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Darius on the battlefield

Band of Brothers

  • Episode number 92118-13
  • First aired 2/8/93
  • Written by Marie-Chantal Droney
  • Directed by Rene Manzor
  • Guest Cast
    • Darius: Werner Stocker
    • Grayson: James Horan
    • Victor Paulus: Earl Pastko
    • Randi McFarland: Amanda Wyss
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Synopsis

Duncan's old friend and mentor Darius discovers that his former protege Grayson is methodically killing off Darius' other students in an attempt to force the priest to leave Holy Ground and fight him. Grayson's next target appears to be a mortal, peace advocate Victor Paulus, who is on his way to Seacouver for a speaking engagement. Warned by Darius, Duncan prepares himself to fight the 1800-year-old Grayson, and ponders the possibility of defeat and the consequences of victory. Grayson tries to blackmail Duncan with threats to his loved ones, but Duncan sends Tessa and Richie to Paris, while he remains behind to protect Paulus and face Grayson in a fight to the death.

Review

Band of Brothers introduces us to Darius, a 2000-year-old Immortal priest who was once a great barbarian general well on his way to conquering Europe in the 5th century. But after he took the Quickening of a Holy Man at the gates of Paris, he renounced war and sent his armies away. His second-in-command Grayson never forgave him for this betrayal. Later Darius became an important influence on Duncan MacLeod, and helped to shape his values.

The title of the episode is an ironic usage of a quote from Shakespeare's Henry V, the king's pep talk to the troops on the field of Agincourt:

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition."

Act IV, Scene III

This is doubly appropriate, for not only is the quote a prime example of noble words used to glorify senseless slaughter, but also, Darius and Duncan first met on the field of battle, during the Napoleonic Wars. In a flashback, we see Duncan as a soldier carrying a wounded brother-in-arms to safety and Darius as a Holy Brother trying to help the injured and dying. Duncan's first reaction to Darius is to half-draw his sword, expecting a challenge to fight. But Darius issues a different sort of challenge--a moral and ethical one, forcing Duncan to re-examine his views on duty, honor, and the justification of war.

This flashback is the real core of the episode, and the plotline about Grayson and Victor Paulus serves as a contemporary frame in which to view it. Both Adrian Paul and David Abramowitz have acknowledged that Band of Brothers was a major turning point for the show, the point at which it became more than just another action series and began tackling deeper themes. Here we see something of how Duncan's character was formed, and begin to understand the ethical choices he is forced to make. Meeting Darius, a good and wise Immortal who refuses to fight others of his kind or to take part in mortal conflicts, brought into question all of his previously accepted ideas about the Game and the purpose of Immortals. Duncan would like to be more like Darius, but he finds this difficult when he is faced with the realities of his existence. Both the character of Duncan and the series itself start to become more complex and interesting as a result.

The acting in this episode is uniformly excellent. James Horan turns in a fine performance as the cold, implacable Grayson. His verbal fencing with Darius and Duncan has just the right edge, and his showdown with Duncan at the sulfur works is dramatic and suspenseful. (For once, we actually start to worry that Duncan might lose the fight). Tessa and Richie have some great scenes, also, such as Tessa's confrontation with Grayson in the antique store, and Richie's scene with Duncan at the cabin in which we are first introduced to the possibility of Light and Dark Quickenings.

But the centerpiece around which the episode revolves is the flashback on the battlefield. The powerful presence of Werner Stocker in the pivotal role of Darius is what really makes Band of Brothers such a strong episode. I consider it to be the best episode of Season One, and my personal favorite of all the seasons. I give it a well-deserved 5 stars.

A Few Notes on the Production

David Abramowitz, in the first issue of Retrovision, says that originally Darius was to have been an ugly man with a beautiful soul. But the German investors did not want the only German character to be unattractive, so Werner Stocker was cast. Werner's elegance, presence, and acting ability more than made up for his rather glaring lack of ugliness, and now, no one could imagine anyone else in the role.

James Horan (Grayson) and Werner Stocker never actually worked together, as it was deemed unnecessary to fly James all the way to Paris for their one scene together. Werner said his lines to the camera in the courtyard of the church in Paris, and James's responses were filmed in Vancouver. The dialogue was pieced together in the editing room, and the result is remarkably convincing, a testament to the abilities of both actors.

The battle scene was actually filmed on Mount Seymour near Vancouver in November 1992. As Adrian Paul relates in the Season One audio tapes, Werner Stocker flew in from Germany accompanied by members of the German press. Werner was considered a something of a celebrity in his native country and the press were eager to document his first appearance in Highlander. The weather on the day of the shoot started out warm, and the photographers were in shorts, but later it began to snow, and snow, and snow, until everyone was covered in it, and freezing, especially the photographers and the poor extras lying on the ground pretending to be dead. Also, in the episode, the battle was intended to represent Waterloo, but was never officially identified as such because of the unexpected snowstorm. Waterloo was fought on June 18, 1815, and while it stormed the night before, it certainly did not snow. Darius has one line which mentions Wellington and Napoleon, thus placing the battle during the Napoleonic Wars, but no date or location is given in the flashback. However, the Watcher Chronicles CD still states that the meeting took place at Waterloo.

Another interesting blooper occurs in the 1816 flashback when Duncan is fighting a robber in the courtyard of the church. We are supposed to believe that the robber is fighting with his back to the church, and Duncan has his back to the street. But in reality, both men are fighting with their backs to the church, and must have had to switch places during filming. The giveaway is the caged well you can see behind Duncan in the shots where the camera is facing him. That well is located against the west wall of the church, just to the right of the doors, within the courtyard. But in all the shots where Duncan's back is towards us as he fights the robber, he is at the entrance to the courtyard facing inward, having "turned" 180 degrees and "moved" 15 feet or so. I imagine this strange "turnabout" happened because the view across the street was too modern-looking to pass for 1816.


This synopsis and review is Copyright 1997 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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