Season 3 of Highlander may be my favorite, but Season 4 is possibly the best, thanks to some spectacular emotionally charged episodes. The pilot episode sent MacLeod to Glenfinnan, where we learned more details about his pre-Immortal life, and the following episode killed off Charlie deSalvo and fractured the MacLeod/Dawson relationship for a while. Methos made a surprise comeback with a less benign and much more sardonic personality, and Amanda got some chances to show true depth of character. We also got to see a Dark Quickening, when an Immortal who takes too many evil Immortal heads overloads and becomes evil himself. (This was hinted at in "Band of Brothers," so it's not completely pulled out of nowhere.) There were also some minor subplots here and there that I'd have liked to have seen more of - MacLeod becoming a guest lecturer at a university, MacLeod and Richie working on refurbishing a house over a series of episodes (later revealed to be for his ex, Anne Lindsay, and her just-born daughter), and the character of Rachel MacLeod (Kristin Minter), who only appeared a couple of times on the show.
"Homeland" - MacLeod returns to Glenfinnan to return a bracelet he'd once given to the woman he loved before he became Immortal, stolen from her grave. Unfortunately, Glenfinnan's not very welcoming these days, thanks to an epidemic of grave-robbing and a mysterious string of murders. The man responsible is Kanwulf (Carsten Norgaard), an Immortal Viking who killed MacLeod's adopted father during a raid. Adrian Paul makes his directing debut on Highlander with this episode, and he does a pretty good job.
"Reunion" - Kenny's back in town, and still as much of a little monster as ever. Unfortunately for MacLeod, Amanda has a soft spot for Kenny, especially since it turns out she's the one who trained him after his family was murdered. Kenny, however, is still after the Highlander's head, and not even his affection for Amanda will stop him. One of Amanda's crowning moments of awesome in the show, and Elizabeth Gracen once again shows how well she can play drama as well as comedy.
"Timeless" - One of MacLeod's proteges, famed concert pianist Claudia Jardine (Rae Dawn Chong), is unknowingly a pre-Immortal. Walter Graham (Ron Halder) wants to kill Claudia, triggering her Immortality, so that her talent will live forever along with her, but MacLeod is not about to let Graham play God with Claudia's life. Meanwhile, Methos is smitten with Alexa Bond (Ocean Hellman), a waitress at Joe's bar with a terminal disease. Both of these plot lines are good ones, and the Methos/Alexa romance will be important later on in the season. Also, the flashback of MacLeod playing Katherine (very badly) in a production of The Taming of the Shrew is hilarious.
Once again, Highlander was in top form during Season 5, which brought us some of the most iconic episodes of the series. Richie Ryan completed his transformation from protege to younger brother to MacLeod, making some serious mistakes along the way that didn't have any easy answers. Secrets from Methos's enigmatic past were revealed that genuinely shocked the characters and audiences alike. It was also around this time that the writers began exploring the idea that maybe there was some higher purpose to Immortals beyond the Game, and to Duncan MacLeod himself. As a result, more supernatural-themed stories began appearing involving prophecies, magical abilities, and the emergence of an ancient evil. (Some in the cast and crew have attributed this to the influence and success of The X-Files.) There were also some early attempts at putting together a spinoff series to expand the franchise even further.
"The End of Innocence" - Disillusioned after almost losing his head to MacLeod during "Something Wicked," Richie's back in town with a jaded new attitude and an impressive resume of heads taken. When he picks a fight with Carter Wellan and kills him, Wellan's old friend Haresh Clay (Real Andrews) comes looking for payback. MacLeod has a grudge of his own against Clay, and he and Richie find themselves competing to find Clay in time. Richie's darker character development, the continued fallout from the Season 4 ending, and McAsh's diversity as a fight choreographer are only a few of the reasons I've rewatched this episode more than some of the others.
"Dramatic License" - Carolyn Marsh (Sandra Bernhard), a romance novelist, has a new best-seller, featuring MacLeod as the hero - and her Immortal ex-husband Terrence Coventry (Alastair Duncan) as the villain. Throw in a jealous Amanda, and that's three Immortals Marsh has pissed at her, and at least two of them want something very bad to happen to her. If you think about the setup too hard, it's a bit of an eye-roller, but the comedy is great, and the cast gets to ham it up like nobody's business. Fun fact - Alastair Duncan had been a serious contender for the lead role in Highlander: the Series back when it was going to be about Connor MacLeod.
"The Messenger" - A mysterious Immortal claiming to be Methos (Ron Perlman) is going around trying to persuade Immortals to lay down their swords and end the fighting, and Richie is drawn to his message. The real Methos is more than happy to let the impostor make himself a target, but MacLeod suspects shenanigans and wants to know more about the other Methos. X-Files fans may recognize Robert Wisden, who plays the evil William Everett Culbraith, from the episode "Pusher," although his character in this episode is a bit more of a tragic villain.
"Comes a Horseman" and "Revelations 6:8." - This two-part story is considered by many to be the best and most popular of the series, and it's hard to argue with that. We get a great villain, Kronos (Valentine Pelka), who was part of a quartet of Bronze Age Immortals who slaughtered thousands in a series of raids throughout the Bronze Age, inspiring the Biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - and Methos was one of them. Now Kronos is back looking for Methos, who reveals that the other two Horsemen are also still alive. Now reunited, Kronos plans a new campaign of mass death and destruction, and Methos's loyalties seem to be with his old friends. The latter episode was the 100th episode, and directed by Adrian Paul. Valentine Pelka and Peter Wingfield would also co-star in the short-lived Queen of Swords (2000).
"The Modern Prometheus" - Famed poet Lord Byron (Jonathan Firth) is revealed to have been an Immortal, and is currently a burned-out rock musician. His antics get people killed and threaten to do the same with one of Dawson's young band-mates. Methos has a history with Byron and tries to get him to change, but it's up to MacLeod to put him down when lines are crossed. Kind of a weird episode, showing Mary Shelley being inspired to write Frankenstein after witnessing a Quickening. Still, it's cool to see a Methos flashback, the cinematography is amazing, and Firth's performance is one of the more memorable ones from among the one-shot villains. Adrian Paul directed this episode, which may explain why MacLeod takes a back seat in this one. Also, fight choreographer F. Braun McAsh has a small role in this one as a rival Immortal out for Byron's head.
This is the least fondly remembered season of the series, and it's the only one I don't own on DVD. Originally, the series was supposed to do a ten-year time jump after the events of the Season 5 climax,. Ahriman now dominated the world and all was in chaos. (WHAT THE **** IS WITH THE HIGHLANDER FRANCHISE AND DYSTOPIAN FUTURES?!) However, not only did they not have the budget for this, but said budget had been slashed so severely (like MacLeod's hair), this ended up as a half season. You can tell the writing is on the wall from the beginning. The writing's not as good, and while some of MacLeod's lack of zest could be interpreted as weariness from everything he's been through these past few years, it's possible Adrian Paul's heart just wasn't in it anymore. There were a few episodes where he only had a supporting role, and two where he didn't appear at all. There seems to have been more interest in creating a spinoff series than going on with this one, and several episodes were intended to introduce new characters that had breakout potential in their new shows. None of them did, and we ended up with Amanda getting her own show called Highlander: The Raven, which I haven't seen.
Standout episodes of Season 6:
"Avatar" and "Armageddon" - After spending a year in seclusion following Richie's death, Duncan MacLeod takes up his sword, shortens his hair, and sets off to defeat Ahriman - if he can. Ahriman, however, is still gunning for MacLeod, tempting Dawson with the return of his legs (a beautiful scene) and killing Watchers just to get to them. In the end, it turns out MacLeod must defeat Ahriman by resisting the urge to fight him. If that sounds familiar, it's the same thing MacLeod had to do in the horrendously bad movie sequel Highlander: the Source, not killing the Guardian when he has the chance, passing the test of the Source. So not only did Highlander: the Source obliterate everything fans knew and loved about the series, it also ripped off these episodes and forced MacLeod to pass a test that HE ALREADY ****ING PASSED!!!
"Indiscretions" - When Joe's long-lost Watcher daughter (eye-roll) is abducted by Immortal Morgan Walker, Walker's old enemy Methos teams up with Dawson to ride to the rescue. Another MacLeod-less episode, but the Methos and Dawson scenes are quite strong. This episode gives us one of my favorite Methos lines: "Just because I don't like to fight doesn't mean that I can't."
Due to a recent change in circumstances - a good change, not to worry - the INCspotlight's schedule is going to be a lot more sporadic from here on out. I have new time commitments these days, and I doubt I'll be able to maintain the weekly schedule I've been able to pull off these past two years and 99 reviews. I'll still be writing and posting reviews - I love writing this blog, and there's still tons of movies, comics, and other stuff I want to get around to - but I don't know what the gap will be between them from here on out. Maybe I'll be able to resume weekly reviews at some point, but honestly, it seems unlikely at least for the short term.
In the meantime, I want to thank all of my readers and Twitter followers, and I hope my blog has encouraged you to check out at least a couple of the works I've reviewed. Last but not least, I want to thank my family and friends for their support and encouragement, and my Trusty Research Assistant for all his meticulous fact-checking.