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  • The Essentials

    While we already have a thread for the favorites of each season, we don't have a list of the essential episodes of the show. By "essential" episodes, I mean the ones necessary to hit the main beats of the six-season narrative. I don't necessarily mean good ones--many of the important episodes aren't all that great, while certain great episodes are purely standalone affairs. To put it more precisely, these episodes would be the ones that would best carry the viewer from the events of the original film to the events of Endgame without any confusing gaps. (That's why none of the Raven episodes would be essential, even though I quite like that show.)

    I find the question interesting for various reasons. For instance, "Band of Brothers" is an obvious choice, but that episode requires the audience to know who Randi McFarland is. So which previous Randi McFarland episode is actually essential?! She first appears in "Innocent Man," but she only interacts with Tessa. She doesn't have much of anything to do with Duncan directly (as in speaking to him) until "See No Evil," which certainly gives the audience a sense of how much she loves to annoy MacLeod with questions. Perhaps that episode alone is enough to convey the character's shtick? It's also a good Tessa episode, and you'd need a few of those under your belt to get anything out of "The Darkness."

    On the other hand, how essential is an episode such as "The Blitz"? It's a good episode, but it's resolving a character arc that probably doesn't need any additional resolution from a big-picture point of view (unless you really need to know what Duncan plans to do with that house). In fact, "Reunion" isn't essential, either. Nor are any of the Season 3 Anne appearances after "Song of the Executioner," where she's initially written out of the show. Whether you find her character interesting or not, her later episodes only really affect her other later episodes, not the big event episodes such as "Finale." Contrast "The Blitz" with, say, "Brothers in Arms," which seems like a pretty disposable episode if you've already included "The Revolutionary" as a send-off for Charlie (and an introduction to Anne, of course), but if you want to set up Ahriman's temptation for Joe in "Avatar," it's actually pretty valuable.

    So what say you? The season premieres, mid-season "back to Paris" episodes, and season finales are obvious choices, but what else?
    __________________________________________________

    "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
    Some of the comedy episodes like Money No Object, Double Eagle, Stone of Scone and Unusual Suspects need to be included to show that even immortals need friends and laughter in their lives. You can't pare down the series without showing the lasting friendships too.

    Comment


    • #3
      "Double Eagle" would be a logical choice since it sets up "The Colonel," which reunites Duncan and Joe after their falling out. It's a comedy episode without being blatant filler as some of the other comedy episodes are.

      Anyway, here's my tentative list. It represents about 38% of the overall series, and it assumes that Joe and Methos deserve special consideration since they appear in Endgame and The Source. It's not a list of my favorite episodes--I hate a few of them--but it hits the broad strokes of the show and tries to avoid "Immortal of the Week" episodes that add little to the larger Duncan arc.


      Season 1

      The Gathering
      Family Tree
      See No Evil
      Band of Brothers
      For Tomorrow We Die
      The Lady and the Tiger
      The Hunters


      Season 2

      The Watchers
      The Darkness
      Eye for an Eye
      Under Color of Authority
      Unholy Alliance
      Legacy
      Prodigal Son
      Counterfeit


      Season 3

      The Samurai
      Line of Fire
      The Revolutionary
      The Cross of St. Antoine
      Song of the Executioner
      Star-Crossed
      Methos
      Finale


      Season 4

      Homeland
      Brothers in Arms
      Double Eagle
      The Colonel
      Something Wicked
      Deliverance
      Methuselah's Gift
      Judgment Day


      Season 5

      Prophecy
      The End of Innocence
      The Messenger
      The Valkyrie
      Comes a Horseman
      Revelation 6:8
      Forgive Us Our Trespasses
      Archangel


      Season 6

      Avatar
      Armageddon
      Indiscretions
      To Be
      Not to Be


      So what have I missed, and why?
      __________________________________________________

      "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

      Comment


      • #4
        Hm, sadly, I think you need all the Anne episodes. And simply because one of them sets up the Culloden character arc. As such, I'd also include Through a Glass Darkly, because it continues that thread and also subconsciously sets up the Ahriman arc with the whole mentor-kills-student theme.

        Also, I'd remove the Ahriman arc and go straight from FUOT to 2B/N2B. I mean, its really not that big a leap, is it? Plus, you keep a character alive this way.

        Comment


        • #5
          Eh, you could probably still dump Anne at "Mortal Sins," so add 3 episodes to Season 3. "Through a Glass, Darkly" would necessitate "Timeless" and probably "Chivalry." And we need Ahriman to explain why Duncan cut his hair.


          Are seasons 1 and 2 good as is?
          Last edited by Tootsie Bee; 07-01-2017, 03:37 PM.
          __________________________________________________

          "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

          Comment


          • #6
            Hm..."The Zone."

            I'm not kidding. Its directly referenced in Charlie's last episode, and its the only one where the two of them spend meaningful time before Xavier's comeback. Otherwise, those are solid Essential picks for the first two, even if I like more than just those (over several of the shown, in fact).

            Also, season 4... well, if you really want to explain what is Duncan doing when Kif is out to meet him (I always hate that he sneezes when he feels the Buzz, btw), then you know the episodes that are needed. BUT, if you don;t (maybe Duncan is working in sconstruction now?) then leave those out. But yeah, "Promises" because its a segue to Duncan's anxiety-driven self in that season's finale, shows Rachel off and shows off Duncan's insecurities post-DQ, too. Its Highlander's post-Borg "Family", really. Also, you need "Chivalry" because it shows that Methos will, from now on, be a frequent in Duncan's residences. And where's "One Minute to Midnight"

            Five... Well, "Haunted" is not strictly essential, but its a character piece for Richie and explains a bit of what he did before the season started, and its one of the last Duncan-Richie stories, so it has sentimental value.

            And I can make the case of the Ahriman arc not being essential, as beyond the shock value of Richie's death, its really contributed nothing positive to the franchise and certainly helped detriment the show's popularity to non-fans ("season six has an ancient Scot battling an abstract Demon who's clearly a rip-off of Lynch's Twin Peaks, but without the Lynch factor"). Go from "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" to the two-part series finale, and while I legitimate despise its concept, it does provide with a direct thematic resolution to Duncan's self-doubt and allows him to go forward as himself, flawed and all.

            As an old poster around here once said, the Ahriman arc basically tried to retread old ground, but with a purely magical threat instead of Immortality. Which is wrong in both cases.

            Comment


            • #7
              It really is much harder to cut Season 4 episodes without making things incoherent. Lousy writers finally getting their act together! And I meant to include "One Minute to Midnight" at the top of the Season 5 list. It just slipped my mind after I typed the "Season 5" header, I guess.

              Regarding the Ahriman episodes, though, I'd say that if you cut them, then most of the Richie episodes would become inessential. Basically, he'd become like Amanda: a great recurring character who gets abandoned by the writers before Duncan makes his debut on the big screen. The reason I didn't include every Amanda episode on principle is that she was denied any final resolution. Joe and Methos are there for Duncan when his mentor (and the original protagonist for whom the franchise is named) dies. Joe and Methos reach the end of their respective journeys when they lead Duncan to the Source, sacrificing themselves (one giving his life, the other giving away his chance for the Prize) to ensure that he's the One. Richie at least has an excuse to be absent for those events if we keep "Archangel." Amanda is presumably still dancing on a pole in her bedroom rather than being proactive...sigh. So much for her Raven arc.
              __________________________________________________

              "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

              Comment


              • #8
                Doesn't matter if Richie isn't there. He's left in "Messenger". You have to include the Redstone episode if you want to bring him back to Paris, since he died there during Dr. Anne's last visit.

                Besides, he's not the hero of the show, Duncan. The latter did his part - he trained him and then he left. By the end of season 5 they had semi-reconciled their differences and that was that. Besides, he wasn't even his only student that he hadn't seen in centuries. So basically, I don't agree with your argument.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I mean, if we're throwing away season finales, we might as well throw away the series finale, since it's pretty moot to Endgame, too. Besides, the Ahriman arc is the payoff to "Prophecy," and "Prophecy" is necessary if you want to keep the Horseman episodes, which themselves are necessary because they help to inform the selfless choice Methos makes at the end of The Source. So there.
                  __________________________________________________

                  "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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    They didn't think of Ahriman when they were making "Prophecy". The demon story was a very late development, so to say they set it up is like saying they set up "Counterfeit" when they penned "The Watchers". Which is unlikely to have occurred, especially on this show. Besides, FUOT is a decent way to end a season that explored the grey areas of immortality, I think.

                    And 2B/N2B is still useful in setting up a hardened Duncan who accepts his flaws as well as his virtues. "Who I am is who I was" he says to the Guardian, and that comes from the finale. It may still not have occurred, but that fake alternate universe was his subconscious kicking him in the ass in a way only Connor would have.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If I could cut "Counterfeit," I would. I haaaate that story and prefer Horton's previous demise. But I think it's mentioned in later episodes on my list. I still hold that the Ahriman story is too big to overlook. I mean, it's bad. It's really bad. But it's an event story. It's a major moment in Duncan's life, and his method of defeating the demon foreshadows his method of defeating the Guardian.
                      __________________________________________________

                      "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

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Its not really important, beyond killing off Richie, and since you're cutting off any other episode that directly refers to that... yeah. And Duncan not killing the Guardian is more a retread of his defeat of Ahriman rather than a direct allusion to it (and you know it).

                        And for all its awfulness, at least its fun to see Vandernoot and Paul interact in "Counterfeit", as well as see Joe and Richie bond in their scenes together. Plus, Part I isn't that bad... its just weak set-up to a ludicrous plot (an identical Tessa... yeah).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I nearly included "Sins of the Father," but it felt a bit disingenuous to label a backdoor pilot "essential." (Sorry, "Assignment: Earth.")
                          __________________________________________________

                          "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

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            If you'd included that, you'd have to put "Black Tower" there too, since its his first kills after Richie.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Dice is the most essential character in the entire show, even more than MacLeod. But wouldn't "Diplomatic Immunity" be the more necessary sequel to "Sins of the Father" thanks to the whole put-away-my-sword story? Man, Season 6 was a mess...
                              __________________________________________________

                              "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

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Sure. And yeah, it was... and is.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I'm going to let you two do all the work and then use your list to show my husband Highlander:The Series (Abridged).

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    After weighing it out, I've opted to make only minor changes to my own list. Ultimately, I don't think that "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" needs the other Culloden episodes to make sense, which means that we don't really need more Dr. Anne, either. Thus, I'm not touching the first three seasons, and I'm adding only one new episode to Season 4. With Season 5, I'm throwing in the episode that I intended to list in the first place. Season 6 gets two new episodes to smooth out the transition between "Armageddon" and "To Be," but I'm cutting "Indiscretions" because I don't want to include episodes simply on their quality or sentimental value. An "inessential" episode could always be watched in a second viewing. The point for me, at least, is to create a clear and relatively brief narrative path for people who want to see the major stories from the show before moving on to the Duncan movies.

                                    Season 4

                                    Homeland
                                    Brothers in Arms
                                    Double Eagle
                                    The Colonel
                                    Chivalry
                                    Something Wicked
                                    Deliverance
                                    Methuselah's Gift
                                    Judgment Day


                                    Season 5

                                    One Minute to Midnight
                                    Prophecy
                                    The End of Innocence
                                    The Messenger
                                    The Valkyrie
                                    Comes a Horseman
                                    Revelation 6:8
                                    Forgive Us Our Trespasses
                                    Archangel


                                    Season 6

                                    Avatar
                                    Armageddon
                                    Sins of the Father
                                    Diplomatic Immunity
                                    To Be
                                    Not to Be
                                    __________________________________________________

                                    "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

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I'm just going to completely disagree about the Ahriman episodes. I showed the show to my mom a decade ago, nearly, and I left those out and she still enjoyed the experience (though she distinctly didn't like Endgame and, even worse, The Source).

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Well, fine. You're free to leave off every episode after "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" if you wish. Then again, at that point, you really should avoid The Source, too. I still hold that both of those stories, despite being the bottom of the franchise barrel*, are major events in Duncan's life.


                                        *Seriously, give me the planet Zeist over a Horton-faced demon with a red scarf of evil any day.
                                        __________________________________________________

                                        "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

                                        Comment


                                        • #21
                                          I do not find the Ahriman arc essential for an audience that one might want to hook on Highlander. And I speak from frickin' experience, but the AAA arc just pisses off everyone that comes into it.

                                          Comment


                                          • #22
                                            I haven't had time to think it through, but I don't agree with everything in Tootsie Bee's initial premise.

                                            For starters: I think the only essential episodes in Season 1 are "The Gathering," "Band of Brothers," and "The Hunters." Re "Band of Brothers," I don't think it's necessary to "explain" a minor character like Randi McFarland. It's clear from "BoB" itself that she's some kind of reporter, who already reaizes there's something strange about Mac - though her guesses are nowhere near the truth. (And he finds her a pest.)

                                            Also, I don't think every season premiere is essential. The one I consider definitely non-essential is "The Samurai." Great episode! But really, it's not that important that viewers learn how Mac obtained his sword. If the writers had considered it of more than casual interest, they would have gotten to it before Season 3.

                                            Possibly non-essential: "Prophecy." To begin with, it isn't necessary as a lead-in (eventually) to "Archangel." In that episode, we're never told who wrote in that ancient document that Mac was the destined "Champion," or how it was supposedly known. There's no necessary connection with the prophecies Kantos was ranting about. And even if there was a connection, it wouldn't have been necessary that any mention of it be made before "Archangel."

                                            The character of Cassandra? The writers brought her back in "Comes a Horseman" because they wanted an Immortal Mac trusted, thousands of years old, to convince him Methos had been "Death." They could have used either Cassandra, or the female Immortal from "Take Back the Night." But that doesn't mean one or the other of those episodes was "essential"! Gillian Horvath mentioned that if the character of Darius had been alive, they could have used him - meaning that the Bronze Age character didn't have to be a woman, a sexual partner. I'm sure that if there was no suitable character, they would have found some solution to their problem - maybe via ancient Watcher records.

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