This set has eight disks, seven DVDs with the European cut of the 22 episodes, and one CD with special features.
Like the season 1 DVD set, the season 2 set has a short producer commentary with each episode which is usually enlightening, if short. On many episodes, there are also some interesting out-take shots of various scenes. Some of them are scenes cut out of even the European version.
You get full episode-length audio commentaries by Adrian Paul on The Return of Amanda and Revenge of the Sword. This commentary also has a video component where you can watch Adrian in the studio watching the episode on TV and recording his comments. Personally, I found this a little disturbing, mostly because he’s obviously older than Macleod and has put on weight.
There are also screen shots from various episodes, which have icon-making potential, 22 complete scripts, actor and director bios, and a trivia game. Enough special features to keep you interested.
On the down side, no sub-titles, and no close-captioning signal sent to the screen.
The not-so-good: Season 2 is my least favorite Highlander season, I think. I didn’t care for the majority of the stories in the stand-alone episodes. I thought they were dull. They were working too hard at not having so many bad-guy-immortals of the week, and as a result, many of the episodes had little or nothing to do with immortality at all. The producer and creative consultant both actually apologize for the episode “The Zone”. Duncan’s side-kick through most of the Vancouver episodes was Charlie DeSalvo, an ex-Navy Seals/dojo guy, so you have all these episodes with martial arts and special ops teams and other boring things like that. Plus, you know, Tessa dies early on in the season, so Duncan does the Captain Kirk thing, bedding various mortal and immortal babes in subsequent episodes.
There are some lame stand-alone episodes in Paris, too, like the one with the Victorian-era immortal pretending to be a vampire. That premise is very cool, but they didn’t pull it off in an interesting way. Another episode features Cleopatra’s lady-in-waiting, who leaps out of her sarcophagus after 2000 years speaking perfect English (the producer points this out himself in his comments, and thanks the audience for ignoring it). Nefertiri was a kick-ass babe though.
The good: This season also gives us Richie’s initial months as an immortal–his first immortal battle, and the cool scene where Duncan teaches him to sword-fight, and his first quickening. If you’re someone who watches shows about supernatural characters because you think it’s a fun fantasy imagining being one of them, you’ll understand why, while I like larger-than-life characters like Duncan Macleod and Angel the vampire, I identify with the more accessible supernatural pip-squeaks like Richie and Connor the vampire spawn.
I think it’s easier for me to imagine being the super-cool character’s side-kick, and this identification helps explain why I was so pissed when they had Duncan kill Richie on “Highlander” and when they had Angel give Connor an entirely new life with no memory of his old one on AtS. At least in “Highlander”, Duncan kills Richie under the influence of a demon, and not by free will (although it’s always disconcerting to have the character you identify with killed). On AtS, though, it was like my own father/big-brother wrote me out of his life. This really explains why I was such a big Angel-Connor ‘shipper and wanted so much for Connor to make peace with Angel so he could walk in his world, fight at his side. So I could walk in Angel’s world as Connor.
But enough about me.
Season 2 of Highlander also introduces great mortal characters, like the Watcher Joe Dawson, and the perpetually drunk Maurice-the-annoying-neighbor (the producer notes that French fans hated Maurice. They thought he was a stereotype).
We also get fun recurring immortals like Amanda (I adore her character, and would pay money to have her spunk!), Xavier St. Cloud, and Carl Robinson (who’ll return in season 5). The creators of the show also continue their tradition of hiring larger-than-life celebrities to play immortals like Sheena Easton and Fine Young Cannibals’ Roland Gift and Nia Peeples.
Season 2 also brings us the beginning of the Watcher-Immortal wars that took the show to such interesting places in later seasons. In season 2, they get carried out by the stiff, boring renegade Watcher James Horton, who seems inexplicably obsessed with Macleod when there are a lot eviler immortals out there for him to torment. Horton was first seasonal “big bad” on Highlander: the Series. He’s there in episode 1, comes and goes throughout the season, and is causing trouble for Macleod as the season climaxes in Paris.
My favorite Horton scene occurs after he has teamed up with the hedonistic immortal Xavier St. Cloud in an “Unholy Alliance” to kill immortals. James Horton is sitting at a desk, intent in his oh-so-important paper-work while Xavier lounges next to him, eating caviar. Xavier exhorts Horton to enjoy himself more. The hypocritical, paranoid Horton doesn’t listen to this obnoxious immortal, of course. He’s quite incapable of enjoying himself, except for the “killing for pleasure” part.
Horton is exactly what he fears in the immortals, and probably not so hypocritical after all–for him it’s about who will have the most power, and he wants the mortals to defeat the immortals because he’s convinced they want to “dominate us!”
My favorite episodes of Season 2 are “Legacy” and “Prodigal Son”.
“Legacy” gives Amanda’s back story (“Bring out yer dead!”) and introduces her teacher, the gorgeous Rebecca, who looks fabulously aristocratic and medieval riding a horse. My favorite scene is when Duncan meets them for the first time in the early 17th century. They’re feisty and dressed in (noble) men’s clothes and are possibly the first female immortals the flummoxed young Duncan has ever met. This episode also introduces the Methuselah Stone.
The producer comments that there are fans who don’t like flashbacks. I love flashbacks. The scenery, the clothes, the swords. But most importantly, the back-story! I also love flashbacks on AtS. But then I’m an Angelus fan. And Darla in a boustier.
“Prodigal Son” is a favorite because naturally, as a Duncan-Richie friendship ‘shipper, I don’t want those two estranged for long. After Richie killed his first immortal, Duncan sends him out into the world on his own. This is partly because Duncan doesn’t approve of Richie killing the guy. So Richie returns uncertain of how he’ll be greeted.
Plus this episode has Martin Hyde, who is an fun villain. Maybe it’s the lascivious way he says, “…that’s nothing compared to kill of a seasoned immortal!” I used to make up Highlander fanfic in my head (I tell myself stories, I never write them down) and I invented this tough female immortal character born in the late 1800’s. Unfortunately for her, the first immortal she meets (before she knows anything about what happened to her) is Martin Hyde.
Another wonderful moment in “Prodigal Son” is the last scene of this episode, when Richie and Duncan drink 300-year old cognac together and then (Stan and Adrian) crack up.
This particular episode has some funny out-takes, including revealing the secret of where immortals keep their swords when not in use (do you really want to know?) and getting to see what’s under Duncan’s kilt.
Rating the Highlander seasons (favorite to least favorite): 3, 4, 5, 1, 6, 2. That’s a misleading list, though, because all the seasons are great.
Watching season 2 has got me in the mood to watch season 3 now. My tapes are grainy, have lousy tracking, and all the episodes are out of order. *Sigh*
But on the up side… Methos!