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4-5: Something Wicked, Deliverance, Promises

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  • 4-5: Something Wicked, Deliverance, Promises

    Discuss these Season 4 episodes:

    Something Wicked

    "Really? We are trapped in a room with a machine that can cut off my head. Now that's a longshot."
    --Connor MacLeod in Peter Bellwood's original Highlander II script

  • #2
    The Dark Quickening Trilogy! A solid run of episodes. Quite honestly, though, considering how soon the show would run out of steam, it might've served them better off if they just stretched the Duncan-as-evil storyline a little further, maybe three or four episodes and resoluting it temporarily, before bringing it back and resolving it completely for good later on. But as is, I might object to "Deliverance"'s opening act being pretty underwhelming... So Duncan seduces and sleep with a married woman? How... er... evil of him? Seriously, with all those evil Immies in these, I'd imagine he'd be capable of worse stuff than this. But the rest of the episode is OK, I guess.

    "Something Wicked" wins, though, because it's great from beginning to end. Unlike many times, this time Duncan really struggles with Coltec being villainous and actually regrets it while killing him. And that Quickening is simply fantastic, with Duncan hurting instead of enjoying the knowledge he's receiving.

    "Promises", of course, has Duncan at his hypocritical - and his most nakedly human position. He's openly wrong about his decision, but won't admit it, even if he knows its wrong because he made it and has to live with it - just like the actions in the previous two episodes.


    • #3
      Episodes provided on YouTube by Cinedigm.

      Episode 79: "Something Wicked"

      Magic for once doesn't feel completely inappropriate! The Dark Quickening scene felt like something out of Natural Born Killers. Evil Duncan is far more interesting than regular Duncan. Also, the Greenwich Village flashback is awesome. Yet another example of Season 4 putting the earlier seasons to shame.

      "Really? We are trapped in a room with a machine that can cut off my head. Now that's a longshot."
      --Connor MacLeod in Peter Bellwood's original Highlander II script


      • #4

        Episode 80: "Deliverance"

        Sean was a great character, and it's a shame that he was wasted so quickly. Methos's line about being too old for this was priceless, and it's fun to see him playing Watcher again instead of filling in as a pseudo-Connor. Duncan vs. Duncan was fun, too. Rachel's appearance is a nice callback to Homeland. This episode is the show at its best, i.e. when it's not just making Duncan out to be a one-dimensional boy scout and when it's expanding the first film's mythology without undermining that mythology.

        "Really? We are trapped in a room with a machine that can cut off my head. Now that's a longshot."
        --Connor MacLeod in Peter Bellwood's original Highlander II script


        • #5

          Episode 81: "Promises"

          Running out of good ideas, the writers turn to the same sort of yawn-athon that used to be common in, say, season 1. At no point did the episode convince me that I should care whether or not Duncan keeps his word, which is made even more of an issue by the lackluster nature of the flashback. Furthermore, Duncan has no business getting wrapped up in political assassination plots. What an awful way to follow up on the splendid DQ story.

          "Really? We are trapped in a room with a machine that can cut off my head. Now that's a longshot."
          --Connor MacLeod in Peter Bellwood's original Highlander II script


          • #6
            I enjoyed the "Dark Quickening" episodes for the acting; and they almost had to use the idea, because back in Season 1, when Mac told Richie how a Quickening had changed Darius for the better, Richie had immediately wondered about the scary possibility of a Quickening's changing someone for the worse.

            But I, personally, dislike the way it was resolved. For me, a "holy spring" was just...hokey. And having "good" Duncan fight "evil" Duncan? It was a ripoff (presumably intentional) of a Superman film in which "Clark Kent" had to fight a "Superman" who'd been poisoned or something, and turned evil. Yes, Adrian had to do something more difficult than what Christopher Reeve had done, because he had to execute all the difficult moves in both sides of a swordfight. But it was still unoriginal.

            How else might it have ended? Maybe with scenes taking place, really, within Mac's mind, in which he rallied all the "good" Immortals whose Quickenings he'd received (via "bad" Immortals who'd taken their heads), against the "bad" ones, and the "good" Immortals won in an all-out battle?


            • #7
              I truly hate the "Dark Quickening" arc. It ruins Highlander mythology more than anything else in the series, and all because they wanted an excuse for Adrian Paul to play a badguy.

              The problems are obvious. Why didn't so many other "good" immortals turn evil after killing an evil immortal? You can't say that the Native American guy was a special case due to his ability to absorb evil because as Wilusa said, this silly idea was referenced way back in Season 1 and Joe has already heard of "Dark Quickenings". And so, if it's possible for these to happen, how do we know that any one of Macleod's most bitter foes wasn't actually just a really nice guy who was just "possessed"? It really just ruins everything.

              But that whole idea of possession is what I really hate about it the most, because Duncan basically is possessed. There are so many times in the series when the writers come up with interesting moral dilemmas only to give Duncan a way that he can totally absolve himself of responsibility. During one of the scenes with the magical pool Sean Burns appears and tells Macleod that he didn't kill him, but only the evil inside him did. Well that's convenient. You see a lot of people make this out to be some very profound arc about the evil that's inside us all, but it really isn't. It's just a simple tale of possession that wrecks Highlander lore. This fact makes it even more jarring when the death of Sean Burns plays a major part in "Forgive Us Our Trespasses", because that episode really is dealing with these ideas of good and evil in a sophisticated way, and yet this cheesy, silly incident is central to it. This is really why Macleod can't explain to Keane why he killed Sean Burns—the writers know it was really just a case of possession and they know how ridiculous that is, so they just kind of gloss over it.

              The basic problem with the concept of a Dark Quickening is that is takes moral responsibility away from the character affected and actually casts doubt on just how genuine the goodness or evil of EVERY immortal actually is. Duncan was possessed due to this "Dark Quickening", which basically means that Darius was possessed by his "Light Quickening". And if Duncan isn't responsible for what he does while evil, then you HAVE to say that Darius wasn't truly good at all—he was merely possessed by the goodness of another. This is the inevitable consequence of this dumb idea and the writers just didn't think it through at all.

              I'm sorry, I know this arc is a fan favourite, but I hate it so much. I'd get rid of it long before the Ahriman arc.

              "Promises" on the other hand is one of my favourite episodes and actually offers a great contrast to the whole Dark Quickening thing because Duncan consciously refuses to keep his promise. There's no ridiculous excuse for him. He just decides not to keep it and has to deal with the consequences. Moral accountability isn't stripped from him. And that makes it more interesting.
              Last edited by David McMurdo; 08-04-2017, 11:00 AM.
              Formerly known as "Quickening"

              My latest video in which I visit an ancient broch and cairns:


              • #8
                Dark Quickenings became a staple in several stories. Also, the Big Finish productions storylines for Methos and Caspian is basically Dark Quickenings. Caspian all at once, Methos gradually because the only other Immortals he ever encountered were evil. One day, he gets so pissed off he goes over the edge (at which point also they stop writing from his point of view). It made me angry, because it absolved them of all character development.


                • #9
                  I don't feel as strongly as David does about Dark Quickenings per se (though I do dislike the "holy spring" and the Superman ripoff). I think we should assume Dark Quickenings are extremely rare...and there may, hopefully, be better ways of resolving them. And while what I'd call a "Light Quickening" (what happened to Darius) is in some sense the opposite, I like the idea that an Immortal whose Quickening would be "good" would be able - and would choose - not to possess the one who'd taken his head, but to exist within him as a friend and mentor. Guiding the living Immortal to change for the better, but not forcing him. (Of course, I don't think the entirety of whatever one believes "survives death" is contained within the Quickening. Just a part of it!)


                  • #10
                    Watched those episodes (Something Wicked and Deliverance) today. Very well performed. And when Duncan first calls Sean, he's all menacing, then he says in a small, frightened voice, "Sean?" To lose Koltek and Burns so quickly, and their onscreen time was used so well to make them appeal to me, was hard.


                    • #11
                      Just finished going over the official domestic cut of these three episodes, kindly provided by the wonderful Gillian Horvath. I have converted them from their VHS tapes to mpg (m4v) format if anyone is interested in them. Also, the official 'Eurominutes' are now marked out on my transcript pages. []

                      And now for the showdown: DVD/European cut vs Domestic cut - who wins?

                      4x13:Something Wicked
                      There are a number of small, insignificant cuts made to this episode, but also three longer onesthat will determine the winner here: 1) Duncan and Richie talking about whether magic exists, or werewolves, vampires, elves, etc. (Duncan says he hasn’t seen any in his 400 years --way to stomp on our dreams of fanfic crossovers, guys); 2) Joe asking Richie if he’s ever seen “It’s a Wonderful Life”, which is somehow supposed to tie in to their conversation about whether Dark Quickenings can happen, although it just leaves me confused; and 3) the entire scene at the bar between Duncan and “Denise” after Duncan kills Coltec, where Duncan is poster-boy for the MeToo movement, as if almost killing Richie isn’t enough. Yeah, I think I’m gonna have to go with...

                      Winner: Domestic cut!

                      Every single one of the cuts in this episode is insignificant… except for the very last one. Approximately two minutes at the very end of the tag is cut, losing the reveal of Rachel’s presence along with a nod to the fact that Methos left Alexa to come help Duncan. Without this scene, Rachel’s presence in the next episode is unexpected and unexplained, and one can only assume that it must be related to Methos bringing the MacLeod family sword to Duncan -- so therefore...

                      Winner: DVD/European cut!

                      4x15: Promises
                      The domestic cut of this episode loses a number of scenes, but none of them really add much to the storyline.We do lose the conversation in the teaser between Duncan and Rachel where she tells him that she doesn’t need an explanation about his “magic”, but all the rest are mediocre moments as best. Unlike the previous episode, this one scene isn’t enough to sway my vote, so...

                      Winner: Domestic cut!

                      Updated tally:
                      Domestic = 27
                      DVD/European = 28
                      Last edited by Zzickle; 06-24-2020, 12:30 PM.


                      • #12
                        I think the scene with Duncan and Denise is important, at least to me. It's a huge flag going "He ain't our sweet puppy no more!" The one thing the writers did, which I sort of agree with, is have Duncan able to at least not kill any mortals. Of course, he's kept away from any who obviously deserve it, but they kept him away from that. Because as an evil version of himself, he'd be more likely to go at the vulnerable than seek a way to justify killing a mortal.

                        My thoughts are, as referenced later in Prophecy, Duncan's unique Immortal gift might be the ability to consult with himself at a different stage of his life. He could have the ability to reset himself, and thus the Holy Spring made it even easier than it "would" have been. A line from the evils of The Source. "Who I was is who I am." I think that's the quote.


                        • Zzickle
                          Zzickle commented
                          Editing a comment
                          If any of the other cuts had been stronger scenes, I would likely have gone the other way. This scene was certainly the best of those cut, but it just isn't strong enough on its own, for me, when weighed against the rest of the cuts.

                      • #13
                        I am in the anti camp on this one, thought the whole dark quickening premise was ridiculous. It seems to me that at some point someone said what passes in the quickening is knowledge. There's nothing evil in knowledge. The winner knows what the loser knew, nothing says he has to do the same thing with this new knowledge that the previous guy did, ie, I know how to commit arson and get away with it now. Guess it's up to me to use that or not as I see fit. No one ever discussed getting a new personality dumped on them every quickening and the idea is pretty much ludicrous if you what to maintain character integrity.


                        • #14
                          If you watch the DVD interview for Finale, Pt 1, Gillian Horvath reveals that the original story idea in season 3 was to have Kalas kill Methos and then start acting like him, forcing Duncan to choose between killing Kalas or saving whatever part of Methos was in him. So TPTB seem to be solidly on the side of a very powerful Quickening being able to overtake an Immortal's personality - Darius' Light quickening, the Methos/Kalas idea, and the Dark Quickening here.