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Outlander - Famous Last Words - Review

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Last episode of Outlander broke our hearts into a million little pieces when Murtagh was shot and died in the arms of an entirely devastated Jamie. And because the pain wasn’t already bad enough the episode ended with Roger being hanged by Governor Tryon.

Just like in the book series, this is not actually the end of Roger’s journey. Brianna, Claire and Jamie find him just in time and cut the robe around his neck. This scene of how Roger is saved the audience gets to see in from of a silent picture. It is used several times during the episode as a device to show what is going on inside Roger’s mind. The element of the silent picture gets even more meaningful when the viewers find out that Roger hasn't spoken a word ever since he was hanged. Physically he is perfectly fine, but emotionally he is crushed. He is traumatized, his mind is absent. Even three months after the horrible incident there is no sign that Roger is getting any better. Brianna has been patient with him so far but she is at her wits' end. It feels like he is drowning in silence. She is scared to lose her husband, scared her son will lose his father. Bree understands what he is going through, she has experienced severe trauma as well and knows how appealing it seems to just drown in a black whole. But unlike him, she has always fought the darkness, for Jemmy and for him. Why isn’t Roger fighting at all? It is horrible what happened to him but terrible things have happened to every single member of this family. They all have suffered unbelievable pain over the years but no-one has ever given up as quickly and as easily as Roger did.

The second storyline of the episode revolves around a long lost relative of Jamie’s: Ian is back! Last season he has offered himself as a prisoner to a Native American tribe so they would release Roger. It seems Ian has stopped being a prisoner some time ago and became a full member of the tribe. He has adapted his appearance to that of the Mohawks.  The big house on Fraser’s Ridge overwhelms the young man. He prefers to sleep outside. His entire personality has changed. He too seems like he is severely traumatized.

When Tryon grants Roger 5000 acres in the backcountry as a compensation for "accidentally" hanging him, he and Ian go to inspect the land that is now Roger’s. Both men are in a similar mental state. They have both lost something, they are both broken. Roger ends up standing right by the edge of a cliff looking down, having flashbacks of what happened to him. Ian watches him from afar, knowing that his friend is toying with the thought of taking a step forward and falling to his death. In that moment, however, Roger seems to realize that he does have reason to live for, after all, several reasons actually.

The two men spend the night in the woods. When Roger wakes up the next day Ian is gone. He left all his belongings behind. He did not even take his beloved dog Rollo with him. Roger suspects that Ian is about to attempt suicide and immediately starts searching for the boy. Thankfully he finds him just in time. Ian has stolen some poisonous herbs from Claire’s medicine cabinet and was just about to ingest them. He is angry. He does not understand how Roger of all people would prevent his suicide. Roger seems to have given up on life, he has given up on his family. Why is he drowning in a black hole when he has a wife and a child? Ian has neither. Not anymore at least. He has lost the woman he loves and the pain he feels because of it is unbearable. It is now that Roger finally starts to talk again. It’s more of a whisper at first but his voice gets stronger with every word. He tells Ian that when he was about to die on that tree, when everything went black and he couldn’t breathe anymore he saw Brianna, he saw his wife. This makes Ian realize that death is not an escape. The pain would follow him. He would not be at peace. Roger too seemed to have a rather important realization in that scene: He had always thought that a person’s last words were of particular importance as they outlived the person but now, after having almost died himself, he knows that what is really important in the end is the person whose face you see right before you die. And he saw Brianna. She and Jemmy are worth fighting for.

Ian and Roger return to the Ridge, they are both still broken men but they have decided to keep going, to not give up. Brianna is over the moon when she hears Roger say her name again. There is finally hope now that times will get better for the MacKenzie family.

While watching this episode one could almost forget that Murtagh has recently died. Except for two scenes at the very beginning of the episode, the death of the Scotsman did not seem that big a deal anymore. The scenes that actually were about the loss of Murtagh, however, were nothing short of excellence.
The audience finds out that Jamie has transported Murtagh’s lifeless body to Fraser’s Ridge and buried him there. He wanted him close by. Jocasta is visiting Murtagh’s grave, she is singing to him. She has yet again lost a person she loves. The woman is thinking about having a proper headstone made for him but knows it would not be appropriate. (btw how great an actress is Maria Doyle Kennedy?)

Jocasta: “I ken it’s not my place. Murtagh and I were not husband and wife.“

Jamie: “Neither were we father and son but it doesna make the pain any less… or easier to bear.“

Many TV shows jump ahead several weeks in time after a character dies to avoid showing the various stages and the complexity of grief. It is sort of the easy way out and makes the character that was killed off look less significant than they actually were. Murtagh was an integral character and would have deserved more than half a minute of screen time dedicated to his death. Was there a ceremony when they buried him? Who told Jocasta? What about Murtagh’s men?

After having watched more than half of the new season, I am also asking myself what happened to the women of Outlander. Almost all the episodes focus on the men. The only woman who gets about the same attention as the male characters is Brianna. Claire is becoming a supporting character more and more and the rest of the women (Marsali, Jocasta, Lizzie, etc) have never been more than just that. If the show plans to continue moving in that direction some viewers might just change the channel.

What did you think of the episode?  How did you feel the loss of Murtagh was handled?

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