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Outlander - The Ballad of Roger Mac - Review: A Goistidh



We all knew this episode was gonna be a particularly tough one but did we expect it to be this heart-wrenchingly painful? I certainly did not.

While the redcoats and the militia are preparing for battle, Brianna realizes that this impending fight is the battle history books will consider “the spark of the American Revolution“. The fight will be a blood bath as the regulators do not possess as sophisticated weapons as the English, nor are they trained soldiers. They will lose this fight.

It’s a mystery to me how neither Claire, Brianna nor Roger compiled a detailed list of historical events before traveling through the stones. I understand that they were not aware they would end up in 18th century America, they probably expected to not leave the United Kingdom. However, if one actually can prepare for traveling back in time you’d imagine one would prepare very, VERY thoroughly.

Brianna jumps on a horse and makes her way to the camp of the militia to inform her parents and her husband of her newfound knowledge. Jamie trusts his daughter’s memory and has his mind set on warning Murtagh. His godfather knows that Claire, Brianna, and Roger are from the future, he would take the warning seriously. Roger offers to sneak into the camp of the regulators and talk to the older Scot. When Roger tells him about the outcome of the battle Murtagh does not question the authenticity of the information. He actually considers surrendering but he knows there is no way he can stop his men now. This battle is going to happen.

On his way back to the militia, Roger runs into Morag MacKenzie, one of his ancestors who he had met on the long, horrible boat ride to the States. He is delighted to see her again and warns about the battle. He tells her to leave, to get her husband and to run away, to not be a part of this battle. Roger gets lost in his excitement to see her again and actually gives her a hug. Morag’s husband is rather angry about the close physical contact Roger initiated and believes he wants to steal his wife. Morag tries to calm him down but this just causes him to get physically violent with his wife. Roger cannot watch the man hurt the woman and punches him in the face. This loss of control on Roger’s side was a fatal mistake. He has attracted the attention of several regulators. They hit him and keep him with them as a prisoner.

Back at the camp, Jamie is getting ready for the battle he had tried so very hard to prevent. It’s his 50th birthday today. He is reflecting on life, thinking about his father who died when he was barely 49. His thoughts also wander to Dougal who taught him everything about warfare that he knows. To go to war is always horrible but to be forced to fight on the side you consider the "wrong side", to fight against your own people, to face your own godfather during battle, makes it especially dreadful. When Tryon hands Jamie a red coat and prompts him to wear it I believed for a moment that the Scot would barf on the item then and there. All his life Jamie and his family have fought the men wearing the red jacket and now he is forced to wear that very coat of the devil himself. Sam Heughan turned this scene into a masterpiece. Jamie’s emotional struggle while putting on the garment was clearly visible in every single feature of his face.

When the regulators and the militia are facing each other, Jamie is supposed to give the command to shoot but hesitates. He tells his men that the goal of this battle is not to kill, it is to intimidate the others, to get them to surrender. Once Jamie and his men are out of sight from Tryon he encourages his people to fight as their opponents do, meaning not to shoot but to use their weapon as they would use a sword. After all, the majority of the regulators do not have a rifle, they are fighting with pitchforks and the likes.

As one of the regulators is about to shoot Jamie Murtagh appears out of nowhere and knocks his own man unconscious to save his godson. Just then one of Jamie’s people, one of the Findlay boys, shoots Murtagh. Right in the chest. Both, Jamie and Murtagh, are shocked. The situation had seemed safe. They were in the woods with barely anyone around. Murtagh's weapon had not been aimed at anyone. This young boy just shot instead of assessing the situation first. But I guess that is what war is, isn’t it? No time to think, you just kill...

Murtagh falls over, directly into Jamie’s arms. They both tumble to the ground.

Jamie: “I released you from your oath! You had no cause to save me! You shoulda done as I asked!“

Murtagh: “I would never betray yer mother. No matter who asked.“

Murtagh can barely speak, barely breathe. His eyes are about to fall closed.

Jamie calls him: “A Goistidh!“

Murtagh reaches for Jamie’s cheek: “Dinna be afraid, a Bhalaich. It doesn’t hurt a bit to die.“

His eyes then close, his breathing stills. Murtagh is dead.

Jamie refuses to face this reality. He is shocked to his very core. For a few moments, he seems like he is paralyzed. He calls for help but cannot quite get his voice to work. When he finally manages to scream for help, one of his men attempts to tell him that it’s too late, that Murtagh has died but Jamie does not care to hear this truth. He promises Murtagh they will bring him to Claire, she will ken what to do, she will safe him. Jame prompts his wife to heal him, screams at her to do something, anything. He then proceeds by scolding the dead body of his beloved godfather:

Jamie: Take it back! I dinna release ye from yer oath! Ya canna leave me… Ya canna leave me…Goistidh.“

Jamie finally seems to realize that Murtagh is gone, that he has lost him. He is in shock and can barely walk upright. His entire being is hurting. In this very moment, an ecstatic Tryon approaches him. He is delighted to have defeated the regulators, he is in the mood the celebrate. Jamie has literally nothing to lose and no fuck to give anymore. He hisses at the governor that the slaughter of innocent men is not a cause to celebrate. He maimed and killed and brought cannons upon his own citizens. He did all this for his own glory. Jamie removes the redcoat he is still wearing and throws it on the ground. He tells Tryon he is finished with his obligation to him and the crown.

Even though Jamie is completely broken, he does not have the luxury to sit down for a moment and deal with his loss. No one has seen Roger since before the battle. He has never returned from the camp of the regulators. Jamie, Claire, and Brianna go and look for him. The young Scott is nowhere to be fund. After some time, however, they spot three men hanging from a tree. They were prisoners of the regulators and Tryon had ordered their execution. The men’s faces are covered by bags but the body of one of them looks suspiciously like Roger. Brianna’s Roger.

Because losing Murtagh was not bad enough, now it looks like they have lost Roger as well. Whether it is actually Roger hanging from that tree the audience gets to find out in the upcoming episode.

When the episode ended and the credits started rolling, I realized that I have created a mountain of used tissues on the sofa next to me. Even after watching the ending for the 3rd time, I could not keep the tears at pay.

Murtagh was such an integral character. In a way, he was not only Jamie’s but also Claire’s godfather. He was their protector, the one person aside from her husband Claire could share her secret with. He was their family.

As heartbreaking as this episode was and as much as it made us cry, it was simply a masterpiece to watch. Sam Heughan's performance was at a level only few actors can reach and Duncan Lacroix, as well as Caitriona Balfe, joined him right up there.

An outstanding and heartbreaking episode that is definitely Emmy worthy.

Did you see Murtagh's fate coming? How hard did you cry? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!