One of my favorite TV shows of all time is “Highlander”. It’s about Duncan MacLeod, a champion. In fact, looking over the TV shows I like best–BtVS, Angel, DSN, and Highlander–they are all about champions. I don’t apologize for the use of that term anymore than the producers and writers of “Angel” do, even though they do overuse it.
A champion is a warrior who takes on the battles of people who can’t fight (physically) for themselves. I used to wonder why I was so into shows about warriors and fighters, given my own pacifist proclivities. Duncan Macleod helps illuminate this. He is a warrior. He’s killed lots of people and continues to. And yet, at the same time, he is a pacifist. There was a time when he wasn’t a pacifist, at least not consciously. He was raised a Scottish clan warrior. His responsibility was to protect his people from their enemies. He continued to be a professional soldier for years and years until he met Darius, who helped him recognized within himself a feeling he already had–that most killing is senseless slaughter, that the cycle of revenge is pointless. That the only reason to fight is to defend people against those who would slaughter senselessly.
The Duncan we meet in 1993 doesn’t go looking for fights, but if someone challenges him, he will fight if he is forced to. Often he tries to find ways to avoid a battle. But if he must fight, he does, and if he has to, he will kill.
As a warrior, Duncan can never stay far away from battles for very long. He tried to. He stayed on “holy ground” for years avoiding other immortals and their quest for “the prize”. He was an abolitionist during the Civil War. He lived with the Sioux during an era when American Indians were being mass slaughtered. He was a medic in World War I. He helped save refuges in the Viet Nam War. Always in the war zone. Always the champion.
Pacifism isn’t about believing that all war is bad. It’s about recognizing that all war is sad. Sometimes it is necessary for the greater good, but the pacifist warrior is someone who choses his battles carefully, who never seeks them out, who defends the innocent and recognizes that the value of people isn’t based on how strong they are.
Some of his pacifism probably isn’t always wise. He lives by a code of chivalry that won’t allow him to kill people who can’t engage him in a “fair fight”–he won’t kill women immortals, or child immortals. As Methos pointed out to him, there’s more than physical strength involved in a fight. The women and children have their own weapons. Duncan knows this, and he understands the “weapons” they use. But still he won’t kill them, and this may one day be his undoing.
Or maybe he will be the one. He will be the last immortal in the end. He will win “the prize”–all the strength and knowledge of the other immortals will go into him, making him the most powerful person on Earth. Jim Dawson hopes so. And when his clansman Connor forced Duncan to kill him so that they could defeat a powerful evil immortal, Duncan came that much closer to being “the one”, as far as story lines go.
We’ll probably never know if Duncan will be the last immortal, although, what’s the point of telling his story if he isn’t?