Highlander: The Series
First Season: Growing Pains

"The Gathering" -- 5

A good introduction to the series, but suffers from the fact that, after all these years, Christopher Lambert still can't act, and also that so much of what was "established" in this episode got very quickly retconned out of existence (the Gathering, Duncan's ability to sense an Immortal's "lifeline," the implication that Duncan's been out of the Game since the Sioux massacre, etc.). And they really should've told us that Richie would be an Immortal instead of the coy hinting. And, finally, Richard Moll was disappointingly dull as Slan Quince. Luckily, the series would give us better villains as time went on.

Plus, of course, there's Alexandra Vandernoot. Tessa Noel was a very good character ruined by a really weak actor. To be fair, this was one of her better performances (her line about letting the little woman go off while the men talk over cigars about beheadings is a classic), but she always annoyed the crap out of me.

"An Innocent Man" -- 2

Yet another case of something retconned, specifically Duncan sensing Lucas's death, an Immortal ability never again alluded to. The best scene in this is the interrogation among the city cop, the sheriff, and Vincent Schiavelli. The rest of it is dull as dishwater.

"The Road Not Taken" -- 3

A complete waste of Soon-Teck Oh, a gifted actor who deserved better than this. The climax makes next to no sense, and Adrian Paul wins the Kevin Costner Memorial Award for his on-again-off-again British accent in the flashback.

"Bad Day in Building A" -- 3

Emblematic of the worst of HL's first season: this was an episode of some other dorky action show (Renegade, say) grafted onto the HL setting. Another wasted guest actor in Andrew Divoff (who'd be put to much better use in the fifth season's "Little Tin God").

"Free Fall" -- 7

Now this is a Highlander episode! Good evil Immortal in Felicia Martins (for five years, she was the only female Immortal to win a swordfight in the show's history, a distinction she'd retain until "Sins of the Father"), with a particularly effective Evil Plot (almost worked, too), and a good exploration of the Duncan/Richie/Tessa dynamic. The only flaws were Joan Jett's utter failure to be even remotely convincing in the flashback and the use of Queen's repetitive "Don't Lose Your Head" in the climactic swordfight.

"Deadly Medicine" -- 3

Continuing the first season's Let's Waste A Fine Actor Derby, we have Joe Pantoliano as the Crazy Doctor. Making the attending doctor a cuckoo bird completely undermines what could (and should) have been an examination of what does happen when an Immortal arrives DOA in an emergency room then gets up and walks out.

"Mountain Men" -- 3

I'd like to say that this was a waste of Marc Singer, but that would imply that there was something there to waste. A dumb kidnapping story, with a classic prototype of Why I Hate Alexandra Vandernoot, as Tessa was handled well in this episode, but I still kept hoping the kidnappers would kill her just to shut her up.

"Revenge is Sweet" -- 6

Nothing spectacular about this episode, but the setup was good, and Vanity did a surprisingly fine job as Reinhardt's "widow."

"The Sea Witch" -- 6

Stephen Macht's scenery-chewing helped a lot here -- mostly this was just a straightforward HL episode, with some good Richie moments. I could've lived without Paul's hilarious attempt at a Russian accent, though...

"Eyewitness" -- 5

I keep hoping they'll bring back Tim Reid's character -- until the Interpol agent in "The Valkyrie," he was the most interesting of the endless parade of Paris and "Seacouver" cops that MacLeod has dealt with over six years. This episode was relentlessly average, hence the 5-out-of-10 rating. I might've liked it better if Vandernoot could, y'know, act.

"Family Tree" -- 5

Another average episode. I must admit, I enjoyed the heck out of Duncan making an ass out of Peter Deluise's enforcer. The flashbacks proved to be critical to our understanding of the main character, and the episode was equally pivotal for the sidekick. These features make up for the fact that the story was really dumb. (And we have another Adrian Paul Accent Howler -- his Scottish accent was never great, but this was among the worst. "Weeeeeeeet! Ee am Doooncan MacLeod ooov the Clan MacLeod!")

"See No Evil" -- 5

And another average episode. J.G. Hertzler, the guy who plays General Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, did a good job as Korolus, and if the episode had focused on him, I might've liked it more. But the modern part of the story just didn't hold my interest.

"Band of Brothers" -- 7

Arguably the best first-season episode, giving us a wonderful evil Immortal in Grayson and a fine supporting character in Darius. The swordfight is still one of the best in the show's history, as you can see that Duncan is struggling. One of the few (especially at this point in the show's run) that looked like two people fighting, not like a staged swordfight. Plus, the flashback gave us the important turning point in Duncan's life, showing us why he stopped being just a warrior/soldier.

"For Evil's Sake" -- 4

A mime killer. Right.

"For Tomorrow We Die" -- 8

A good introduction of Xavier St. Cloud, one of HL's stronger villains, with some particularly potent directing. One of the real problems with HL's first season is that visually it was boring as fecal matter. Everything was bright and shiny and dull. When the show moved to Paris, everything had a darker tone, and it particularly worked here (that shot of Duncan standing in the fog right before the climactic swordfight is magnificent). This change in visual style would serve the show well, particularly in the fourth season. (Of course, Xavier being found by Darius in the early 1800s was retconned out of existence by Xavier's later appearances in "Finale Part 1" and "Double Jeopardy," but, as with the various backfills of Amanda's history, this can be forgiven for the sake of giving us a nifty recurring character.)

"The Beast Below" -- 2

Phantom of the Opera ripoffs are bad enough, but really really bad Phantom ripoffs are the worst. Puke-o.

"Saving Grace" -- 2

HL has had an annoying sexist streak all along -- not universal, but when it rears its ugly head, it's, well, ugly. This was the ugliest. Grace's helplessness and uselessness just didn't jibe with someone who'd lived as long as she. Julia Stemberger also played her with all the charisma of a dead fish, which didn't help.

"The Lady and the Tiger" -- 6

I'm really sorry they didn't bring Amanda back until after Tessa died, because some of Vandernoot's best moments were in this episode, as the sparks just flew between her and Elizabeth Gracen, making a triumphant debut. Tessa's scenes with the old circus fellow were nifty, too. Duncan's description of Amanda (Tessa: "An old friend?" Duncan: "No, just a bad habit") beautifully sums up the bizarre relationship between the two of them, which has been one of the most enjoyable running themes of the series. The story itself is fairly straightforward and enjoyable, though it is weird to watch it now knowing that Gracen would eventually wind up starring in her own spinoff (not a track you'd imagine the character taking based on this appearance).

Of particular note is the beginning of the Richie/Amanda relationship, of which there has been very little, but it's amusing to watch the shift from Richie's pathetic fawning in this episode to his helpless befuddlement in "Double Eagle" to his taking her on and holding his own in "Money No Object."

"Avenging Angel" -- 3

This episode suffers from a mediocre performance by Martin Kemp, and the fact that there isn't enough story here for an entire hour. As a result, we get a padded episode with an antagonist who isn't nearly convincing enough. Ho hum.

"Eye of the Beholder" -- 5

Good showcase for Richie, but this would've been much more interesting after Richie achieved Immortality. All in all, an ordinary HL episode.

"Nowhere to Run" -- 4

There were some very good moments in this one, and some fine performances, particularly by Peter Guinness as Bellian (and yes, that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Stewart Head in a funny accent playing the father), and Dennis Berry's directing beautifully conveyed the siege mentality. But there was an uncharacteristic level of cruelty here that just didn't ring right -- I actually feel guilty when I enjoy this episode, and intellectually I know it wasn't very good. Triumph of style over substance, or something.

"The Hunters" -- 8

A wonderful introduction to both Roger Daltrey's delightful Hugh Fitzcairn and Peter Hudson's James Horton, one of HL's best villains, and a fine job of setting up the Watchers. It's even more satisfying viewing this episode after seeing the second-season episodes that introduce the Watchers and seeing how elegantly they sowed the seeds of the Watcher structure, particularly in the flashback. Darius's death was poignant and sad and very nicely handled, especially in light of Werner Stocker's inability to participate in the filming due to illness. I might've given it a 9, but for that godawful "DARIUUUUUUUUS!" scream, which is one of Adrian Paul's most embarrassing moments as an actor.

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