Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Highlander: The Series 3x12 - They Also Serve

Today on Highlander: Duncan learns Kung-Fu. Whoa.

Today's SPOT THE WATCHER: The nefarious Rita Luce, a British lady.

A little less-vile: The episode begins with an insanely beautiful woman swimming. Unfortunately, this isn't the entire episode.

Why? Here's why: Bastardly immortal Michael Christian is creeping on her from a window. This guy is 100% the evil alternate universe version of Richie. He's super-young and new at Immortaling, he's impulsive, and he looks on creepily.

The woman in question is May-Ling Shen, a particularly tough immortal. She's intense.

While doing another swim, she senses a nearby immortal. He knew where she was before she knew where he was, like he had intel on her location.

We see that her sword is parked nearby, out of reach, and Christian is waiting for her to surface.

Good God, May-Ling Shen is beautiful. Unfortunately, she's also very dead.

Christian beheads her despite her request for a real fight. Well, the hell with this guy.

She was around for a while and noted for being quite dangerous, so no doubt she would have won if they'd actually fought given that Christian is a n00b.


We then learn that crooked watcher Rita is in a relationship with Christian and is helping him win fights by feeding him information on the schedules and habits of much-stronger immortals so that he can catch them during the rare times they have their guard down, like when they're swimming. What a couple of pieces of shit. Luckily this is Highlander so we can expect this guy to be dead within the episode. Rita on the other hand might get away with it. Not like watchers are subject to the rules or anything. Horton had to get capped by Joe and impaled by Duncan to face anything resembling justice.

He wants to kill Duncan and get his essence. Rita says it isn't time yet, they need to wait until Duncan is vulnerable so that Christian doesn't get turned into paste. He's like "But I wanna kill Duncan NOW" with his face.

Back at Joe's Bar, noted watcher Ian Bancroft (what a great name) is sitting down with Joe and some other watchers to play cards. This guy was May-Ling Shen's watcher, and he's trying to figure out how the hell she lost a fight to Christian. He's also acting like he isn't too broken up about it, and insists that they're supposed to be detached. JOE.

Joe can't believe someone got May-Ling.

Rita shows up all "lol I guess my guy was lucky" even though apparently this keeps happening.

One of these watchers looks suspiciously like Methos. I wonder if this was on purpose, since Methos himself is a watcher.

"Who's Methos?" you might ask if you've never seen this. More on him in the very near future.

They then sit around recounting tales while playing cards. This is a very weird episode because about 20% of the runtime consists of scenes from previous episodes that Joe is remembering. It's like they were trying to save on budget since S3's Paris episodes are starting soon. The same thing happened in S1 and S2 where the weakest, most budget-limited episodes were the ones right before the "Seacouver Finale" and the Paris episodes.

We get the Grayson fight IN ITS ENTIRETY. If you're going to replay any scene from earlier in the series, this is a good one. It's the Gokou/Vegeta fight of Highlander, one of the best fights in the series, and pretty much the exact model for the final fight of the movie Highlander: Endgame only a slight bit better due to following a better story.

All of that said, this episode is in dire need of more May-Ling Shen backstory that we don't get because we're doing flashbacks of other episodes to kill time.

Duncan FINALLY appears in this episode, as Joe stops by to tell him that May-Ling was killed. Duncan, it turns out, knew her going back a long time. It's interesting to note that when Duncan asks him who did it (out of curiosity as to who to worry about), Joe says it doesn't matter and Duncan doesn't press the issue. Duncan is not out for revenge, because this is a part of their life. It's a thing that happens. His day is pretty much over, though.

Joe hands over May-Ling's journal, which is full of things she drew/wrote over time. Duncan is the only friend of hers that Joe knows of.

Duncan starts reading it and we get...

...a flashback to Mongolia in the distant past. This was during Duncan's tour of Asia where he pretty much learned everything about fighting (and some respect).

The first person he meets is Communist Leader Josef Super Saiyan form! What a crossover!

Turns out this Mongolian village is home to a beefy wrestler who has been undefeated for five years. Duncan is new in town, and it's time for the local champion to get a real fight.


Duncan rushes in and immediately gets Samoan Dropped and crushed. That hurt to watch, and Adrian Paul does his own stunts.

Duncan wants to learn how to judo-slam people like that, and Stalin sends him to the far side of the village to learn from the local master.

The local master is May-Ling, who Duncan is shocked to discover is female. She's shocked to see another immortal out here in the middle of nowhere, and doesn't trust him.

They briefly spar and Duncan gets Rousey'd via hip toss. He grouses about being thrown around so much in one day.

They talk it up a bit more and she realizes he's just a harmless goofball who really does want to learn, so she stops thinking the worst about him.

We then get a way too brief montage of them training, as Duncan learns Kung-Fu. He's got two left feet and two left hands, so May-Ling can easily knock him off balance.

We get a flashback to him training in the Samurai episode, and again they play THE ENTIRE SCENE as he gets thrown around a lot. I don't know why we're getting this scene instead of more of him training with May-Ling, because they definitely filmed a lot more of said training (since you see bits of it in later montages).

Duncan talks about how Hideo had to commit seppuku to answer for his "crime" of letting Duncan live there. That particular event taught him a lot and is something he can't move on from very easily.

And then we see the entire seppuku scene play out, plus the entire scene of Duncan begging Hideo to find another way.


In the present, Duncan leans on a window and looks like he's going to be sick.

Meanwhile, Christian is mad because he STILL hasn't killed Duncan yet and they've been here in Seacouver for like a week. He thinks he can just go deal with that fight on the up-and-up, because he's honorable really stupid.

Elsewhere, Duncan visits Joe. Also present is Ian, who does not approve of these two being friends. Look at how detached he is about May-Ling! HE'S A MODEL WATCHER DAMMIT!

Joe lets him have it.

We get more of the training, as Duncan is getting better at blocking and parrying.

They're starting to like each other, and Duncan gets too relaxed.


It's okay, he can't have kids anyway.

After she walks off, he doubles over and makes lots of faces for the blooper reels.

They have a Chrono Trigger campfire gathering and bond more. This scene feels heavily-truncated, like a lot of it was edited out. I don't understand this episode. I hope that all of the missing May-Ling Shen footage gets used somewhere else. I know there's a shot of them kissing by the fire that you can see in the show's intro from here on out. You don't see that here though, as the scene cuts away in the middle of their conversation. ...I don't understand this episode.

Ian visits Rita and tells her that her relationship with Christian is inappropriate and that he thinks she's helping him ambush other immortals.

As he's leaving, Rita decides to run him over with a car. I don't usually think that women are punchable, but I have no problem saying that this is a highly-punchable woman.

She absolutely runs this guy over. I don't know how they filmed this. He got flipped headfirst into the windshield, went upside-down, and fell face-first onto the street.

I mean Jesus Christ, how is this guy not dead?

...well, Ian IS dead, but I feel like I just watched an actual murder.

After getting the news that Ian was the victim of a random hit-and-run, Joe visits Duncan. Joe thinks maybe Ian is right about it being a bad idea for watchers and immortals to be friends.

They go back and forth about it in this great elevator shot, and Duncan admits that Joe is a trusted friend. It's taken many episodes for him to say something like that to Joe after Joe's mistakes in earlier seasons.

Joe doesn't take this lightly.

Richie shows up for the first time all season and he's got NBA tickets, presumably to see the Seattle Super-Sonic-ka. Joe is depressed and not having this, so he takes off.

"Here comes...Hanukkah? ...Joe? What's his problem?"

Duncan needs some time to think, so he gives Richie his sword. He's going up into the mountains to meditate and read May-Ling's journal, which is probably his way of getting to know her better now that she's gone.

I don't know why he thinks this is a good idea. The last time he went out into the mountains unarmed, we got Mountain Men.

Rita finds out that Duncan went into the wilderness without his sword, and lets Christian know that the -time- is at -hand-.

Duncan paddles through a stream and has some peace and quiet. The more I think about it, the more I realize this is what the whole series is about. Duncan isn't some sort of righteous crusader against evil who hunts down other immortals. He's just a guy trying to quietly exist, and people keep coming along and messing with him.

Joe plays the blues. Much like Adrian Paul does his own stunts, this guy plays all of his musical interludes legit.

The scene cuts between Joe's blues and Duncan's meditations with his now-gone friend.

This fades into a shot of him and May-Ling in a "blink and you'll miss it" moment. This episode really feels like it's missing a huge chunk of story between these two that was edited out to make room for... time-filler scenes from other episodes. I hope we see more of her and these scenes in later episodes.

Back at the ranch, Joe finds out that Rita sent Christian after Duncan, and everyone finally figures out that she's been giving him info to help him rack up all of these unlikely wins. Joe calls Richie and tells him to get Duncan's katana out to him ASAP.

Duncan is wrapping up his pilgrimage when he senses something, which is most peculiar and unexpected.

Evil Richie appears with a grand entrance. This guy is such a poser, and expects Duncan to know who he is.

Weapon-less Duncan is still a force to deal with, and launches his backpack at Christian like a missile.

Christian chases him up onto a nearby dam, though he gets too close and Duncan is able to knock his sword away.

This leaves them to fight with Kung-Fu. Christian now knows it as well, which is one of the rare instances of Highlander showing an immortal actually using the power/knowledge they got from another one. Duncan's twisted-up stance here might look uncomfortable and vulnerable, but it's actually a super-useful stance that one can spring out of with all kinds of moves.

This fight is actually quite good, and it's cool that it all ties together so neatly. Duncan has to use what he learned from May-Ling to fight without a weapon against the guy who killed May-Ling. We also know who to thank for the numerous times he breaks out the Kung-Fu throughout this series, too. Except the staff-fighting. Have we seen who he learned staff-fighting from yet?

They end up both tumbling off of the waterfall. Christian isn't actually as weak as he was said to be at the beginning, and would have no doubt suddenly become the noteworthy and badass immortal he wanted to be if he were able to get Duncan's power.

Richie arrives and sees a quickening happening in the forest. HE'S TOO LATE.

He wields the katana and gets ready to fight Christian, if necessary. This is honestly how I thought the series was going to end up when I was a kid. I thought eventually someone would whack Duncan and then Richie would be the main character for the last season or two. He'd inherit Duncan's sword and we'd see him dealing with things the way Duncan taught him to, as Highlander has always been about students and teachers. Eventually he could take on and defeat whoever it was that defeated Duncan.

I was definitely rooting for that to happen if Adrian Paul left the show, which he basically did after S5. It's an alternate season 6 and 7 that I'd have certainly watched. Alas, I was way off the mark.

Duncan emerges from the brush, and it turns out that he got to Christian's dropped sword first. Duncan is thrilled to have his sword back. That episode did a good job making a n00b immortal into a legit threat to Duncan.

Duncan returns in one piece, and Rita walks away crying. They just sorta let her leave. Safe to say she's expelled from the organization though.

Duncan gives May-Ling's journal back to Joe for the archives and thanks him for letting him see it first, and they affirm their friendship for the first time in ages. The dynamics of this particular pair are a key element of this program and are responsible for a lot of its emotional resonance. Joe isn't a superhero, or one of them, but he tries hard to be on the right side of things and look out for people.

Interesting note about this guy: We see that his first teacher is a Lawrence Gaspar, which is also the name of the immortal Rita watched before him. I wonder what the story is there. All we hear about Lawrence in the episode is that she got too close to him as well. Did she move on to Christian and help him kill Gaspar, or did someone else whack Gaspar which caused her to move on to his student in grief? I'm guessing the answers are found with all of the unused footage of Duncan and May-Ling's relationship and training. This episode feels incomplete as hell and still somehow manages to be decent. For Season 3 it's a low ebb though. It could have been a tremendous two-parter with more blanks filled-in and less redundant footage.

1 comment:

  1. Do... the Watchers ever help? They seem to be an organization full of corruption. There's like... Joe... and everyone else.

    Yeah, we're all waiting for THAT Watcher. Mi casa su casa.


    Well, her bio says Rita died the same year this took place, so something happened.