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SYFY WIRE Highlander

Highlander, The Age of Adaline, Ray Bradbury and The Profound Loneliness of Immortality

In the words of Queen, "Who wants to live forever?"

By Josh Weiss

"Who wants to live forever?" The mournful question behind the Queen track specifically written for 1986's Highlander (currently streaming on Peacock) is not a rhetorical one. It prompts the listener to seriously contemplate the cost of immortality and wonder if they could endure the loneliness of outlasting everyone and everything. Does anyone truly want that burden? Could any one person bear it?

Since time immemorial, humans have dreamt of finding a way to protect youth and vigor against the immutable ravages of time. The fantastical ambition to prolong our species' life cycle — an ambition that may not remain fantastical for very long — stems from a universal fear of death, of the unknown existence waiting for us once the brain and organs shut down for good.

Of course, no one likes to dwell too long on the subject of mortality if they can help it, but there is some ironic beauty in the idea that every last one of us has an expiration date, regardless of where we come from or how much money we have in the bank. To quote Walter Jameson, one of most memorable characters introduced throughout The Twilight Zone's five-season run, "It's death that gives this world its point. We love a rose because we know it'll soon be gone. Whoever loved a stone?"

For More on Immortality:
Highlander's Gathering Approaches: Futurist Predicts Human Immortality by 2030
Harvard Scientists Reverse Aging in Human Cells with Anti-Aging Cocktail
Scientists Unlock the Key to Immortality in Jellyfish

The Lonely Heartache of Immortality in The Age of Adaline

While some agonize over the secret to eternal life, others argue against it. Films like The Age of Adaline (now streaming on Peacock for the very first time) depict the isolated stagnation and paranoia that come hand-in-hand with the "coveted" gift of immortality. After a freak accident halts her body's aging process one fateful night in 1937, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is forced to change her identity and residence every few years, lest she become a scientific curiosity to be poked and prodded by doctors for the rest of eternity.

In addition to constantly looking over her shoulder, Adaline must also endure the helplessness of watching everyone she loves grow old and die. She's owned a litany of Cavaliers and, even more heartbreaking, remains stuck in time while her own daughter (Ellen Burstyn) gradually turns into an old woman. What good is having all this extra time if you have no one to share it with?

Afraid to confide in anyone and unwilling to be the cause of further emotional torment, Adaline effectively cuts herself off from the rest of the world, refusing any offer of human connection. That is until fate throws the protagonist another curveball with the arrival of charming philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), forcing Adaline to reconcile the necessity of a solitary existence with the basic human right to find happiness and fulfillment. As one character says, "All these years, you've lived, but you've never had life."


If you happen to be a fan of the great Ray Bradbury, then The Age of Adaline may remind you of "Hail and Farewell," a painfully bittersweet short story about a boy named Willie permanently stuck at the age of 12. Unable to find steady employment and too suspicious to remain among other youngsters for an extended period of time, Willie lives a nomadic lifestyle, traveling from town to town in search of childless couples willing to adopt him for several years at a time. Once the locals begin to ask leading questions about his stunted development, Willie knows it's time for him to seek out the next chapter in his never-ending childhood, a semi-hollow existence meant to bring joy to others, but never himself.

"There was work for me, after all," he reasons in the story, which was adapted for Season 3 of The Ray Bradbury Theater anthology (also available on Peacock). "Making lonely people happy. Keeping myself busy. Playing forever. I knew I had to play forever. Deliver a few papers, run a few errands, mow a few lawns, maybe. But hard work? No. All I had to do was be a mother's son and a father's pride."

Willie's melancholic resignation to being stuck in a kind of limbo affirms the double-edged blessing of time and its wearing effect on our minds and bodies. Yes, our telomeres grow shorter, but our catalogue of experiences grows ever larger, opening the door for new opportunities and connections; triumphs and failures; happiness and heartache. All of the things, in short, that make us human. So again, we ask the question: Who wants to live forever?

The Age of Adaline is now streaming on Peacock alongside Highlander and all six seasons of The Ray Bradbury Theater. Classic episodes of The Twilight Zone air regularly on SYFY. Click here for more scheduling information!