"Joss Whedon's Highlander Fetish" by: Jenni W

Admit it, the title got your attention. This is not fan fiction, this is a (semi) serious essay concerning the similarities between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Highlander: The Series. Am I going off the deep end, you ask? Absolutely. Where is she coming from? A drug induced haze, thank you very much. Seriously though, the similarities are too great to ignore.

I am a Highlander fan and have been for a long time, and I love both HL and BTVS, but over the past few seasons, I just couldn't ignore some of the similarities between the two shows. Coincidence? Probably, but it still deserves greater scrutiny.

And now, Joss Whedon's Highlander Fetish.

Argument 1) Lost Souls and Dark Quickenings
During the fourth season of Highlander in two episodes called "Something Wicked" and "Deliverance", the main character and main hottie, Duncan MacLeod (of the clan MacLeod--had to add that) got a Dark Quickening after taking the head of a once-buddy turned baddy. After this, he was under the power of darkness and committed evil acts, including the killing of a friend, before his goodness was returned to him in a rather lame ending of an episode involving a sword fight with himself. Confused? Well, so was the audience.

After the Dark Quickening, characters, especially Richie, his student whom he was the closest with, were distrusting of him and even still angry though it really wasn't MacLeod's fault.

During the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in two episodes entitled "Surprise" and "Innocence", a main character, and main hottie, Angel lost his soul while making love to Buffy. After this, he was under the power of his demon and he committed evil acts, including the killing of a friend, before his goodness could be restored several episodes later thanks to a misplaced disk, an Orb of Thesula and a gypsy possessed hacker. Sobbing? Well, so was the audience at the end of "Becoming part 2".

After the return of his soul, and a stint in Hell that the Highlander people *wish* they'd thought of, characters, especially Giles and Xander, were distrusting of him and even still angry though it really wasn't Angel's fault. (Like he could have known getting pelvic with the Slayer would send his soul on vacation.)

Does any of this sound familiar?

The main differences are of course in the ending, this being Angel's departure into Hell and MacLeod ending up holding a sword in a pool of water, but the similarities are still there and deserve some attention.

Argument 2: Sword Fights
Ah, sword fights. The basis for Highlander and Immortal life. It seems that throughout the course of the show's history, the most climatic moment of the show and sometimes a season comes with a sword fight. Who among us Highlander viewers can forget the sword fight at the end of "Revelation 6:8" and the Double Quickening? Or the fight with Kanwulf the Viking in "Homeland"? Truly, sword fights are the basis for the most memorable moments of the show.

True, Buffy doesn't have sword fights that often, as stakes are preferred, but when they occur, it's often at...yes, the most climactic moment of the episode or season. The main argument for this is "Becoming Part 2" and the sword fight between Buffy and Angel which looked like it could have been ripped out of the pages of Highlander. And there was the infamous moral dilemma that Highlander prides itself on that was also present in "Becoming Part 2". In numerous Highlander episodes, it was a question of whether or not to perform amateur head and neck surgery on someone who might have been a friend, or might be someone that isn't quite evil enough to be clearly judged as such, and in Buffy's case it's whether or not to send her boyfriend in the sexy pants to the Netherworld. Choices, choices.

Argument 3: Disappear Into the Mist
For those of us that actually waded through season six of Highlander, and believe us, it was painful, we were privy to what I consider a fairly powerful final scene of the show. It involved a montage of flashbacks of Duncan's life, (okay--so that could have been any episode) and the familiar sounds of "Bonny Portmore" (again, could have been any episode), that finally culminated in his exit from the show as he walked away into the mist.

Cut to end of season three, BTVS. The school has been blown up and at the end of everything, Buffy sees Angel one last time. They lock eyes and he walks away--yep, into the mist which serves as his exit from the show, at least for now.

The exits were practically the same, save for the previous flashbacks and the music. Don't get me wrong, I liked Duncan's exit and I really liked Angel's, as I think it was the best way to handle it, but they are both quite alike and we can't deny it.

Argument 4: The Fine Art of Flashbacks
Ah, the beauteous flashbacks that have been thoroughly abused by Highlander throughout the seasons. Fortunately for us, Buffy has had very few flashbacks but still, there were some, such as the numerous instances of flashing back in time during "Becoming Part 1" and in "Amends". Okay...so a lot of shows have had flashbacks but I felt the need to mention it.

Argument 5: Watchers, Watchers Everywhere
Okay, don't tell me we haven't made this connection yet.
Highlander has its world of Watchers who observe and record the lives of Immortals but never interfere (you avid Highlander watchers can start laughing your asses off right here). There is one in particular that we center on throughout the series, this being Joe Dawson, MacLeod's Watcher. Joe is cool, we like Joe. But the rest of the Watchers have a tendency to suck.

Some are Immortals passing as Watchers (okay--just one. And Methos is cool so we don't count him as a Watcher) and some are homicidal freaks out to rid the world of Immortals. (Hello, Horton) Some want special stones. Some cheat to protect their Immortal lovers. Some just condemn other Watchers to die for what's really not a crime and not his fault. All and all, the Watchers Council sucks.

And now we come to Buffy, which also has Watchers. Usually just one though. It's this guy's job to guide the Slayer, and, no, this has no similarity to Highlander. What does, however, is the sheer annoyance that is the Watchers Council. Some Watchers are cool, but not many and it usually takes a few seasons for them to get this way. Some Watchers are geeks. Some Watchers are homicidal demons, out for gloves to complete their Michael Jackson costume, and some will send a weakened Slayer into battle with a bad-ass demon. All and all, the Watchers Council sucks here too.

Argument 6: Where'd THAT come from?!
Have you ever watched Highlander and as Duncan or some Immie of the Week pulls out his/her sword asked yourself, "Where'd THAT come from?!" It is the great mystery of Highlander--where did the sword come from half the time? The seem to magically appear, courtesy of the prop department whenever Duncan is in danger. There have been episodes when Duncan is wearing a sweater and jeans and out comes the sword. Where was it, down his pants? That *can't* be comfortable.

Like the tootsie pop--the world may never know.

And now we come to Buffy. Have you ever watched Buffy pull out a stake to kill a vampire and asked yourself, "Where'd THAT come from?!" Where, on a girl wearing practically skin tight clothes, does she hide the stake? Hmm, maybe that is a question best left unanswered. Either way, they have a tendency to just appear at times out of nowhere just like Duncan's katana.

Argument 7: Body Art
Tattoos are big on Highlander, as they are what distinguish Watchers. With that nifty tattoo on their wrist, you know who's in and who's out at the Watcher Christmas party. Isn't it ironic (in an Alanis sort of way) that the Watcher on BTVS also has a tattoo? Okay, so it's a teen rebellion tattoo, but still, it's body art.

Argument 8: Trenchcoats
The number one fashion statement made on Highlander, besides the fact that everything looks sexy with a sword, is leather trenchcoats. These became very popular during the show's run and were used to conceal swords during the days anyone actually questioned, "Hey, where did THAT come from?!" Granted, a lot of the things Duncan did in the trenchcoat in way of martial arts and flips and running and what-have-you would have been really hard to attempt with a sword in that coat, its main purpose was still to hide the sword.

And to make Adrian Paul look sexy.

Trenchcoats also found their way onto Buffy The Vampire Slayer, thanks to a couple of equally sexy vampires. Thanks to Spike and Angel, black trenchcoats became as popular on that show as they were on Highlander. Somewhere, a leather company is getting very, very rich, I suspect.

Argument 9: Making Your Head Spin
Spinning off seems to be another similarity. Highlander: The Series did it with Highlander: The Raven, and now Buffy The Vampire Slayer is doing it with Angel. Hmm.

Argument 10: Angst, Angst Everywhere
Angst on Highlander is about as common as those Celtic hair bands that tie back Duncan's pony tail. Angst over lost loves (Tessa), angst over killing people that were once his friends after they turn evil (why bother naming them all?), and we can't forget the angst involved with lost friends such as Darius or Fitz. All and all, quite angsty.

And then we come to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where angst is just as rampant. Instead of a sexy Highlander being the one responsible for it, we have a sexy Irishman cursed with a soul. Angel is responsible for most of the angst, especially concerning the people he's killed and his whole on again/off again thing with Buffy. Angel, however, is not the only angst culprit and some blame should be put on Buffy who spent most of the end of season two and the beginning of season three angsting and just generally being annoying about her lost love.

This proves two things: One, some people can pull off angst, some cannot. Two, angst as a plot device works on both shows.

Argument 11: The "Amends"/"Methos" Connection
In "Methos", one of the most powerful scenes came when Methos practically offered MacLeod his head so that he might defeat Kalas. He did this basically because he saw it as the best option and the one that would save MacLeod.

Jump to "Amends", and Angel's little suicidal stint on the hill. Clouded as his judgment might have been, the reasoning was still the same; he thought his death was the best option and that it would protect Buffy.

Argument 12: "Avatar"

Duncan MacLeod is chosen as the one champion of the millennium, blah, blah, blah. Okay, these episodes really, really sucked but they serve for the purpose of the connection between Duncan being the "Chosen One" so to speak, to fight evil, and Buffy being the chosen one, also to fight evil, in her role as the Slayer.

Argument 13: Hairy Situation

Please make note of Duncan MacLeod--Highland warrior with great hair. In the present, right up until that disastrous haircut in season six that made many of us long hair lovers cringe, he had the best hair. But alas, in the flashbacks, Duncan was the victim of many the bad hair day and many the bad facial hair mistake.

Angel seems to suffer from a similar fate of bad flashback hair/perfect present hair. Case and point--his hair now is worshipped as a deity by some factions but then we have the flashback when he looked like Yanni, complete with mustache. Hmm, again.

Argument 14: Immortal Men/ Mortal Women--On The Next Jerry Springer

Duncan, a guy who's going to live forever fell for a mortal woman, okay, several over the course of his rather long history, but for the sake of argument, we'll focus on Tessa. Angel, a guy who also is going to live forever, also fell for a mortal woman, Buffy. In both cases, this has put a bit of strain on the relationship. And did I mention that both women were blonde?

Argument 15: Miscellaneous
There are a few more, little, subtle things left to be examined:

Joe's VS The Bronze. Both hang-outs, both places where you can hear some music.

Richie VS Xander: They both have horrible luck with women as evident in "Chivalry" and "Inca Mummy Girl" among other eps. They both have over-active libidos and both have emotional maturity of a rock. (Sorry--personal, clouded judgment jab)

Blonde Villains: Kalas and Spike.

Freaky Faced Villains: The Master and the scarred Kronos. Okay, so I'm stretching, but still, it's fun.

Bad Ass Evil: The First VS The Four Horsemen. Who would win in a fight? Put my money on Kronos and the boys.

The Gypsy Connection: Angel was cursed by gypsies and Duncan used to live with some.

Demons: Buffy has too many to name, Highlander had Ahriman, (AKA: Bad Plot Device)

Dead Characters Return: The tendency of deceased characters to return in flashbacks. HL had Xavier St. Cloud and Fitz, BTVS had Darla.

Alternate Universes: Highlander did it with "To Be" and "Not To Be" with the question, "What if Duncan MacLeod never was born?" and Buffy did it in "The Wish" with the wish, "I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale." All and all, both alternate universes turned out to be really, really bad places to be living.

Hackers Of The World: Both shows have featured at least a little computer hacking.

Here A Prophecy, There A Prophecy, Everywhere A Prophecy: Duncan is supposed to fulfill a prophecy about a Highland child born on the winter solstice...yadda, yadda, yadda. Buffy is supposed to fulfill the prophecy in "Prophecy Girl" in which she faces the Master and dies. Both came to pass, sort of.

The "X-Files" Connection: Both shows had actors on it that went on to play characters on the X-Files.

And finally, ASH was on a first season episode of Highlander!


In conclusion, there are probably a lot more similarities between the two shows than I have listed here. These were just off the top of my head. So, the next time you watch Duncan magically pull out a sword out of nowhere or the next time you watch Angel in a trenchcoat, take a moment and think about just what these two shows have in common besides just loyal, rabid fan bases. It might just surprise you the connections that can be made when you look for them and you too might conclude "Joss Whedon has a Highlander fetish!"

Thank you for listening to my rant.

Tell Jenni how great she is!

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