By Lyria Wollich
Season I, Episode 1
The Gathering was the first episode of the Highlander Series that would eventually span 6 years and 117 episodes. In itself, The
Gathering proved to be the epoch that would shape further episodes of the series and gave it the launching pad to branch off from the movie franchise. Several
interesting dynamics occur in Gathering that are subtle and yet very important to the future of the Highlander story.
Firstly, and most importantly, the episode served to distinguish Duncan MacLeod as a character unto himself. Unlike
most spin off Television series, the producers of Highlander the Series did not attempt to continue the character played in the movie by another actor. Instead, they
had the leading movie character - Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert); pass the baton, as it were, to his clansman Duncan MacLeod (played by Adrian Paul).
This set up a continuity to the series, and yet didn't attempt to make the fans suspend belief by trying to mold Adrian Paul into Christopher Lambert's character. It
would never do.
Fantastically enough, in a combination that rarely happens on screen, the two actors played marvelously off of one another. This
further strengthened the credibility of what the producers were trying to forge. Adrian Paul's Duncan MacLeod was not going to be a carbon copy of Connor, but instead
became a dynamic personality of his own who shared a common thread, a language and a history with the man who had been his clansman, his mentor, his friend.
The playful banter between the two actors showed a sort of ease of manner which only two people who are incredibly comfortable
together or have spent many years together can have. But, as Connor would quickly point out, Duncan was the luckier of the two cousins. "You get all
the fun and most of the good women!" And unlike Connor, Duncan was a man of many facets, relationships and he was more than anything a man of honor.
Everything Duncan did, or would ever do would be shaped by his sense of honor and justice. Duncan played by the rules, even if they were his rules, and had a very strict
sense of right and wrong, black and white.
This sense of honor was counterpoint to Stan Kirsch's character, Richie Ryan. Richie had a very fuzzy sense of black
and white, with everything being a shade or two of gray. Richie never wanted to hurt anyone, but he also knew how to survive. Raised on the streets with an
indifferent education, Richie Ryan had no roots, no foundation, and very little sense of himself. He talked tough, acted cocky, but deep down inside he was little
more than a frightened boy making out the best way he could.
In the middle of all of this is Tessa Noel, creative, intelligent, beautiful. Tessa is the epitome of feminine grace, charm
and strength. Everything she does, she does with confidence, and yet in dealing with Duncan, she's a little bit unsure of herself - and him. The interesting
dynamic between the two characters in The Gathering is that Duncan, despite his sense of honor and truth, never bothered to tell Tessa EVERYTHING about him and his
immortality. Which begs the question, 'Is omission of certain facts about the truth, the same as lying about it?' Where do the fuzzy, gray edges of the
truth become misleading?
And Tessa takes him to task for it, not so angry at him for not telling her, as she is that he doesn't trust her to love him
and stay with him even after she knows. I guess even immortals have things they want to hide in from the rest of the world. But, even more telling in this
relationship between mortal and immortal is the fact that one day Tessa would grow old and die, and that Duncan would live on, looking no older than his 35 years and
someday perhaps loving another - that is, if no one took his head first. The Gathering begins to betray a thread that would continue on throughout the series
and into the movie ENDGAME - Living forever might sound great, but it is dangerous, hard and very, very lonely.
Enter the Villain - a smarmy, good looking hulk of a man; Slan (played by Richard Moll) whose only delight in
life is torturing the loved ones of the immortal he's about to kill before taking his head. Slan isn't just a killer, he enjoys the pain and agony he causes his
victims. He is in the true spirit of the game, for that's what he plays. A sorry side effect of immortality seems to be the perpetual sameness of everything that
sooner or later, some of the less stable ones will do anything to make it interesting again.
This is when we learn about that Duncan often runs away from his problems instead of facing them head on, hoping hope against hope
that if he waits long enough the problem goes away. I think everyone has been guilty of that at least once or twice. Yet Duncan being a man of many deep
passions - once those passions have been ignited, he fights with the courage of ten men. His motto, "Mess with me and you might live another day, mess with my
friends or my loved ones and it's see - ya - nara". Never quick to kill, he also doesn't hesitate if it comes down to a showdown. Slan hits that nerve when he
threatens Tessa, what a better way to get Duncan , "back in the game".
What makes Highlander's main characters so special is that they are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
Duncan MacLeod is not a superhero, he is flawed and human, yet he embodies most of the characteristics which we would want to count among our own. Compassion,
kindness, honor, justice, strength and humor. And yet part of the allure of immortality is that he is indeed a true renaissance man, skilled in art and music,
languages, swordplay. With 400 years to play with, a man can learn so much. Highlander is about opposites. It's about the mirror reflection of our desires and
their possible outcomes. It's about good and evil and when it isn't so easy to distinguish between the two. And, in essence, it is who we are at our best and our
worst and what we hope we someday might become.
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