‘Outlander’ Review: War Hits, and the Fate of a Major Character Ends on a Cliffhanger

“Outlander” has a history of breaking fans’ hearts, but in terms of emotional drama “The Ballad of Roger Mac” is right up there. The Fraser family took a brutal beating as the crown pushed through the Battle of Alamance, but tragedy isn’t done coming for this clan just yet. From a broken syringe and a major character’s death, to the fate of another lead being left in the air by the quiet, closing moments, there’s plenty of uncertainty and unrest throughout this week’s hour.

As history predicted, the Red Coats easily overtook the rebels with their superior cavalry, but after Bree (Sophie Skelton) rode out to warn her parents and Roger (Richard Rankin) that Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) and his men would inevitably fall, the family did their best to avoid war one more time. That meant Roger, who has struggled to find his place since deciding to stay in the past with his family, needed to put himself in danger and travel to the opposing camp in an attempt to call the Regulators off.

Unfortunately what makes Roger so likable in his own timeline — his logic, kindness and love — is exactly what men of the past are unable to reconcile in their own heads. He’s a threat simply because he is different, and ultimately that’s what endangered his life by the time the war kicked off. Despite Murtagh heeding his family’s advice and trying to call off the men and save lives, honor was on the line and the farmers were all-in on the bloodshed. Still, things might have worked out for Roger anyhow had he managed to escape the camp, but then fate stepped in and brought him face-to-face with Morag MacKenzie (Elysia Welch) the woman he had saved on Bonnet’s (Ed Speleers) ship.

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When Morag’s husband caught Roger hugging her (a modern display of affection easily misconstrued here), he immediately turned violent, which was hard to watch emotionally for a number of reasons. Firstly Roger was trying to save the man’s life and had offered a future for them at Fraser’s Ridge, but secondly because it was that man who led Roger to being captured and — if the assumption at the end of the episode is correct — hanged.

There have been plenty of emotional moments throughout the history of the show, but Roger’s potential death ranks right up there with the loss of Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) baby or Brianna’s assault. Knowing his fate in the books and not knowing how the writers will follow that story makes it hard to write about here (viewers who haven’t read the books and don’t want to know should be careful with their quick Google fingers), but even the fact that Roger could potentially be dead will sit heavily on Claire, Bree and Jamie (Sam Heughan) in the episodes to come. War is devastating; war involving family is next-level. Every decision these characters made leading up to that moment will be one they’ll replay in their heads for years to come.

Speaking of family, Roger’s unknown status overshadows one of the biggest emotional turns in “The Ballad of Roger Mac,” and that’s the death of Murtagh. Jamie was always going to have to face off against his uncle after pledging his loyalty to the British crown, but even after being forced to wear the Red Coat by Governor Tryon (Tim Downie) he was unable to do his godfather any harm. It was a mutual feeling, made obvious by the fact that Murtagh saved Jamie’s life.

Unfortunately, their reunion was short-lived when one of Jamie’s young proteges pulled the trigger for him. As Jamie taught him earlier in the episode, he didn’t think before shooting, and the lesson wound up costing Jamie one of the people he holds dearest. The subsequent scenes in which Jamie begged Claire to save his uncle, despite being long gone, are some of the most emotional Jamie has ever had. In a way it’s good that he didn’t have to hurt Murtagh or make that decision, because at his core his morals remain intact.

However, witnessing the nonviolent and surprising end is partially what makes him a loose cannon when he goes off on Tryon for pushing through with the war and killing “innocent” men. Throwing down the Red Coat and claiming his end of the bargain complete, Jamie was lucky that Tryon chose to walk away. However, his words aren’t likely to be forgotten by the politician in the near future, and from the way things ended Jamie may need a little help indeed.

Grade: A

“Outlander” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.

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