"From the dawn of time we came, moving silently down through the centuries. Living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you..... until now."
Before there was Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, there was a film school script and a different Highlander - Connor MacLeod. Although for the series, the events of the film did not lead to the final Gathering, for some there can be only one. And his name is Connor MacLeod. All opinions expressed here are my own, as is the retelling of the storyline.
Written by Gregory Widen and Peter Bellwood & Larry Ferguson from a story by Gregory Widen
|Connor MacLeod||Christopher Lambert|
|The Kurgan||Clancy Brown|
|Brenda Wyatt||Roxanne Hart|
|Rachel Ellenstein||Shiela Gish|
|Aman Fasil||Peter Diamond|
|Sunda Kastagir||Hugh Quarshie|
In the middle of the thousands in Madison Square Garden, he is alone. The wrestling that excites the crowd leaves him cold, the casual brutality reminds him of other times, other places, but times and places not so different from here and now. Then, he feels it, in him and around him. Another. He leaves the crowd to their fight and goes to face his own. In the garage below the Garden, a man steps out of the shadows and challenges him with a single word. MacLeod. Both men carry swords, MacLeod a katana, the other - Fasil - a broadsword. And both know how to use them. The fight swings back and forward, Fasil eluding MacLeod amongst the cars, rushing at him out of the shadows. Then the momentum swings to Fasil, as he separates MacLeod from his sword, but he cannot press his advantage and MacLeod vanishes. Out of sight, MacLeod recovers his sword and then steps out to face Fasil. This time, there is nowhere to go and Fasil is the one disarmed. The two look at each other for a last moment, before MacLeod beheads his attacker. For an instant, the garage is silent, then all hell breaks loose as car engines start by themselves and bolts of energy swirl through the air in an explosion of energy focused on MacLeod. When quiet returns, he hears the approaching sirens. He is Connor MacLeod, the Highlander.
Picking himself up, Connor hides his sword in an overhead grating before driving out of the garage. But he is not quick enough and is arrested by police arriving to investigate the disturbance. To them, he is Russell Nash, an antiques dealer on Hudson Street. As he is taken away, the police soon find Fasil’s body and something else - his sword. The forensic expert, Brenda Wyatt, has an interest in ancient weapons and recognises the sword and its value. A million dollars. The police question Nash, but he denies killing either Fasil or another man, Vassilek, who was killed in New Jersey a few nights before. With no evidence to connect him to the killings, the police cannot stop him leaving, to the cheers of those watching.
MacLeod returns to Madison Square Garden to collect his sword, but finds that he is not the only one searching. Brenda Wyatt has analysed fragments of metal found on Fasil’s body and has found a deeper mystery to solve than identifying his killer. The sword is far older than the technique used to make it and the historian in Brenda is intrigued to find this conundrum. Connor recovers the sword and follows Brenda to a bar, where he tries to engage her in conversation to find out who she is. She rebuffs him and leaves, but he has aroused her suspicions and she follows him as he goes. She wants answers, but all she finds are questions. At one o’clock in the morning in New York City, 1985, she watches amazed as a seven foot giant attacks MacLeod with a longsword. The fight is interrupted by a police helicopter and both men flee, the giant’s parting shot being that they will meet again. Brenda follows MacLeod, asking what the giant meant. Why did he call him “Highlander”? And if there can be only one, only one what? Connor tells her to go home and leaves her standing on the street corner.
The questions that Brenda Wyatt asked were almost the same as the ones that tormented Connor MacLeod for five dark years. Born in Glenfinnan, on the shores of Loch Shiel in Scotland, Connor MacLeod was barely a man when the MacLeods rode to war with the Frasers in 1536. When battle was joined, Connor was amazed to find that none of the opposing Clan would fight him, until the melee parted and a black knight challenged him, the same giant whose rasping voice challenged MacLeod out of the New York night. The Highlander was no match against the Russian giant and fell almost immediately. As the giant prepared to behead the kneeling Connor, for the first time he heard the words that would shape his life. There Can Be Only One. Before the sword could fall and cleave his head from his shoulders, Connor’s kinsmen charged the giant, saving him for the moment. Mortally wounded, they took Connor back to Glenfinnan with their other wounded, expecting him to die. But grief gave way to superstition when, far from dying, Connor recovered and, by the following morning, was walking as if nothing had happened. Kinfolk and loved ones turned their backs on him and he was driven from Glenfinnan, banished. He wandered the Highlands, eventually settling down to a trade as a blacksmith and finding a lover in a young girl called Heather. But what had happened that day in 1536 remained a mystery for five years, until a horseman came searching for him. To train a humble blacksmith in wonders beyond imagination came the chief metallurgist of the King of Spain, Juan Sanchez Villa Lobos Ramirez.
From their first moments together, there was an undeniable connection between Connor and Ramirez. As Heather watched in horror, Connor was wracked by pain and struck by lightning that Ramirez called the Quickening. Wonders were to unfold as Ramirez told Connor the simple truth. He could not drown or die in any way, as he was Immortal. Only if his head came away from his shoulders would he perish. Immortality carried its price - they must live in secret, lest men fear them for their difference, until they were irresistibly drawn to a faraway place at the time of the Gathering, when the last ones would fight for the Prize, the power of all the Immortals who ever lived. In the end, there can be only one. Only on Holy Ground would they be safe from each other. Not that their life was without its pain - eventually, Ramirez told Connor the rest of it. Immortals cannot have children and will always lose those they love. To Connor, the idea of leaving Heather was unacceptable, even when Ramirez told him that he buried his third and last wife over a thousand years before. Shikiko, a Japanese princess, had been the love of his life and the Egyptian still carried the sword her father had made for him, an ivory handled katana. More immediately, Ramirez told Connor that the giant who tried to kill him five years before was another of their kind, the Kurgan. Because of him, Ramirez came to find Connor, to train him for the next confrontation.
More determined than ever to find out what is going on, Brenda uses a little subterfuge to confirm that the man she followed from the bar is Russell Nash, the antiques dealer questioned over Fasil’s death. She goes to his antiques store, but is stonewalled by Nash’s secretary, Rachel, until the man himself appears, inviting himself to dinner at her apartment. That evening, as he prepares to go out, Rachel confronts him about what he is doing. She is more to him than a secretary, being his adoptive daughter and confidant. Connor found her orphaned amongst the ruins of the Second World War and the young Rachel saw him killed, only to come back to life and save them both. For her, on many levels, this man has a kind of magic and she is concerned at his eternal isolation and loneliness. Connor goes to Brenda’s apartment, already knowing that she is with the police. He lets her know that he knows by giving her a copy of her own book on the metallurgy of swords. He accuses her of trying to set him up with the cops, but she is desperate to find the sword and only that. She demands answers, but he tells her she has no right to them. He leaves, but as he walks away, Ramirez’ voice comes unbidden to mind. “You must leave her, brother.”
The Kurgan eventually found the forge, but Connor was away and it was Ramirez who fought him. Ramirez was overpowered, but sliced through the Kurgan’s throat before he died, all but destroying his voice. Ramirez put up a good fight and the forge was damaged as the two battled, so much so that the force of Ramirez’ Quickening demolished it, leaving Heather alone with the Kurgan. After Ramirez’ death, Connor did not rebuild the old stone forge, but built a cottage nearby, living there with Heather, the two of them enjoying a long life together in the Highlands. But eventually, the inevitable caught up with them and Heather aged and died, leaving Connor to grieve for her. As their time ran out, he promised to remember her always and to light a candle on her birthday. When she died, Connor buried her on the hilltop overlooking their cottage, with his clan broadsword as a marker on her grave. He burned the cottage and left the Highlands behind, taking Ramirez’ katana with him.
Now, the Gathering is here and time is running out for all of them. With Fasil and Vassilek dead, there are only three left. MacLeod, Kurgan and Kastagir, but when Connor meets up with Kastagir, the African is more interested in a party than a fight, reminding Connor of their past together, particularly a duel Connor fought with a pompous socialite named Bassett in Boston a little over two centuries before. Eventually, Connor apologised to the perplexed Bassett, who couldn’t understand how the drunken imbecile in front of him could take six sword thrusts and still stand. The two part, but the tone is less friendly when Kastagir encounters the Kurgan, who takes his head. There are a street full of witnesses to the fight and one of them, a survivalist, tries to gun down the Kurgan, but is impaled on the Kurgan’s sword and thrown against the wall. Unable to move, he has a front row seat as the Kurgan receives Kastagir’s Quickening. The Kurgan makes his escape, leaving the survivalist to give a description to the police, who are less than pleased that their mysterious head-hunter isn’t Russell Nash.
For the moment, Brenda has transferred her interest from the sword to the man who she believes has it and has discovered something that would rekindle police interest in Nash in a heartbeat. Russell Nash died in Syracuse less than two minutes after being born. His mother died in childbirth, so the antiques dealer is the dead son of a dead woman. She enlists the help of a friend in the public records office and finds that, for all of the owners of Nash’s house since the original owner, Montagu in 1796, all of the owners died as children, but came back to life to claim the inheritance left them by a complete stranger. Comparison of the signatures of these dead children turns up something even more bizarre - the handwriting is the same, meaning that the same man has owned the house for nearly two hundred years, under a succession of false identities. Which is, of course, impossible.
Connor goes to church, his yearly remembrance of his promise to Heather, but his reflections are disturbed by the Kurgan, gloating in the death of Kastagir. They are the last and the Kurgan has every intention of taking Connor’s head and the Prize. He mocks Connor, telling him how Ramirez died on his knees and how he raped the woman. Connor’s reaction tells him that his long-held belief that she was Ramirez’ woman was wrong. The Kurgan gloats, believing that he has wounded Connor, but he soon realises that all he has done is light a fire under MacLeod. Now, the Highlander has a reason to want him dead that goes beyond mere survival. Connor returns to the store to find Brenda demanding to see him. When she tells him that she knows the truth about Nash, he tells her the rest of it. And kills himself to prove it.
Believing that his lifetime alone may nearly be over, Connor lets down his guard and enjoys one moment of love as he and Brenda share a night of passion. But, the following day, he sees the danger that lies before him, knowing he must face the Kurgan and tells her he cannot get involved. She understands, but tells him he is afraid to live. Unbeknownst to them, the Kurgan is watching and, seeing them together, sees a way to distract the Highlander. As Brenda returns home, the Kurgan is waiting and forces his way into her apartment, kidnapping her. He terrifies her with a high speed rampage through the New York traffic, playing chicken with trucks and mowing down pedestrians. When he finally has her cowed, he leaves a message for Connor, inviting him to come get her. Rachel knows that, win or lose, Connor is not coming back and says her goodbyes to both Russell Nash and Connor MacLeod.
Connor goes to the abandoned movie studio where the Kurgan is waiting and finds Brenda tied to the neon sign on the roof. As he tries to free her, the Kurgan comes out of the dark and attacks him. Connor eludes the Kurgan, who smashes through the supports for the neon sign, causing it to crash down. As it does, it brings down the water tower next to it and floods the roof. Brenda scrambles from the wrecked sign in time to see Connor and the Kurgan fall through a roof light into the building below. Both men are winded, but the Kurgan is quicker and kicks away Connor’s sword. He is ready to finish the Highlander when Brenda hits him with a piece of pipe. Distracted, he turns his attention on her, giving Connor time to retrieve his katana. The two of them face off for a final time, but each time they clash, it is the Kurgan who feels steel slicing through his skin. The two stare at each other, but for the first time fear mingles with the madness in the Kurgan’s eyes and Connor steps through, taking the Kurgan’s head. The Quickening is unleashed and Connor is lifted into the air as the power of the Prize rages around him in the empty building. When it is finished, Connor leaves New York, taking Brenda with him, and returns to Scotland. He knows the thoughts of all men and can guide them as he wishes, he can live, grow old and have children. He is at one with all living things. He has power beyond imagination and, in his mind, he hears Ramirez urging him to use it wisely. And not to lose his head.