Highlander Season One Recap: A Modern Fairy Tale

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Why is this of all things my favorite show?

No, seriously, why?

On a special post between seasons, let’s explore the question of my questionable tastes. (probably the swordfighting, lbr)

This show is excessively violent with over-the-top acting and is oh-so-90s.  But I love it.  There’s an interesting revolving door of characters.  It gets increasingly diverse (in all senses of the word).  They get better with the shades of grey questions.  They have some of the most lovable characters.  There’s historical flashbacks.  Swordfighting!  Which brings us back to the lots of violence and darkness, but I think that’s part of the appeal, at least to me.  One of my uses the phrase “tales of sadnesses,” and I definitely like those.

Fairy tales are supposed to be dark.  I’ve been thinking about this particularly because I was teaching a course of Greek philosophical responses to Homer, and long story short, one student talked about do we need fantasy for her final project.  Naturally, the answer is yes 😉  And I think Highlander does a good job of something modern filling that role.  It’s scary because there is something that lives beyond human law, something Other that is very dangerous, and people who come into close contact with that (e.g. Tessa) often end up getting hurt or put in danger.  But I think she (and also the viewer) gains something in so far as our appreciation for our society and mortality increases.  I’ll go more into mortality, I think, with a later season recap, but for myth/fairy tale to be effective, there does need to be some “boon” taken back to everyday life.  Unfortunately, if people stay in the realm of Immortals, they don’t return to safety and live happy productive lives, and many people die when the come into contact with Immortals.  But the few who do have contact and then go back take something with them.

Another aspect of the fairy tale is also the wish fulfillment that Good triumphs over Evil, which this show emphasizes very strongly, especially in the first season.  MacLeod is good.  It is painfully obvious to the viewer and the other characters on the show.  He always wins.  Sometimes it’s still painful, but it makes things a little better.

So maybe it’s not high-quality, cutting edge cinema, but it has heart, it has lovable characters, good music, and a clear lesson about doing good.

Best of Season 1:

5) “Family Tree”

4) “The Lady and the Tiger”

3) “Band of Brothers”

2) “For Tomorrow We Die”

1) “The Hunters”

If you’re only going to watch five episodes from Season One, it should be these.  I say, authoritatively.  Or something.  “Family Tree” is negotiable, but it is one of my favorites, and I like it because it’s <i>not</i> villain of the week.  There are no Immortals other than Mac, and while his fighting skills really come in handy, it’s so much more about building the little family of Mac, Richie, and Tess.  “The Lady and the Tiger” is similarly useful in that it introduces another important recurring character, Amanda.  She’s likely the most ambiguous character we’ve seen, since she’s not evil like most of the psychopath immortals, but she doesn’t really care about humans or doing good either.  She looks out for herself and has a fun time doing it.  She really grows on you.

And then we get to the Serious Episodes.  “Band of Brothers” introduces us to Darius (still not over it), Immortals who are Really Old (but not as old as we’ll see in Season 3, come on Season 3), and Classy Villains.  Speaking of Classy Villains, no Highland recap would be worthwhile without as much Xavier St. Cloud as possible, so be sure to catch “For Tomorrow We Die.”  And finally, “The Hunters,” the most significant addition to the Highlander world since the creation of the whole thing in the first movie.  And it’s a great addition.  It completely changes the nature of the show and adds a layer of conflict that’s compelling.  While Horton surely makes questionable arguments about the superiority of humankind, Immortals -are- dangerous, they are Other, and humans probably should be worried about who’s going to win the Game and just what the Prize is.  IS the Prize what we see in the first movie?  Telepathy?  Will the winning Immortal really be able to have some control over the whole world?

The Hunters are villains for sure, but they have a good point and are totally justified in not wanting any say in who wins the Game (hooray, democracy?).  The rest of the show is really dedicated to trying to figure out this relationship between mortals and immortals, and the best part, is there’s really no answer.  After all, they are a fairy tale and dangerous to mortal life.  Let’s just hope Mac wins then.

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