Highlander and Highlander: The Raven

Highlander (1992-1998)
Highlander: The Raven (1998-1999)
Type: Spin Off

   Ah, Highlander, the popular and yet highly misnamed TV and movie franchise. All the Highlander projects dealt with a group of immortals. They are people who live forever and can only be killed by being beheaded by another immortal at which point there is an event called the Quickening where the surviving immortal absorbs the other's life energy. Given all this you would think the saga would be called something like The Immortal. But oh no. See, the entire franchise started with the first Highlander movie whose hero was Connor MacLeod. In addition to being an immortal, Connor also happened to be from the Highlands of Scotland. Thus, Highlander. Only problem is it really sort of misses the point of the thing.

   Anywho, the idea is all these immortals go around killing each other until there is only one left alive who gains power beyond belief and lives happily ever after. This is the central idea and inspired the saga's motto "There can be only one!" Again though, we have a problem. You see the very first Highlander film ends with Connor MacLeod becoming the last survivor and gaining total power. Ooops. The next film in the series helped to further confuse matters in its attempt to find a way to bring in more immortals. Highlander II: The Quickening changed the basic premise. Originally immortals were just regular folks who for some reason were born immortals to play in this silly game of head lopping. Highlander II said, oh no, see the immortals are all ALIENS and we can have some more of them pop in from the home world and thus get more immortals back into the fray. This was such a weird/bad movie that as far as I know the entire film has been disavowed as part of the official continuity. And given how fast and loose the official continuity is, that should tell you how bad it was.

   Okay. They disavow Highlander II and decide to make a Highlander TV series. Three problems. First, Christopher Lambert who played Connor MacLeod is a film actor and not likely to want to star in a syndicated TV version of the film. And he is so identified with the role bringing in a new Connor would likely be a big mistake. Which leads to problem two. They're are lots of immortals (or there were before Connor beheaded them all) but only MacLeod is a Highlander. It would be stupid to name the show The Highlander if the lead guy wasn't from the Highlands. And that also leads to problem three: alll the immortals except for MacLeod are dead! There can be only one and at this point there IS only one. What the hell do we do now?

   Well they could back up and set the entire series in a time frame before the first film with a different immortal as the lead. But where's the fun in that? Who wants to watch a show about an immortal you know is gonna end up loosing? We all know Connor wins after all.

   Here's how they solved the problems. They fudged it. First, for the series it turned out Connor wasn't the last immortal. The end of the first film where he won the head-lop-athon? Well he was just a little goofy and deluding himself. He wasn't really the last one!

   Not only wasn't he the last immortal, turned out he wasn't even the only Highlander or the only MacLeod! The TV series starred Connor's immortal relative Duncan MacLeod who was also, luckily for the show, originally from the Highlands Of Scotland. Phew! That was close.

   So for a long and successful run in syndication, Duncan MacLeod ran around taking a little too much off the top of various immortals and other baddies as well as occasionally discovering that one of the other regulars was an immortal and didn't know it! Now the show elaborated and played with the Highlander premise in ways I am not going to get deeply into. They added Watchers, guys who "watch" the immortals and stuff like that. The stuff I have already gotten into about the show's mythology is convoluted enough. Don't get me wrong, I think it's an entertaining movie and TV series but I think even die hard fans would have to admit that considering the whole "there can be only one" thing they have to fudge things to keep it rolling.

   Well, in 1998, Adrian Paul who played Duncan got tired of immortality and decided to quit the show. Dahhh! What to do? Highlander still had a sizable following and it seemed a shame to just let the show die! Solution: do a spin off following the adventures of yet another immortal. The new series would be titled Highlander: The Raven and would follow the exploits of one of Duncan MacLeod's immortal girlfriends named Amanda. Amanda was an immortal who had popped up on the original Highlander series on and off. She was added as a full time regular in the final season (I'm sure to help when the time came to spin her off). Not wanting to behead Duncan and totally lose his character, instead the show left him in the last episode walking off by himself. He was soon featured along with Connor MacLeod in the fourth (and last?) Highlander feature film.

   Amanda was an immortal who was a jewel thief. She ended up hooking up with a cop named Nick and going on the straight and narrow helping him fight bad guys. Those bad guys of course ended up being largely immortal. And guess what? Wouldn't ya know it! Nick? He was an immortal too. What are the odds of that. There can be only one my ass! One what? Guy who ISN'T freaking immortal! Damn! And I'm no expert but I am pretty certain Amanda "The Raven" was not a Highlander. I just think by this point they didn't care. With all the mythology problems they had to deal with, I'm guessing the whole "Highlander" thing seemed like no big deal.

   By the way, if you are a big Highlander extremist who is going to send me an elaborate explanation about how it all makes sense and nothing was fudged and its all brilliant don't do it. It's a fun show but, again, bottom line, also convoluted and wacky.

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