REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES – SEASON 6

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Jim Byrnes (Sanctuary)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Peter Wingfield (Caprica)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter Hudson (Hitman)
Rachel Shelley (Rogue)
Danny Dyer (Vendetta)
Valentine Pelka (The Pianist)
Dudley Sutton (Cockneys vs Zombies)
Ian Richardson (From Hell)
Jay Simon (Power Rangers Megaforce)
Alexis Denisof (Legacies)
Jasper Britton (Mike & Angelo)
Anita Dobson (Eastenders)
Emile Abossolo M’bo (Hitman)
Alice Evans (The Vampire Diaries)
Andrew Bicknell (Victoria)
Roger Daltrey (Tommy)
Justina Vail (Seven Days)
Sandra Hess (NCIS)
Claudia Christian (Babylon 5)
Jack Ellis (Bad Girls)
Paris Jefferson (Xena)
Alexandra Vandernoot (Pret-a-Porter)
Martin McDougall (Batman Begins)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)

81B402sFfNL._AC_SL1500_After the murder of his friend and fellow immortal Richie Ryan, Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) retreats to a Southeast Asian monastery for a year and mentally prepares for his battle against the demon Ahriman. Ahriman taunts MacLeod by appearing in the guises of the Highlander’s late enemies: the rogue watcher James Horton (Peter Hudson) and the leader of the four horsemen, Kronos (Valentine Pelka). The friendships between Duncan, ancient immortal Methos (Peter Wingfield), and watcher Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) also become strained as MacLeod retreats to his Parisian barge, aides several female immortals from his past, and tries to find himself again.81XSWgDX0dL._AC_SL1500_Yeah, that is kind of a sucky summary of Highlander: The Series’ 13 episode final season. Unfortunately, this season itself is kind of sucky and should most definitely not be used as judgment for the series as a whole. Year 6 begins a little hokey with the two-part Ahriman opener “Avatar” and “Armageddon,” then concludes with an It’s A Wonderful Life cop out in “To Be” and “Not to Be.” Yes, it’s too abstract, David Lynch-esque, and mystical, but the Ahriman storyline- carried over from the finale of Season 5- both takes too long to get over with and yet seems to be too easily wrapped up and tidy. While a fan of the series can see the importance of MacLeod going this route, questioning the meaning of his immortal life, and despairing over the death his longevity causes; this critical turn is only explored in half the episodes this season. Highlander: The Series just gets too weird here, departing from all that made it so great in favor of bad immortal crime and female revenge crap. This tiresome stretch of chicks all seem the same and drive this season into the ground.highlander62We’ve never seen any of these women before- at the very least why should we care about them when the immortals we know and love have so much more to tell? If anything, Season 6 has me feeling a little bit of resentment for these guesting women who do nothing but waste the precious time being taken away from our real players. Though a lovely piece in of itself, only MacLeod ends up with some small resolution in the series finale- which seems more like a mid-season two-parter by magically presenting the alternate possibilities of the rest of our company. Yes, the show is supposed to be about The Highlander. However, over the previous 5 seasons, we saw just how much MacLeod both rose and fell based on the mortal and immortal support about him. To simply have the others smile as the sun sets is a little unfair for all the characters- and certainly unkind to the audience. But again, it is still a lovely final episode, complete with a tear-jerking Highlander: The Series goodbye montage. Sniff.highlander57Fortunately, there are a few goods to be had this season. “Diplomatic Immunity” and “Black Tower” are worthy MacLeod centric episodes. “Unusual Suspects” with Roger Daltry returning as Hugh Fitzcairn is also great in another fun, all in the past delight that again proves more could have been done historically instead of resorting to these immortal women follies. And let’s talk about all these guesting female immortals. Isn’t it amazing that in 13 episodes, it seems like we’ve had more lady immortals than in all the previous seasons combined? Hmm, why is that? Some of these gals are, unfortunately, seriously bad. Dara Tomanovich (Bio-Dome) as Alex Raven in “Sins of the Father” is kind of cool, perhaps the first female immortal who can actually fight and likes it. Her plot and motorcycle style, are however, a bit Renegade; and again, I wonder why Highlander: The Series would choose to retread this route.

patient0Even more tragic is Alice Evans  in “Patient Number 7.” While it’s not a bad premise, the episode is just very badly done, and Evans most definitely cannot carry one show, let alone an entire spin off. Likewise, “Justice” and “Deadly Exposure” just stink. Claudia Christian (Babylon 5) is lovely, but her backdoor pilot “Two of Hearts” is just…no. Not only does it have none of the regular players, but also the subsequent episode “Indiscretions” exclusively features Dawson and Methos and thus proves just how unnecessary all this Star Search for the next female immortal really was. You want another gal in the cast? It might have been nice to see more of Joe’s daughter Amy (Louise Taylor, Eyes Wide Shut) as a player in Highlander: The Watcher Adventures. Anything would have been better than how Season 6 actually turned out, I’m just saying.hqdefaultOf course, the MacLeod specific episodes are still the best, but remember, Duncan is, well, barely there in Year 6. Of course, we’re sorry to see him go, but in many ways, one can understand star Adrian Paul’s readiness to depart towards bigger and better things. He even cuts his hair, people! Seriously, what else was left for Mac? Why did they need to reduce the character to a shadow of his former self this season anyway? Did they really have so little faith in the rest of the cast without him? Why couldn’t Duncan have stayed monking it out in his temple while Joe, Methos, Amanda, and a new watcher or young immortal or two had adventures searching the globe for the elusive Highlander? Although it’s kind of silly, I want to say Season 6 is a little underhanded in the way MacLeod is treated. After 5 years, he can go through whatever serious stuff he wants this season- so long as he gets over it in 3 episodes? It’s almost cruel to end Highlander: The Series this way. As I wrote in my Season 5 essay, I would watch “The Modern Prometheus,” skip the Year 5 finale “Archangel,” and the Ahriman plot, then pick up “Unusual Suspects” and “Indiscretions” here before the series conclusion. Everything else is kind of a slap in the face for longtime viewers.394b784f81cd5b9bfb40e0a3164f0b06Fortunately, we spend this shortened season exclusively in Paris, and the European locations and period flashbacks are great as always. We see a lot of pre-MacLeod times and places in a good portion of the flashbacks- thanks to our rotating door of 1,000 year old immortal gals (Didn’t we already have a 1200 year old immortal gal? coughamandacough) Still, it’s nice to see that the historical style holds up without the eponymous man himself. Unfortunately, the action suffers this season thanks to all those guest ladies who can’t hold a sword to save their lives. They all also seem to wear the exact same pair of black jeans with a zippered up black leather motorcycle bomber, too. And again, chick Quickenings are a Hell No. Even Duncan’s sweet Barge suffers- losing all its wonderful art and décor so Mac can have a more Zen like environment. While season 6 may leave a bitter taste even in the Highlander completist’s mouth, it’s more important to look at the gem of the series overall.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SEVERANCE

CAST
Danny Dyer (Straightheads)
Laura Harris (Dead Like Me)
Tim McInnerny (Notting Hill)
Toby Stephens (The Machine)
Claudie Blakeley (Gosford Park)
Andy Nyman (Black Death)
The film opens with George (David Gilliam) and two women (Juli Drajkó and Judit Viktor) running through the woods. The women fall into a large pit trap while George is caught by a snare. As he hangs helplessly, a masked man approaches and disembowels him with a knife.
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What is later revealed as some days prior to this, the European Sales division of Palisade Defence military arms corporation are on a bus to a team-building weekend at a “luxury lodge” in the Mátra Mountains of Hungary. When a fallen tree blocking the road halts the bus’s progress, the driver (Sándor Boros) refuses to take a dirt road through the woods and, after an argument, drives off leaving the group to walk the remaining distance to the lodge. Eventually the group reaches the lodge, which is old and in serious disrepair, but the manager Richard (Tim McInnerny) convinces the wary but tired group to enter. Inside, Harris (Toby Stephens) discovers a file cabinet full of cryptic Palisade documents, written in Russian. The group discusses the documents, leading Harris to relate a story he’d heard about the lodge: the lodge was previously a mental institution, and in the early 20th century a Palisade-made nerve gas was used to clear it out after the inmates took over. Jill (Claudie Blakley) responds with the story she’d heard: the lodge was a “reeducation center” for Russian war criminals, and after an escape a Palisade-made nerve gas was used to clear escapees out of nearby buildings. Both mention a lone survivor who swore revenge on Palisade. Steve (Danny Dyer) starts to tell his own story about the lodge’s past as a clinic staffed by busty nurses when he finds a human tooth in the meat pie the group is eating for dinner. Chastising Gordon (Andy Nyman) for serving a pie he just found in the kitchen, everyone goes to bed.
 That night Jill sees someone looking into the lodge from the trees. Though nobody is found outside, everyone but Richard agrees that they should leave the lodge. The next morning Richard grudgingly sends Harris and Jill to the top of the hill to call the bus driver back, on the condition that the rest participate in a team-building game of paintball. Reaching the hill, Harris and Jill find the bus abandoned and the bus driver dead in a nearby creek. Back at the lodge, the game of paintball has just finished when Gordon steps into a bear trap. After several failed attempts by Steve and Billy (Babou Ceesayu) to pry the trap open, Gordon’s left leg is cut through completely under the knee. Harris and Jill arrive in the bus, load everyone in and head back for town. On the way, a spike strip is thrown in front of the bus, which causes it to crash. Harris is thrown clear of the bus in the crash, and is decapitated by a masked killer with a machete. Jill is captured and tied to a tree, then gagged, doused with gasoline and burned alive. The rest discover Harris’s body, prompting them to head for the lodge to hide for the night.
 While Steve and Maggie (Laura Harris) smoke, a masked figure (Levente Törköly) “quietly” grabs Gordon and carries him into the basement. Discovering Gordon’s absence and a newly opened door, the four head into the basement which leads to an underground prison. Through one door Billy and Maggie find the now-dead Gordon who has had the Palisade logo carved into his torso and a now-unmasked killer who fires a shotgun at them. The two hide in a nearby cell, where Billy dies from a chest wound. Steve hides on the second floor while Richard escapes out the back into the woods. While the killer searches for Steve, Maggie sneaks up on him with a large knife she took from the prison in the basement, but she falls through the rickety floor. The killer turns round and takes aim at Maggie, but, at the last second, Steve saves her by impaling the killer through the back. The killer falls down and becomes lodged in the main level floor, and Maggie takes his shotgun and shoots the killer in the head.
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 Maggie and Steve exit the lodge believing they are safe, but discover that a group of several more armed, Russian-speaking killers are awaiting them outside. Maggie shoots one before he can fire on them, and the two run into the woods. They come across Richard, who has stepped on a Palisade-made land mine and cannot move without detonating it. Richard guides Maggie and Steve through the minefield. The killers know that the area is a minefield and do not enter; they use a fallen branch to pass over the minefield close to Richard and torment him with insults and stones as they pass overhead. Accepting his situation Richard does his best to save the others and steps off the mine, blowing up himself along with two of the killers. Steve and Maggie come to another lodge, the real Palisade lodge. Inside they find their boss George, who is partying with two escorts Steve ordered via the Internet earlier. George brings out a prototype missile launcher and fires it at the approaching killers, but the missile locks on to a passing commercial jet instead, destroying it. The five run into the woods, leading to the events shown in the beginning of the film. Maggie is snared, then about to be molested by a killer, but manages to smash his head with a rock. Steve encounters two attackers and gets beaten and stabbed, but eventually kills them both with a knife and a submachine gun. Maggie is chased by a flamethrower-wielding killer into an abandoned prison camp, filled with crates bearing the Palisade logo. There, Maggie breaks her leg, but is saved when one of the escorts, rescued by Steve, arrives and shoots the man. Steve, Maggie and the escorts make it to a rowboat on the shore of the nearby lake, and as they paddle off to safety Steve jokingly quips, “Foursome?”.
Good performances all round, a good script and overall good pacing make this film never boring. It may be a tad predictable in the ‘whos gonna die next’ kinda way and the romantic subplot, but the fun is in seeing how it unravels.