Highlander: The Series
Third Season: Solid and Firm

"The Samurai" -- 8

Would've gotten a 9 if the present-day plot was any better and if they hadn't gone for the contrivance of Tamlyn Tomita playing a dual role. Still, the flashback was so good, I'm willing to give it this rating. Robert Ito's stellar performance as the noble Hideo Koto is one of the best guest turns in the show's history, and the atmosphere of feudal isolationist Japan is very elegantly conveyed in both script and visuals. One of the best.

"Line of Fire" -- 7

This would get a higher rating but for three problems: a) Donna was a bit too annoying, b) there's no way that dinky spear would cut through Kern's thick neck (and in general that fight was just dumb -- I kept waiting for Kern's sword to slice through the spear's haft), and c) the dippy Quickening. Still, a good episode otherwise, a very important story about both Duncan (background) and Richie (development). Randall "Tex" Cobb attacked the role of Kern with fierce gusto -- the evil Immortal you love to hate.

"The Revolutionary" -- 6

Not a bad episode, though not a great one. Managed to write Anne Lindsay in superlatively and write Charlie out pathetically all at the same time, and the flashbacks were good. And the episode labors under the delusion that U.S. policy decisions are made in the Pacific Northwest. Still, nothing too objectionable here.

"The Cross of St. Antoine" -- 6

An episode that doesn't have enough story to fill an hour, and what story there is ain't much to sneeze at. But Jim Byrnes gives one of his best performances, and the whole thing is worth it to hear him sing and play the guitar. The Amanda-teaches-Duncan-to-be-a-thief scenes are classics as well.

"Rite of Passage" -- 5

An interesting idea, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth with its implication that female Immortals are helpless putty in the hands of male Immortals. And it seems to me that an episode about an eighteen-year-old who becomes Immortal should've had the regular character who's an eighteen-year-old Immortal, y'know?

"Courage" -- 7

Gregor's burnout from "Studies in Light" taken one step further with the even-more-screwed-up Brian Cullen. This is a much better examination of the amplified deterioration of an Immortal lifespan, has a brilliant guest turn by John Pyper-Ferguson as Cullen, and one of the three or four best swordfights in the show's run -- as with the Grayson fight in "Band of Brothers," you really got the feeling that you were watching two people fighting, not a staged swordfight.

"The Lamb" -- 8

An excellent portrayal of a nonstandard Immortal, with a phenomenal performance by Myles Ferguson as the 800-year-old kid. I was actually convinced that this kid was as devious (and as old) as he was written. And I love the scenes where Joe, Richie, and Duncan discuss him, partiuclarly Richie's jaw dropping when Joe spells out Kenny's MO. The show needs more episodes like this, "Run for Your Life," and "The Innocent," where the Immortal doesn't fit the Hollywood-ized standard.

"Obsession" -- 6

The ending of this episode makes no sense to me, and is why I lowered its rating. MacLeod has beheaded other Immortals for far less reason than what David Keogh does here -- why the hell did he let this sonofabitch live? He was directly responsible for the death of an innocent woman, which is usually more than enough justification for Saint Duncan to take a head. Still, this is a well-crafted episode (up to the end -- the rolling in the mud didn't help, by the way), Nancy Sorel's portrayal of the stalked woman is very gripping, and this was one of the better uses of the Anne Lindsay character.

"Shadows" -- 2

I don't mind TV episodes about psychic phenomena when it's established as part of the mythos of that show's world. I mind it very much when it's inserted into an episode for no good reason except for horrific effect, and then abandoned again in time for next week (or worse, made into the new theme for the show after five years -- see "Archangel"). What could've been an interesting examination of the trauma of being burned alive and living to tell about it instead becomes a tiresome horror story.

"Blackmail" -- 4

This might've worked better if, at any point in the story, I was in the least bit convinced that Duncan was threatened by Robert Waverly. But Waverly was such a small, insignificant creature that his entire portion of the plot came across as almost comical -- not the intended effect. They would've been better off showing us more of the Matlin/Kurlow duo, who made a nifty little rotten team.

"Vendetta" -- 6

A cute little episode with a delightful turn by Tony Rosato as Benny Carbassa. Hey, if we can accept that Kenny survived 800 years through trickery, I'm willing to accept that Carbassa survived a hundred by being a fast talker.

"They Also Serve" -- 6

A nice idea, that of a Watcher helping an Immortal, though "Judgment Day" makes this episode retroactively unconvincing. This episode suffers from too much padding (did we really need the flashbacks to "Band of Brothers," "The Samurai," and "The Hunters"?) and a very unconvincing defeat of May-Ling in the teaser. Still, good flashback to Duncan's first meeting with May-Ling and an interesting insight into the Watchers.

"Blind Faith" -- 7

A more dramatic look at an Immortal who, like Darius, changed for the better. Good performance by Paul, as Duncan is so completely (and typically) unwilling to accept that someone can change after he meets them the first time (cf. "Comes a Horseman"; remember, he met Darius after Darius's "conversion"), an excellent use of Richie and Joe as the angel and devil on Duncan's shoulder, and a fine turn by Richard Lynch, who uses his typecasting as a guy who plays creeps to good turnabout effect here.

"Song of the Executioner" -- 9
"Star-Crossed" -- 8
"Methos" -- 9

These three are really one extended story, and that's part of what makes it work. The backstory between Duncan and Kalas is played out slowly and meticulously (like a good opera) -- we don't learn how Kalas lost his voice until "Methos," and the flashback in "Star-Crossed" actually leads to the one in "Song of the Executioner" (sort of). While Kalas's plans aren't quite so elegantly laid out as, say, Horton's in "Counterfeit," his hatred for MacLeod is more convincing. Lisa laughs at Horton in "Counterfeit" when he carries on about how he will destroy MacLeod; I can't see anyone laughing at Kalas. Horton just hates the idea of Immortals and has fixated on MacLeod because Duncan messed up his plans. Kalas's hatred is deeper, more personal.

And, oh, what a villain David Robb makes! It was quite a trick to keep a bad guy around for five episodes in a show that, by its nature, tends toward conflict ending in one party dying. He imbues Kalas with such pure, unadulterated hatred -- but it's an intellectual hatred. He is always in control, always fully aware of his surroundings, always supremely confident. When he tortures his Watcher, he looks almost bored. Even when the police lead him off at the end of "Methos," he doesn't look in the least bit fazed by it -- it's just a temporary setback.

Robb's is but one of the magnificent guest performances -- Lisa Howard's growing frustration at both Duncan's secretiveness and her own seeming incompetence in "Song..." is tense and convincing, Roger Daltrey's delightful Hugh Fitzcairn is even more fun the second time around ("Star-Crossed" loses a point for killing off this great character), Eugene Lipinski imbues Brother Paul with a quiet serenity that nicely modulates into a quiet anger when Duncan exposes Kalas in the flashback to the monastery in "Song..." and, of course, "Methos" introduces us to the magnificent Peter Wingfield, who is a little overly pretentious here, but still gives us the show's most complex character.

This may be Highlander's finest moment. A rare case where they kept themes going through several episodes (in addition to the Kalas plot, we have the Richie subplot, which carries over into the next two episodes). While the show does a wonderful job of weaving the tapestry of Duncan's past life in the flashbacks, his present life tends to be disjointed. This is a nice change of pace.

"Take Back the Night" -- 7

And they don't let us down the following week, either. Ceirdwyn is a wonderful character, and this is a good look at Immortal loss from several angles: Ceirdwyn losing her husband, Richie "dying" in the crash, Duncan "losing" Anne (and Tessa, for that matter). My feeling at the end of "Song of the Executioner" was that Duncan was unimaginably cruel to let Anne believe him dead, and it was nice to see Duncan realize that, too, and do something about it. Loses a point for trying to make us believe that Flora MacDonald -- whose growing old is documented -- was really an Immortal.

"Testimony" -- 6

A normal HL episode, raised slightly above average by the Anne-learns-all-about-Immortals scenes -- scenes we never got with Richie in the first season, and Anne asks all the questions anyone would ask (though my favorite are her doctor questions) -- and by the fact that Richie, rather than Duncan, gets to beat Kristov in the end. What's nice about the latter is that it's not at all telegraphed the way it was in, say, "Under Color of Authority," which was carefully structured as a Richie-comes-of-age episode. Events just happened to lead to the sidekick being the one to face the bad guy. (Now if only they had done the same thing in "Legacy" with Amanda and Luther...)

"Mortal Sins" -- 7

An excellent episode with a powerful WWII flashback, a strong moral dilemma, and a fine villain in Andrew Woodall's Daimler. Both Paul and Howard handle the angst of Anne's pregnancy well -- especially Paul in the final scene in the hospital where he manages to look both disappointed and relieved.

"Reasonable Doubt" -- 4

Why is it that we learned next to nothing about Charlie DeSalvo, who had the potential to be an interesting character, and yet Maurice of all people -- who will never be accused of being interesting -- gets a family and background in this yawner?

"Finale Part 1" -- 9

A tense episode that opens with Amanda's failed attempt to do some good (give her a break, she doesn't have much experience in that area), continues into a rather nasty how-de-doo involving both Kalas and a threatened exposure of Immortals and Watchers by the widow of one of Kalas's previous victims. It's especially nice to see Amanda escape Kalas's hideout on her own, and it's also fun seeing Xavier St. Cloud again (even if the flashback was more or less completely disconnected from the rest of the story).

"Finale Part 2" -- 6

Then, for the second year in a row, it all falls apart at the end. The tango on the Eiffel Tower is a classic, as is the climactic swordfight at same (I love the fact that, at the end, Kalas doesn't look defeated, doesn't look devastated, doesn't look frightened -- he just sneers at MacLeod one final time and awaits beheading), and the Turkey flashback is a hoot and a holler.

After that, though -- oy! If Amanda escaped Kalas's headquarters, why didn't she take Duncan there right away? (He's very obviously in the same place.) Why didn't that moron Watcher tell Joe where he was calling from when he called Joe from Kalas's closet? (He had about sixteen opportunities to give an address before Kalas stabbed him.) Why weren't there consequences to Duncan being let into Watcher European headquarters? (Well, there were, but not for a year...) Why did Vemas hesitate before chopping Kalas's head off with the axe? (As it is, he came closer than anyone to actually stopping Kalas -- he did the sensible thing, kept constantly shooting, then grabbed something to cut his head off with.)

And isn't it conVENient that Kalas just happened to walk into the newspaper office just in time to keep the secret from being revealed? And isn't it conVENient that Kalas's Quickening just happened to fry the Watcher CD just in time to keep the secret from being revealed?

The more I think about it, the more I think that 6 is overly generous.....

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