Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
"He is Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander. Born in 1592 in the Highlands of Scotland, and he is still alive. He is immortal. For four hundred years, he's been a warrior... a lover... a wanderer, constantly facing other Immortals in combat to the death. The winner takes his enemy's head, and with it, his power. I am a Watcher, part of a secret society of men and women who observe and record, but never interfere. We know the truth about Immortals. In the end, there can be only one. May it be Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander."
Highlander: The Series was the 1992-1997 series that was inspired by the popular Highlander film franchise. It starred British actor Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, the younger kinsman of the film's central character, Connor MacLeod. Initially, there was uncertainty as to whether the film character would be recast or a new character created; even Adrian Paul wasn't certain who he would be playing for a time. But the decision was made to develop a whole new character for the series.The central premise was a bit predictable at times; Duncan would encounter an old immortal enemy, or an immortal friend with someone after him, and the episode would end with Duncan battling his opponent and beheading them. Modern day scenes were interspersed with flashbacks from earlier periods in Duncan's life, usually his first encounter with the enemy of the week. The constant violence did draw criticism at times, and eventually, the networks required that a couple of episodes each season end without a beheading. Even these episodes, however, still usually featured a situation that Duncan could only escape because he was immortal, Unfortunately, these episodes tend to be the least popular of the whole series.There were some unavoidable Continuity Snarls between the films and the series, though many things were retconned to fit in with the series canon. Still, the series managed to be appealing to fans of the film franchise, and it gained a cult following that still exists today.The series was a French-Canadian co-production, which resulted in Duncan beginning each season in the fictional city of Seacouver, in the Pacific Northwest of North America, either the US or Canada. The name was actually Ascended Fanon, the city originally had no name and the Fan Nickname combining Seattle and Vancouver was eventually adopted. Midway through the season, something would prompt Duncan to travel to Paris, where he would spend the rest of the season. The exception to this was Season 6, which took place entirely in Paris.Initially, the core cast was Duncan, played by Adrian Paul; Duncan's longtime lover, Tessa Noel, played by Belgian actress Alexandra Vandernoot; and Richie Ryan, a streetwise teen befriended by Duncan after he attempted to break into Mac's antique shop, played by American actor Stan Kirsch. But Vandernoot didn't like the long commutes for the Canada half of the season, and chose to leave the series after season 1, when her father became ill. However, she did return for a two part plot as a Tessa lookalike Magic Plastic Surgery gambit intended to take Duncan out.The series' other two characters were introduced after Vandernoot's departure. Jim Byrnes played Joe Dawson, Duncan's friend and a member of the Watchers, a secret society dedicated to recording the lives of the immortals they studied. They were forbidden from contacting their subjects, but Joe and Duncan broke the rules and ultimately changed the group forever. Peter Wingfield played Methos, the 5,000 year old legendary immortal who was once "Death" of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and terrorized Bronze Age Europe. Another recurring character was Duncan's on and off lover Amanda Darieux, the 1,000yr old immortal Classy Cat-Burglar whom Duncan once described as a 'bad habit'.There was a large Internet Backdraft and fan backlash following the death of one of the characters at the end of season 5, and many fans choose to deny the sixth season even exists. It is agreed that the show suffered a big drop in episode quality in season 6, whose episodes were primarily an attempt to find a female character other than Amanda to use in a spinoff. Initially, the character of Alex Raven was to be used, leading to the spinoff being named Highlander: The Raven, but it was ultimately decided to use Amanda anyway.The series also featured in the fourth and fifth films, Highlander: Endgame and Highlander: The Source, neither of which was well received by fans.Has a character page.The entire show can viewed on Youtube here
Absurdly Sharp Blade: Not as bad as some examples, but still crops up on occasion. Duncan has cut cleanly through both another sword and a heavy wooden desk.
Action Girl: Amanda, she's a skilled thief and fighter and even has some years as a professional acrobat under belt. She's also all to quick to rush into danger if gets her what she wants.
Actually Not a Vampire: The episode "The Vampire" features what appears to be a string of vampire attacks in South London in 1840. The victims in Paris all have missing blood and piercing wounds on their neck. There's even a Van Helsing-type character hunting the vampire. He catches him too, only to be shocked when the vampire gets up from being staked. Turns out the vampire was an immortal faking vampire attacks so that he could kill his young bride and inherit her money. He drains the blood of his victims with a special hypodermic cane, which leaves bite marks.
The Ageless: A potential immortal has to die first in order to resurrect, and whatever age they were is the age they remain once they are immortal.
Anti-Hero: Methos has survived for millenia by not getting hung up on conventional morality. He is cold and ruthless in his dealings with enemies, but is fiercely protective of those he considers his friends.
Artistic License – History: Like the film, the series got the location of the MacLeod clan lands wrong, and also the chief living in the village with the clan. (Unless Ian was an underchief, which is possible). Also the snowy Waterloo, an unavoidable weather issue during filming.
The Atoner: Darius, who went from being a violent general to a priest when it took the head of a holy man and took on some of his goodness.
An Axe to Grind: Caleb packs one, and Duncan ends up using it against him in their duel
Ballistic Discount: An episode of the series did this with swords. An Immortal walked into an antiques shop that sold assorted bladed weaponry. He asked the proprietor to show him an authentic sword that could stand up to the stresses of combat. The Immortal tested and took a Toledo sword by stabbing the proprietor with it.
Barbarian Longhair: For the older flashbacks, though Duncan sported it in the modern day too, when it wasn't in a ponytail. He and Connor both had it during their clan days-and the Scots were often considered 'barbarians'/savages by people like the British. Methos and the other Horsemen also sported long hair during the Bronze Age scenes.
The Watcher Chronicles CD-Rom lists several other aliases Byron has used over the years. Among them is James Douglas Morrison.
Big Bad: The show usually didn't have these, usually opting instead for Arc Villains or Monsters of the Week, but there were two notable exceptions. Season 2 had James Horton, and Season 3 had Kalas, although only for a few episodes near the beginning and at the end of the season. Ahriman starts out as this in Season 5 and 6, but the threat is gone by the end of the second episode.
Bullying a Dragon / Mugging the Monster: A 1795 flashback features rookie immortal Jean-Phillipe de Lefaye III, barely 25-years-old, finishing basic training under Duncan and already certain that he can take any opponent. He has a chance meeting with another immortal and immediately challenges him to a duel. He mocks the apparent reluctance of his opponent to fight, his piety, how the man abstains from drinking and wenching. On the first day the other immortal, Damon Case, refuses the challenge. It is implied that he is returning from a battle to the death but Jean-Phillipe does not catch on. On the second day he challenges the man again and is eager for an easy victory. Case accepts the challenge and kills him with minimal effort. It is soon revealed that Case was a c. 700-year-old veteran of the The First Crusade and had a Warrior Monk mentality. All this time the rookie was taunting a much more experienced and deadlier opponent.
Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them: Duncan and Amanda have a centuries-long off/on relationship, with her usually showing up when she needs his help to steal something, and him eventually helping her while trying to reform her. They genuinely care for each other, but neither is willing to change.
Combat Pragmatist: Methos and a number of the bad guys. Xavier St. Cloud and Morgan D'Estaing were known to use nerve gas and curare to push the odds in their favor, with Xavier later sending gun-wielding mortals after targets. Peter Kanis used attack dogs to soften up his targets before moving in for the kill. Slan Quince had a projectile dagger built into the pommel of his sword. Johnny Kelly was a threat to MacLeod only because he preferred to use a sniper rifle than engage in a straight-up swordfight. Some, like Andrew Cord, did not have a gimmick and were simply damn impressive fighters who weren't limited by any particular rules or disciplines.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Adam Pierson is a mild-mannered Watcher researcher. He's actually Methos, the oldest living Immortal and formerly Death of the Four Horsemen from Bronze Age mythology. People who know this usually just see him lounging around drinking beer and avoiding fights.
Cultured Badass: Duncan. In spades! A lover of opera, a reader of poetry, a bit of a gourmand, a lover of fine art, a skilled dancer, a collector of fine antiques, and is qualified to teach history at the college level. He's also fought in Waterloo, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, is trained in who-knows-how-many martial arts, and has survived for 400 years by chopping the heads off of his enemies with a katana.
Justified - he's had plenty of time to develop all of these skills.
The Cynic: Methos, making him a foil for idealist Duncan.
Deadpan Snarker: Methos has probably forgotten more about this trope than most people have learned. I guess living for five millennia has a tendency to make one a trifle cynical. He mellows a bit the more time he spends with Duncan.
Early Installment Weirdness: The first half of Season One set in Seacouver has a few story elements that were later dropped such as the police investigating the beheaded Immortals and the reporter investigating Duncan. Also, episodes featuring Duncan dealing with mortal antagonists that were not The Watchers were gradually reduced after the first season and eliminated by the middle of the show's run.
Enfant Terrible: Supposedly ten-year-old Kenny, whose M.O. is convincing other Immortals of his helplessness, then taking their heads.
Duncan and Amanda have a very long-standing on-again-off-again relationship.
Exploited Immunity: One villain used a dark room to blind his opponents after he'd already let his eyes adjust. Duncan thwarted this by using a lit match to blind the guy long enough to take him out.
Faking the Dead: When an Immortal can't pass for the age on their ID anymore, it's time to stage an accidental house fire, or just forge a death certificate, and pick a new name and city in which to live.
Or a person might be killed and their killer will drop his guard, unaware that his victim is Immortal and will resurrect in a few minutes.
Fanservice: Duncan frequently went shirtless, and was naked in a bathtub at least once.
The Fog of Ages: Even before meeting him, Duncan has heard that Methos is five thousand years old. Methos tells him that he's actually older, possibly much older, but "before that, it all starts to blur".
Genre Savvy: You don't survive for centuries being hunted by decapitating lunatics, some with a penchant for dramatic flare, without noticing some recurring themes.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Although the series is never gory about it, the fact remains that in the vast majority of episodes, one or more characters ends up with his or her head being cut off by the hero. Despite this being a radical escalation from the usual "hero shoots the bad guy to death" level of violence usually seen in action TV shows, this didn't stop the series from being shown on Saturday mornings by some broadcasters.
Going for the Big Scoop: Randi, the relentless reporter chick in season one's first half. She was determined to learn Duncan's secret.
He Who Fights Monsters: Word of God states James Horton's hatred of Immortals and desire to Kill 'em All stems from that fact that he spent most of his career as Watcher to The Kurgan, of all people. The conflict between Horton's oath of non-interference and his devout Catholic beliefs eventually drove him to insanity.
Hollywood Silencer: Subverted to a surprising degree in "Bad Day in Building A" - the silenced weapons sound just as loud as they would without.
Holy Ground: One of the few rules of the Game is that Immortals can not fight on holy ground. What will happen if they violate this rule is left vague. In any case, it does lead to holy ground being one of the few places that they can go to get away from the Game.
Hotter and Sexier: The show never quite shied away from love scenes, but there was one in the DVD/VHS cut of Endgame that was borderline softcore porn.
Houseboat Hero: Duncan, who keeps a massive barge houseboat in Paris. On the Seine. With a view of Notre Dame de Paris!
I Am X, Son of Y: Duncan's "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod" is a variant of this.
I Have No Son: Ian MacLeod does this to Duncan in the 'Family Tree' flashback.
The Idealist: Duncan adheres to a very strict code of honor, which gets him into a lot of tough scrapes.
The Watchers. They take their responsibility to "observe and document, never interact" with a solemn, almost monk-like devotion. Some fall a little short.
Immortality Begins at Twenty: Averted. Immortals remain the same age as when their first death occurred, which can be from childhood to middle age.
Immortality Hurts: Quite a few times. Though Immortals recover from most injuries, any wound hurts just the same. There was an Immortal who got stranded on a desert island and repeatedly starved to death, one who got buried underwater, one was burned at the stake, one was hanged....
Immortal Immaturity: Averted. While some characters are less stuffy than others, when the chips are down, they are all hard-nosed survivors. Even an immortal kid is a manipulative bastard, using his seeming innocence to make people drop their guard.
Immortality Infertility: Immortals can't have children, period. In one episode Richie is told that he fathered a child before becoming Immortal, but both Duncan and Joe tell him that's not possible either.
Improvised Lightning Rod: The series uses the Eiffel Tower as one, with Duncan figuring out that he can kill his opponent and the Quickening will travel through the tower to fry the villain's computer before it releases the info on the immortals the villain was using to try to force Duncan to surrender.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Methos survives by not getting involved and only looking out for his own interests... most of the time.
Karma Houdini: Joan Jett's character in the season one episode "Freefall."
Katanas Are Just Better: Subverted. The katana is Duncan's weapon of choice, but it is never presented as inherently better than any other sword. Also, Duncan has used a wide variety of other swords, including claymore, an arming sword and a rapier/dagger combo.
Masquerade: The Watchers have two primary aims; to record the lives of the Immortals, and to make sure nobody finds out. The show actually slightly deconstructs the idea of a vast organisation devoted to upholding the Masquerade, since most Watchers treat it like any other job; they even have a pension plan and vacation time. In one episode it's revealed they don't know who killed a recently dead Immortal because his Watcher had taken time off for his sister's wedding when it happened.
Monster of the Week: Comes looking for trouble, or is threatening somebody else who comes to Duncan for help.
Mooks: The Hunters in TAS, green-armored goons who have numbers instead of names. They're apparently all descended from the inmates of a pre-war penal colony.
Murder the Hypotenuse: In the episode "The Samurai", immortal Michael Kent discovers that his mortal wife Midori Koto is cheating on him. He confronts her (mortal) lover Akira Yoshida and decapitates him, in the belief that this act would repair the marriage. It doesn't work, and the episode later points out that their love was one-sided to begin with: Michael loved her, Midori never loved him.
Never Recycle a Building: The characters always find a empty warehouse nearby when they need to fight. While this is usually plausible, there is at least one case when they manage to find one close to the Seine in the center of Paris, in an area where it would need TARDIS-like features to fit.
Old-School Chivalry: Duncan has hang-ups about taking the heads of women. He's done it (Nefertiri), but he doesn't like it. He wouldn't kill Kristen in 'Chivalry' and Methos stepped in, saying he was born long before the age of chivalry.
Ominous Latin Chanting: The ep with the immortal who believed they (the immortals) were fated by God to fight, even if the opponent was a newbie.
One Last Smoke: Played straight in the series when Hugh Fitzcairn is captured by the Hunters and as a last request he asks for "A last smoke of my pipe." Horton considers it for a moment before denying him, but the delay buys MacLeod the time he needs to make it there and rescue Fitz.
Only One Name: In the TV series, the majority of Immortals that Duncan enounters go by one name.
"Rashomon"-Style: The episode "Through a Glass Darkly" features two completely different flashbacks of the same meeting, revealing how two immortals with different perspectives had entirely different recollections of events. In 1785, Duncan and Warren Cochrane, both veterans of the Jacobite risings, arrange to meet Bonnie Prince Charlie in Normandy. Their purpose is to ascertain whether he is willing and able to lead a new uprising. Centuries later, Warren remembers the aging Charlie as a dignified leader who turned down their offer, because he noticed that even his most devoted followers doubted their chances at victory. Throughout the episode, he romanticizes Charlie to a considerable degree. A disillusioned Duncan instead remembers Charlie as a broken man and an alcoholic.
Real Life Writes the Plot: The death of Werner Stocker who played Darius towards the end of the first season forced the writing staff to scramble to re-write the series finale without him. This lead directly to the creation of the "Watchers" and "Hunters" organisations that would change the direction of the series and feature heavily in future seasons.
The writers had already planned to kill off Darius in the season finale. The problem was they were planning on shooting scenes of him for the episode. Due to Stocker's death, the scene showing Darius alive was reused footage from a previous episode.
Really Dead Montage: Multiple times, run over either "Dust in the Wind" or "Who Wants to Live Forever".
Red Pill, Blue Pill: A flashback in the episode "Brothers in Arms" shows that Joe was given this choice in Vietnam by a Watcher, after his first encounter with an Immortal.
Resurrective Immortality: Any normally fatal injury will cause an immortal to die and resurrect completely healed. Drowning, gunshot, hanging, burning, explosion, jump out a window: all minor inconveniences.
Becomes a bit more inconvenient in the cases of drowning, hanging, starving, etc. In situations like the former two, the immortal may stay deceased until rescued/removed from the circumstances; in the latter, they will constantly resurrect and starve again in an inescapable cycle.
Retcon: A minor one, but in Season 1 Duncan runs into Immortal Xavier St. Cloud, whom he supposedly met a few decades prior in what looked like World War 1. The season 3 finale showed a flashback to a MUCH earlier time shortly after Duncan became an Immortal and he runs into Xavier...for the first time. One could argue there was such a long time between their run-ins the pair could have forgotten one another, but considering Immortals seem to remember each other over insane time spans this trope comes into play.
The producers liked working with Roland Gift hence why St. Cloud is the first evil Immortal to become a recurring villain. And then when the character was finally killed off, the producers brought him back in flashbacks. Roger Daltrey's Hugh Fitzcairn making multiple appearances after being killed off was a similar situation.
Retired Monster: Methos. Although the trope is played with as he does regret at least some of his actions, and by the end of the "Four Horsemen" arc, Duncan suspects that Methos manipulated the situation to kill off the rest of the Horsemen. Methos refuses to explicitly confirm or deny this, although he hints that he couldn't kill Kronos by himself. (As he is both physically and psychologically incapable.)
Shout-Out: Geraint Wyn Davies guest starred in 'Turnabout' in season 2, during the time he was starring in Forever Knight. His character on Highlander had a girlfriend named Jeanette, just like his character on the other series, though hers was spelled 'Janette'.
TAS has one episode featuring a rogue Hunter who was trying to carve out his own empire and wanted to take an ancient library as his palace and burn all the books. His name? Hunter #451.
Shrouded in Myth: Methos, the eldest living Immortal. Some of the myths are helped along by Methos to keep people off his trail.
Spider-Sense: Immortals can sense when another Immortal is near. This prevents ambushes, but some villains find ways around it.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: For some of the characters, anyway. Not to be confused with one of the Queen songs from the film, though it is used when Duncan scatters Darius' ashes in the River Seine, and when Duncan has some Tessa flashbacks.
Subverted with the montage after Tessa's death. The song used is Kansas' Dust in the Wind rather than the more obvious choice of Who Wants to Live Forever.
Worth It: Invoked in "Finale" when the evil Kalas taunts Duncan with knowledge of a computer set up to email out the entire Watcher database to every news agency in the world unless Duncan lets himself be killed.
Kalas: Remember, if you do kill me, you're finished, too.
Duncan: Maybe it's worth it if it rids the world of you.
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Duncan doesn't like taking the heads of female Immortals. One episode has the Evil Immortal of the Week use this to her advantage. Luckily Methos has no such qualms.
You Look Familiar: Actors were recycled in guest roles several time. Example Callum Keith Rennie, who had a bit part in 'Eye For An Eye' and then was the Villain of the Week in 'The Innocent'.
Zen Survivor: Methos - "Live, grow stronger, fight another day."