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Depressed about Buffy, I turn to Highlander reruns for solace

May 3, 2003

[Originally a Billie's Bytes column.]

There are only three episodes remaining of Buffy, and possibly only one of Angel, since its fate has not yet been announced. In just a few short weeks, the finales will have finale'd (and I'll certainly be talking about them in my column). And then it will be summer. Or as I refer to it, the television wasteland.

But there is hope. (No Faith, but hope. And that's not Scott Hope.) Alias will be back next fall, for sure. There are Dead Zone episodes coming in July. There are DVDs coming out for several of my favorite series, and series DVDs are Very Good Things. And I have recently gotten back into an old favorite, Highlander, which seems to have a lot in common with Buffy.

I definitely want the Highlander DVDs, especially since there were scenes in every episode that aired only in Europe. Season two is supposedly out soon, or possibly now. But I don't have the money yet, so I'm consoling myself with its current run on The National Network, soon to be known as (I still find this hilarious) Spike. We're nearing the end of the not-very-good season one, and the Good Stuff is coming soon; the really cool immortals haven't even arrived yet.

So if you've always meant to catch Highlander someday, now is the time. And in that spirit, here is a Highlander primer. If you just started watching and you're confused about why these guys are running around beheading each other, let me clue you in.

Immortals: People who live pretty much forever without getting any older, duh. They also regenerate. Unless you behead them.

Beheading: The only way to kill an immortal. Causes a quickening.

Quickening: Sort of like an orgasm with a light show that causes structural damage in nearby buildings. It happens when one immortal kills another and absorbs the other's power. Quickenings tend to last longer and cause more damage when the immortal that just bought it is old and powerful.

Headhunters: Immortals who run around trying to kill as many other immortals and absorb as much power as they can, hoping it will give them a power edge. A plot device for nasty immortals with swords constantly showing up and causing trouble.

The Gathering: I'm still not sure what this is, but it seems to be when all the immortals are supposed to start killing each other. Except they seem to do that all the time.

"In the end, there can be only one": Immortals believe that someday, after the Gathering, there will only be one of them left. The last immortal will receive the Prize, which is a mystical question mark because no one has a freaking clue what it is, even the writers. In the movie, it was mortality, which was supposed to be ironic. It is often implied that the last immortal will have the power of all of the dead immortals, and will rule the world.

Potentials: People with mysterious origins (usually foundlings) who are destined to become immortals. They age like ordinary people until they die for the first time. In the first season of Highlander (small spoiler), Richie is a Potential, but we don't know it yet. Seasoned immortals like Duncan often "adopt" new immortals and teach them the ropes, as Duncan does with Richie. This is probably because immortals cannot have children and they have to express those paternal instincts somehow.

First Death: Potentials think they're ordinary people until they die and then wake up in the morgue (or the grave, yuck) as an immortal. If they're lucky, no one has found their body yet and they don't have to immediately come up with a new identity.

The Buzz: It's how immortals know each other so they don't chop heads off of ordinary people. When two immortals come into striking distance, they "feel" each other; it seems to be something like a headache with sound effects, and often causes overacting.

By the way, I've never been clear on two points: (1) how two immortals can have sex, or even a conversation, without being in constant pain -- the Buzz must lessen with constant proximity; and (2) how immortals can sense a potential. There seems to be some kind of one-way mini buzz going on there.

Holy ground: Immortals have to have some place to just sneer at each other without the swords coming out. Crosses actually have power on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but on Highlander, it's only honor and tradition that keeps most immortals, even the bad ones, from killing each other on holy ground. And that's non-sectarian holy ground; any religion will do.

The Watchers: The good guys. No, the bad guys. No, the good guys. Actually, the Watchers on Highlander are similar to the Watchers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except Buffy Watchers do more than watch. But so do immortal Watchers. I'm sensing a theme here.

Duncan MacLeod vs. Connor MacLeod: The original movie was about Connor MacLeod, a Scot played by a Frenchman named Christopher Lambert. The series is about Duncan MacLeod, a Scot played by a half-Italian Brit named Adrian Paul. They're not the same character and I'm not sure they're related; they're from the "same clan, different vintage." Connor is older.

Adrian Paul: The star of the series, this man is such a treat for the eyes that just watching him walk, talk, and swing a sword can be akin to a religious experience.

So we have Highlander, and we have Buffy. What do they have in common? Potentials. Dying, and waking up in graves. Cemeteries and holy ground. Watchers. And very old beings who look young. And beheading being a way to kill the very old beings who look young. And an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. I'd better stop here.

Maybe there's a reason I'm such a fan of both shows,

Billie Doux knows that there can be only one. And that's Methos.


  1. It’s funny timing to find your reviews, ions after Highlanders have gone away, and just before new production returns decades later. I thought I’d revisit the storyline since I don’t recall where I’d fallen off in the tv series between high school & life there after. After catching up on 4 seasons so far, I still haven’t figured out the Gathering, did it happen? Has it come and gone or are we still in it? I appreciate your description above. Good to know it’s not just me. Thanks for such a solid source of info on this show/story. I hope the new movie/series is a good reboot. Henry Cavill gives me hope, better than when they were speculating of Ryan Reynolds’s awhile back. I oaased up Adrian Paul doing sword training in town recently, I couldn’t see MacLeod aging. It’s not right. Lol

  2. I love Forever Knight! I grew up in Texas, and watched in the wee hours of the morning too!

  3. Still watching Highlander til this day and enjoying it just as much as when I was a teenager..I hope the new movie they're working on will make a reboot of the series possible.


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