This Sunday’s new Outlander episode, “The Battle of Roger Mac,” was tough to get through. It was brutal, devastating, and saddening — all the adjectives, and we’re still working through it.
Also, do not read further if you haven’t seen the episode, because there will be SPOILERS.
As tough as it was to watch, the episode brought out the best in actors like Sam Heughan, who did an incredible job of playing Jamie Fraser’s pain as he grappled with the loss of his godfather, Murtagh. We have to remember that it’s not just a story that these characters are playing out. The actors themselves forge close relationships, and saying goodbye hurts.
Heughan opened up about the episode to Entertainment Weekly. “I was so excited about this episode and nervous too because I just knew what it meant,” he said. “We knew that we were going to lose Murtagh in this episode, and he’s been such a strong character. And for Jamie, he’s the link to Jamie’s past in Scotland. He’s really his father figure, as well. He’s a silent, constant figure, someone that Jamie can rely on who’s been there from the very beginning. And for Jamie to be pitted against him was hard enough, but then to lose him was really traumatic.”
I can’t imagine what the atmosphere on set that day was like. Talk about emotions running high! Not only did they have to say goodbye to Murtagh, but also to a longtime colleague in actor Duncan Lacroix:
Everyone didn’t want to say goodbye to Duncan Lacroix. He’s such a wonderful human being, a great actor. He’s so, so good. He’s also a lot of fun and has been a part of our family since the beginning, so none of us wanted to get to that day. The scenes were actually shot over a very long time period of time. We shot the exterior of the tent first, and I actually went back and picked up the interior in the tent on almost the last day of shooting. So it was tough as an actor to juggle that timeline and that arc, but also fortunate that we got to have Duncan around for the whole season. So at least we didn’t have to say goodbye to him on one day and never see him again. He was around for most of the season.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Heughan already-famous “shirtless in the river scene” got many of us through the heartbreak of Murtagh’s passing.
It wasn’t that cold, actually. It was a nice day in Scotland. It was a hot summer. He’s calling upon Dougal’s spirit to be with him and fight alongside him. It’s a great tradition that Scots would have before a battle, that you’d call upon your ancestors and your relatives to be by your side when you go into battle. It’s interesting that he’s calling upon Dougal, but I think he knows that if Dougal were alive, Dougal would understand this is a time when he’s needed.
Bravo, Heughan, for doing an incredible job all around.
Let’s shift gears to Sophie Skelton, aka Brianna Fraser, who also had a lot to deal with during “The Ballad of Roger Mac.” Brianna’s husband, Roger, was tasked with convincing Murtagh to retreat ahead of the battle. He failed to do that, and instead got beaten up by one of the Regulators. And then there was that cliffhanger that left us wondering whether or not Roger had been killed and hanged from a tree alongside several other men. One of them looked like he was wearing Roger’s clothes, but we didn’t see his face.
If you’re asking me, Outlander wouldn’t have us endure two deaths so close together, so I’m hoping this is one of those cliffhangers that will be peaceably resolved very soon.
Skelton talked to Collider about the Roger storyline and filming that cliffhanger.
Well, it’s funny you ask that, actually, because the location was pretty tricky, in terms [of] not seeing the bodies early. It was quite an open plane of field, and you could see the bodies hanging from the tree, from quite far off. As a wife, as soon as I saw the bodies hanging from the tree, you’d be able to identify a husband. You would know his body shape, you would get that feeling, and you would know his clothes. You would know it was Roger, straight away. So, we had to map out where we were walking, asking the settlers, “Have you seen Roger MacKenzie? Have you seen Captain McKenzie?” We had to navigate that, so that we weren’t looking at the hanging buddies until Jamie calls Claire over and Bree sees them, and then she just gets that feeling. And then, when Bree sees the body, I wanted to play it that she’s just in utter shock, doesn’t want to believe what she’s seeing, is in denial, trying to process everything, but just numb and stuck. Her worst fears have now come true. I guess, in a way, Bree would feel very responsible, as well. Roger’s in that time because [he] went back to that time and he followed her through, and he’s stuck there because of Jemmy, really, and because of Bree’s family. It was a brutal moment. It was quite an image, to be honest, seeing the men hanging from the tree like that. Our stunt team is incredible. It just felt so real. It was brutal.
It was too real and too brutal.
I’m sure all Outlander fans are wondering where things go from here. We have to find out if that hanging body really is Roger to start, right?
Yeah, it’s a direct continuation, so you’ll see the family bringing the body down from the tree. Brianna is frozen in her spot for quite awhile, until Claire calls her over while she’s trying to see if she can save what’s left. Episode 508 is done in a really interesting way. It’s very different. We haven’t really done an episode in this format before, so I think it’s quite cool. It’s a little love letter, in a way, to the ‘60s. It feels very different. It’s a very cool episode.
I can’t wait! I mean, I can because I don’t want to know if our worst fears are true, but I’m also frantic to find out more. Because if Roger really is dead, what’s going to happen when Brianna inevitably comes face to face with Stephen Bonnet?
I think what she needs from [Stephen] now, honestly, is for him to just bugger off and not be alive or anywhere near them. How do you, as Brianna, decide that someone should or shouldn’t die? It’s not really your place to make that decision. I don’t think Brianna would take that decision lightly, having somebody else’s life in her hands, no matter what they did to her. But when it gets to the point where he could potentially put her child in harm’s way, whether he wants to kidnap Jemmy or hurt Jemmy. I don’t know if Bree particularly knows. We kind of find out in Episode 510, what’s going on in Bonnet’s mind, and it’s a really interesting twist. But for Bree, now, it’s that mama bear thing. Her moral compass goes out the window. She just needs to make sure that Jemmy is safe and sound. That’s her priority. What she needs from Bonnet now is just for Jemmy to be safe.
Here’s to hoping Outlander doesn’t continue to break our hearts when the series returns in two weeks with “Famous Last Words.” I think I’ve reached my quota for heartbreak — haven’t you?