Connor MacLeod, also known as The Highlander, is a character in the Highlander film series, as well as the television programs Highlander: The Series, and Highlander: The Animated Series. In the films, he is portrayed by Christopher Lambert.
The character of Connor MacLeod is divided between many separate continuities; the original movie, each sequel, the television series, and the animated series. Although varying from leading man to supporting character in each different continuity, Connor’s importance to each continuity’s story is not to be overlooked.
Connor MacLeod was born in 1518 in Glenfinnan, Scotland near the shores of Loch Shiel. During a battle between the Clan MacLeod and the Clan Fraser in 1536, he faced an evil Immortal referred to as The Kurgan, and was dealt what should have been a fatal blow. When Connor did not die, the townspeople (including his family) believed his recovery was the work of witchcraft, and threatened to burn him at the stake. Connor’s kinsman, and clan chieftain, Angus MacLeod, instead demanded that he only be banished. Connor wandered around the land until he met Heather MacDonald, the daughter of a blacksmith. The two fell in love, and married in 1539. In 1541, he met an Immortal named Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, who became Connor’s mentor and taught him the ways of Immortals, and of “The Game.”
Ramírez taught Connor the overriding rule of the Immortals: There can be only one. Connor, Ramírez, and others like them were destined to fight each other until only one was left. By beheading another Immortal, the winner would gain the fallen Immortal’s strength, and the last alive would have the power of every Immortal that ever existed, a mysterious power beyond comprehension known as “The Prize.” One night, the Kurgan, while Connor was absent, found his home, killed Ramírez, and raped Heather. Decades passed, and Heather finally died of old age. It was at this point that Connor left Scotland to explore the world. Connor MacLeod led many different lives under a variety of aliases, constantly keeping his immortality a secret. In 1985, MacLeod found himself living in New York in the guise of Russell Nash, an antiques dealer. In the continuity of the original movie, this was the time of the Gathering, when the few Immortals that remained were to fight until the last. While fighting in the Gathering, Connor had to deal with being a suspect of several beheadings, while falling in love with NYPD forensics expert Brenda Wyatt. In the end, it came down to MacLeod against his ancient enemy, the Kurgan. After the Kurgan kidnapped Brenda, MacLeod faced and defeated him, thus winning “The Prize”. He then returns to Scotland with Brenda.
In the movie, The Prize is described as being some kind of telepathy power: “It’s like a whirlwind in my head, but if I concentrate, I know what people are thinking all over the world. Presidents; diplomats; scientists. I can help them understand each other.”
In addition, The Prize appears to strip MacLeod of his immortality, and to give him the ability to father children.
Highlander II: The Quickening
Due to the fact that there are two major versions of this movie, the original movie and the 1994 and 2004 Director’s Cuts, there are two different versions of the story.
Original Version – In the mid-1990s, the ozone layer had begun to rapidly disappear, and an ozone hole covered most of planet Earth. After the death of his wife Brenda Wyatt in 1995, the now-mortal Connor became the supervisor of a team attempting to create an artificial shield, which would cover the planet and protect it from the sun’s radiation. In 1999, the team succeeded in its goal, and Earth gained its artificial shield, filtering sunlight in place of the ozone layer. MacLeod was proud in having apparently saved humanity. However, the shield had the side-effect of condemning the planet to a state of constant night, and humanity could no longer see the sun, the moon, or the stars. Humanity began to lose hope, and fell into a sharp decline. The Shield fell under the control of the Shield Corporation, taxing for its services for the purposes of profit. Meanwhile, Connor, as years passed, had physically aged into a frail old man, and expected to eventually die of natural causes. He had also been able to learn the source of his immortality. Connor was a reincarnation of an alien humanoid from the planet Zeist. In fact, all Immortals had been reincarnations from exiled criminals from Zeist (though the “reincarnation” aspect never made it into the film).
He was chosen by Ramírez to be the leader of a rebellion against the rule of the evil General Katana. Ramírez, who seemed to possess magical powers, made a magical bond with MacLeod that could never be broken. Whenever Connor needed his help, Ramírez would come. However, the rebellion failed, and Ramírez and Connor were sent to Earth to play The Game as Immortals, which would eventually be won by Connor. In 2024, a number of terrorists, led by Louise Marcus, tried to take down the Shield. Louise discovered that the ozone layer had been reformed, and the Shield was no longer needed. The Corporation, which was aware of this, attempted to hide it from the general public to maintain its profit-margins. Meanwhile on Zeist, General Katana was still alive. His information seemed to indicate that Connor wanted to return to Zeist. He decided that could not happen, and sent his Immortal henchmen Corda and Reno to Earth to decapitate him. Louise managed to reach MacLeod first, and asked for his help in taking down the Shield. To Louise’s disappointment, she found the passionate person she once admired to have grown into “a tired old man.” MacLeod explained that he was dying, and expressed his disapproval of terrorism. Before Connor and Louise could finish their conversation, Corda and Reno reached Earth.
The battle led to Connor becoming Immortal once again. Corda and Reno located MacLeod and attacked. MacLeod, however, decapitated them both, and in the process, through the Quickening, regained his youth. While he absorbed their energy, Connor summoned Ramírez, who revived in Glencoe, Scotland, the location of his death. Meanwhile, Connor found a new lover in Louise. Elsewhere, Katana also arrived on Earth and had a brief indecisive meeting with Connor. Soon enough, Connor was also reached by Ramírez. The latter joined MacLeod and Louise in their plan to take down the Shield. Katana predicted this, and forged an uneasy alliance with the Shield Corporation. The conflict between the two sets of allies eventually led to the deaths of Ramírez (sacrificing himself to save Connor and Louise) and Katana (killed by Connor in their final confrontation). MacLeod succeeded in taking down the Shield by using the combined energies of his final Quickening from Katana. Connor, mortal again, began a new life with Louise.
Note: In the TV cut, Connor claimed his Prize by returning to Zeist, with Louise accompanying him.
Highlander II: Renegade Version / Highlander II: Special Edition – In these versions of the movie, the Immortals were not aliens from Zeist. Instead they came from a distant past on Earth. Some events are also changed, the most meaningful being the rescue attempt from Connor, Louise, and Ramírez to free MacLeod’s old friend and co-supervisor of the construction of the Shield, Dr. Allan Neyman, from a high-security prison. Neyman had betrayed the Shield Corporation by telling Connor the truth about the ozone layer’s status. Neyman eventually dies in Connor’s arms. Ramírez also gives his life for Connor and Louise in the prison. Both Neyman’s and Ramírez’s deaths occur in the Shield Corporation in the longer cut, instead of the high-security prison.
Highlander III: The Final Dimension
Some time after the death of Heather, Connor travelled to Japan to request training from the Immortal Japanese sorcerer Nakano, an acquaintance of Ramírez. Nakano held his residence in a cave of Mount Niri, and had gained a reputation as a master of illusion. The training was never completed. Fellow Immortal Kane was also interested in mastering the power of illusion. Nakano had denied him training two centuries ago. Kane gained in experience and ability since that time. He made his way across Asia in order to reach Nakano again. When Kane reached the cave, he soon defeated and decapitated Nakano, despite MacLeod’s attempts to prevent this. However, the energies released during the battle caused the cave to collapse. Connor managed to escape, but Kane was left trapped. He was soon forgotten, and his situation prevented him from participating in the Gathering of 1985, thus meaning The Game was still on, and MacLeod was once again Immortal.
In 1994, Connor was again a widower. In 1987, Brenda, his last wife, had died in a car accident in Scotland after only two years of marriage. He was left alone to raise their adoptive son John. They had settled in Marrakech, Morocco, and Connor was at peace for the first time in centuries. This peace would prove short-lived, though. In Japan, archaeologist Dr. Alexandra Johnson had started excavating Nakano’s cave in order to determine if the sorcerer’s legend was based on fact. Kane managed to escape the cave, and challenged MacLeod. Connor, meanwhile, started falling in love with Alex. When Kane kidnapped his son John, Connor went to his rescue, and had his final battle with Kane. Connor decapitated him, and finally won The Prize. Now truly mortal, Connor started his new life with Alex and John.
Highlander: The Series
TV series continuity
In the timeline of the television series (which references the first film, but allows for more Immortals to exist post-1985), Connor, after the death of Heather in 1590, decided to travel throughout the world. He returned to Scotland in 1625, and met Duncan MacLeod, a fellow Immortal from the same clan, but nearly 75 years younger. He became Duncan’s mentor, and took him under his wing. Their relationship, over the hundreds of years they shared, grew and evolved from a father-son relationship to a brother-to-brother friendship.
Connor’s first appearance in this timeline was on the first episode of the TV series (“The Gathering”). In that episode, which occurred in 1992 (though no date is given in the episode), Connor was following Immortal Slan Quince, who hunted and killed Immortals and their loved ones for a living. Quince’s next target was Connor’s clansman Duncan, who had retired from The Game, and was living with mortal Tessa Noël. After a first failed attempt of confrontation between Duncan and Quince, Connor tried to convince Duncan to return to The Game to help the forces of good defeat the forces of evil, and prevent The Prize from falling into the wrong hands.
After Duncan beheaded Quince, Connor left Duncan and Tessa to pursue his own path. Connor would not appear for the rest of the series, but would be mentioned several times.
In the present day, both Connor and Duncan MacLeod were forced to fight a powerful Immortal named Jacob Kell. In this movie, it was revealed that Connor’s Clansmen continued to persecute him even after they had banished him from his village. Connor learned that they planned to execute his mother by burning, unless she would renounce Connor as her son. She refused, saying “If your God would persecute me into the next world, I shall simply have to find myself another,” and she was subsequently killed. Jacob Kell’s mentor and teacher, a priest who orchestrated the execution of his mother was killed by Connor, and Kell swore revenge. Neither Connor or Duncan was strong enough to win alone, so Connor ordered Duncan to take his head (and therefore his power and wisdom). After much reluctance, Duncan was forced to kill his teacher and friend of almost 400 years, and was eventually able to slay Kell (Connor’s last words were “Goodbye, Duncan – my true brother”). Duncan buried Connor in the Highlands, in Glencoe, next to his first wife Heather’s remains, where he bade him to at last find his peace.
Highlander: The Animated Series
Connor MacLeod also makes an appearance in Highlander: The Animated Series, which again presented a continuity different from that of the original movie or television series. The animated version of Connor appeared in only one episode “The Sound of Madness”. When fighting against evil Immortal Kortan, Connor was defeated. He then prophesied the coming of the series hero, Quentin MacLeod, who would defeat Kortan. He (Connor) was promptly beheaded by Kortan.
Dynamite Entertainment has published two comic book mini series based on the Highlander franchise. The first is a series of 13 issues simply titled Highlander that was later released in a 3 volume set. The second series is a 4 issue prequel to first Highlander film called Highlander: Way of the Sword.
Simply titled Highlander, the first limited series comic book was originally released in 2006 and ran for one year ending, in 2007. It was written by Brandon Jerwa and Michael Avon Oeming in close collaboration with David Abramowitz, who was Creative Consultant in charge of the writing on Highlander: The Series and the subsequent Highlander movies. It was published by Dynamite Entertainment. The preview issue released in July, 2006 had over 100,000 copies pre-sold.
It is inspired from Highlander, the franchise about Immortals battling each other throughout history. The comic book series deals with what the main characters of the franchise, Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod, do concerning happenings from the films and television series. It spawned a second comic book mini-series, Highlander: Way of the Sword.
The initial issues (issues 0-4) deal with Connor MacLeod after the events that took place in the first Highlander film. Although the Kurgan has been defeated, some of those who followed him still seek to bring about some of his plans. Connor also deals with battling within himself for control over the impulses and emotions he received from the Dark Quickening of the Kurgan (issues 6-9).
The last story arc (issues 10-12) introduces Duncan MacLeod and has him assisting his kinsman Connor in defeating the followers of the Kurgan.
The separate plot line issues (Dark Quickening and The Coldest War, Armageddon) were bound into three separate trade paperbacks by Dynamite Entertainment.
- Volume I (collects Highlander #0-5, 140 pages) Released January 2008, in soft & hardcover
- Volume II (collects Highlander #6-9, 120 pages) Released February 2008, in softcover
- Volume III:Armageddon (collects Highlander #10-12, 80 pages) Released on July 2008
Highlander: Way of the Sword
Highlander: Way of the Sword is a four-issue, monthly comic book limited series that was published by Dynamite Entertainment from 2007 to 2008. It is Dynamite’s second Highlander comic, it followed the publisher’s previous 13-issue miniseries, and was published from 2006 to 2007. This comic is a prequel to the 1986 movie and has no direct connection to the TV series.
It draws inspiration from the Highlander, the franchise about Immortals battling each other throughout history. The comic book centers around Connor MacLeod’s search for the sword of his mentor Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, after losing it in the ocean to The Kurgan by accident. He eventually retrieves the sword just before the events of the first Highlander film.