barge was a great topper, too. In hindsight, of course she had to be part of this arc. She wasn’t going to give the sword away, hearing that Duncan is in trouble, without checking it out herself.
Do we think Methos has experienced a Dark Quickening himself? It seems that the unfortunate remedy for one of them is to kill good Immortals. Evil Immortals probably unwittingly undo their own evil in that way. In hindsight, that might be the biggest tragedy of how Darius died. His goodness was no longer part of the equation, creating balance toward the good. Maybe Methos lost himself, and then found deliverance, in a similar way at some point.
It will be fascinating to see how the rest of this season plays out. I think the storyline probably recenters around the Watchers organization going forward. We have now seen Joe interfere with both good and evil effect. Now “Adam” has done the same.
This was good enough to be a season finale, rather than just a midseason change of scenery arc. I look forward to the rest of the season.