Highlander: The Series
Second Season: Coming Into Its Own

"The Watchers" -- 8

The other half of "The Hunters," this introduction to Joe Dawson and the Watchers provides a texture to the series that finally offsets it from the movies (and from the really weak first season). One of Paul's best performances -- he does anger so well, from the bar brawl at the beginning to his confronting Horton at the party to his stabbing Horton at the end -- and the intricacies of the relationships and the various and sundry bits of backstabbing made this episode a delight, with a magnificently filmed climax. The lightning-filled confrontation between Duncan and Horton in the warehouse is one of the most visually exciting pieces they'd done to date, and had some fine performances (particularly from the charming Keli O'Bryne as Lynn, a character forgotten save for a brief mention in "Archangel"; I wish they'd bring her back).

"Studies in Light" -- 7

An episode that managed to touch on two of the less pleasant elements of Immortality: burnout, and watching mortals grow old and die. The bits with Richie and Gregor were quite fine -- though, again, I think this might've worked better after Richie became Immortal -- and Linda Plager was quite a fascinating character. And writer Naomi Janzen deserves kudos for not taking the easy way out and ending with Gregor losing his head.

"Turnabout" -- 5

Then we have this throwback: but for Joe Dawson's presence, this could just as easily have been a first-season episode, what with the dull plot and the waste of a talented actor -- this time Geraint Wyn-Davies. Wyn-Davies made an excellent Michael Moore, but was a horrible Quenten Barnes, plus the contrivances to keep his dual identity secret are howlers.

"The Darkness" -- 6

This might've rated higher if not for the obviousness of having Duncan propose to Tessa in the episode in which she gets killed, for the presence of a tiresome psychic character (though Traci Lords was surprisingly good in the role), and for the cheesiness of the katana-as-Bic. Still, this episode a) established that the Hunters were still a going concern, and b) did two things that improved the series dramatically: get rid of Alexandra Vandernoot and make Richie Ryan Immortal.

"Eye for an Eye" -- 7

Yet another rock star guest stars as a fascinating character, this time Sheena Easton as Annie Devlin as Richie gets his baptism of fire. Duncan's irrationality in the face of Tessa's death is very well handled, as is Richie's dealing with his newfound Immortality. An emotionally complex story.

One thing that annoyed me, not so much about this episode, but about subsequent ones: we got some hints as to Charlie DeSalvo's background here, and more in "Run for Your Life," and they never picked up on it. When Charlie and Richie were sparring, he mentioned something about how difficult his own life was, but we never found out what he was talking about. Charlie was a classic case of unfulfilled potential: a character that should've been interesting who was instead pissed away, clumsily written out, and brought back long enough to be killed. Philip Akin -- who did the best he could under the circumstances -- deserved better.

"The Zone" -- 2

I don't have to go into this, do I? Dumb from the ground up and dumb from the roof on down the other side.

"The Return of Amanda" -- 5

This episode could be divided in half -- 8 for the flashback, 2 for the main story. As if 45-year-old plates could be used for anything. And what a convenient little deus ex machina for the ending! But the flashback was phenomenal, the first of many wonderful insights into the whirlwind relationship between Duncan and Amanda. ("I'll never forget this." "Of course you will.")

"Revenge of the Sword" -- 2

Yet another case where someone mistook a Renegade or Kung Fu script for a Highlander episode. And yet another wasted actor in Robert Ito (who at least got put to better use in "The Samurai").

"Run for Your Life" -- 8

I've always been fond of Bruce A. Young, and this is an excellent showcase for him as Carl Robinson. This episode points up one of the biggest failings of HL (though this is a problem endemic to commercial television): 90% of the Immortals we meet are white males, which just doesn't compute. Still, Robinson's life is given a complexity that guest Immortals usually aren't allowed to have, and the Hunter plot fits in nicely. This is also a rare episode that made good use of Charlie.

"Epitaph for Tommy" -- 6

Your basic evil Immortal episode. It probably doesn't deserve quite this high a rating, but Roddy Piper made such a good bad guy, and I just love the bit where Duncan proves he knows antiques by properly identifying the credenza.

"Bless the Child" -- 2

I came very close to giving this a 1 because it wasn't a Highlander episode, didn't even remotely resemble a Highlander episode, but the flashback was really good. Not enough to get it higher than a 2, mind, but it was the only saving grace of this dumb story.

"The Fighter" -- 5

I might've given this a higher rating if I didn't despise boxing so much. Bruce Weitz's performance was quite excellent as Sully, but the episode as a whole just didn't feel particularly convincing.

"Under Color of Authority" -- 7

Richie's second baptism of fire, a great performance by Jonathan Banks as an Immortal who isn't good, isn't evil, just doing his job. (I love the bit in the flashback when he says he hadn't seen MacLeod since he and Fitzcairn were learning to read, which was neatly picked up on in "Star-Crossed.") Duncan kicking Richie out at the end was really stupid and unfair, but in character, I think. Probably Stan Kirsch's best performance to date (though he's done better since).

"Unholy Alliance Part 1" -- 8
"Unholy Alliance Part 2" -- 8

A rare two-parter where both parts get the same rating (it'll only happen twice more). Jim Byrnes turns in a particularly fine performance as a very conflicted Joe Dawson, and the Xavier/Horton duo is a deliciously rotten one. The teaser of Part 1 is very effective, with the nonstandard deaths of the florist and the yuppie, and Stacey Travis's Renee Delaney is an exceptionally nifty character who manages to keep up with Duncan (and even take him down a peg in the hospital confrontation). Part of me is sorry they didn't keep her around, but they turned her into a moron when they did bring her back in "Double Jeopardy," so maybe it's just as well. It's only a pity Roland Gift's Xavier had to be killed off, but luckily there are always flashbacks (cf. "Finale Part 1" and, again, "Double Jeopardy").

Of course, it would've been nice if Duncan told Charlie the truth about how he survived being shot to ribbons, especially since that knowledge might well have saved Charlie's life in "Brothers in Arms," but we'll get to that later....

"The Vampire" -- 3

Despite a laconically wonderful performance by Jeremy Brundenell as Ward and a scenery-chewing Van Helsing turn by Denis Lill as Baines in the flashback (which had a good horror-movie feel to it), this was one dumb story. Duncan looked completely out of place in the punk-esque setting.

"Warmonger" -- 5

Your basic Duncan-vs.-a-baaaaad-Immortal story which suffered from a reporter that managed to make Amanda Wyss's Randi look competent -- no mean feat. (When Drake took her toward the end, all I could think was, "Jeepers, Mr. Kent, Miss Lane's been kidnapped!") Still, Peter Firth's gleefully evil Drake and Tom Watson's intense portrayal of Eli helped offset the dippy Beth. I also had a serious problem with the ease with which Duncan goes against his word not to kill Drake. Duncan generally treats his honor less cavalierly (cf. "Promises" and The Measure of a Man).

"Pharaoh's Daughter" -- 5

James Faulkner's dignified portrayal of Constantine, Nia Peeples's haughty turn as Nefertiri, the high-quality (if low-budget) flashbacks, and the decent plot can't make up for the fact that Nefertiri somehow speaks modern languages. I'm afraid that requires me to suspend my disbelief so much it cuts off the oxygen supply, and makes enjoying this episode impossible.

"Legacy" -- 8

This would've gotten a 9 if they'd let Amanda take Luther's head. That really was her fight, and I suspect that -- had they done this episode in the more supporting-character-friendly fourth, fifth, or sixth seasons -- she might've gotten to finish the fight (though she might not've, either -- see "End of Innocence" and "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"). But in these early days, Duncan must be the hero and get all the Quickenings. Rebecca Horne may be my favorite Immortal (Nadia Cameron imbues her with a tremendous grace -- they'd better damn well use her in the spinoff), and Luther is a great bad guy -- I just love the idea of an Immortal who casually flagellates himself just 'cause he can. (Rebecca's only flaw is her taste in men; if that idiot John had just run away when Luther showed his face, Rebecca might still be alive.) And the flashback to Duncan's first meeting with Amanda (and Rebecca) is a hoot.

"Prodigal Son" -- 8

A good way to bring Richie back, and a good villain in Martin Hyde. The reunion scene in the barge and the shared drink at the bridge are both wonderful moments in the Duncan/Richie relationship. A fine episode.

"Counterfeit Part 1" -- 7

Watching this episode is an absolute delight. You're aware of Horton's plot from the beginning, and that only adds to the fun as you watch him perfectly push Duncan's buttons and flawlessly manipulate events, culminating in Pete's death and Richie's "you just couldn't be wrong, could you?" -- one of the canniest observations ever made about Duncan MacLeod.

"Counterfeit Part 2" -- 5

So it's a real disappointment to conclude with this loser. The evil duplicate plot has been done a million times before and twice since Tuesday, and this adds nothing to it. The wedge driven between Duncan and Richie by Pete's death is completely ignored after the funeral scene, and the careful construction of Horton's plot is thrown out for the dorky evil duplicate routine. (I was highly amused by Horton ripping the cigarette from Lisa's mouth when, in fact, we saw Tessa smoking on more than one occasion.) And does anyone else think it's just a little bizarre that Duncan supposedly suspected Lisa from the beginning but gleefully slept with the woman anyhow? To my surprise, the thing I liked best about this episode was Alexandra Vandernoot, who basically had to play three different roles -- Tessa (in the flashback), Lisa Halle, and "Lisa Millon" -- and damn me if she doesn't pull it off.

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