Highlander (Season 4, Ep 88): One Minute to Midnight

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 Watchers believe Duncan has been killing Watchers, with Joe’s help. Duncan wants to find the real killer – and succeeds. He learns that his friend, Immortal Jacob Galeti is the real killer and that Jacob is acting in response to the murder of his Immortal wife, Irena. Watcher-gone-bad Horton killed her in 192 and this is his revenge.

Duncan tries to talk Jacob down and brokers peace talks. However, Joe Dawson, without Duncan’s knowledge, brings Jacob into Watchers’ HQ by having him killed, whereafter Jack Shapiro – the leader of the Watchers – beheads him. Duncan arrives in time to receive his friend’s Quickening. Later, Duncan returns to kill Shapiro, but decides to spare him upon the promise of peace and an end to the killing. Later, Joe reports that Jack is out of the Watchers entirely, but Duncan’s response indicates that their friendship is ended.


The episode opens with a “previously on Highlander” montage, higlighting the events of Judgment Day.

In the present, Jack Shapiro is telling a group of Watchers that Duncan MacLeod is the one who opened fire on their meeting, murdering a dozen of them. He tells a gathered group of Watchers that all of their other work stops temporarily until they complete one mission.

Jack: We find MacLeod and Dawson and when we do, we eliminate them.

Methos is at the gathering, posing as Adam Pierson, and the camera pans over to him looking concerned.

♫We’re the princes of the universe.♫

Some time later, we see Duncan walking along the street, somewhat incognito, until he is obviously recognized and he realizes it, too. A moment later a group of men are firing guns at him, and he is hit and wounded. Duncan manages to grab one of the men, and hold a weapon against him, shouting to the others to stop or their friend is dead. The man Duncan is holding shouts at them to shoot him anyway. They oblige, forcing Duncan to flee. He succeeds in getting away. One of the men pursing him calls “Mr. Shapiro” to inform him that he got away. As the man ends his call, he is attacked by Immortal Jacob Galati.

We find Duncan later with a recovering Joe Dawson, hiding out in a wine cellar. Methos arrives.

Methos: How’s the patient?
Duncan: Well, he hates the food, criticizes the wine, I’d say he’s back to normal.

Methos checks on Joe, noting that considering how shot to pieces he was, that it is amazing he is still alive. Joe shouts in pain at Methos’ touch and responds that considering who is treating him, it’s a miracle. Joe asks where he studied medicine and Methos replies that he studied in Heidelberg in 1453.

Methos reports to both of them that one of the Watchers who tailed him the other night was killed. When Duncan says it was the other Immortal, Methos tells him that Shapiro is convinced it was Duncan. Methos wants both Duncan and Joe to flee Paris as soon as possible, and suggests Bora Bora. Duncan says he will not leave until they figure out he is not the killer. Duncan asks where Shapiro is, and Methos tells him they are hiding out in a mortuary. Duncan explains that the real killer will be near there and that it’s his best opportunity to clear his own name.

When Duncan is scouting the place where the Watchers are hiding out, he sees Jacob from a distance and vice versa. Duncan mutters “not Jacob.”


Europe – 1847

Duncan and Jacob are in a gypsy camp, working together to pull a cart. Abruptly an Immortal woman named Irena approaches. They sense her and Jacob says that must be his bride. Duncan tells him that he must be the luckiest man alive. She approaches and asks Duncan how Jacob talked him into doing this work and Jacob answers for Duncan, saying that he did it the same way that he convinced her to marry him – passion and persistence.

Irena: After 65 years I got tired of saying no.

She asks Duncan when he plans to get married and tells him that half the girls in the camp have their eyes on him. Duncan seems interested to go find out more about this, but Jacob pulls Duncan back to the task at hand – repairing a wagon. We hear Duncan and Jacob bicker about the work as the camera follows Irena as she walks away. After a moment, a man approaches her, asking for help, saying that his friend is hurt and bleeding. Irena is wary but agrees to follow.

As soon as she is far enough away, a man grabs her, covers her mouth, and instructs her not to scream. She struggles and screams loudly enough that Duncan and Jacob hear and come running. When they arrive, they capture the man who assaulted her before finding her, visibly shaken. Irena and Duncan beg Jacob not to retaliate, but he shouts at them that an eye for an eye, and blood for blood, is the only way.

Duncan: Jacob you do this and the whole camp will suffer.

He convinces Jacob to take his bride, and go, promising to deal with it himself.

Later, the town magistrate tells Duncan and Jacob that they have no case and that Irena led the man on. He goes on to say that he believes the man they are accusing because he knows what Gypsies are. Jacob warns him that they have their own system of justice and that their system never fails. Duncan tells Jacob that they should go. The magistrate tells him to take Duncan’s advice, and for their whole camp to pack their tents and leave. As they go, the village folk jeer at them, and the man who raped her questions aloud about whether she has done this before. He continues jeering at them, until Jacob has had enough. Finally the Immortal pulls out a knife and stabs the man, starting a riot.

A while later, Duncan wakes up in a ditch and finds Jacob strung up on a tree. He cuts the other Immortal down and carries him out of town. When Jacob revives, Duncan asks if he knows what he has done. Jacob replies that he killed a pig, and right a wrong. Dunan asks if he thinks that is all that there is to it.

Duncan: They know you’re dead, the whole camp, you can never go back
Jacob: So be it. There’s a price to pay for justice.

Duncan chastises him for not consulting first with Irena, and forcing her to leave the camp with him. He tells the other man that he cannot always think with his heart. Jacob says he would do it again, and MacLeod agrees he would. The other man tells Duncan to look on the good side – he can have their wagon now that they’re gone. He hugs Duncan, who promises to tell Irena where to find him.

In the present, Duncan loses sight of Jacob and goes looking for him. As he searches, he is caught and shot by a Watcher, however, before the man can take Duncan’s head, with a sword, Jacob arrives and kills hm, saving Duncan.

Sometime later, Duncan revives in a bed, as Jacob loudly plays guitar. Duncan asks him what he was doing there.

Jacob: I’m saving myself, MacLeod. I’m saving you. I’m saving all of us.

He tells Duncan that there is a secret society of mortals who know about them, and who have been killing them. Duncan responds with a sigh that he has been killing them and explains that they are called Watchers. Duncan tells him that they are not after all Immortals, only him, but Jacob replies that he is wrong and that they have killed before.


Europe – 1992

Jacob and Irena are running desperate through a treed area. She stops to breathe, leaning against a tree, as he implores her to keep going. She grabs him asking who they are. They continue fleeing but moments later are surrounded by Horton and some of his fellow Hunters. The evil former Watchers open fire on the two Immortals, killing both of them. Jacob revives later, watching at a distance as the also revived Irena pleads with the men. One of the men yells to Horton that Jacob is revived. Horton notes that this could be interesting. As Horton shouts about how loathesome and evil their kind are, Jacob watches as he beheads Irena.

Jacob receives her Quickening. The lightning and fire free him from captivity, allowing him to escape.

In the present, Jacob explains that this was his introduction to the Watchers. He says that it took a year for him to track down the symbol and the animals who wear it. Duncan explains that the men who killed Irena were an aberration, outlaw former members of the organization.

Duncan: Watchers don’t kill. They’re not murderers.
Jacob: No? Well that one from today was doing a pretty d*** fine imitation
Duncan: Yeah, because they thought I was you. They think I’m the one who has been doing the killing.

Jacob says that’s all the beter and invites Duncan to join him, noting that together they could remove them twice as quickly. Duncan tells him that the Watchers do not exist to kill, they exist to be historians. Jacob is incredulous.

Jacob: MacLeod they murdered Irena. She was on her knees begging and they cut her head off. That is the only history that I care about.

Jacob asks why Duncan is defendin gthem and he answers that one of them is his friend. Jacob argues that he has a right to justice, but Duncan fires back that he is lying both to himself and to him, arguing that this is not about justice, but vengeance. Duncan tells him to grieve for her, but asks him what she would think about all of this and what she would think if she knew what he had become.

Jacob: I am what they made me.
Duncan: No, nobody made you a murderer. You did tha tall by yourself. The men that you kill – do you think about their wives and their children. Can you imagine their grief? Irena would have.

Jacob is stung, but becomes composed. He asks Duncan about the Watcher who is his friend. He asks Duncan if he trusts him, and Duncan tells him that he trusts Joe Dawson with his life. Jacob agrees to meet with Joe, for Irena’s sake.

Later we see Joe telling Duncan that he will not meet with Jacob, calling him a murderer. Duncan reminds Joe that Horton killed Irena right in front of Jacob before trying to kill him, too. Duncan explains that Jacob thinks they are all to blame.

Duncan: Just meet with him, talk with him, show him you’re not like Horton.
Joe: [shouting] People are dead MacLeod! My friends.. because he thinks we’re responsible?
Duncan: Well can you blame him? Watchers killed his wife.
Joe: Horton killed his wife.
Duncan: [shouting] Horton was a Watcher!
Joe: [shouting] Horton is dead! And your friend is still killing. So when does this stop, MacLeod, when he’s dead or when we are?

Methos interjects to Joe that they have to stop this, or else more people will be dying. Joe asks him about “we” and Methos shows him that he also wears a Watchers tattoo, but Joe replies that he knows, but he also knows what Methos really is. Duncan starts to shout at Joe again, but Methos intervenes and promises to talk to him. Joe and Methos leaves.

Later we see Methos walk up on Joe, watching the Watchers, from afar. Methos notes the irony of Watchers, afraid of being killed by Immortals, hiding out inside a funeral home. Methos points out that if Shapiro’s men see him that they will kill him. Joe seems indifferent, which annoys Methos who asks if he’s gone crazy.

Joe: I have to convince Shapiro that it is Jacob killing Watchers and not MacLeod.
Methos: TO do that, you have to talk to him. They’re not going to let you go near the guy!
Joe: Not on my own.

Joe asks “Adam” to save him, and Methos replies that they are not that close. Joe asks him to do it for MacLeod in that case, pointing out that htey will eventually kill Duncan unless they find out that Jacob is the one who killed Shapiro’s son. Methos points out that this means they will kill Jacob. They discuss how difficult it will be to enter the compound, either way, and Joe says he has a plan. Next we see Joe and Methos at the gate. Joe has a gun at “Adam’s” back and demands that the guard bring Shapiro to him.

Duncan meets with Jacob at a church and asks about Duncan’s Watcher friend. When MacLeod answers that he wouldn’t meet with him, Jacob sarcastically replies that it is a surprise, but Duncan reminds him that he slaughtered Joe’s friends and shot him. He asks Jacob if he can blame Joe for being afraid of him, and Jacob replies that he wants all Watchers to fear him, and to feel what Irena felt. Jacob tells Joe that they are all at fault.

Jacob: They all wear the sign of the beast, and like the beasts they are, I hunt them.
Duncan: Now maybe they’ll hunt you.

Jacob says this will stop when he’s killed all of them, and when MacLeod says he cannot kill all of them, and that he sounds like Horton, Jacob replies that it is blood for blood.

In the Watchers’ headquarters, Joe takes Methos at gunpoint in to meet with Shapiro. He tells Joe that he can drop the hostage act and that he knows Adam Pierson is his friend. Joe answers that their friendship did not stop him from ordering Joe’s death. Shapiro points out that Joe will not get out alive, even if he kills him. Joe hands Shapiro the gun and say she did not come to kill anyone, or to die, only to talk. He asks for ten minutes.

Later, Methos tells Duncan about the meeting, explaining that it was a simple choice of Jacob Galati, or him, and that since he does not care about Jacob Galati, it was not complicated.

Methos: I’m a pragmatist MacLeod. THe Watchers wanted the real killer and I wanted to keep you alive. You can’t have it both ways.
Duncan: You can’t have it both ways. You’re either one of them or you’re wone of us.

Later, we see the Watchers, including Joe, hunting Jacob. Joe allows himself to be caught by Jacob, seeking an opportunity to talk. He apologizes for what happened to Irena and tells the Immortal that he is unarmed. After Joe introduces himself, by name, Jacob recognizes that he is the Watcher Duncan told him about. Joe tells Jacob that the Watchers have captured Duncan and that Jacob is Duncan’s only hope. Jacob agrees to go with him. A few steps into following Joe, Jacob is shot.

Jacob: [as he dies] You b******.
Joe: You got that right.

At Watchers HQ, Joe tells Shapiro that they had a deal and he does not like this. Shapiro tells him that he does not have to, but adds that he proved his loyalty and is back in the Watchers. Joe shouts that he brought Jacob here so that they could listen to him and hear his side. They are interrupted when Shapiro recieves a call telling him that Duncan is there.

They find Duncan, who tells Shapiro that he has become a killer, like Horton. Shapiro mocks the idea that he should get ethics lessons from Duncan, and MacLeod repies that he knows he lost his son, but he reminds him that Jacob lost his wife. he says none of this will bring either of them back. Jacob is led into the room, at gunpoint, and tells Duncan that he met his good friend Joe Dawson, a man Duncan trusts with his life. Duncan is shocked and curses at Joe. Shapiro asks for someone to bring him his blade.

Jacob: I hate to break it to you Mac, but I was right.

Duncan warns Shapiro that if he does this, nothing will ever be the same between the Watchers and the Immortals. Duncan tells Shapiro that if he uses the sword, he better use it again on him, too. Jacob is led away by guards as Duncan tries to fight his own. Just as MacLeod frees himself, he sees that he is too late. Duncan receives Jacob’s Quickening.

When Jack Shapiro returns, sword in hand, Joe points a gun at him and tells him to put it down. Joe promises to kill him if he does not let the two of them go.

Shapiro: This is not over.
Joe: You better hope to God that it is.

Later, with Methos present, Joe pleads with Duncan that Shapiro set him up and that they were not supposed to kill Jacob. Duncan is not having it, though, and vows that Shapiro is dead. Duncan leaves and Joe asks Methos to stop him. Methos asks why, causing Joe to answer that if he goes after the Watchers, they will go after Duncan in turn.

Methos: What about you, Joe? Who do you go after? I’m 5,00 years old. I don’t know who I am anymore. I just helped set up one of my own.
Joe: I did not know they were gonna kill him.
Methos: Keep telling yourself that, Joe. Maybe you’ll start to believe it.

Joe meets with Shapiro, sometime later. Shapiro tells him that he screwed up good, and Joe replies that he is stupid and doesn’t know what he’s done.

Jack: Huh. I guess you’re gonna tell me?

We see Duncan casing the building, from the outside, as Shapiro thanks Joe for the advice, promising to deal with Duncan when he gets there. Joe promises him that if Duncan wants him dead, he will end up dead. Shapiro laughs in turn and suggests that Joe over-estimates Duncan MacLeod. Joe warns him again that if they do not end this now, there will be a full scale war.

Joe: Even if you get MacLeod, you think his friends won’t come for you? They will come for you. They will come for all of us! Jack, you have made us what we have always sworn not to be – a threat to them!

Shapiro insists that it won’t be that hard, noting that they know who every Immortal is, who their friends are, and even what they had for breakfast. He kicks Joe out of his office. Joe asks how many people have to die to pay for his son. Shapiro tells him that he’s through, warning him to get out while he still can. Jack calls for security but Duncan enters instead.

Shapiro and Joe both begin to plead for Duncan not to do this. He tells them that Shapiro wanted it this way. Joe pulls a gun on Duncan and Shapiro, and tells them both that this needs to end right here.

Duncan: [pointing a gun at Shapiro] You want to bury some more of your friends for something that Horton started, or do you want peace?
Shapiro: Peace.
Duncan: [shouting] The killing ends here or I swear it’s only just begun.

Duncan and Joe look at each other before Duncan leaves. A crowd of security arrives, and Joe tells them that it’s over and to let it be. They do. Duncan walks out.

Sometime later, Joe finds Duncan outside of his barge and tells him that the war is over, that Jack is out, and that he is back in. He adds that he thinks they will be able to put the Watchers back together again. Duncan sardonically replies that he is happy for him. Joe asks if he has seen Methos, adding that his place is empty and nobody has any idea where he is. Duncan asks if he is surprised by that.

Duncan: Is there something you wanted?
Joe: You know, I thought maybe that I could buy you a drink.
Duncan: No thanks.

Duncan walks away from him and doesn’t turn around even when Joe calls out that they could maybe do it another time


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who watches the Watchers? They certainly don’t watch themselves.

Was it a total coincidence that Jacob found Watchers’ HQ at the same time that the Duncan / Joe thing happened? Yes. Did that coincidence get explained at all? No. To the credit of the episode, I largely forgot about that bit of sloppy writing almost immediately.

I am… unsatisfied with this ending. The *leader* of the Watchers went full Horton. Even before that, the regional leaders in Joe’s jury voted quickly and without reservation for Duncan’s death, too. Sometimes peace is tense and uncomfortable. Duncan took the high ground, and it was probably the right choice, but I also really wanted to see that go the other way – for the content.

I saw the double-cross coming once Jacob was taken. I was fully on #TeamJacob even before it happened, given the events of the previous episode. Pickinga likable supermodel (Romina Mondello) to play Irena certainly manipulated the feeling of outrage at her murder, too. I do not see how Duncan can repair his friendship with Joe. Taking Jacob was a total betrayal, not aided much by Joe saving Duncan’s head shortly after. Even Methos called Joe out over that, noting that maybe Joe will believe that lie (that he didn’t know they were gonna kill Jacob) if he tells it to himself enough times. You can even argue Joe’s actions in saving Duncan were done in self-interest (an argument that Duncan has probably thought through.) Joe knew Methos would find out if Duncan died, and how, and that Methos has the ability to lead a successful Immortal war against the entire Watchers organization. From Duncan’s perspective, Charlie DeSalvo and Jacob are both dead, and Joe is largely to blame for both.

In fact, the Watchers as a whole are an organization that probably needs to be broken into 1,000 pieces and cast into the wind. Duncan could tell himself (and Jacob) that Horton was a one-off. Shapiro was in charge of the entire group. This was tantamount to a declaration of war. “Jack is out” isn’t exactly a sufficient mea culpa. Duncan should put the word out to every Immortal to watch out for that tattoo.

The only thing holding him back, most likely, is the knowledge of how much death would result if he did. Peace is tense and difficult, even if it is the right choice.

The shouting match between Joe and Duncan (Joe refusing to meet with Jacob) was one of the best scenes of the season. Great acting all around. However, I definitely came away from that siding more with Jacob’s point of view (expressed through Duncan) than Joe’s. Dawson – and the Watchers as a whole – did WAY too little to deal with the Horton aftermath and this scene showed that Joe does not seem to think that they needed to more. Nobody in their organization seemed too fussed about Horton.

It’s interesting to think through this episode from the perspective of Methos. He seems to have a vested interest in the survival of the Watchers. Did he found the group originally as a way to keep track of his competition? Maybe. Does that potentially lay a war between the Watchers and Immortals at his feet? Maybe. Would he benefit from a war like that? Maybe.

It might also get him found out and killed. Methos doesn’t strike me as a guy who likes things that are not predictable. It was fitting that he vanished at the end of the episode. He was clearly furious with Joe for bringing Jacob in and getting him killed.

One of my favorite moments of the episode was Methos refusing to help Joe, to his face, on the grounds that they aren’t that close. It was funny, but I kind of also believed him. Peter Wingfield’s delivery was perfect.

In my opinion, the larger story arc of the show demands that we see a full scale escalation. However, that would also probably end the series. Here’s guessing that Duncan goes back to Seacouver and the story sort of resets next season.

Either way, great episode!