The 5 Coolest and 5 Stupidest Highlander Quickenings

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, Movies, TV
Monday, April 6, 2009 at 5:05 am
By Kevin J. Guhl

To those unfamiliar with Highlander, the special effects light show that occurs whenever one sword-wielding immortal chops off the head of another may look like a bombastic, electric-powered orgasm. To fans of the Highlander franchise, these displays also look like bombastic, electric-powered orgasms. But fans also recognize these dramatic, one-man (or woman) lightning storms as the Quickening - the transference of the power and knowledge of a beheaded immortal to the opponent who did the deed. A Quickening can be a mystical, exhilarating conclusion to the action in a Highlander movie or TV episode. But it can also de done so poorly as to launch viewers into fits of chortles when that was clearly not the intent. Here are the five most awesome Quickenings ever depicted in Highlander, and thankfully there were many great ones from which to choose. Also listed are the five worst Quickenings, all of which do a good job of conveying why Highlander fans are often just as embarrassed as enamored with their franchise. Special thanks to the members of the Highlander Community Forum for sharing their suggestions for this list.


5) "Line of Fire"

Okay, we're sure the creators of Highlander were going for poignancy in this episode of Highlander: The Series. Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) at one point lived with a Native American tribe and was in love with a woman name Little Deer, the widow of a friend. Sadly, Little Deer, her child and the rest of the tribe were massacred by the U.S. Cavalry. A century or so later, an immortal named Kern who had led that cavalry regiment shows up and Duncan wants revenge. The resulting battle walks a fine line between being appropriate and ridiculous, as Duncan goes "native" again, wiping his blood on his face like warpaint, speaking a tribal language, issuing Indian war whoops, and beheading Kern with a giant spear. The spectacle explodes into pure cheese with a Quickening that causes Duncan to levitate and receive a visit from giant, airborne ghosts of Little Deer and her son.

4) Highlander: Endgame

This Quickening is comparable to the average Quickening Duncan would receive after taking the head of the typical evil-immortal-of-the-week in the TV series. And that's the main problem here. It wasn't a run-of-the-mill immortal getting beheaded - it was Connor MacLeod, the main character from all the previous movies who also served as Duncan's clansman, mentor, brother and friend. Yes, the clip montage and music depicting Connor's life was moving, but the Quickening was pretty lame. The freakin' Earth should have split in half when Connor got killed, but instead it just kind of sighed and went back to bed. Not to mention, Connor spent the whole movie moping around pathetically and wanting to die, as the villainous Kell had purposely eradicated many of the people he loved. Connor was always intense and lonely, but never this depressing, and his portrayal in this movie was a disgrace. And then he forced Duncan to behead him so one of them would be strong enough to take on Kell, who didn't even seem tough enough to be the accountant of the Kurgan, the badass villain from the first film. While it's true that actor Christopher Lambert wanted to pass the torch since he felt he had aged out of the role, letting him walk off into the movie sunset would have been the better choice. The only redeeming factor was that when Duncan finally faced Kell, Connor seemed to take over Duncan's body to enjoy the win for himself.

3) "Leader of the Pack"

When you're in charge of creating an episode of Highlander each week, there's got to be some desire to mix things up a bit now and then. There are only so many ways you can have one guy cut off another guy's head and unleash a lightning storm. So, it's possible to see how there was a good idea at the basis of this Quickening that was ultimately failed by about a $20 budget. The end result was a Quickening that involved a very laughable and unconvincing floating house. On top of some of the other silliness in this episode, such as a prick immortal named Canus who just happened to control a pack of dogs to do his bidding, it's understandable why this is considered one of the most notoriously stupid moments in Highlander history.

2) "See No Evil"

Duncan fighting an over-the-top Phantom of the Opera pastiche named Korolus in a black-and-white flashback wasn't a terrible idea. But what the heck were they thinking when they shot the Quickening? I can only imagine that the director said something like this to Adrian Paul: "Okay, Adrian. Fly back onto the stage and flop around like a fish for a few seconds. Then try to get up and fall down comically on your face. Follow that by acting like you're swimming, even though you're on a dry stage, like you're a background cast member in the Little Mermaid on Broadway or something. And for the big finale... hump the stage!" And Adrian, a first-class ham whenever he needed to be, was happy to comply.

1) "The Messenger"

Leave it to Duncan's troublesome padawan Richie Ryan to give us the most brain-numbingly bad Quickening ever seen in the Highlander universe(s). The inspiration for this Quickening seems to have been no-budget music videos spotted on public access TV in the early 1990s. Standing in front of an obvious blue screen filled in with spinning landscapes, Richie throws his hands up in the air, shakes his hips, twists in place and makes facial expressions like he's both intently singing N*SYNC tunes and having sex in his mind. As with many things Highlander, there was a kernel of a good idea here - that Richie sees the faces of all the immortals killed by the guy he just offed - but also like many things Highlander, it was shot to shit in the finished product. The makers of Highlander knew this was bad and even included it in a blooper reel set to surf music.
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