The Watchers are an ancient order of mortals originally created by Ammaletu the Akkadian after he saw the immortal Gilgamesh come back to life. Watchers observe the lives of immortals and record their observations. They are aware of The Game and The Rules. Their mission is to observe and record but never interfere. The Watchers have stated that once all of the Immortals are no more, they will tell the world that Immortals once walked among them.
In 904 B.C. the immortal, Methos, discovered the proto-Watchers organization after overhearing a conversation in which immortals he was familiar with were discussed. He was able to infiltrate the organization, thanks to his extremely low profile. He met and married a Watcher named Ruth at that time.
Methos also met his own Watcher in 16th century Italy, and enjoyed a friendship with him. He, alone among immortals, has been aware of them almost from the beginning. Kalas and Duncan MacLeod also eventually learned of the Watchers. Kalas killed at least three Watchers before MacLeod killed Kalas, halting his threat to expose them and the Immortals they watch. Through their friendship with MacLeod and Joe Dawson, Amanda and Richie Ryan also became aware of the organization. So far as anyone is aware, that is the extent of their exposure among their subjects.
The heads of the organization are the Tribunal, three persons responsible for final decisions. Prior to the winter of 1996, Tribunal members were not elected, after the Galati Affair, members were democratically elected.
There is also a philosophical and functional division within the organization between Watchers assigned to the field and those assigned to research.
Considering the requirements for secrecy and non-interference when dealing with immortals, field operatives often faced the threat of brutal torture and death in order to keep the secret of the Watcher's organization safe. Some operatives were pulled from the field after enduring particularly difficult assignments, such as Amy Brennan-Thomas, who was reassigned from the extremely dangerous immortal Morgan Walker to Research in order to assist on the Methos Chronicle.
There are further divisions within the field section such as Special Operations.
Some immortals were considered safer than others for a new field agent. David Shapiro, for instance, was assigned to Duncan MacLeod before he had completed his training due to a manpower shortage. MacLeod was selected due to his reasonably peaceful history and strong moral grounding.
Watchers assigned to research usually have advanced skills and aptitude for detailed research ranging from the collection and safe storage of ancient manuscripts and documents to computer, language, forensic, archival and investigative skills. While not necessarily 'unfit' for the field some prefer research to the field.
For instance, Adam Pierson preferred research not only because he was immortal and would have been unable to function as a field operative, but also because he had a talent and enjoyment of languages, history, and technology. He managed to be assigned to his own Chronicle which allowed him to manipulate it in order to further obscure and confuse his history.
Similar to the further divisions within the field section, Don Salzer was originally referred to as an Historian, while Adam Pierson was listed in the Research section.
Additionally, the Watcher organization maintains a regularly-updated database of known active Immortals, officially designated the roster of active Immortals This database is kept up-to-date with the movements of various Immortals, added and removed from the list as their activity in The Game dictates. Some are removed after entering seclusion or simply disappearing altogether, with an effort made to reinstate an Immortal if he or she is once again sighted in an active capacity in the world.
Known operatives including field and research Watchers.
- David Haynes
- Bill Payne
- Ian Bancroft
- Daniel Geiger
- James Horton
- Rita Luce
- Don Salzer
- David Shapiro
- Nathan Stern
- Jacques Vemas
- Mark Wells
- Bob Wells
During his lifetime, Duncan Macleod ran across mortals wearing a unique symbol or tattooed with it several times. It was not until the untimely murder of Darius in The Hunters in 1993 that Duncan began to earnestly investigate the symbol as it was the only clue to Darius' killer's identity available.
Duncan's search brought him to Joe Dawson, Joe was forced to reveal the existence of the Watchers to Duncan and admit that he was assigned to Duncan's Chronicle in The Watchers. Joe's decision to reveal the Watchers to Duncan Macleod would have grave consequences down the road.
After Joe revealed the Watchers existence in an effort to calm and reassure Duncan, MacLeod spotted James Horton, Joe's brother-in-law, and the mortal who had attempted to kill him. Horton was revealed as the leader of a band of renegade Watchers dubbed The Hunters, who were bent on killing all immortals, considering them abominations. Horton was the charismatic ring leader and instigator of the group. In the 1980s he spent several years assigned to the Kurgan, it is likely that this exposure contributed in forming Horton's opinion of immortals as monsters.
MacLeod managed to confront Horton and, and Joe was unable to talk him out of his mission, MacLeod tried to kill Horton. Horton's daughter interceded,however, begging MacLeod for her father's life, MacLeod relented only to be shot in the back by Horton. MacLeod managed to run Horton through. Believing Horton was dead, MacLeod returned to his life, and began a tentative friendship with Joe Dawson.
James Horton returned twice more (Joe hid Horton's survival after Duncan stabbed him due to their familial relationship although he ensured Horton was removed from the Watchers). On Horton's first return he allied himself with the evil immortal Xavier St. Cloud in Unholy Alliance: Part One and Unholy Alliance: Part Two. Dawson shot him intending to kill him at the close of Unholy Alliance: Part Two. Horton returned again in Counterfeit: Part One and Counterfeit: Part Two before he was finally killed by MacLeod.
The active Hunters largely went dormant, left the Watchers, or were exposed after Horton's initial exposure and final death. Sadly, the legacy of the Hunters would linger for years and continue to cost both mortal and immortal lives. Note: While the demon Ahriman masquerades as Horton in Archangel in 1997 James Horton died in 1994.
The Galati Affair
In Judgment Day, Joe was lured to Paris by a false report of MacLeod's death and captured by unknown assailants. Duncan convinced Methos to risk his cover to find out what was going on with the increased security among the Watcher's and Joe's kidnapping. Methos found that Joe was taken by the Watchers in order for the Tribunal to put him on trial for treason at the New Watcher's Headquarters in Lyon, France. Joe was charged with betraying his oath, consorting with an immortal, and falsifying Chronicles. When Joe protested, Jack Shapiro, Joe's long time friend and a member of the Tribunal, informed Joe that in the past three years they had lost eighty Watchers while in the previous fifty they had only lost two; further, it was exactly three years since Joe had revealed the Watchers to MacLeod. Joe angrily declared he would quit if that was what they wanted, the Tribunal declared that should Joe be found guilty he would be executed.
Meanwhile, the killer, Jacob Galati, continued to hunt Watchers. Jacob's wife and fellow immortal, Irena Galati, was murdered by Horton and a band of Hunters in 1992 while Jacob was bound and forced to not only watch but take her Quickening. Enraged and sickened by Irena's murder, Galati started killing Watchers not knowing or caring that Horton and the Hunters were an aberration and Horton was dead.
Jacob killed Watcher David Shapiro, the son of Jack Shapiro, the Watcher assigned to Duncan MacLeod replacing Joe Dawson after Dawson was brought up on charges of treason. Jack Shapiro reacted badly to his son's death, partly out of natural grief, but also because David was prematurely sent into the field due to a man power shortage, thanks to Galati's killing spree.
While Duncan tracked Joe down, he came across Methos on the same mission. Methos told Duncan to back off pointing out that the last thing Joe needed was MacLeod crashing the party and landing Joe in more trouble. The two teamed up, Methos arrived at the compound at night and distracted the guard providing Duncan an opportunity to climb the wall and reach the main building. Duncan cold cocked Joe's guards but Joe refused to go, noting that MacLeod had likely been caught on camera already. The Watchers took MacLeod into custody, landing Joe in more trouble, just as Methos had predicted. Duncan did his best to defend and explain Joe's actions, but was unable to sway the Tribunal. Duncan and Joe did manage to convince the Tribunal to allow Joe to have a jury preside over his case, however, they also decided that if Joe was found guilty by the jury MacLeod would share Joe's fate.
While Joe's actions may have contributed to some of the deaths the Tribunal largely overlooked Horton's actions and the natural reaction to his actions by violated immortals as well as the increasingly shrinking modern world where secrecy came at a premium. (Ironically, considering Methos and MacLeod's roles in quelling the resulting violence, a good argument could have been made for positive interaction and keeping an open dialogue with at least some immortals and the Watchers.)
Methos tried to assist Joe in his Adam Pierson persona, using the personal journal of a Methos Watcher from the 16th century as evidence of what knowledge could be gained if Watchers and immortals were allowed to interact more openly. "They became friends, but because of our rules, he couldn't put that in his report. Think about it. The man knew Methos! What stories they must have shared, what histories we might now know if we didn't force men like him — and Joe Dawson — to hide what they have learnt. And how many others, how much more knowledge has been lost to us? I say, let friendship thrive. Let him record all he has learned. Learn."
While Methos' plea was eloquent and heartfelt, it was dismissed almost immediately. Duncan attacked the Watcher's view that Joe's life was worth less than their rules, he seemed to be making some headway until Shapiro was informed that his son had been killed. The trial ended almost immediately and the jury found Joe and MacLeod guilty. Note: While it is clear during the episode that David was killed while MacLeod was in Nice, France the Watchers do not seem to acknowledge that.
MacLeod attacked their guards on the way back to their makeshift cell. Duncan encouraged Joe to flee with him, but Joe refused, choosing to stand by his oath and the Tribunal's decision. Unable to persuade Joe to come with him, Duncan tossed Joe the keys to the building and fled.
Methos and Duncan reunited and discussed their options. Duncan angrily tried to talk himself out of going back for Joe and Methos agreed, saying that it was Joe's decision to stay. The next morning the Tribunal, jury, and Joe prepared for Joe's execution. Joe spoke to Jack and Jack half apologized for the situation. When Jack asked if Joe had any last requests Joe asked Jack to pull the trigger as Joe disliked the designated executioner. Jack took the gun but at the last moment handed it off, unable to execute his old friend. As Jack left, Joe asked him to, "Say hello to Shirley and the girls for me." Jack drove away and the executioner stepped up. As the executioner readied his weapon, Jacob Galati attacked spraying the crowd with gunfire.
Duncan returned to the HQ, he sensed another immortal, and was nearly run over by an unidentifiable Galati on a motorbike. In One Minute to Midnight Duncan discovered the murdered Watchers and Joe, realizing Joe was alive, he took him for medical treatment.
Shapiro concluded that Duncan returned to the HQ and slaughtered the other Watchers to save Joe. Jack declared war on Joe and Duncan. Methos managed to keep his cover intact, and acted as an informant for Joe and MacLeod while Joe recovered from his wounds in the basement of the Watcher's front at the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore.
Duncan was jumped by a band of Watcher sanctioned Hunters near his barge, and managed to escape without killing any of them. While their leader was calling in their status, however, Galati murdered him, further damning Macleod.
While Methos treated Joe's healing wounds, he strongly suggested that Joe and MacLeod get out of town. Duncan demanded to know where Shapiro was, he hoped to intercept the unknown murderer before he or she got to Shapiro. Methos informed him that Shapiro was hiding in a mortuary on the Left Bank. MacLeod arrived at the location and set up a watch hoping to intercept the killer. To MacLeod's horror the killer was finally revealed to be Jacob Galati. A Watcher on guard shot Duncan and was about to behead him when Galati shot him dead.
Duncan awoke at Jacob's home where Jacob revealed the existence of the Hunters. Duncan told Jacob he knew about the Watchers and Jacob told Duncan about Irena's death. Duncan explained the difference between the Watchers and the Hunters to no effect. Jacob lumped them together as murderers and pointed out the Watcher that tried had to kill Duncan earlier as proof, Duncan countered that they were only reacting to Galati's murders.
Jacob reluctantly agreed to meet with Joe. Joe refused, however, damning Jacob as a murderer. Joe and Duncan devolved into a pointless argument until Methos intervened and sided with the Watchers. Joe pointed out that Methos' immortality implied his defense of the Watchers was insincere, Joe then ended the argument by leaving.
The next morning Methos and Joe bickered about what action to take outside the Watcher's hideaway. Methos at first refused to help Joe, clinging to his philosophy of not getting involved, but Joe persuaded him to act as Joe's 'hostage' to get them into the compound. Once inside Shapiro told Joe he knew he and Pierson were friends and that he could drop the hostage act. Joe threw their one time friendship in Jack's face then tried to explain who the real killer was.
Duncan met Galati and Jacob sneered when Duncan admitted that Joe refused to come. Jacob was happy to continue blaming the Watchers and killing them off, he had no interest in peace. Duncan tried to reason with Jacob but Galati declared blood for blood and threatened to kill Joe if he got in Jacob's way.
Back at the bookstore, Duncan discovered that Methos and Joe had given up Galati as the real killer and was furious with them. Methos explained, "It was a simple choice — Jacob Galati or you. And since I don't give a damn about Jacob Galati, it wasn't that difficult to make it. I'm a pragmatist, MacLeod. The Watchers wanted the real killer, and I want to keep you alive. You can't have it both ways." MacLeod agreed, "You're right. You can't have it both ways. You're either one of them or you're one of us." Leaving Methos speechless.
The Watchers closed in on Jacob who slipped out of their obvious trap and into a second, the second using Duncan as bait, Jacob spotted Joe near the obvious trap and made him for a Watcher, Jacob carefully confronted him. Joe apologized for Irena's murder and Jacob threatened to kill Dawson if he said her name again. Joe told Galati that MacLeod had been taken prisoner and would be killed if Galati didn't help. On the way to 'rescue' MacLeod, Galati was shot and taken prisoner. Shapiro readmitted Joe to the Watchers, but was so hellbent on vengeance, he wouldn't even try to hear Jacob out. MacLeod arrived and accused Shapiro of becoming a killer like Horton.
Unaware of Shapiro's double cross, Duncan insulted Joe and tried to defend Jacob, Jacob was smugly satisfied with Shapiro's reaction, Shapiro moved to kill Galati and Duncan broke free but not in time to stop Shapiro. Joe watched Shapiro execute Galati, and MacLeod unwillingly take the Quickening. With MacLeod incapacitated, Shapiro moved to kill him as well, but Joe pulled a gun and drove Shapiro off. Shapiro swore that the war wasn't over, Joe advised him that he had better hope it was.
Joe begged MacLeod to let it end, but when he stormed off, Joe demanded that Methos go after MacLeod to stop the cycle of revenge Methos refused, washing his hands of the whole mess, "I'm 5,000 years old. I don't know who I am anymore. I just helped set up one of my own!"
Joe returned to Shapiro and attempted to warn him about what he had started. While Shapiro smugly assured Joe that MacLeod wouldn't be a problem. Joe warned Shapiro to back down unless Shapiro wanted a full out war. Joe pointed out that Shapiro was turning the Watchers into the one thing the Watchers swore they would never be, a threat to immortals. As they talked, MacLeod infiltrated the compound. Shapiro ordered Joe out of the room and seconds later MacLeod burst in.
MacLeod drew a gun and threatened Shapiro. Shapiro declared he would kill all immortals for his son. MacLeod condemned Shapiro as a murderer, Joe drew a weapon and Shapiro ordered Joe to shoot MacLeod. Joe refused to kill his friend, and MacLeod demanded to know whether Shapiro wanted a war with more people dead over Horton or peace. Terrified, Shapiro agreed to peace.
MacLeod then regarded Joe silently before he moved to leave as more Watchers arrived, Joe told them to let it be, MacLeod abandoned his weapon then left.
The next morning Joe met MacLeod on the quay and told him the war was over, Shapiro was out of the Watchers and the organization might be salvageable. He asked MacLeod if he had seen Methos as the ancient seemed to have disappeared. MacLeod asked if Joe was surprised by that. He then refused Joe's offer to buy him a drink. Note: It is curious that an organization dedicated to collecting information and security seemed to be shockingly inept at discovering the source of their ridiculously high body count, that is, Jacob Galati's one immortal war on the organization.
According to the The Watcher's Chronicles CD-ROM in July 1996 a democratically elected Tribunal replaced the previous Tribunal whose membership had included Jack Shapiro. The new Tribunal met to determine Jack Shapiro's fate, they concluded that the death of his son was punishment enough and retired him from the organization. After the events of One Minute to Midnight, Methos/Adam Pierson disappeared without word to anyone, abandoning his role in the Watchers, and his contacts with his friends.
By the next summer Adam Pierson was considered AWOL. That July Dr. Amy Zoll took over the Methos Chronicle. She came to suspect that Pierson may, in fact, be Methos. In December, Adam Pierson was formally discharged from the Watchers organization.
The Hall of Martyrs
A building or location where Watchers killed in the line of duty are honored. Roger Harris, the Watcher tortured and murdered by Kalas in his quest to locate Methos, as well as Matthew Martin, who was also murdered by Kalas; Jacob Galati's victims including David Shapiro, Jillian O'Hara and more; and the Watchers killed during the debacle with the Methuselah Stone including Nathan Stern were added.
Immortals who had grown tired of the Game or otherwise requested it were installed in the Sanctuary, a safe house run by Watchers. The immortals were drugged and held in contraptions intended to immobilize them and ensure mortal humanity would never be ruled by an immortal. Considering the unpleasant nature of the confinement it is possible that some or many of the immortal participants were unaware of how the Sanctuary actually functioned. The Watchers assigned to the Sanctuary were well armed to defend it against attacks.
The Sanctuary was destroyed in the early 21st century by Jacob Kell. Kell beheaded all the inmates, with the exception of Connor MacLeod whom he had been hunting and tormenting for centuries. Connor entered the Sanctuary ten years previously seeking peace from Kell's torments. Days after the destruction of the Sanctuary, Matthew Hale, the Watcher in charge of the Sanctuary captured and drugged Duncan MacLeod in an attempt to create a new Sanctuary. Joe Dawson and Methos freed Duncan.
Considering the state of the inmates, the secrecy of the program, and the death of Mathew Hale it is unlikely a new Sanctuary was permanently established, though it is possible. Joe Dawson killed Hale when Hale attempted to interfere with Duncan's challenge of Kell, Hale intended to imprison both immortals in a new version of the Sanctuary.
Note: In the initial version of Highlander: Endgame, Methos mentioned that the Sanctuary was built on holy ground. However, Kell beheaded every inmate, aside from Connor MacLeod, with no disastrous consequences. Since this is counter to the established canon that immortals cannot fight on holy ground per the Rules all references to it being built on holy ground were removed from the re-edited version of the film. It is possible that the filmmakers interpreted the Rule in question as referring strictly to fighting on holy ground, since Kell's victims were drugged and immobilized no combat occurred. The removal of the reference to holy ground leads to a logic error in that the Watchers carefully constructed a Sanctuary to deny an ending to the Game with the one caveat that it was wholly vulnerable to an incursion by hostile immortal/s.