Highlander: The Series is the 1992-1997 series inspired by the popular Highlander film franchise. It stars British actor Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, the younger kinsman of the movies' Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), who passes the torch in the pilot episode. The series was a French-Canadian co-production, which resulted in half of it being filmed in the U.S. and Vancouver and the other half in Paris. The exceptions were Season Six and the Spin-Off series (see below), which were filmed entirely in Paris.
The central premise was a bit predictable at times: Duncan would encounter an old immortal enemy, or an immortal friend with someone chasing after them, and the episode would end with Duncan battling his opponent and beheading them. Modern day scenes were interspersed with flashbacks to earlier periods in Duncan's life, typically his first encounter with the immortal of the week.
There were some unavoidable Continuity Snarls between the films and the TV series, and many things were retconned to fit into the TV canon. Still, the series managed to appeal to fans of the film franchise, and it gained an international cult following which persists today. Canon Immigrants from the show were featured in the fourth and fifth films of the franchise, Highlander: Endgame and Highlander: The Source.
Half of Season Six was an extended screen-test to find a female immortal to cast in a Spin-Off; it was ultimately decided to use the already-established character of Amanda the cat burglar (Elizabeth Gracen) instead. The Raven only lasted a season due to inter-personal and creative issues backstage.
The entire show has been legally uploaded to Youtube by its current distributor so you can watch it for free here.
This series provides examples of:
- Above Good and Evil: For some, being alive for centuries can create quite the God complex.
- 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.
- Achilles' Heel: Immortals can heal almost any wound perfectly, but their necks are uniquely vulnerable. A singer whose neck is injured loses his singing voice forever. note
- Action Girl: Amanda, she's a skilled thief and fighter and even has some years as a professional acrobat under her belt. She's also all too quick to rush into danger if it 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 immortal Nick Ward, 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.
- A Day in the Limelight: Indiscretions, one of the final episodes, is focused entirely on Methos and Joe while Duncan is out of town.
- Affectionate Nickname: Many of Duncan MacLeod's friends refer to him as "Mac" for short.
- All There in the Manual: The Watcher Chronicles CD ROM contains a wealth of information about every character seen (and, in some cases, characters only mentioned) on the series. There was also a series of eight novels (a ninth was outlined but never written) that fleshed out certain characters and situations. Both the CD and the novels are canonical.
- The Ageless: A potential immortal is locked into the age at which they suffer their first death.
- Always Save the Girl: Duncan has this bad and it is used against him repeatedly throughout the series.
- Alternate Universe: The “Imagine” novels have Tessa survive instead of dying when she’s shot. She ends up becoming quite the history detective and a bit of a fighter even.
- Anti-Hero: Methos has survived for millennia 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.
- Anti-Interference Lock Up: A season 1 episode had the immortal Villain of the Week lock his adopted daughter in a shed because she was trying to stop him from getting revenge on the kid who raped her. Richie heard her, and let her out just in time for her to shoot the kid when the kid threatens her dad.
- Arc Words: While the series kept the beloved movie quote "In the end, there can be only one" in use, as the series progressed it became apparent that the "end" was not coming any time soon.
- Armor-Piercing Question: When Methos (under his alias of Adam) meets an imposter claiming to be Methos and promoting Immortals to stop fighting, the imposter points out that just staying alive for five thousand years isn't the same as living.Fake Methos: Can anyone live for 5,000 years and say they did nothing? Risked nothing? Merely stayed alive. It'd be pointless.
- Artistic License – History:
- Like the film, the series got the location of the MacLeod clan lands wrong.
- A flashback to the battle of Waterloo inaccurately showed it was snowing which was an unavoidable weather issue during filming.
- The Atoner:
- Darius, who went from being a violent general to a priest when he took the head of a holy man and acquired some of his goodness.
- Kirin spent centuries only caring about making money but when his actions led to the massacre of children in Cambodia, he spent the remaining decades trying to make up for his actions.
- Methos, to a certain extent.
- Back for the Dead: Charlie returns from helping his girlfriend-and seeing her killed-in Europe only to get caught in a fight between Duncan,Joe, and an immortal who saved Joe once but killed Charlie’s girlfriend. He ends up getting killed by the same guy.
- Back for the Finale: Tessa, Richie, Kronos, and Horton all show up in the series finale as part of the It's a Wonderful Plot so that Duncan sees what would have happened to them if he had never been around. Fitz also returns, taking the role of the guardian angel who shows Duncan why he's made things better for everyone.
- 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 English. Methos and the other Horsemen also sported long hair during the Bronze Age scenes.
- Barbarous Barbary Bandits: A flashback to 1653 shows Duncan in the North African city of Algiers. As Duncan was neither rich nor powerful, there would be only one way for him to be in Algiers at that time: he was captured in a raid by Barbary pirates. The Tie-In Novel Highlander: Scimitar confirms this.
- Barehanded Blade Block: Done in one episode of the series, justified since immortals don't have to worry much about injuries due to their Healing Factor. Series swordmaster F. Braun McAsh has said that he tried this out himself before putting it in the show, then taught it to Adrian Paul. The technique used in the show differs from the standard use of the trope in a couple of ways: Duncan was stopping a straight thrust, not a cut, giving him more of the blade to catch; and he caught the spine rather than the edge of his opponent's sword. It was also a last-ditch desperation move: if it didn't work, Duncan was dead anyway.
- Battle Couple: Duncan and Amanda, both centuries-old master sword fighters.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: How Duncan overcomes the Dark Quickening. His light and dark selves battle it out.
- Beautiful Slave Girl:
- Cassandra, when she's captured by The Four Horsemen and Methos takes her as a slave.
- Been There, Shaped History: Immortality, plus a severe case of Chronic Hero Syndrome, put Duncan in the middle of a lot of historic confrontations.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
- In "The Modern Prometheus", Lord Byron is revealed to have been not only an Immortal, but a pupil of Methos. During a scuffle with another Immortal, Byron was spotted by a drunk Mary Shelley. The sight of Byron healing from his wounds, plus the Quickening which ensued, were the inspiration for Shelley's Frankenstein.
- The Watcher Chronicles CD-Rom lists several other aliases Byron has used over the years. Among them is James Douglas Morrison.
- One of the books references Elvis Presley being an immortal who ultimately hired an Elvis impersonator and had to move away from all the attention he was getting. It's a nod to all the alleged Elvis sightings in the years since he's death.
- Another novel has as a villain Niccolo Machiavelli, author of The Prince. He was still scheming to take over the world in modern times, and lost his head to Duncan in the end.
- Best Served Cold: An Immortal with a grudge against another can afford to spend decades or even centuries waiting for the most opportune moment to seek revenge. One of the best examples in the series is Kalas, who was exiled from a monastery in the 1600s after Duncan exposed his stealth headhunting practices. He waited until 1920 to retaliate by trying to kill a friend of Duncan's, and when that failed, he spent several more decades planning and building resources for a more elaborate trap.
- Bested by the Inexperienced: A few times. Richie’s first win and first kill are against immortals far more experienced than he is. And Duncan himself, though not a beginner by any means, beats the much older Grayson who he fears is better than he is.
- Big Bad: The show didn't really have these, usually opting instead for Arc Villains or Monsters of the Week, but there were two notable exceptions. Season Two had paranoid ex-Watcher James Horton, who sought to kill all of the immortals regardless of their intent. Season Three had Kalas (although only for a few episodes near the beginning and at the end of the season), a shrewd-but-cowardly Immortal who resorted to dirty tricks to take peoples' heads: first by running a bogus sanctuary to lure in Immortals who were fleeing The Game, and later by hacking the Watcher database to gather intel on everyone. The demon Ahriman was introduced as an over-arching villain at the end of Season Five, but the threat was quickly dispensed with (via the power of meditation!) by the second episode of Season Six.
- The Black Death: This is when Amanda first dies after being killed for stealing from an infected house.
- Blackmail: An episode has this as its title. After sword fight is caught on tape, the guy who filmed it threatens to expose Duncan if Duncan doesn’t kill his wife.
- Bloodless Carnage: Despite all the beheadings, it’s rare to see large amounts of blood in the fight scenes. Sometimes injuries do have blood though.
- Bystander Syndrome: Methos. He's survived for so long by not getting involved.
- 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.
- The Caper: Amanda, frequently. Most of her early appearances involve her making MacLeod an Unwitting Pawn in (or keep him from finding out about) her latest scheme.
- Car Fu: Tessa runs down the mortal villain in “See No Evil” with her car, though she only resorted to it when he was about to kill Richie. Although it doesn't kill him, Tessa is still shaken by her actions and the realization that she could have killed him.
- Cassandra Truth: Cassandra, whose initial efforts to get Duncan and Joe to believe her about Kronos, Methos and The Horsemen meet with some extreme doubt.
- Cat Scare: Methos and Amanda have to contend with a loud cat when they break into Watcher headquarters to steal the Methuselah Stone crystals.
- Celebrity Paradox: The season one episode "Free Fall" has Joan Jett as a guest star. The beginning of said episode has Richie dancing to "Cherry Bomb" by Jett's former band The Runaways.
- In "Eye of the Beholder", "She Drives Me Crazy" by the Fine Young Cannibals plays during a fashion show. Roland Gift, lead singer of the FYC had appeared four episodes earlier as Xavier St. Cloud, and would return for three more.
- Censor Steam: Tessa’s shower in the pilot. There actually was additional added for the U.S. version because the original version wasn’t enough to satisfy the American censors.
- Chandelier Swing: In the episode "Methos", Duncan swings from one during the flashback sword fight with Kalas.
- Chekhov's Classroom: Interesting variation in that it's Duncan imparting the lesson that he himself will use later. He's giving a history lecture on a battle from the Crusades, with Christian knights on one side and Muslims on the other, both armies renowned for their cavalry. The knights preferred riding stallions, the Muslims preferred mares, and when they met on the field, it turned out half the mares were in heat. "It was love at first sight," as Duncan says. The villain of the episode is Kanis, who uses trained attack dogs to weaken his Immortal opponents. Duncan rents a bitch in heat (the same one Kanis himself was interested in earlier to breed a replacement) so that when Kanis comes calling, his dogs will have other things to think about than their master's commands.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Being harassed by lowlifes? Got an immortal psycho on your case? Want your fence painted?! Just call Duncan MacLeod!
- Changeling Tale: Duncan's father tells Duncan he was brought to them by a mysterious woman just after his true son was stillborn, and the midwife recoiled when she saw him, declaring him a changeling.
- The Coats Are Off: Pretty much standard before a sword fight.
- 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. Silas and Caspian often double-teamed opponents. While the Rules forbid two-on-one fights, one would stand by and step in if their partner was killed.
- Comforting the Widow: Goes both ways in “Eye For an Eye”. Both Mac and Annie had just lost lovers. Add alcohol consumption to it and you get them having sex.
- Content Warnings: Being based upon a R-rated movie where sword-fights are common and beheading is the only means of killing an Immortal, each episode began with one of these indicating that the show is (slightly) more violent compared to other shows.
- Cool Car: Duncan's T-Bird.
- 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.
- The Cynic: Methos, making him a foil for idealist Duncan.
- Deadpan Snarker: Having lived for over 5000 years, Methos has adopted this as his preferred way of dealing with life. He mellows a bit the more time he spends with Duncan.
- Death-Activated Superpower: The first death reveals their immortality and stops their aging.
- Decapitation Required: The only way to permanently kill an Immortal is by beheading. Anything else just kills them temporarily and they will come back to life.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: In the flashback portion of Duende, we see a romance develop between MacLeod and Theresa, who is newly betrothed to another Immortal. Her intended husband promptly challenges Duncan to a duel. It's pointed out in the episode commentary that the audience is going to automatically sympathize with the couple that is genuinely in love and side against the petty (and, we find, murderous) fiancee . . . but MacLeod is actively pursuing a woman who is about to be married, and within the society of that time and place, he's absolutely in the wrong.
- Dinner Order Flub: Richie thinks he’s ordering a fruit plate in one episode but he ends up getting a seafood plate. “Fruits d’mer” is French for “fruits of the sea” and is raw seafood.
- Diplomatic Immunity:
- In the first season's "Nowhere to Run", Tessa's friend Alan is a diplomat, and when his son Mark is confronted about raping a local girl whose father is out for revenge, Mark cites Alan's diplomatic immunity as a reason there shouldn't be any consequences.
- Season 6 has an episode with that title. An immortal con man who’s made a con of getting hit by cars so the rich drivers will give his wife big checks targets an ambassador’s son. The son kills the guy’s mortal girlfriend. Mac tries to get him to turn himself in, but the kid is too cocky to do it. Not that he could actually voluntarily waive the immunity anyway, but in most cases an actual murder with a voluntary confession and surrender would probably result in the countries in question voiding the immunity by mutual consent.
- Distinguishing Mark: When the angered widow of a Watcher Kalas killed wants to expose Immortals to the media, a newspaper publisher naturally doesn't believe it. She shows him a photo of a modern millionaire notable for a facial scar. She then begins showing him images from the Watcher database of a variety of men from World War II to the 1890s to the Civil War and the early 19th century. The publisher is stunned to see that each man bears the exact same scar and realizes they are, in fact, the same man living centuries.
- Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Lisa Milon was surgically altered to look exactly like Tessa Noel.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Happens in the series finale, when Duncan convinces Methos to take the outfit of an unconscious underling so that they can fool O'Rourke. Methos almost lampshades it with the line "You know, this 'Bad guy just my size' routine never works, MacLeod. " Less than a minute later, he proves it DOES work, by donning an Irish accent along with the bad guy's coat and shooting the other henchmen.
- The Drifter: After a while people start to notice that you never get a new wrinkle or grey hair, and it's time to pull up stakes and find a new place in which to settle for a decade or so.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Charlie in the second episode of season four, and Richie in the fifth season finale.
- Drugs Are Bad:
- Appears in the episode "Courage". In the 19th-century, Immortal Brian Cullen wants to run away from his problems and starts using opium. He apparently spend most of the 19th century and 20th century as a drug addict and drug dealer. He resurfaces in the 1990s as an out-of-control menace to society, with his previous good qualities eradicated. He forces Duncan to a duel to the death and has to be put down like a rabid dog. Duncan mourns the good man that Brian was before he started using drugs.
- Also “Road Not Taken” with a Chinese immortal trying to perfect a drug to increase human stamina and strength. The problem is people keep dying from it.
- “The Sea Witch” has Richie’s friend turn up with stolen drugs and Duncan flushes it, adamant that it not get back on the street.
- Early-Installment Weirdness:
- The first season tries to pattern itself after the movie and states that "The Gathering", the encounter of the last surviving Immortals to fight for the Prize, is taking place. However, as the show moved forward and more and more Immortals were mentioned or introduced, all mentions of the Gathering were dropped. Fanon says that too many Immortals dying without a Quickening at the hands of the Hunters sent all their power out to create new Immortals, delaying the Gathering indefinitely.
- 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.
- Episodes featuring Duncan dealing with mortal antagonists that were not The Watchers were gradually reduced after the first season and mostly eliminated by the middle of the show's run, becoming the exception rather than the rule.
- In Methos' introductory episode, he selflessly offers his head to Duncan, to prevent the evil immortal Kalas from taking it. It's hard to imagine the more ruthless, morally ambiguous Methos of later episodes doing such a thing. He'd be more likely to just plain run from a superior opponent. It's quite possible this was all Methos manipulating Duncan, however.
- Enfant Terrible: Kenny a supposedly ten-year-old child, whose M.O. is convincing other Immortals of his helplessness, then taking their heads.
- Eternal Love:
- The DeValincourts, for the most part. They were rivals who fell in love and married each other in 1696. They were still married in 1996, though they briefly considered divorce due to boredom with their life. One shared adventure later, they were convinced to stay together and spice up their life a bit more. Others have pointed out to them that "In the end, there can be only one," but they retort that it's not "the end" yet, and until that time comes, they can still enjoy their lives together.
- Duncan and Amanda have a long-standing on-again-off-again relationship. As revealed in the episode "Legacy", they first met in 1635 and were still dating each other by 1998. In the romantic comedy episode "Dramatic License", the two confirm that they love each other, but do not dare marry. Duncan asks Amanda how long she could see them spending together, every hour, every day. Amanda realizes that they would get on each other's nerves and end up killing each other. Duncan replies "Exactly my point."
- Exploited Immunity: One villain used a dark room to blind his opponents while wearing night-vision goggles. Duncan thwarted this by using a lit match to blind the guy long enough to take him out.
- Exposition of Immortality: Quite common from either Duncan, Methos or Amanda.
- Face–Heel Turn:
- Methos, during the 'reunion of the Horsemen' arc. Duncan suspects it’s actually a case of Fake Defector though.
- Pretty much the purpose of the Dark Quickening episodes which show that a good immortal who absorbs too many "evil" Quickenings can be overwhelmed and turn evil.
- Fake Defector: Duncan suspects Methos did this and sabotaged the Horsemen from within, though Methos won’t confirm it.
- Faking the Dead:
- When an Immortal has lived in an area long enough that their lack of aging will be noticed, or they are killed in front of witnesses, they accept the death or stage one and pick a new name and city in which to live.
- Most notably, when Anne witnesses Duncan's death, Duncan moves to Paris and allows her to continue to believe he's dead for good. For a while, anyway.
- Narratively, many times an Immortal is killed and continues to feign death after their resurrection so the killer will drop their guard.
- When an Immortal has lived in an area long enough that their lack of aging will be noticed, or they are killed in front of witnesses, they accept the death or stage one and pick a new name and city in which to live.
- Duncan frequently went shirtless, and was naked in a bathtub at least once. And stood up from the tub, on-camera! note
- Former Miss America and Playboy model Elizabeth Gracen (Amanda) had her moments.
- Tessa served as this in Season 1 and Season 2 with several semi-nude scenes. And though it’s not onscreen, she does get forced into a sword fight fully nude in one of the “Imagine” novels.
- Many of the better-looking male and female Immortals were depicted in scenes emphasizing their good looks and bodies. In "Valkyrie", for example, Immortal Ingrid Henning has a scene where she flirts with Duncan by keeping his attention on her great legs.
- In "Sins of the Father," a flashback has Alex Raven (Dara Tomanovich) enduring a Quickening in a river that turns her sheer slip into a Sexy Soaked Shirt that's almost completely see-through.
- Flash Back: Generally once an episode, giving the audience the history of a certain character. Since Immortals live for so long, many situations they face are in some way related to events in their past although in some stories, their relevance to the present is not always obvious.
- The Fog of Ages: Duncan heard that Methos is five thousand years old but Methos tells him that he's actually older, possibly much older, but he can only remember clearly from the time he took his first head; "before that, it all starts to blur." A few episodes have Methos trying to preserve his old diaries from various centuries with the possible implication that he needs written records to keep track of all the details of his life. However, this is disproven in the "Methos Chronicles" which shows that he actually remembers his full life. His diaries may be intended to outlive him, or to provide contemporary evidence to back up his word in the future.
- Probably not intentional, but Duncan tells Richie about Darius’ Light Quickening in “Band of Brothers”. Richie asks if there’s a Dark Quickening and what it would be like. Three seasons later, Duncan has one and nearly kills him after beheading Koltec.
- Also, in “Under Color of Authority”,after taking his first head, Richie asks Duncan if they’ll ever have to fight. Unfortunately they do fight when Duncan is tormented by Ahriman in season 5, and it doesn’t end well...
- From the Ashes: The last season has several episodes designed to promote potential spin-offs. When the series ended, the network choose to give the immortal Amanda her own series, Highlander: The Raven.
- Gasp of Life: This trope is common throughout the franchise, but the series really codified it as part of the franchise lore. Immortals can be killed through lethal wounds to a human, they simply possess a Healing Factor that will revive them after a time. When that revival occurs, this trope is almost always used. It's especially notable when a "pre-Immortal" dies for the first time, "activating" their full Immortality.
- Girl of the Week: Duncan quite often ended up sleeping with female guest characters after losing Tessa in season 2.
- Going for the Big Scoop: Randi, the relentless reporter in season one's first half, was determined to learn Duncan's secret, although she suspected him of being undercover for the CIA or some other organization, not of being immortal.
- Good-Guy Bar: Joe's.
- Good Thing You Can Heal: As the story features Immortals, most episodes feature at least one scene of them quickly healing from physical trauma or resurrecting from a fatal injury. Damage to the neck doesn't seem to fully heal, such as when Duncan tried to behead Kalas but only succeeded in destroying his vocal chords. Whether lost limbs regrow is still open to debate.note
- Gory Discretion Shot: Once an Episode, at least minus the ep or two a season where someone *isn't* beheaded. Absolutely necessary for an otherwise family-friendly series (aired on Saturday mornings in some areas) in which decapitation is actually a core aspect of the concept.
- Handicapped Badass: Joe Dawson, who has no legs and can still kick your ass all day long.
- Healing Factor: Played with. It's a given that an Immortal resurrects after being killed (except by beheading). They never get sick and are shown recovering from flesh wounds, sword strikes, bullet hits and broken bones in a matter of minutes. However, the series never adequately explains why Immortals either don't regrow lost limbs or, if they do, why it takes years.
- Healing Spring: What Methos drags Duncan into at the end of 'Deliverance' so he can battle his bad side and overcome the Dark Quickening.
- Heel–Face Turn: Methos, over the years. He refers to it as "outgrowing my angry adolescence."
- Heel–Faith Turn: Darius, formerly a brutal warlord who intended to conquer all of Europe. After taking the head of an immortal holy man, he resigned from the Game and spent the next several centuries living as a humble monk.
- Heist Episode:
- “The Cross of St. Antoine”. Duncan and Amanda steal a cross artifact previously stolen by an arrogant rich immortal years before.
- “Methuselah’s Gift” counts too, with Methos and Amanda breaking into the Watcher headquarters to steal the crystals of the Methuselah Stone. The episode is serious but the break in has a few laughs along the way.
- “The Stone of Scone”, with Duncan, Fitz, and Amanda stealing the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abby.
- The Hero Doesn't Kill the Villainess: Duncan tends to be very reluctant to kill off evil female Immortals. It happens every now and then, but usually only after he's given them far more chances than he tends to give male Immortals, and he's just as likely to let female Immortals go in situations where he would stop at nothing to bring down a male Immortal. The most pointed case was the episode "Chivalry", which revolves around Kristen, a villainous female Immortal and a former lover of Duncan's. Centuries earlier Kristen murdered a woman MacLeod had started to fall for as their relationship was falling apart, and in the show's present day she tries to do the same to Duncan's apprentice Richie when he appears to reject her in favor of someone else. Despite this, MacLeod cannot bring himself to kill Kristen due to a combination of his code of chivalry against taking a woman's life and still having feelings for Kristen despite her vile actions. In comes Methos, an Immortal who's survived for 5000 years and is the most critical and challenging of Duncan's views. When a bewildered Kristen asks who he is, Methos simply proclaims that he comes from a time long before chivalry. Unlike Duncan, Methos has no issue with killing a woman who is a threat to him or his friends, and he takes Kristen's head in short order.
- He Who Fights Monsters: James Horton's hatred of Immortals and desire to kill them 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.
- Hilarious Outtakes: A whole commercially released VHS of them and some in the DVD sets too. One example is the Cassandra/Duncan love scene in "Prophecy". During an elongated take, the blooper reel shows Tracy Scoggins warning the director, "If this goes on much longer, I'm going to need birth control!"
- 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, which makes it one of the few places they can go to get away from the Game. It's left vague what happens if this rule is violated, but one episode mentions a Watcher rumor that the only known beheading on Holy Ground happened at the Temple of Apollo in Pompeii in August, 79 AD.
- Honor Before Reason: Duncan suffers from this. A lot. Methos is frequently the one to call him out on it.
- Hook Hand: Xavier St. Cloud uses one of these after losing a hand in a fight against Duncan. A year passes from the time he loses the hand until he reappears with the hook, leading to many questions about whether Immortals can ever regrow lost limbs.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: They were immortals from the distant past, including Methos.
- Houseboat Hero: Duncan, who keeps a massive barge houseboat in Paris. On the Seine. With a view of Notre Dame de Paris!
- I Am Not Left-Handed: In "The Road Not Taken", a former mentor of Duncan's attacks him while noting that he shouldn't have revealed all of his moves in a previous fight. Duncan replies by executing this trope.
- 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. Duncan's adoptive mother feels differently.
- The Idealist:
- Duncan adheres to a very strict code of honor, which gets him into a lot of tough scrapes.
- The Watchers. On the whole, they take their responsibility to "observe and document, never interact" with a solemn, almost monk-like devotion. For story purposes, some fall short.
- Ignore the Fanservice: In the Season 3 finale, the villain Kalas holds the beautiful Amanda hostage. She attempts to seduce him and makes sure to show some skin. Kalas casually informs her that he had spent most of his life in a monastery, with the implication that he has been trained to resist temptation. This stops her efforts. This may fit his Story Arc as Kalas has been depicted in several time periods, and he is always depicted as celibate and uninterested in romance.
- Immortality Hurts: Though Immortals recover from injuries and death, they are not immune to the pain of the injury or the subsequent healing (like when their broken bones reset themselves). Many episodes show how this is taken advantage of during Immortal sword-fights where one Immortal has been dealt so many injuries that even though they are still alive and painfully healing, they can no longer focus on defense, allowing their opponent to deliver the killing stroke.
- Immortality Inducer: An artefact called the Methuselah Stone is rumored to have this property, conferring immortality upon mortals and even making immortals invulnerable to decapitation. It's never made clear whether or not the rumors are true, but several different characters believe it and go to great lengths to acquire the stone.
- Immortal Procreation Clause: 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 is not possible either.
- Immortality Promiscuity: After Tessa died, Duncan had quite a few female love interests of the week over the course of the series, along with the recurring Amanda.
- 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.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Duncan confirms that one of the inspectors under LeBrun is actually on Kuyler's payroll by talking about the assassin's heavy drinking, only to have the man chime in with Kuyler's preferred order.Duncan: The way he drinks, you think he'd make a mistake by now.Sole: Or the absinthe would kill him.
- In-Series Nickname: Duncan MacLeod's name is often shortened to just "Mac".
- Instant Death Bullet: Tessa in 'The Darkness'.
- I Shall Taunt You: Occasionally insults are thrown during fights. The aristocratic Consone taunts Duncan by saying he’s a pig farmer and will die a pig farmer. Duncan uses the attempted Pre-Asskicking One-Liner as an opening to remove the sword from his gut, turn the tables on Consone, and kill him instead.
- It Never Gets Any Easier: A variation. Duncan tells Tessa, and later Richie, that losing loved ones never gets easier for immortals.Duncan: No matter how many time you say goodbye to the ones you love, when they leave —Tessa: (shakes head) Die.Duncan: Yes. When they die, you're naked and alone.
- 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." The character, called Felice Martén/Felicia Martins, is depicted killing another Immortal's mortal wife and child, to break him psychologically. She later ambushes and kills this immortal. She briefly becomes Duncan's student, in order to get close to him and take his head. After Duncan beats her in their sword fight, Richie, who she had seduced, begs Duncan not to kill her, so he leaves her unconscious on a beach.
- Kiem Sun in "The Road Not Taken" ends up losing out on the potion he's worked so hard to perfect when Duncan dumps it, but he's still allowed to go free and continue his work elsewhere (at least until he and Duncan run into each other again, in which case Duncan notes that their next confrontation will end with Kiem Sun's death).
- Methos enslaved and raped Cassandra, double-crossed the Four Horsemen, killed Silas (the Horseman and "brother" he liked the most), and has apparently committed raiding and pillaging on a massive scale. He gets away with it, though he claims to have a thousand regrets.
- Benjamin "Benny" Carbassa used his friend Duncan in a plan to save his own skin, hurt and betrayed him, and almost got Duncan killed. Duncan buys him a bus ticket and simply tells him to leave the town.
- David Keogh, the Immortal stalker from the episode "Obsession". His mortal girlfriend Jill Pelentay broke up with him, but he still wanted to marry her. He became seriously obsessed with her, followed her everywhere, broke into her house, and pretty much ruined her life. Jill jumped to her death in order to avoid him. Duncan allows him to go, but Keogh is among the creepiest immortals out there.
- Kenneth/Kenny has double-crossed and often killed anyone who ever tried to help him, including his own mentor/surrogate mother Amanda. He was also hinted to lust for Amanda, and acts rather sadistically towards her when she is trapped. He is allowed to leave unpunished.
- Minor character, but the junkie who killed Tessa counts. When he is identified Richie wants to take revenge, but when he finds he's now a struggling father trying to turn his life around, Richie relents, so technically he got away with murder.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Duncan’s sword of choice, carrying on the tradition Connor started in the films.
- Keep the Home Fires Burning: The episode "They Also Serve..."
- Killed Off for Real: A recurrent theme of the series. Heroes and villains, Immortals and mortals, even major characters like Charlie, Tessa, and Richie are killed off. Nobody really returns, though a few continue to appear in flashbacks and hallucinations. It's made explicit in one episode where a rival immortal devoted her life to avenging a killed loved one. Duncan could empathize, but pointed out that "Nothing you do brings anyone back. Once they're dead... nothing."
- The Killer in Me: a rare variation from an outside POV, in the episode Turnabout. An old friend of Mac's, Michael Moore, comes to visit, telling Mac that he's finally on the track of evil immortal Quenten Barnes, who murdered Michael's wife Janette in the 1920's. Neither Michael, Mac, or even Moore's Watcher realize that Barnes was actually Michael's split personality.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Arguably Amanda some of the time. She is a professional thief, so many of her episodes involve heists. She is one of the heroes.
- Knife-Throwing Act: Duncan and Amanda do this in the circus in one episode.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Duncan. Sometimes to a fault. His chivalry kept him from killing an Immortal woman even though she killed many other people and tried to kill him.
- Knight Templar: James Horton: self-styled savior of mortals from Immortals.
- Kubrick Stare: Duncan pulls one off after being possessed by the Dark Quickening.
- Land Mine Goes "Click!": In the episode "Brothers in Arms", a flashback to Joe Dawson's service in Vietnam shows how he lost his legs: he stepped on a land mine, complete with "click" and his reaction of pure horror.
- Large Ham: Slan. Duncan, during Darius's death scene.
- Les Cops Sportif: Showed up a lot in season 1’s Paris half, usually with Inspector Lebraun leading.
- Life Drinker: Variant. Immortals don't suck the life out of people to stay alive, but if they behead another immortal they will absorb their knowledge and skill. If an Immortal is decapitated by a mortal, or by a machine, the Quickening is absorbed by the Immortal closest to the death. It's never been shown what happens when there is no Immortal nearby at all. When Hugh Fitzcairn was put in that situation, he implies the Quickening (and hence his entire life) would be totally wasted. note
- Living Forever Is Awesome: For some. There are episodes depicting Immortals having the time of their lives and fully enjoying the opportunities of living through the ages. And there are others which depict Immortals going through traumatic events or experiencing their personal hells.
- Living a Double Life: Methos, for a while. He got to experience life as both Methos and Adam Pierson, respectively an elusive Immortal and a well-connected Watcher. Eventually the Watchers discover than an Immortal has infiltrated their ranks.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Joe tells Amy in “Indescretions.”. He chose not to say anything when her mom became pregnant because he and her mom had an affair and her mom’s husband never knew. Joe didn’t want to ruin the family.
- MacGuffin: Many episodes revolve around the seeking of a sacred or mythical object. One of the most elusive ones was the Methuselah Stone, which was sought in several episodes. Legends depicted the Stone as able to grant full immortality to immortals (removing the weakness to decapitation) or even turn a mortal to an immortal. This may have been an Aborted Arc, or it may have been considered to have served its purpose once Methos's mortal love interest passed away.
- Mad Doctor: 'Deadly Medicine.' Dr. Paul Wilder (a mortal) is an emergency room physician who secretly abducts patients. He is using them as test subjects in illegal medical experiments. When Duncan is brought to the ER following an accident, Wilder discovers his Healing Factor. He kidnaps Duncan in order to experiment on him.
- Made a Slave:
- Cassandra, and probably a few others, courtesy of the Horsemen.
- Methos was a slave in Ancient Rome and ended up crucified and died a couple times before Constantine stepped in to rescue him.
- Duncan was enslaved by Barbary pirates thanks to a woman who orchestrated the whole thing so she could marry a man in the area. Immortal Hamza bought Duncan to rescue him from the market and eventually they became friends before Xavier St. Cloud offed Hamza.
- Magic Plastic Surgery: The plot of “Counterfeit” is a woman convict accepting a big payday from James Horton to undergo plastic surgery so she’ll look just like Tessa and can be used to trap Duncan.
- Manipulative Bastard: James Horton.
- 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.
- Master-Apprentice Chain: Unsurprising in a series where all Immortals have to be trained by more experienced Immortals on how to play the Game.
- Richie Ryan, one of the main characters, is trained by his mentor Duncan MacLeod throughout most of the series. Duncan has had several mentors over his life, but the main and original mentor was Connor MacLeod. Connor appears in a single episode but is mentioned in several others. Connor's own mentor Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez is mentioned in a few episodes, though he is long dead. One episode depicts a character called Graham Ashe as Ramirez's mentor, and Duncan witnesses his death. The Watcher CD mentions Graham Ashe's mentor as Aganesthes of Tiryns, an ancient immortal who mostly appears as The Ghost in the series' supporting material.
- Kenneth/Kenny is considered one of the series' most memorable villains, though he appeared in only two episodes. His mentor and surrogate mother is Amanda, the immortal thief who serves as Duncan's main love interest. Amanda's own mentor and surrogate mother Rebecca Horne appears in two episodes and mentioned in several others. Rebecca's death at the hands of a traitorous student is a Story Arc in the series. The Watcher CD mentions Aganesthes of Tiryns as Rebecca's own mentor.
- Xavier took on a student, Morgan D'Estraing. When Duncan killed Xavier, Morgan uses Xavier's same tactics to try and avenge his mentor.
- Master Poisoner: Xavier St. Cloud regularly uses poisons and poison gas. His Immortal pupil, Morgan, used the same techniques.
- Master Swordsman: Since beheading is the only way to kill an Immortal and sword-fights are common, many characters have honed their swordcraft to master levels. However, a few take it up to eleven by learning multiple types of swords and styles of combat.
- Mayfly–December Friendship: Joe and Duncan. Also Joe and Methos and to a lesser extent Joe and Amanda. Duncan and Charlie DeSalvo.
- Mayfly–December Romance: Duncan and Methos are both far older than their mortal lovers.
- Melee Disarming: Duncan often ends his duels with other Immortals by disarming them, then deciding whether or not to take their head. Duncan himself sometimes gets disarmed, though this isn't usually a problem for him.
- Mock Millionaire: Richie rents an expensive car and pretends he’s rich for some fun at a casino. It gets him kidnapped by a woman hoping to save her family’s estate with the ransom.
- Monster of the Week: The early seasons relied heavily on this trope whereby the "evil Immortal" comes looking for trouble, or is threatening somebody else who comes to Duncan for help.
- Moral Myopia: Used twice in "Forgive Us Our Trespasses." First, in 1746, Duncan, still reeling after the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Culloden, discovers the Earl of Rosemont has sent his troops to crush villages in order to put down any more rebellion. A furious Duncan goes to the Earl's home and grabs his son.Earl: Please, don't hurt my son!Duncan: That is what a thousand Scottish mothers cried out before your soldiers murdered their children.
- Two hundred and fifty years later, the Earl's friend, Immortal Steven Keane, comes looking for payback on Duncan. Duncan realizes that Keane is doing pretty much the same thing Duncan has done several times, settling a score from long ago and they're not that different.
- Mountain Man: The episode “Mountain Men” had an old friend of Duncan’s, Carl the Hermit, who was killed by another mountain man, Caleb Cole.(Caleb won’t confirm it onscreen but it’s All There in the Manual aka the Watcher Chronicles cd). But Caleb makes the mistake of kidnapping Tessa and pushing Duncan’s Berserk Button. He’s no match for the angry Highlander’s tracking and fighting skills.
- Muggle–Mage Romance:
- Duncan's relationships with mortal women fits the trope. He is a centuries-old Immortal whose Healing Factor and combat skills render him nearly invulnerable. They are typically civilians with no special abilities and vulnerable to aging, illness, and wounds. When they know what he is, their reactions can vary, but they are played for drama. The two most notable mortal lovers, Tessa Noel and Dr. Anne Lindsey, found themselves in the first lines of combat and had their perspectives in life changed.
- The series also explores other dynamics between Immortal and mortal couples, ranging from lifelong bonds and marriages to abusive relationships and mismatched pairings. An unusual pairing involved Immortal Walter Reinhardt and mortal Rebecca Lord. He trained her in sword combat and arranged events to send her against his Immortal rivals, essentially expecting her to fight for him.
- 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.
- My Grandson, Myself:
- In one episode, Duncan is seen going to a Paris bank in the 1930's to close an account he set up a century earlier (and has to remember how many "greats" his "ancestor" was). Obviously, there was a lot of interest piled up so the bank manager was relieved when Duncan decided to open a new account rather than withdraw it all.
- Duncan pretended to be his lookalike son when he met the aged members of a French Resistance cell he fought with in WWII.
- In the 18th century, Duncan was tutored by a Japanese warrior who was forced to take his own life to save his honor. Duncan swore that if the man's family ever needed help, they could come to Duncan Macleod. 200 years later, the samurai's female descendant comes to Duncan for help and is surprised that Duncan knows of the "family legend." She even says she doesn't expect Duncan to honor a commitment from his "ancestor" but of course, he insists on helping.
- Immortal Katya says that as her adoptive daughter grew, Katya went from her mother to her older sister to her younger sister.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Amanda breaks Kalas out of prison in an attempt to kill him for Duncan. Kalas actually escapes, thanks to an ally Kalas made in prison Amanda didn't plan for. She pretty much immediately goes to Duncan to cook him a lovely meal (and clearly intending to boink his brains out afterward) specifically so he won't kill her when she tells him what happened.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Kalas has the Watcher database set to upload in the event of his death, promising to stop it if Duncan gives up and lets Kalas kill him. Kalas chooses the top of the Eiffel Tower as the spot for their last duel. Duncan defeats him, and Kalas basically dares Duncan to kill him and expose all of Immortal kind. Duncan realizes the Eiffel Tower is "the world's biggest lightning rod," and that it will amplify the Quickening to fry just about every piece of electronics in Paris. . . including Kalas computer with the database inside it. Kalas get a glorious "Oh, Crap!, I Didn't Think This Through" face before Duncan beheads him.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Kenny, a centuries-old immortal in the body of a nine-year old boy.
- Not Himself: Duncan, after the Dark Quickening.
- Not Quite Saved Enough: Tessa in "The Darkness".
- Obfuscating Disability: In "The Ransom of Richard Redstone," Duncan has to go to a casino he frequented in the 1970's, run by the same owner. To avoid questions on how he hasn't aged, Duncan dyes his temples grey and walks with a cane and a limp to sell being older like a mortal.
- Obvious Crossover Method: The concept means a lot of shows can generate crossover fics.
- Obstructive Code of Conduct:
- Immortals are supposed to only fight one-on-one. During the course of the series, we see that this rule is quite malleable, to put it lightly.
- Watchers are not supposed to interfere in Immortal conflicts. Joe Dawson spends a lot of time bending, breaking, or just plain ignoring this rule.
- Office Golf: A mobster in a flashback, who gives the Villain of the Week his first death.
- Off with His Head!: The only way for an Immortal to die is decapitation, and the Game mostly involves battles to the death.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Grayson in “Band of Brothers” just before Duncan kills him. He was cocky and arrogant and assumed he’d win.
- Kalas when he realizes he’s lost all leverage against Duncan because battling on the Eiffel Tower will fry all the electronics including the computer with info on immortals. Duncan no longer has to accept defeat and will take his head.
- Consone gets an epic one when Duncan defeats him in the Mysterious Circle style of sword fighting that he’s a master of. He could have won, but wasted time on a Pre-Mortem One-Liner and Duncan seized the chance to turn the tables and win.
- 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.
- Older Than They Look: Obviously, just about every Immortal in the series is older than they look by decades, centuries, or more. Of special note is Kenny who is over 800 years old but trapped in the body of a ten-year-old.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The episode with Damon Case, the immortal who believed they (the immortals) were fated by God to fight, even if the opponent was a newbie. Even his death scene is accompanied by chanting.
- Once is Not Enough: Justified in “Homeland”. Duncan was newly immortal and had no idea yet what he and Kanwulf were or that he had to take Kanwulf’s head to keep him dead.
- 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 encounters go by one name. Subverted by "The Watchers CD" which added several full names and aliases for them. Kalas, for example, is called "Antonius Kalas". His alias as a singer was "Antonio Neri".
- Opening Narration: Ducan describes the premise of the series during the opening credits, in season 1. Once he's introduced into the series at the beginning of season 2, Joe Dawson provides opening narration from then on.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Several Immortals in the series have either adopted children or treat their students as surrogate children. The reactions to the deaths of said offspring are played for drama in a few tearjerker episodes.
- Out-of-Character Alert: In "Revenge is Sweet", when Richie calls Duncan "Mr. MacLeod" over the phone, Duncan at once knows something is wrong. Although in a twist, Richie isn't being ordered to say everything's fine—the person holding him hostage does want him to say he's a hostage, but is forcing him to lie about who's doing it for complicated Batman Gambit reasons. The sudden formality alerts Duncan to the deception.
- Outside-Genre Foe: Dr. Wilder from the episode "Deadly Medicine" seems to have walked in from a Police Procedural; a Mad Scientist Serial Killer with no knowledge of The Game who performs human experiments in his basement while talking about "improving the healing process".
- Ahriman, the shape-shifting demon of the Zoroastrian religion.
- Painting the Medium: This is used as a way of conveying the difference between the memories of Immortals and those of mortals. Immortal flashbacks are shown just as clearly as current-day action, but flashbacks from a mortal's point of view are blurred and off-color, clearly inferior and clouded versions of what happened.
- Parental Substitute: Duncan and Tessa, for Richie.
- Past-Life Memories: When an Immortal kills another and receives their quickening, it's said that they gain their knowledge, skills, and power. The implication is that they gain access to the memories of the other's life but the show never explores the mechanics of how that works.
- The Perils of Being the Best: An Immortal famous for their fighting skills or their age winds up vulnerable to this, as some Immortals are serious about winning the Game and purposefully seek out old or powerful Immortals in order to take their power. This causes most older Immortals to keep a low profile, unless they themselves are confident and bloodthirsty enough to welcome the cavalcade of challengers. This is a big part of why Methos is as secretive as he is.
- Police Are Useless: Due to the various schemes of the Immortals and the Watchers concerning secrecy, the Police end up Locked Out of the Loop on crimes involving Immortals even when mortals are the victims.
- Post-Victory Collapse: Duncan or another character sinking to their knees post-battle isn’t uncommon because the Quickening can take a lot out of the winner by the time it subsides.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Elizabeth Gracen (Amanda) and Peter Wingfield (Methos) get this in Season 6, in large part due to Adrian Paul not being able to film every episode and in order to fill the void left by Richie's death (Duncan and Joe were otherwise the only main characters left by that point).
- Properly Paranoid: Surviving for centuries in a world where nearly everyone like you wants to kill you tends to make one more than a little wary.
- Put on a Bus: Charlie. Turned into The Bus Came Back...Back for the Dead. Poor Charlie.
- Questionable Consent: it is revealed that Methos in his barbarian phase kidnapped Cassandra and kept her as his sex slave, even killing her repeatedly in order to tame and discipline her. Eventually however they develop a real affection for one another and when she kills another barbarian who tries to force himself on her he allows her to escape and start a new life for herself as a free woman.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Methos and the other three Horsemen did quite a lot of this back in the Bronze Age.
- "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 arrange to meet Bonnie Prince Charlie in Normandy 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 felt even his most devoted followers doubted their chances at victory. 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 led directly to the creation of the "Watchers" and "Hunters" organisations that would change the direction of the series and feature heavily in future seasons.
- Tessa had to die because Alexandra Vandernoot felt her career was being limited and she wanted to leave the series because the American/Canadian arcs kept her away from home too much. She later had a few regrets though on learning of Tessa’s popularity.
- Hugh Fitzcairn died because Roger Daltrey preferred period pieces to modern arcs. He agreed to appear a few more times if Fitz died and he could be only in flashbacks.
- Really Dead Montage: Multiple times, with either "Dust in the Wind" or "Who Wants to Live Forever" playing in the background.
- Really 700 Years Old: Most Immortals depicted have lived several centuries. The exceptions are the few who were actually born in the 20th century, and have only been in the Game for a few decades, or rookies who are just at the start of their careers.
- Rear Window Witness: Tessa in "Eyewitness". She witnesses the murder of fellow artist Anne Wheeler though a window. Initially nobody believes her, because they can not find a corpse. When she is believed, the killer seems to know the police's plan. It turns out that the killer was the Immortal Andrew Ballin, the Chief of Detectives. The Police did not suspect that their boss was the killer.
- Reckless Sidekick: Richie, a lot of the time.
- 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.
- Renegade Splinter Faction: The Watchers study Immortals and (at least theoretically) avoid interfering in their lives; the Hunters are a group of renegade Watchers who do as their name suggests because they believe that Immortals are a threat to humanity.
- Resurrection/Death Loop: The immortal who repeatedly starved to death on a desert island.
- Resurrective Immortality: Any normally fatal injury will cause an immortal to die, then resurrect completely healed after minutes. However, there are situations like hanging where the immortal may stay deceased until rescued/removed from the circumstances. Other situations like being stranded without food, will trigger a painful cycle of starving to death, resurrecting, and starving to death.
- 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 I. 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.
- Mac tells Felicia a clansman gave him his katana. Originally Connor was to have given it to him. This was changed to the story in “The Samurai”. There was a comment made about Duncan considering those closest to him part of his “clan”.
- Retired Monster:
- Methos. Although the trope is played with because he does regret at least some of his actions, but by the end of the "Four Horsemen" arc, Duncan suspects that Methos manipulated the situation to kill off the rest of the Horsemen and Methos refuses to explicitly confirm or deny this,
- Darius was a warlord before finding religion.
- Kage found people willing to do things even he thought were terrible and promptly reformed.
- Revision: In the canonical Watcher Chronicles CD, background extras or bit part actors will occasionally be identified as a given Immortal's Watcher. This changes the tone of several scenes considerably but does not affect the plot in any measurable way.
- Rise from Your Grave: Kanin and Michael Moore.
- Samurai: One of Duncan's teachers was a samurai, Hideo Koto, from whom Duncan received his katana.
- Say My Name: Duncan in 'The Hunters'. "Dariussssss!"
- Scars are Forever: While Immortals heal from wounds after they become Immortal, anything before their first "death" remains. Thus, several Immortals bear scars or other marks for centuries. Also, both the movie and the series imply that wounds to the neck don't heal as well as other parts of the body.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The opening credits of the series from season 2 onwards end with a shot of Duncan appearing to swing his sword at the camera.
- Self-Made Man: It may have come from murdering a priest and stealing a jeweled cross but it's still impressive how in just a few decades, John Durgan went from an illiterate backwoods hunter to a millionaire art expert who spoke six languages.
- Seppuku: Hideo Koto in 'The Samurai'.
- Self-Made Orphan: Played with in "Double Jeopardy". The pre-immortal Morgan D'Estaing was adopted by a French aristocratic family as their intended heir. His adoptive parents eventually had a biological son and daughter of their own. The parents decided to disown Morgan and leave all their fortune to his younger brother Bernard. When Morgan tried to kill Bernard in a jealous rage, their father killed him and had him buried. When Morgan rose as an Immortal, he had a burning desire to kill his whole family. A few years later, he attempted to do just that. But the actual murders, by poisoning, took place at the hands of his mentor and partner-in-crime Xavier St. Cloud. Xavier considered this another lesson on how to become a proper villain.
- Self-Mutilation Demonstration:
- An episode has Duncan doing this to an Immortal that has lost his memory.
- In another episode it's shown in flashback how he convinced Tessa of his immortality. He shot himself.
- Methos does it in another episode, cutting his palm with a letter opener.
- Serial Killer Baiting: In the Episode "See No Evil" a serial killer called "The Scalper" goes after blond women. Duncan recognizes the killings as a copycat crime inspired by an immortal serial killer he decapitated decades ago. When the police tries to bait the killer with a blond woman, this backfires as the killer goes after another victim instead and nearly kills her. Duncan uses his knowledge of of the original killer's modus operandi to set up a trap with Tessa as bait. The killer tries to escape and is eventually run over by Tessa in Duncan's car.
- Sex Slave: Cassandra for Methos in his barbarian days.
- Sheathe Your Sword:
- The only way to defeat Ahriman in the much-maligned season 5-6 arc was to not fight him
- Garrick told Duncan to refuse to fight the visions tormenting him in “Shadows”. He was trying to make Duncan an easy kill but Duncan realized the truth in time to defeat Garrick and save himself.
- Shout-Out: Cross with Actor Allusion. 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'.
- Kalas, the main villain of Season 3, owns several music-related companies and businesses. A few episodes depict a jazz club which he owns. He chose to name his club Nosferatu.
- The Watcher's Chronicles CD-ROM was released by the producers of the series to add background information on the major and minor characters of the series. It also introduced a few characters not actually depicted in the series, as mentors or associates of existing characters. An ancient immortal is named "Obelix the Gaul", after the superhuman character from Asterix. Obelix is mentioned as the mentor of the immortal character Paul Karros, from the series. Karros has mentioned how he fought against the Romans in the 1st century BC and how he hated them. The Romans happen to be the main villains in Asterix and the comic book series takes place in the 1st century BC.
- Shrouded in Myth: Methos, the eldest living Immortal. Some of the myths are helped along by Methos to keep people off his trail.
- A Side Order of Romance: Methos falls for Alexa, a waitress at Joe's bar. He's geeky and awkward and flustered, despite having thousands of years of experience. After she's turned him down, she asks why he wants to go out with her, and his answer, "Because the alternative is unthinkable," convinces her to accept his invitation after all. It turns out Alexa is terminally ill, but it doesn't deter him. When he tells her he can handle what's coming, she asks why he would want to, which gets her the same answer.
- Slaughterhouse Fight: The episode where Duncan is reluctant to identify a killer to the police because said killer is an immortal. The sword fight happens in a slaughterhouse.
- Sticky Fingers: Amanda.
- Sound-Only Death: To minimize the gore, we never saw anyone lose their head, only Duncan (or sometimes Methos or Amanda) swinging.
- The Stoic:
- Darius lives a peaceful, secluded life on the holy ground of a monastery, separated from the cares of the outside world and beyond the reach of other Immortals. Duncan often comes to him for advice.
- Methos has survived through the millennia by staying emotionally disconnected and not getting involved in other people's problems.
- "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: A guy catches Duncan sword fighting on tape and tries blackmailing him to kill his wife. Duncan retrieves the tape but doesn’t kill. After seeing Duncan setting up a fight with the immortal friend of the immortal he killed, the filmmaker tries getting Duncan to do a plot like this with him. Duncan refuses and kicks him out.
- Supernatural Sensitivity: Known to fans and production crew as 'the Buzz,' this ability allows one Immortal to know that another Immortal is nearby. This prevents ambushes, but some villains have found ways around it.
- Sword Cane: Nicholas Ward carried one in “The Vampire”. Creator/Lord Byron is never without his in "The Modern Prometheus". On the more heroic side, Kit O'Brady carries one in "Double Eagle", though we never see him use it.
- Sword Fight: Once an Episode, practically.
- Take Up My Sword: Duncan. “He came back from the grave, took up his father’s sword, and slew the Viking.” Of course he didn’t know the Viking was immortal and only killed him for good 400 years later.
- Temporarily a Villain: Duncan MacLeod, when he has the Dark Quickening.
- This Means Warpaint: In the episode "Line of Fire," the villain of the week is an Immortal who was an Army scout in the Old West, and led a raid on a Lakota Sioux village where Duncan was living at the time. Duncan's girlfriend and her son were both killed in the raid. So before going after the bad guy in the modern day, Duncan puts on Lakota-style war paint, and uses a Lakota war spear as his weapon in the final fight.
- Tightrope Walking: Appears as a workplace-acquired ability as well as a Chekhov's Gag in the episode "The Lady or the Tiger".
- Circus star/thief/"bad habit" Amanda Grayson is introduced doing a solo tightrope act in a small French circus while Duncan and his friends are in the audience. Duncan playfully uses the Buzz to almost make her fall, and thereby make her act more impressive.
- Later in the episode, Amanda and her accomplice (and fellow Immortal) Zachary Blaine cross a tightrope to get into a museum without tripping the burglar alarms.
- Title: The Adaptation: Was initially called "Highlander: The Series", but later dropped "The Series" part of the name when the show proved to be more popular than the movies.
- Too Dumb to Live: Richie in season 3. Duncan tells him that joining a professional motorcycle racing team is a terrible idea because he risks dying in front of thousands of people. But Richie does it anyway and he dies just like Mac warned, forcing him to leave Paris before he’s recognized. Oddly he isn’t afraid of being recognized just a season or two later.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Methos is rarely seen without his can or bottle of beer.
- True Companions: Duncan, Tessa, and Richie serve as these in the early episodes, with the former pair practically adopting Richie as their own. As the series goes on, Joe, Methos, and Amanda join and show themselves as being incredibly devoted to Duncan.
- To Unmasque the World: Attempted by Christine Salzer in "Finale" as revenge upon the Watchers and immortals for their role in her husband's murder. Her scheme is quickly hijacked by Kalas, who doesn't particularly want to unmasque the world but is happy to use the threat of doing so to further his vendetta against Duncan.
- Underestimating Badassery:
- At 400 years old, Duncan is sometimes considered a "kid" among Immortals. Thus, many an Immortal a thousand year or more older will assume they have the advantage...often right up until the moment Duncan takes their head.
- Richie is in his 20s, barely Immortal for a few years, yet is able to take down fighters with literally centuries of experience on him.
- Woe to the Immortal dismissing academic Adam Pierson as a weakling, unaware they're facing the 5000-year-old figure once known as Death.
- Duncan himself falls into this, thinking young Kenny really is a 10-year-old kid...not grasping he's over 800 years old.
- Vigilante Execution: This is what the crowd is intent on doing in 'Innocent Man', until Duncan faces them down and talks them out of it. And the guy wasn't even guilty.
- Villain Team-Up: Xavier and Horton in "Unholy Alliance", hence the title.
- Violently Protective Girlfriend: Tessa on a couple occasions whacked one of Duncan’s opponents with nearby items like a chunk of wood when they had Duncan at a disadvantage.
- Wakeup Makeup: particularly obvious when Duncan unwraps the mummy of Nefertiri after being unconscious for 2,000 years, and she still has perfect hair and makeup. Note that she also knows English, although this might be Translation Convention of a common language such as Latin.
- Waking Up at the Morgue: Richie once, and several other minor characters
- Warrior Therapist: Sean Burns. At least until Duncan had his Dark Quickening and whacked him.
- The Watcher: A whole organization of them.
- Water Source Tampering: In the Horsemen of the Apocalypse two-parter, the Big Bad plans to contaminate water supplies with a bioweapon, For the Evulz. The Four Horsemen thrived in the Bronze Age, but are mostly has-beens in the 20th century. Kronos (the Big Bad) wants to orchestrate mass disasters in order to return the world to Bronze Age conditions and allow him to relive his glory days.
- We Gotta Stop Meeting Like This: In the episode "Judgement Day"
- Methos: We've got to stop meeting like this, people will talk.
- And from The Sea Witch:Duncan: We have to stop meeting this way Alexi. It's been half a century, what will people say?
- Weapon Tombstone: Duncan plants Caleb Cole’s axe in his grave in “Mountain Men”.
- Weapon Twirling: Both heroes and villains routinely twirl their swords using circular motions of wrist and forearm, apparently to keep the weapon moving and keep the enemy guessing as to what was just a twirl and what was the start of a real attack.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: James Horton. He considers the Immortals to be monsters and threats to humanity. So he wants to eliminate them all, end the Game, and protect humans. How far he is willing to go for this increasingly makes him a monster.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: As it is a series that features Immortals as the primary protagonists and antagonists, there are many episodes that deal with the physical and emotional toil that comes with being immortal.
- Whole Episode Flashback: "The Stone of Scone" and "Unusual Suspects".
- 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.
- Would Hit a Girl: Since the Game is often played to the death, most Immortals quickly overcome any reservations they have about fighting and killing women.
- 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.
- Wrecked Weapon:
- Duncan gives Felicia Martin a rare katana as he teaches her to fight and the rules of the Game. Unfortunately, Felicia is really Felice Marten, a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing whose MO is to pose as a newbie Immortal, get another Immortal to take her in and teach her their fighting style, then kill them with it. She and Duncan duel on a beach, and he ends the fight by breaking her weapon, then giving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about that sword would have served her well if she'd used it honorably.
- Duncan ends his final duel with Kalas by cutting his longsword in half. Kalas throws down the broken blade, daring Duncan to kill him, since he had a great insurance plan in place. Luckily for our hero, Kalas Didn't Think This Through.
- Kanwulf is after Duncan to get back the Axe of Odin Duncan took from him centuries ago. Duncan retrieves it, and gives it to Kanwulf, but brings the Clan MacLeod Claymore with to do battle. The final blow of the fight has the Claymore shatter the Axe's haft, and is also evidently the blow that severed Kanwulf's head from his shoulders.
- Haresh Clay breaks Richie's rapier with his first attack, leaving Richie unarmed and on the run for the remainder of the episode.
- You Killed My Father: Duncan’s reason for wanting Kanwulf dead.
- Zen Survivor: Methos - "Live, grow stronger, fight another day."
Silas: Like you always said, Methos: We live, we grow stronger, and then we fight.
- Given a nasty twist in Revelation 6:8