Saturday, January 1, 2022

Highlander 4x01 - Homeland

My God. It's finally back.


 

The homeland of both Duncan and Connor Macleod is the site of our latest episode. How do you follow something like Finale? This is how. One of the better episodes for sure (some would say the best of the season), and directed by Adrian Paul himself for some added oomph.

In the dead of night, grave-robbers are rummaging around in the graves of Celtic-era warriors. They were sent here by...

AH! JESUS! ...this guy, who looks like Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed. I should cover that movie. ...or maybe I shouldn't.

They haven't found what he hired them to find, so he threatens them with beatings, which results in them threatening to tell everyone in the village that he's behind the recent rash of grave-robbings. Of course, he then MURDERS THEM.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch! Fun Fact: This is the only Highlander season to start in Paris... Besides Season 6 which is entirely in Paris.

Kalas has just been defeated and Duncan is pretty much an unstoppable force of nature now. Don't expect him to have much competition in this season, because he doesn't. Over this show so far he's gone from "above-average immortal related to Connor" to "top 5 in the world immortal who most other immortals are afraid of when they hear his name".

In no particular order the top 5 non-Duncan immortals at this point are probably: Connor, Kronos, Otavio Consone, Haresh Clay, Jacob Kell. None of those other guys are in this season, so...

He's hanging out at an art gallery with this stuffy British guy. I'm not sure if they're friends or not because Duncan keeps bidding the guy up on art pieces, then bailing once the bids are high. "Dick move, broseph" says the stuffy British art-collector.

The fun stops when the next item up for auction is this bracelet.

Duncan gets super-serious at the sight of it and immediately throws down a bid, to which the British guy starts up-bidding him. TIT FOR TAT, SIR.

The British guy goes way further with the joke. Duncan only bid him up to 30k before, while here he bids Duncan up to the mid-50's before Duncan stops the madness by laying down 100k for it. Is that in USD or Euros? Because if it's Euros, ouch. Ouch either way, but he doesn't care. (Yeah, I realize Euros weren't a thing yet in 1996 and it would have been Francs).

The auction proprietor has very little information on how they got it, except that it was sold to them by someone in Glenfinnan, Scotland. Duncan gave it to someone as a gift long ago, and it was buried with them, so this can't be right.

Our hero now heads to Scotland to get to the bottom of this. ...and walks the entire way, from the looks of things. Maybe he flew to Glasgow and walked from there. I can attest from experience that it isn't easy getting a flight to anywhere else in Scotland.

I strive for geographical authenticity on here, so I looked into this hypothetical. It's a 35 hour walk once you get off the plane. Which...actually isn't terrible if you stay at an inn or two midway. The Camino religious walk in Spain is a lot longer. It does require a ferry trip from Rowardennan to Tarbet, and a lot of it crosses through a national park. It might be worth a try for a group of Highlander super-fans.


He's still walking. My God, he IS going to walk the entire way! Better than trying to drive there, with the way all of these nutcases in the UK drive on the wrong side of the road.

(Yeah, I know, Adrian Paul is British.)

We get the castle-flyover shot while Bonny Portmore plays. Highlander: The Series really needs more stuff like this, and I think this particular episode was where it really kind of joined hands in matrimony with the original movie.

I'm a little concerned about how tightly-bundled the katana is there. It looks like it'd be pretty tough to unravel it in an emergency. Luckily, Scotland's highlands aren't exactly bustling population-wise and the odds of running into a bad guy out here are minimal...under normal circumstances.

Duncan visits the graves of his parents and talks about how good it is to be home, when...

...he gets accosted by a SASSY FEMALE REPORTER Sassy Female. Her name is Rachel Macleod and she doesn't take too kindly to people snooping around graves... and this is the Macleod family plot. You see, someone has been grave-robbing.

Duncan finds out they're both Macleods and tries to shake her hand. Nope, not happening, she doesn't believe him. Apparently the last outsider to show up here said the same thing before they robbed stuff. Get outta here, grave robbin' scoundrel!

Duncan is bummed about the cold welcome and wanders off. I know the feeling, the day after I got back from Chicago I got screamed at by some random woman.

Duncan heads into town. People here greet each other when just walking by, something I definitely noticed in Dublin, Ireland. They're like 10x more friendly than Americans, who are generally afraid you'll either kill them or breathe virus on them.

Here's the inn. "I just walked for 35 hours...heeelp meee" says our hero. The random people over here greet him too. They really nailed the experience of walking around in Scotland or Ireland here. Going for a walk puts you in a good mood because random people actually treat you like a person.

The inn is run by the Sassy Woman, who proceeds to mockingly call him "The Clansman". ....lol. He rents a room. I feel like this is going to lead to shagging. They're only...20th cousins or so, which at that point we're basically all 20th cousins.

It makes sense that she doesn't believe him, since he doesn't have any Scottish accent at all at this point. She was in school in the U.S. for ten years and mentions her Scottish accent being bad for that reason, but it's still a hell of a lot more Scottish than his.

Joe Dawson shows up, and he's renting the room next to Duncan's. So no shagging, unless we want Joe to hear all of it while he cups a listening device against the wall and takes notes.

Duncan proceeds to be a dick again and calls out Joe for following him around and says this doesn't concern him. Yeah yeah.

Flashback time, as we go back to 1618. We don't see this era very often, and it's before Duncan even died the first time. We saw that flashback happen as well, with some of the same people in it, but I can't for the life of me remember which episode it was.

Here's Debra Campbell, of the...Clan Campbell, I assume. She's Duncan's girlfriend. He's 35 and not married yet? What kind of Scot is he?

...damn, I'm finally older than he is here.

They want to get married, but THEY CANNAE. Because she's been scheduled to marry his cousin Robert Macleod, thus joining the two clans. I mean, her marrying Duncan would also unite the two clans, but whatever, the chief has spoken.

Duncan gives her the bracelet seen earlier. It's something he had made for her as a sort of parting gift, because he can't see her anymore.

Robert Macleod is pissed that she's wearing a present from Duncan, and demands that she return it! She will lay with him and only him! To which she informs him that when they lay, she'll be thinking of Duncan. This sends him off the deep end.

A girl once admitted to me that while we were laying, she may have thought of Brad Pitt several times. I admire her honesty, and think that's hilarious.

Duncan shows up to give Robert the what-for. There isn't much comparison between these two. I mean, come on. The chief should want somebody who doesn't look like a red haystack to represent the clan in this union, right?

He accuses Duncan of turning her against him, and other nonsense. This isn't the first time Duncan was involved with someone who was arranged to marry somebody else, or the last. This time the other guy is a relative, though.

"You'll not make me a cuckold!" he says, even though Duncan already said he was leaving town precisely to avoid anything like that happening.

Guy's got a real bee in his bonnet.

"I've no bee in me bonnet! YOU have the bee in your bonnet!"

The battle is joined! Duncan doesn't want to fight, but he doesn't have much choice, and Robert straight-up tries to murder him.

Eventually Duncan gets a lucky hit and that's the end of that.

Debra is horrified by all of this, as she gets dragged away.

Duncan's extremely Ned Stark esque father looks on dispassionately at all of this and basically shrugs. It is what it is, this family-on-family violence. Let's go eat.

That brings us back to the present, with Duncan looking at the Macleod Family Claymore at the pub. He explains to Joe that he was supposed to get it, but never did, due to being banished after he woke from being dead the first time.

Rachel is hostile to suspicious foreign weirdo Duncan some more while Joe looks on and shakes his head. Welp.

That night, the nefarious villain who is actually behind everything sacrifices the one remaining grave robber to Odin. That's right, he kept one around for sacrificing, then sliced him in half.

Back at the inn, Bernie Sanders runs in to tell everyone that there's been a second murder. Presumably this town typically has zero murders ever, so this is a big deal. Naturally, people think it's some tourist or outsider, since that'd make the most sense. However, Bernie here thinks maybe it's the return of Kanwulf the Viking, this immortal who terrorized the town for 300 years on and off. Legend said eventually a Macleod would stop Kanwulf, but he kept coming back. He sacrificed his victims in a similar way.

Joe is confused by all this Kanwulf the Viking business. Rachel thinks it's all hooey because she knows the real robber/murderer? is DUNCAN. ...who she's letting stay at the inn. I hope she knows how to use that claymore.

She goes to meet with the town priest...and it's the bad guy. She explains that someone in town isn't who they say they are, and is responsible for the troubles lately.

This scene is actually kind of tremendous in its subtlety. He completely changes demeanor when she says something is amiss, and quietly shuts the door to the room. The implication is that he isn't sure if she has him figured out, i.e. he's ready to murder her right then if he needs to.

She tells him about this guy claiming to be a "Duncan Macleod" and he turns away briefly at the mention, probably to hide whatever his actual reaction is, then relaxes and tells her there's good in everyone and not to worry about it too much. He even gives her a pinch on the cheek. "What a silly woman!" said Eddie Murphy in the background.

After she leaves, he droops a bit, because he realizes what he's dealing with. That's right, you better stay on that holy ground, Kanwulf.

Pretty solid shot here of Joe on the shore looking at the castle across the way.

Duncan hopes those aren't Joe's best shoes, because he trudged out here in the mud. Man, everyone is so unnecessarily hostile in this episode. It's like watching some modern shows.

He's staying here until he finds Debra's grave and returns the bracelet to it...that's it. He doesn't even need to murder the people who stole it to begin with, just return it. They're getting off easy. Little does he know, they're already dead by the hands of the town priest, the worst priest since Bishop Stone.

Flashback. Duncan is beside himself at killing a kinsman who he grew up with, and Debra tells him it isn't his fault. They'll name their firstborn after Robert. It isn't enough for Duncan, though, he has to leave and deal with his shame.

She ends up on this cliff, and threatens to throw herself off if Duncan doesn't marry her.

Duncan finally gives in, because he can live with Robert's ghost but not hers.

She comes around on the whole thing, but she's already standing too close to the edge and the ground gives way on her.

So basically, because the village thought it was a suicide (even though it really wasn't), she was buried on unconsecrated ground outside the village. Between that and everything being different now, finding the grave has turned out to be a difficult quest. After this much-needed bonding moment between these guys...

...Duncan heads off to continue looking.

...........just realized "heads off" is a poor choice of words here

We get another Bonny Portmore sequence, this time with Duncan horseback riding around. At least he isn't hoofing it now.

..."hoofing it" is probably a poor choice of words here, again. Sorry, horse.

Eventually, he makes a miraculous discovery.

This is it, the resting place of Debra. He re-buries the bracelet in the dirt, so his mission here is finally done.

Rachel saw this, since she's been following him around. I thought she also saw that he was returning the bracelet, but it turns out all she saw was him rummaging around like a raccoon.

Looks like Duncan's job here isn't done after all, as Joe tells him about the bodies that keep turning up. Joe brings up the legend of Kanwulf the Viking terrorizing the village once, and of course, Duncan knows who he's talking about and that he was real.

The police then show up and Rachel sics them on Duncan the grave-robber. When they find his katana, they realize that they may have also found the MURDERER. They can't do anything to him off a mere suspicion, though, and send the sword off to be tested for evidence.

However, to be fair, this is Scotland in 1996. I'm not even sure if they have DNA testing yet. Testing might just be stabbing it into the ground and seeing if a crow lands on the hilt, or pouring virgin blood on it to see if any smoke appears.

Elsewhere, Rachel meets with Kanwulf and tells him the entire crooked story. At the same time, the police dig at Debra's grave to see what's in there, in an effort to figure out what Duncan might have stolen.

But wait! The first thing they find in the dirt is the bracelet, and Rachel finally realizes that he was here to return it the entire time. A lot of trouble could have been saved if he'd just told her that, but he would have also had to tell her a lot of other details that are...strictly need-to-know.

Not sure why Kanwulf was here for all of this, looking on creepily and not much else.

Another flashback. After Duncan is kicked out of his village for being an undead monster, he returns to find the place in turmoil. The chief (his father) has been killed, and the Macleods lost a battle against a bunch of marauders. It's revealed that the marauders are led by this Kanwulf the Viking guy.

Duncan visits his father, who is gone at this point, and at least his mother still has faith in him.

She gives him the Macleod Claymore that his father denied him, and he sets out to find Kanwulf and get revenge.

Along the way he finds various victims.

When he reaches the marauder camp, they all run away from him instead of fighting, because he's a cursed ghost now and nobody wants to be near him.

It's then that he senses The Buzz for the first time. Yeah, the first time ever. He hadn't met Connor yet and had no idea what the buzz was at this point.

Kanwulf knows what the buzz is, however. He's been around for centuries. He hefts his Viking axe, and...

...THE BATTLE IS JOINED!

Kanwulf has all of the advantages in this fight since Duncan doesn't even know how to kill him, and pretty much has his way with Duncan. That said, it's closer than it should be at this point, and Kanwulf really isn't that impressive. Though it's worth noting that his wooden axe is surprisingly resilient and good at blocking sword slashes.

Duncan "wins" when he stumbles with his sword out and Kanwulf accidentally falls on it.

Having "defeated" Kanwulf, he returns the Claymore to the village and moves on, not really thinking about this guy again. Keep in mind that it was like another 20 years before he even ran into Connor and learned all of this stuff.

Oh, he did one other thing: He buried Kanwulf's axe. In case Valhalla is real, he didn't want Kanwulf to be armed when he walked into it.

Rachel goes back to apologize to Duncan. He accepts. But wait! The village priest wants to see him.

The now katana-less (thanks, Scotland PD) Duncan arrives at the church and instantly senses someone.

Kanwulf tells the story of how he tracked down the new priest who was on his way to the town. Nobody had met the priest yet, so it was incredibly easy to kill him and take his place. Since he arrived, he's been trying to search the historical records to try and find out where his axe is buried. Yeah, all of this over an axe. He's also playing the role of priest even though he finds it kind of gross. And now, what luck, the guy who buried the axe just falls into his lap.

The showdown is imminent. Duncan knows where the axe is, and Kanwulf is going to have to leave the church to come get it. That's one way to lure him out.

Joe has a weird flip-out here and thinks Duncan should just give the guy his axe and move on. "Does this always have to end in a fight to the death?"

Well, yeah. I mean, no, and it'd be interesting if it didn't more often. However, in this case, THE GUY KILLED HIS DAD, JOE.

Duncan goes back to the inn and claims the Claymore. It's a fitting weapon for this fight, plus he's unarmed otherwise. Rachel catches him in the act, and surprisingly doesn't spaz out.

She's also wearing fetching nightwear, so one might think hanky-panky is imminent. Nope. She knows he'll probably bring the sword back and lets it go. You can tell she's really wondering right now if he's somehow the Legendary Duncan Macleod from folklore after all.

Kanwulf arrives at the gravesite to get his axe. Turns out Duncan had it buried alongside his father.

So now Duncan literally is a graverobber. But we'll overlook that!

Kanwulf is overjoyed to finally have his axe back. He has a long history with it, and it was there with him at his first battle many centuries ago.

Duncan isn't going to let Kanwulf leave, though. Not sure what Kanwulf expected here. Turns out Duncan has rigged the area with kerosene, and sets a wall of fire that traps them in with each other.

That's right, this isn't a normal fight. It's an INFERNO MATCH.

Not the most difficult of Duncan's fights, despite the very good buildup it got. It's abundantly clear throughout that Kanwulf is trapped in there with Duncan rather than the other way around.

I continue to wonder how Kanwulf is able to block sword strikes with a wooden axe. It must be a hell of a wooden axe. I'm sure this is indeed possible if the wood is strong enough.

Oh wait, Duncan managed to break through it on his final swing, which also felled Kanwulf.

Been waiting a while to do this again.

THISH...

...ISSSSH THE QUICKENING!

The Macleod Claymore is so rad, but up-close a few things are jumping out. It's worth noting that it looks different from how it looked in the movies, and definitely not as good. That one had the name Macleod written on the hilt, for starters. Here's a comparison between the two:

Series Version

Movies Version

Not sure if this is on purpose and they're supposed to be two different weapons, or if they weren't able to get the original for this. They really should have just used the original. ...and weirdly enough, in my memory all these years, they DID use the original. So I'm quite surprised to watch this again and see otherwise. To be fair, I haven't watched this season since about 2005.

Duncan looks up, probably thinking about how he really has avenged his father this time. He also just absorbed a SUPER evil guy, hopefully that kind of thing doesn't ever have any consequences.

In the morning he returns to the inn and puts the sword back up. Rachel is waiting for him, and she's like super-thirsty for the guy at this point.

It's pretty clear he isn't into it and nothing is going to happen, so she gives him a peck on the cheek and bids him farewell.

Wait, a male character isn't a sex-crazed maniac and is actually able to turn a woman down in a thoughtful way? And she's totally understanding and kind in response? Yeah this definitely isn't a modern show. It's so weird to see people acting like adults.

He heads out into the rain-soaked landscape. Oh yeah, and he got his sword back from the police. They threw it into a lake and it didn't float, so he has been cleared of all suspicions.

He takes one last look back at Rachel and the inn. Yeah, what a great episode.

We get another nice vista with Duncan and Joe, and the storms seem to be clearing up a bit. This only happens for 4 days out of the year, so enjoy the blue sky while it lasts.

Duncan practices in front of the castle. That's right...the castle we've been seeing in the background throughout the episode finally came into play, and surprisingly, it wasn't the site of the final battle.

The scene pans away as Bonny Portmore plays again. This was a great episode, and it's good to see Bonny Portmore getting so much use after it debuted in Highlander III shortly before this season. (I don't recall it playing in the original movie, but I may be wrong)

A+ for this episode on all levels and S4 might actually be starting with its best episode, debatably.

"Kanwulf" would be a solid name for a rock band.

Also, stop raiding things all the time. Dick.


Other Highlander Posts

8 comments:

  1. Oh hey it's the bad guy from Mighty Ducks 2.

    "does this always have to end in a fight to the death?" ...Joe, you're a WATCHER, knowing these things is your job

    It didn't float lol

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