Highlander: The Gathering

Connor: "As long as I remember knowing you, you've had all the fun and most of the good women."

I started watching this series very late in its run. If I had started with this pilot, I probably would have stopped right here. The first scene in particular is so bad that it's enough to make me groan out loud.

They did several good things, though.

1. The reset button. They brought the Highlander universe back to its original first movie concept: many immortals in competition for the prize, whatever it may be.

2. Adrian Paul as Duncan. Although he was a bit wooden at times in earlier episodes, his acting improved quickly and dramatically (pun intended), and his charm and incredible athleticism, especially with a sword, were two of the major reasons why this series took off. He was also, in my opinion, the best looking man on television. No small thing.

3. Stan Kirsch as Richie. He was charming and cute, and added a light and interesting element to the series as Duncan's protege. In the pilot he sort of represented us, the audience: he slunk around and peeped in windows, on the outside looking in at something bizarre that he didn't quite believe.

4. Including Christopher Lambert in the pilot in order to officially pass the torch was a smart move. I also think they were wise not to just cast someone else as Connor MacLeod. Connor had character baggage that would have made it harder for them to write for him. Plus the die hard Highlander movie fans would have been pissed.

5. They included the wonderful music by Queen from the first movie, which is stirring as well as oddly appropriate.

Richard Moll's Slan was so terrible that he did the impossible: he made Mario van Peebles look good. The Hannibal Lector mask and the shooting sword handle were attempts to make him unique and scary, but instead they came off as totally ridiculous. I suppose they had to rehash the first movie, but now they can move on. And there are much better villains and storylines to come.


And I never liked Tessa. Alexandra Vandernoot was extraordinarily beautiful, had a sexy French accent, dressed well, looked good aiming a blowtorch, and that was about it. I think they were trying to create some of that Connor/Heather vibe with Tessa. When they met, he was an older man, now they're the same age, soon she's going to look older than he does, yada yada yada. The flashbacks to Duncan's slain love, Little Deer, emphasized that Duncan will almost certainly outlive Tessa, unless he loses his head in the near future.

Flashbacks:

— 1872 Dakota Territory, Duncan and Connor after the Indian massacre. Although the time and place weren't given in the actual episode, the Watcher Chronicles on the DVDs include extensive character and flashback details. And big, honking spoilers. You have been warned.

— Duncan's cabin on Indian holy ground emphasized that the actual creed or denomination doesn't matter. Holy ground is holy ground.

— One of the fun things about the Highlander flashbacks was Duncan's ever-changing hair length. Here, he had extremely long hair and forehead braids. You'd think a warrior would hack it all off just to get it out of the way.

Bits and pieces:

— Connor sponsored Duncan, as Ramirez sponsored Connor. Loved the double MacLeod fencing scenes. In fact, they were the only decent scenes in the episode.

— Richie is 17. Tessa is 35. Duncan will be 400 in four months, which means he was born in 1592. Duncan and Tessa have been together for twelve years, which must be how long Duncan has been "out of the game."

— In the movies, Connor used aliases all the time. Duncan doesn't appear to do the same.

— A brief glimpse at the license plate on Duncan's big black T-bird looked like the one for Washington state. The first part of each Highlander season was filmed in Vancouver, standing in for Seattle. The city was never referred to by name, though. The fans referred to it as Seacouver.

— This series originally aired in Europe as well as the United States, and the U.S. version was four minutes shorter. The trims were mostly unimportant to the plot, but important stuff was sometimes excluded and it was infuriating for American fans. Those four minutes were referred to by the fans as "Euro-minutes" and are, of course, included in the DVDs.

— Adrian Paul is wearing hair extensions, and it shows. But next season, it's all his. Paul also wore an earring in the pilot.

Quotes:

Connor: "I'm Connor MacLeod. Same clan, different vintage."

Connor: "Did we once belong somewhere, a time, a place, however briefly?"
If I'm interpreting this correctly, they were leaving immortal origin a question mark again, retconning the second movie's goofball premise that they were aliens. Smart move.

Thankfully, it gets a lot better. One out of four stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux knows that there can be only one.

5 comments:

Wayne Brite said...

Thank you so much for your reviews and particularly the list of episodes to watch from season 1 to keep continuity. I remember watching this show and always really enjoyed it - years later I thought my 12 year old son would enjoy it - we sat down to watch Season 1 Episode 1 the Gathering and was embarrassed at how bad it was. I knew it got good at some point, but didnt know where to start. Now I can pick the episodes we need to watch and bypass all the trial and (mostly) error of the first season.

Billie Doux said...

You're very welcome, Wayne. We did a rewatch last summer and skipped pretty much every bad or so-so episode. A lot of the series is still fun to watch. I certainly loved it enough to write reviews. :)

Shane Brannon said...

Just found these reviews and I decided to comment on things when necessary,

Finally! Someone else who doesn't like Tessa. I'd have believed this romance more if there had been a different leading lady. Amanda had better chemistry IMO.

Billie Doux said...

Shane, thanks for your comment and I hope you'll post some more. Enjoy!

Gracie F. said...

Embarking on a rewatch, and what I noticed was that the scenes with Christopher Lambert sparkled compared to the rest. I wonder if Adrian Paul found it easier to do scenes with other guys, or if Lambert was just the best actor in this pilot?