Highlander: The Series
Fifth Season: Peaks and Valleys

"One Minute to Midnight" -- 6

I was tempted to be snarky and post this in the fourth season section, since I still think of it as the fourth-season finale. It isn't bad, has some good angst, has a fine guest turn by Stephen Tremblay as Jakob Galati, and it's always good to see the ever-weaselly Peter Hudson as Horton again (though I am amused by the fact that, in a flashback that is chronologically prior to his first appearance, Horton has thinner, grayer hair). What happens with Jakob is in many ways what might've happened after "The Hunters" if Duncan had never met Joe Dawson (or if Joe had kept quiet about the Watchers). Still, there's too much time spent on people arguing and not doing anything, Jesse Joe Walsh is horrible as Jack Shapiro (and Jack's IQ dropped about fifty points between "Judgment Day" and here, making him too cardboard as a villain -- having the superior villain Horton around doesn't help matters), and the Magical Mystery Reset Button gets hit with unconvincing suddenness at the end. To make matters worse, Joe and Duncan aren't speaking -- again.

"Prophecy" -- 2

Of course, the advantage to "...Midnight" being the season opener is that it meant that this piece of tripe didn't lead off the season.

So let me get this straight -- Duncan MacLeod is the only one who can stop Roland Kantos because in all the world, he's the only one with the brains to wear ear plugs while fighting him? Yeah. Right. Sure. And Tracy Scoggins's Cassandra manages the amazing feat of being even dippier than Grace Chandel in "Saving Grace."

"End of Innocence" -- 6

This episode should've happened after "Deliverance" (and why is it we don't find out until now that Duncan tried to contact Richie from Paris after that episode?), but I must say I really like the new Richie. I like the attitude, I like the confidence, hell, I even like the haircut (on him, it works). Pity it didn't last.

I would've rated this higher, but for two problems. The Joe-leaves-the-Watchers subplot could charitably be called contrived (though stupid would be just as apt a word), and it should've been Richie who fought Clay. Not so much because Richie "deserved" it (the way, say, Amanda deserved to fight Luther in "Legacy"), but because Duncan didn't. I'm sorry, but Duncan MacLeod feels this should be his fight because Clay made him wet his kilt four centuries ago? "He shamed me"? What the hell is that?

"Manhunt" -- 7

A good sequel to "Run for Your Life," a nice examination of the consequences of an Immortal gaining public prominence, a great performance by Eric MacCormack (though you've got to wonder how the hell a 150+-year-old Immortal managed to fake the background check necessary to join the FBI), and another particularly skillful job by Bruce A. Young as Carl Robinson, especially his mastery of the slave dialect of the 19th century. Points are knocked off for weak baseball knowledge (nobody uses the phrase "pull the string" anymore, and the term "southpaw" only refers to left-handed pitchers, not hitters) and for the abject stupidity of a wanted man walking around on the streets wearing a jacket with his name emblazoned on the back.

"Glory Days" -- 3

This episode made me want to hurl. The married woman who still pines for our hero after all these years. Braaaaaaack. And between this, "Vendetta," and "Unusual Suspects," I'm coming to the conclusion that Duncan wasn't a very pleasant person in the 1920s.

"Dramatic License" -- 6

Okay, I liked this episode. Sue me. It made me laugh, it had a few publishing in-jokes, Alistair Duncan is fabulous as Coventry, the "flashbacks" at the beginning and with Duncan and Amanda in bed were side-splittingly hilarious, there were some great one-liners ("I'm still from New Jersey." "She called me a cheap whore and a thief -- I was never cheap!"), and we even get a good examination of the Duncan/Amanda relationship and a swordfight with poultry and kitchen implements. What more could you ask for?

"Money No Object" -- 6

And yes, I liked this one too. Dammit. Just view it as a Warner Brothers cartoon: Daffy and Sylvester chase Yosemite Sam while Bugs tries to figure out whose side she's on -- all it needed was Duncan saying, "You're dethpicable" to Cory after the car blew up. True, the latter portion of the flashback is both ludicrous and impossible, but I'm invoking the "Through a Glass, Darkly" rule and saying that that's how Cory remembers the events, not necessarily how they happened. And yeah, the Duncan-as-French-director bit was dumb, but I loved the final exchange between Richie and Duncan ("I'll applaud later." "That'll be nice").

Lost in all the hugger-mugger about exploding Immortals and goofy flashbacks is the wonderful further development of the new Richie-wit'-a-attitude. A year ago, Richie would never have had the cojones to confront Amanda at Cory's cabin, or mouth off at her. (I cheered when he said, "Because, Amanda, dear, nobody tells you anything," which is right up there with "Counterfeit's" "You just couldn't be wrong, could you?" in The Wit and Wisdom of Richard Ryan.) And a year ago, Amanda would've tried to charm Richie away, or otherwise flamboozle him (cf. "Double Eagle") -- but now, she actually respects him enough to offer him in on the deal. Such a pity this new Richie didn't have the chance to stick around...

"Haunted" -- 6

A good episode, with some nice angst all around, and there's an easy out for the psychic phenomena all being in Jennifer's head (as opposed to what we got in "Shadows"). My main problem is that the whole situation could've been avoided if Joe had kept his damn mouth shut about who killed Alec Hill. Suddenly that Watcher oath of noninterference is looking real good....

"Little Tin God" -- 6

A fine episode with a much better use of Andrew Divoff than his clichéd role in "Bad Day in Building A," and a very nice character in Nathaniel DeVeaux's Reverend Bell. HL is one of the few shows that treats holy people with any respect (with the notable exception of the goofball priest in "Line of Fire"), and Bell is a particularly good one.

"The Messenger" -- 6

A good episode that should've been better. Richie's leap from the head-choppin' sumbitch of "End of Innocence" to his lay-down-your-sword attitude here makes sense after the events of "Haunted," but we never get to see his conversion -- a very important missing step, and one that could easily have been taken by cutting down on the immensely stupid and howlingly inaccurate flashback to the Andersonville Prison (as if whites and blacks were interned together; as if medical supplies would even have been a possibility for a black man in a 19th-century Southern prison). Some more details on faux-Methos would've been nice, too. We won't even go into the Disco Quickening. However, Ron Perlman's performance is outstanding -- the scene where he hits Duncan with Darius is very effective -- the confrontation between the two Methoses is brilliant, and Wingfield is at his snotty best here.

"The Valkyrie" -- 7

A fine episode with some good moral quandaries, and a particularly clever use of Methos, who -- for obvious reasons -- is much better at taking the long view of the historical importance of individuals. His nigh-dismissive views on Hitler take on a particular significance after having seen "Comes a Horseman" and "Revelation 6.8." Best of all, though, is the stellar Jan Triska as the philosophical Interpol cop -- a nice reminder that mortals can be wise, too.

"Comes a Horseman" -- 9
"Revelation 6.8" -- 9

Tied with the Kalas three-parter as HL's finest moment. The only flaws are the very presence of Cassandra and the lack of explanation as to how, exactly, Duncan found the Horsemen's base in "Revelation." (I'm told that the latter was explained in the Eurominutes: that Duncan traced the purchase of the monkeys. Still, that should've been included in the U.S. version.) These flaws are easily overlooked, though. Besides, having Cassandra -- Duncan's adolescent wet dream made literal flesh -- be one of the Horsemen's former victims helps to push several of Duncan's buttons and dictate his actions.

And what a tour de force Peter Wingfield pulls off here. The nuances of his facial expressions, the Bronze Age version of Methos who is both totally different and exactly the same as the modern vintage, the snide commentary, the emotional outpouring in his confrontation with Duncan at the 4x4 -- these are Wingfield's episodes, no question. All of Methos's actions since his first appearance are pulled into focus here, and still he remains steadfastly true to the Methos Credo we got from the very beginning: survival above all else. He gets back together with Kronos and seeks out Silas and Caspian (whom he'd no doubt been keeping tabs on while with the Watchers) to stay alive. He pushes Duncan's and Kronos's buttons to get them to act (or not act), manipulating everything toward that final confrontation. If Duncan wins, the Horsemen are destroyed once and for all; if Kronos wins, Methos knows how to stay on his good side from long practice. "I go with the winner."

Oh yeah, one other flaw: the corkscrew Quickening. Gak.

"The Ransom of Richard Redstone" -- 5

On its own -- removed from the context of the show that had been airing for a year and a half prior to it -- this episode is a fun little waste of an hour. No brain cells were harmed in the making of this episode. And Richie walking around with the bedpost still attached to his wrist had me rolling on the floor.

Of course, it's all immensely stupid, and manages to throw out all the character development Richie had gone through between "Something Wicked" and "The Messenger." Maybe nobody told the Paris writers about what happened in Vancouver that year...

"Duende" -- 6

A nice little back-to-the-basics episode. No angst, no moral dilemmas, and no broad comedy, just your basic Duncan-vs.-the-bad-guy, with a particularly glorious swordfight at the end. I might've rated it higher if director Richard Martin hadn't insisted on MTV-style fast-cut directing of the flamenco dancing.

"The Stone of Scone" -- 5

A fun little episode, which might've gotten a higher rating if it bore any resemblance to the actual theft of the stone. Still, we were long overdue for an all-flashback episode and an episode that brought Amanda and Fitzcairn together (considering they're the two closest friends Duncan has had in his 400-year life), and this gives us both in one shot. All the performers comported themselves magnificently, and the episode managed to be fun without being stupid (I especially liked the captions).

"Double Jeopardy" -- 3

We waited a year for this? (Along with "One Minute to Midnight," this episode was originally intended for the fourth season, but was held over for this season when only 18 episodes were ordered for season five.) Duncan and Morgan wander around Paris for an hour, Duncan stands with his thumbs in his ears while the latest member of the Local Police Derby (collect 'em all!) drinks poisoned wine, Renee Delaney shows that she's lost every single brain cell since "Unholy Alliance," Roland Gift only shows up as Xavier St. Cloud for about half a second, Morgan managed to grow up in 18th-century France without learning a thing about primogeniture, and no one can agree on how to pronounce d'Estaing. Why was Delaney involved in this anyhow? She's part of the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigations Division -- what does that have to do with a Paris jewel thief? And why didn't anyone have the brains to trace the bottle of wine to the estate on the label?

The only good moment in the episode was the very end. It wasn't worth the wait.

"Forgive Us Our Trespasses" -- 8

An excellent episode up until the ending, where they royally copped out. Despite this copout, I really was impressed. A rare case where multiple themes and histories from past episodes were picked up and run with -- "Take Back the Night," "Through a Glass, Darkly," "Deliverance," "The Valkyrie," "Comes a Horseman," "Revelation 6.8," and even "Band of Brothers" were all referenced, either directly or thematically. The issue of revenge is an old HL staple, but the good/evil/judgment thing is something they've particularly excelled at in this uneven fifth season, most of all here.

In addition, the acting was stellar. Gracen was magnificent, managing to show all of Amanda's sides -- the concerned friend, the thief, the imp, and the sexpot, all in one episode. Wingfield and Paul, in their two scenes together, did a glorious job of showing how the unresolved issues between them from the end of "Revelation" still haven't been adequately addressed, and it just hung there between them (director Paolo Barzan deserves some of the credit for that). Chris Larkin was wonderful as Keane, who came across as more or less exactly the same as Duncan, which is part of what made the episode so effective. And it was great seeing the regal Michael J. Jackson as Sean Burns again.

The only problem with the episode, again, was the copout ending, and I suspect it stems from the-star-must-win-itis. It's why Duncan had to fight Luther in "Legacy" and Clay in "End of Innocence," and it's why the ending of this episode wound up with Duncan winning and letting Keane walk away when it should've been the other way around. Dramatically, everything in the episode -- particularly Amanda's talk with Keane in the bar -- was leading up to Keane defeating Duncan and letting him walk away. By giving Duncan the noble gesture, it took the wind out of the plot's sails.

"The Modern Prometheus" -- 1

My thoughts on this episode are extremely lengthy, and involve a great deal of discourse on the real lives of George Gordon, Lord Byron and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley (as opposed to what was shown in this episode). In the interests of preserving bandwith, I've given the annotation its own page.

"Archangel" -- 0

I know, I know, it's a 1-10 scale, but this episode was so horrendous it needs its own unique rating. Hell, I was tempted to go into negative numbers.

Nothing about this episode makes any sense. None of it fits in with the very firmly established HL mythos that has been semi-carefully constructed over the past 100+ episodes (not to mention two of the movies). It looks like it's trying to be an X-Files episode by way of Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- and the worst episode of either is better than this tripe (and with XF that's going some).

(Actually, the XF analogy is apt, since obviously Roger Bellon has been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by someone who writes awful, clichéd incidental music -- my "favorite" was the sax playing during the Alison-in-the-leather-underwear scene.)

Why does this great evil that has been around since the dawn of time just happen to coincide with the Christian millennium? (And not coincide very well. It's off from the calendar's millennium by four years and off from matching up with the birth of Jesus by two years in the other direction. For that matter, how can Methos have seen millennial fever "every" thousand years, when the concept is comparatively recent -- Methos can only have encountered such a fever once before, 1000 years ago. Prior to that the calendar was different.) And what does it have to do with Immortals? Why does it have to do with Immortals? Why Duncan? How is he the living embodiment of Good?

Why does he see the image of Alison in his bed? He barely knows the woman. Why not Tessa or Little Deer or one of the eight gajillion other women he's loved and lost? (Or Amanda, for that matter, who, if nothing else, would've looked better in the lingerie.) Every other image (to Alison, to Duncan, to Richie) were of people who had a strong emotional attachment to the person in question -- Horton, Kronos, and Richie to Duncan; Alison's father to Alison; Joe and Horton to Richie. So why does Duncan see a dull blonde with one eyebrow?

Why did the evil awaken when the two men walked into the cave and not sooner or later? (It's not like they disturbed the thing, they just stared at it.) How did that spear pierce Foster when the angle was all wrong? Why did it wait six months to start haunting Duncan, instead of inexplicably holding back until the archaeologist got around to tracking Duncan MacLeod down and warning him before finally commencing its little fear campaign? (And boy, what a coinky-dink that the archaeologist kept an apartment in Paris.) Why did an archaeologist keep his notes in a leather-bound notebook in Persian of all things? (Any archaeologist who wasn't a complete incompetent -- and the impression we get is that he isn't, especially if Duncan's even heard of his book -- would keep his records on a disk, backed up about fifteen times. And this archaeologist already proved to have the sense to keep a video record, so why keep notes in the big glunky notebook? For that matter, where was the big glunky notebook in the teaser?)

Obviously, the lesson we are meant to learn from this episode is that to survive you must be an insensitive prig, since Richie actually acts like Duncan's friend, is supportive, and helps him out as much as possible, and gets his head cut off for his trouble. Joe and Methos, on the other hand, show absolutely no respect for Duncan's viewpoint, nor make any attempt to show support or friendship, but rather choose to fob him off and tell him to jump in a lake. Joe's attitude, you can make a case for, since he could be understandably pissed about the incident in the airport with Horton's coffin. But Methos? I mean, c'mon, the man who took Duncan to the Jacuzzi of Redemption is suddenly going to turn into a cynic regarding appearances of evil? The man who fought Keane for him is going to dismiss him out of hand?

And this is how you kill Richie? This is how you treat a character who has been around for five years? He just walks into the room and gets his head cut off? That's it? Duncan is frappéing the air around him, and this person who has already been attacked twice by Duncan ("Shadows" and "Something Wicked") and who assured Duncan in "End of Innocence" that "next time it won't be that easy," just wanders in with his sword lowered and allows his head to be cut off like a glorified lemming. It's ridiculous, it's implausible, it's dumb.

This isn't aided by the fact that the episode doesn't end. There's a beginning, there's a middle, and then it stops. There's no resolution, no denouement, no payoff, nothing. (Imagine if the show hadn't been renewed. What a pathetic ending that would've been to this series.) No wonder this was listed as "Part 1 of 2" in TV Guide.

The list goes on. The special effects are the definition of cheesy. Red fog straight out of a 1970s Doctor Who episode, glowing red eyes -- the only thing missing was the guy in the rubber suit and the hissing voice. It was impossible to take this entity seriously as a threat when it looked so damn obvious.

What happened to Adrian Paul? One of his best skills as an actor is showing emotion, especially anger and frustration, but there's nothing here. No anger, no angst, no confusion, nothing. He just stumbles around with his hair loose and waves his sword occasionally. I got no sense that he was being threatened. We know Paul is capable of better than this -- "Comes a Horseman," "Revelation 6.8," "Shadows," "Counterfeit," "The Hunters," "The Watchers," etc., ad nauseum -- so why was he phoning in his performance here?

What happened to the running theme of the season? In "The Messenger," "The Valkyrie," "Comes a Horseman," "Revelation 6.8," "Forgive Us Our Trespasses," and to a lesser extent in "End of Innocence" and "Manhunt," they have dealt, with varying degrees of success and interest, in the themes of judgment, of good vs. evil, of what constitutes a good person or an evil person, of the shades of gray that are inevitable in a normal lifespan, much less one that covers decades, centuries, millennia.

With one episode, they've thrown that all out the window. Duncan is a Force Of Good. He is now up against Pure Evil. We know it's Evil because it tricked him into committing as heinous an act as it could trick Duncan into committing: killing his son-figure/student/best friend -- and because it comes in on red fog and has glowing red eyes (since obviously viewers are too stupid to figure out that taking on the form of two of the three or four biggest bad guys in the show's history is proof that the entity is evil without visual aids). We know Duncan is Good because -- well, we don't know why. I guess, 'cause he's the star of the show. Of course, the whole point of the above-listed episodes (again, to varying degrees) was to show that it isn't that simple. Or, at least, that it shouldn't be.

But hey, no more angst for our Duncan! He's got Pure Evil to face now! Moral ambiguity? Hah! Doubts about being too judgmental? Poo! Tired of the killing? Feh! No worries now, no need to actually think about these things anymore, 'cause we've got good old-fashioned black-and-white good vs. evil! Yeee-hah!

This was one of the most insulting hours of television I've watched since I used to devour Gilligan's Island reruns as a kid. This entire season has been a series of highs ("Comes a Horseman," "Revelation 6.8," "Forgive Us Our Trespasses," "Manhunt") and lows ("Prophecy," "Glory Days," "Double Jeopardy," "The Modern Prometheus"), but this is the lowest of the low.

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