Richie Ryan (Highlander)

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Richie Ryan
Highlander character
First appearance"The Gathering"
Portrayed byStan Kirsch
BornSeptember 20, 1974[1]
ImmortalityOctober 23, 1993[1]
Death1997 (aged 22–23)
TeacherDuncan MacLeod

Richie Ryan is a fictional character from Highlander: The Series, portrayed by actor Stan Kirsch. He is an Immortal. Richie is first introduced in the pilot episode "The Gathering" (1992) as a young, quick-talking petty thief. In the first season, he was a typical sidekick, serving as comic relief, damsel in distress, and sometimes helper.


1991-1992: Introduction[edit]

Richie Ryan was an orphan, a foundling, who grew up as a thief in Seacouver. A life of crime was beckoning Richie Ryan the night that he broke into "Noël and MacLeod Antiques" in 1992. A few weeks short of his eighteenth birthday, he was already a skilled thief, but fate was to overtake him. If he was shocked to see the owner of the store, Duncan MacLeod, coming at him with a Japanese sword and threatening to cut off his head, he was astounded when two more men appeared (Connor MacLeod and Slan Quince), also carrying swords, and all three seemed ready to use the weapons they carried. He beat a hasty retreat, straight into the arms of the police. The antiques store owner refused to press charges, but intimidated Richie into saying nothing about what he had seen. Intrigued, he started following MacLeod, only to see the man finish what had started that night in the store, by beheading Slan Quince. Richie would then be taken-in by MacLeod and his girlfriend Tessa Noël. With them he learned the truth about Immortals and had many encounters with them and Duncan. In mid-year they moved to Paris.

1993-1994: Immortality[edit]

After the trauma of Darius' death in Paris, Duncan, Tessa and Richie returned to the States, where Duncan uncovered the secret of the Watchers. It was to be a traumatic discovery. Tessa was kidnapped by renegade Watcher Pallin Wolf, and although Duncan rescued her, she and Richie were gunned down and killed by a mugger on their way back to the store, ("The Darkness"). Richie revived to find MacLeod cradling Tessa in his arms and himself immortal.

Later on, Richie, who was now immortal, ran into some trouble, as he and Duncan MacLeod ran into an Irish immortal named Annie Devlin. She was about to kill a British ambassador. She was stopped by Richie, who ended up killing Annie's husband. She swore revenge. Duncan knew her well and told Richie he needed to defend himself, and to learn The Game. So Duncan trained Richie to use a sword, initially a katana. He instructed him specifically in her favorite move, and the counter to it. Despite Duncan's attempts to talk Annie out of it, she would not be swayed from her desire for vengeance. Richie went to face Annie and they fought. The training worked, and Richie disarmed Annie, but found he could not kill her. Having spared her life, she was persuaded to let him live too, and gave up her quest for revenge.

Later that day at Duncan's loft, Duncan gave Richie his first sword, a Spanish Rapier.

Richie met an immortal named Mako, who was chasing a young woman, Laura Daniels. Richie intervened to save her, and took her back to Duncan to get help. Richie put her under his protection. But they discovered she was wanted for murder, and Mako was a bounty hunter, tracking down those on the run from the law. She claimed she killed her husband in self-defense, but the local law was corrupt and she would never get a fair trial. Mako was an immortal who lived by the letter of the law. Duncan met Mako a long time ago and he knew Mako won't give up. Richie and the girl made a run for it. They stop at a hotel and spent the night together. Then Mako found where they were staying. They ran again, but Richie realised that they couldn't keep running forever. Laura still wanted to run, and tried to pull away from Richie. Mako, driving his truck, ran into the girl and killed her. He claimed it was an accident, but Richie, enraged, attacked Mako. The fight went into an abandoned store and swords got involved. Duncan arrived and saw the girl was dead, then went inside and saw Richie fighting Mako. According to the rules, he could not intervene, but he tried to talk them both out of it. Richie and Mako end up in a room full of paint and tables. Mako got up on a table and fell in, becoming trapped. He struck at Richie, cut him, and Richie struck back, taking his head. That was when Richie received his first Quickening.

Later, back at Duncan's loft, Duncan was still upset about what happened Under Color of Authority. Duncan told Richie it was time to go and take his own path of immortality. Duncan refused to shake Richie's hand before he left Duncan's loft Under Color of Authority.

1995: Trouble in France[edit]

A couple of months later in France, Richie was on his motorcycle going to Marseille, he was being followed by an immortal named Martin Hyde. Martin was using Richie to lead him to Duncan MacLeod. When Richie stopped at a gas station to get some gas and some coffee, he sensed an immortal, then got his sword out, demanding the immortal to show his face. The clerk's husband was murdered by Martin Hyde. After she came out and saw her husband dead and saw Richie with a sword, she thought that Richie had killed him. Richie got on his bike and left. Arriving in Paris, he went to Duncan's barge and asked for his help, telling Duncan everything that had happened. Duncan figured out it was Martin Hyde, an immortal who used younger immortals to lead them to their teachers so he can take their teacher's head. When the police arrived, Richie tried to get away, but was caught by the police and was arrested, being identified as the killer by the gas station clerk. Richie went to jail for murder and Duncan had to find a way to prove his innocence. Duncan figured a way to help Richie by setting up Martin Hyde, and proving he is the murderer. It worked, Martin killed himself though, but Richie was free. Martin escaped from the morgue, so Duncan went off to face him and defeated him. He and Richie renewed their friendship, they had a drink of a great vintage cognac.

As a motorcyclist, Richie was getting better, enough so that he was competing in France. However, in a twist of events, he "died" and had to flee the country. MacLeod gave him a passport and during this time was trying to rekindle his relationship with the beautiful surgeon Anne Lindsay. However, he met there the former Cossack voivode Ivan Kristov, who turned into a prime Russian mobster, organizing the crime and heroin trade for the Russian mafia. When one of his smugglers - his mortal girlfriend Tasha - was saved by Anne, Kristov threatened Duncan, saying that he didn't want to fight Duncan, but he would if he has to. At the end, Kristov captured Richie (who still hadn't left the country) to blackmail MacLeod to kill Tasha in exchange for Richie's life. Duncan arrived to save Richie and started knocking off Kristov's men. Meanwhile, Richie easily untied himself while Kristov wasn't watching and challenged him. Duncan witnessed the lightnings of a quickening and raised his sword, but for latter's happiness, it was Richie who emerged victorious, beating the Cossack's prowess.

Back in Seacouver, Richie concentrated on training, running the dojo, and letting MacLeod fight his own battles. Buying a hot dog on the street, he watched a young man walk by, ("Leader Of The Pack"). It took a moment for him to remember the face of the punk who killed Tessa. He chased Roscza who ran to the police. Roscza denied shooting Tessa. Richie brought back the memory to the reformed junkie and left Roscza alive with the knowledge that he was a murderer.

Accompanying his foster-mother’s daughter Maria to a modelling agency, Richie met Kristen Gilles, the beautiful agency owner and an immortal, ("Chivalry"). Ignoring warnings from both Duncan and Methos that Kristen was bad news, Richie fell in love, only for the insanely jealous Kristen to try to kill him and Maria. As both Duncan and Richie harboured feelings toward her, neither could gather enough courage to kill her, although she wasn't a capable swordswoman, relying mostly on seduction. At the end it was Methos, who appeared without any compunctions and beheaded her, though Richie still found it hard to accept that Methos took her head to stop her from doing it again. As Methos was by this time acting as one of the Watchers, by the alias Adam Pierson - the Watchers think that it was Richie who beheaded her.

1996: Broken faith[edit]

Later on, at the beginning of the new year, Richie returned to America with Duncan, who had just broken up with Lindsay and was to meet the "old" Indian chief James Coltec, but Coltec had just received the Dark Quickening and only the quick intervention of MacLeod prevented him from beheading Richie. Later, when MacLeod received the quickening himself and with graceful arrogance fought the youngling, this time only the quick intervention of Joe Dawson stopped MacLeod from his killing his own protege. Richie fled, with all his faith broken, after his own teacher and best friend tried to kill him. From there, Richie decided that it's all about the Game, that MacLeod did it, so he started to train frantically and devoted himself to headhunting. He travelled across the country on his motorbike, and as he was an experienced rider, he was able to feed himself through racing and wagering. Due to his being trained by MacLeod - one of the finest immortal swordsmen - Richie took a lot of heads on his killing spree, rarely if ever fleeing.

He returned the following Autumn, still picking fights with any immortal who crossed his path. Dawson came to warn MacLeod to watch over Richie, who was "walking the edge", provoking and challenging everyone. After he killed the 900-year-old Carter Wellan with relative ease for no more reason than the Game, Haresh Clay, Wellan's friend, swore revenge. Richie was unprepared as Clay attacked him right at his own dwelling and Richie thought that it was Duncan, coming again to persuading him. Clay nearly took Richie’s head, breaking his Spanish Rapier in the process.

Richie went to Joe for help. The Watcher was likely to help him, but at this time, his relationship with Duncan was strained, due to the Watcher's oath, he refused to lend him money for a new sword. So Richie tried for a weapon by breaking into a museum. But Clay was stalking him and confronted him there. Richie broke into an exhibit to try and grab a sword, and was arrested as the alarm went off. Duncan paid his bail and got him out of jail, offering to rebuild their shattered friendship. He gave Richie a new sword, one that had belonged to an old teacher of Duncan's, Graham Ashe, who had been killed by Clay.

Richie and Duncan rebuilt their relationship, this time as equals, and Richie reluctantly stepped aside so that Duncan could settle the old score with Clay. Duncan defeated Clay and offered to let him walk away, but Clay refused and accepted his death.

Jennifer Hill came to Seacouver, looking for Duncan to avenge her husband, Alec, as she was "Haunted" by her husband's ghost. Duncan went to San Francisco to honour his vow to Alec and take the head of the immortal Gerard Kragan, who they think killed Alec. Richie looked after the grieving Jennifer. They felt a mutual attraction - much to Joe Dawson's horror. Joe told Richie it was he who had killed Alec. Richie had only known him as an unnamed immortal. He had killed him the summer before, when Alec had picked a fight with him. Alec had been on his way to kill Kragan, in a bad mood, and tried to take it out on Richie when his bike got in the way. Unfortunately for Alec, Richie was in a bad mood too after Duncan's attack on him.

Despite knowing this, when Jennifer came to Richie's apartment and tried to seduce him, Richie was unable to say no. He said later he felt like something was just pushing him to be with her. It was theorised by Joe that this might be the effect of Alec's Quickening within him. However, the moral complications plagued Richie's conscience, and he felt the need to confess. First to Duncan, who reluctantly forgave him. Then to Jennifer, who oddly enough did not. She felt used and abused, and went to Duncan to get him to kill Richie. When the Highlander would not kill his friend, she went back and shot Richie, then was about to kill him with his own sword. Duncan got there in time to talk her out of it. With the agreement of Alec's ghost, Jennifer let Richie live.

When a new Immortal came to Seacouver with a message of peace, Richie was ready and eager to hear it, fed up with his own killing spree. When Richie interrupted a fight between MacLeod and William Culbraith, Duncan began to doubt his own worth as a teacher, but when Richie told him that he had learnt his new nonviolence from 'Methos', Duncan was enraged. Methos turned up at the loft and was amused to find that the "other Methos" was in town. This mysterious immortal and his gospel of peace had cost several of his converts their heads and Duncan didn't want Richie at risk. He persuades Methos to reveal his identity to Richie, to prove that the other man was a fake. But Richie tells them he believes in the message, not "The Messenger". Methos found his impersonator, confronted him, but decided not to kill him. Culbraith had no such compunctions and, after taking the imposter's head, tried for Richie's. Richie, having given up his sword, was very vulnerable. But Duncan arrived in the nick of time, staying out of the fight but returning his blade, and Richie stabbed Culbraith, and took his head.

1997: Death[edit]

Richie left Seacouver and made his way back to Europe, using the name of Richard Redstone. After a decidedly unusual courtship with Marina LeMartin (in which she kidnapped him and tied him to her bed, in "The Ransom Of Richard Redstone"), it seemed he was about to settle down. But a night at the Opera with Duncan was a prelude to disaster ("Archangel"). MacLeod swore he saw James Horton on the Quai by the barge that night. At first reluctant to believe, Richie found himself defending Duncan to a skeptical Joe and Methos, but then he saw Horton holding a gun to Joe’s head. After telling MacLeod where they were, he went in to try and rescue Joe, unaware that what he had seen was an illusion. He came upon Duncan fighting invisible enemies. From Duncan's point of view, he was fighting a demon calling itself Ahriman, which had taken the form of his great enemies Horton and Kronos and that of his student, Richie. Before Duncan could distinguish illusion from reality, he struck, taking Richie’s head. Joe and Methos found the distraught MacLeod kneeling over his pupil’s body, but it was left to Joe to bury Richie with his sword after MacLeod and Methos both disappeared. Duncan never fully recovered from the death of Richie.

Richie Ryan in The Game[edit]

During his few years as an Immortal, Richie took a fair number of heads and, given his months spent on the road challenging any Immortal he encountered, his body count may be quite high. Here are Richie's known Quickenings as seen in the series:

  1. Mako1, 1994 ("Under Colour of Authority")
  2. Ivan Kristov, 1995 ("Testimony")
  3. Mikey Bellows2, 1995 ("The Innocent")
  4. Alec Hill, 1996 ("Haunted")
  5. Carter Wellan, 1996 ("The End of Innocence")
  6. William Culbraith, 1996 ("The Messenger")

1Richie's first beheading

2Beheaded by a train


Actor Stan Kirsch says of his character, "Richie is a streetwise, street smart, seventeen/eighteen year old guy, who's had kind of a rough time growing up."[2] Fellow actor Adrian Paul thinks, "I think Duncan finds him very much as a young Duncan. He's brash, (...) he's very quick, quick-talking, has a sense of humor, and Duncan finds that very beguiling, I think."[2] From a nonchalant, tricky and irresponsible character, Ryan had matured through the series. Starting from petty thieving and an irresponsible attitude, he developed into an individual with a distinguished personality. His 'ask for help reflex' might have been underdeveloped at the start, but his instinct to offer help was always part of him. He was particularly vulnerable to damsels in distress, but was always ready to play the hero.

Character development[edit]

Ryan was not designed to be an immortal character from the beginning. According to Executive Producer Bill Panzer talking about "The Gathering", "we weren't sure ourselves that he was gonna become an Immortal."[3] Panzer adds, "we'd laid some pipe for that in the first episode of season one. But we hadn't really decided whether we were gonna make him an Immortal or not make him an Immortal."[4] Panzer goes on, "When we cast Stan, we were just looking for a good actor and we found one, likeable, charming, and building a very nice fanbase. We had not anticipated, when we cast him, that the option might exist for him to become an Immortal. But we laid at that into the very first episode, "The Gathering", and we decided that we were gonna exercise that option as a fact now. Certainly, he had to go from being MacLeod's sort of, sidekick, and, you know, younger brother character, to taking his place in the world of Immortals. And the first thing you have to learn as an Immortal is how to take care of yourself. So, Stan had to, in addition to (...) beginning to change the way his relationship worked with his character and MacLeod's character, he also had to learn how to do this stuff and we had to see (...) a growth pattern coming from him."[5] Panzer explains that a specific location was chosen for Richie's first fight, because both Stan Kirsch and Sheena Easton were doing their first swordfight ever: "To make everything a little easier for them, we set it in an almost impossible location-- the steps leading up to the lighthouse (...) And for two people who really had never done it before, between some clever directing and some clever editing, I think it looks like they're going at it."[5] Panzer thinks "Under Color of Authority" was Ryan's coming of age because it was his first Quickening.[6] Panzer says, "This is the time for Richie to leave and kind of find himself, sort of see what it's like, surviving on the outside,"[6] and it is also a hard time for MacLeod; is he crying, is he sad to see him go, is he a little afraid for him, you know it's like any time you turn a youngster loose in the world, even today's world, it's a pretty scary moment for the parent."[6]

Creative Consultant David Abramovitz says, "You can't keep a character a street punk for years. The character has to grow and grow on his own. This show is not called The Highlander and Richie. For Richie's growth, he really could no longer be the spear-carrier. The show was not inherently about him. And this is not because of the actor. (...) The character of Amanda gives you things that the young sidekick doesn't, and there are only a certain number of stories that you can play."[7] Executive Script Consultant David Tynan thinks that Richie "started off as the wisecracking sidekick. Once he had become Immortal, he had to change and become more serious. For the character, he was going through a learning process and an evolution in terms of his spirit, his soul, and his relationship with MacLeod. He became in many ways less fun to write, I think, because he simply wasn't the smart-ass, wisecracking young street kid. He couldn't be, and that's the direction the character had to go in. There was really no other option."[8]

Associate Creative Consultant Gillian Horvath says about the relationship between Richie and Duncan MacLeod, "Here is this new kid on the block, just learning the ropes and having the best mentor in the world. This person who you feel can make anything right, and you're proud to be their sidekick. If you look at "Avatar", the inscription on the headstone reads 'Friend'. There used to be a line in "Archangel", but it was too on the nose, where Richie basically said something along the lines of 'I'm your friend; I'm proud to be that'. But the idea is that there are worse things to be, there are worse things to be remembered as, than Duncan MacLeod's best friend. Richie was never the hero of his own show, but he was the support of the hero. The first season Richie was the same guy for twenty-two weeks. And then certain landmarks start defining your characters and start creating arcs. Richie's going in and out in the second season, I think, helped define his character. I know it was frustrating for Stan - he liked being in every show - but I think it helped define the character because it meant you kept seeing landmark events in his life that kept changing him. He becomes Immortal, gets trained, then when he goes away, he comes back in "Prodigal Son". (...) If he had been around every week, he would have just had the 'What's up, Mac?' scene. The fact that he's in fewer episodes means that when he is in an episode, he has something to do. (...) In some early versions of "They Also Serve", and in my preferred version of the story, he raced to the rescue of MacLeod at the end. Not that he came and took the head of Michael Christian, but Mac was in trouble until Richie got there and threw him his sword. And Mac wins because he's got his sword. It's a moment when, if Richie hadn't been there, Mac could have died. The way they filmed it was Mac was already winning when Richie gets there and he doesn't need Richie at all. And I was a little disappointed in that. [There is] an echo of this in "The Messenger", and it was conscious on our parts; when Mac rushes to the rescue and throws Richie his sword, this is an echo of this scene that never happened on-screen, but in my mind it did."[9]


  1. ^ a b Episode "The Gathering", Bonus material, Article: "Richie Ryan", in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Anchor bay Entertainment, 2001), disk 1.
  2. ^ a b Season 1 promo, in Highlander: the Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disk 8.
  3. ^ Episode "The Gathering", Bonus Material, Bill Panzer's interview, in Highlander: The Series (season 1) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions, 2001), disk 1.
  4. ^ Episode "The Darkness", Bonus Material, Bill Panzer's interview, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 2.
  5. ^ a b Episode "Eye For An Eye", Bonus Material, Bill Panzer's interview, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 2.
  6. ^ a b c Episode "Under Color of Authority", Bonus Material, Bill Panzer's interview, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 4.
  7. ^ David Abramowitz, in Maureen Russell, Highlander: The Complete Watcher's Guide, Warner Books, 1998, ISBN 0-446-67435-4, p. 11.
  8. ^ David Tynan, in Maureen Russell, Highlander: The Complete Watcher's Guide, Warner Books, 1998, ISBN 0-446-67435-4, p. 18.
  9. ^ Gillian Horvath, in Maureen Russell, Highlander: The Complete Watcher's Guide, Warner Books, 1998, ISBN 0-446-67435-4, p. 21-22.

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