Good morning clan!! This week’s appointment with STARZ’s period-fantasy drama Outlander is here! Governor Tryon, right about to leave the colony for a new assignment in New York, thought it was best to declare war to the Regulators again as a sort of farewell gift because of their conduct, and now it’s time for the Fraser’s Ridge company to take the field. Today we’re talking about episode seven of season five, entitled The Ballad of Roger Mac.
Warning: this review contains major spoilers on the seventh episode of season five and partial references to the fifth book of the saga “The Fiery Cross”
“The Ballad of Roger Mac” is that representative episode that had not been seen for a long time. The whole story of outlander and the elements that characterize it have a part in this episode, which marks an important chapter in the history of the Frasers, in addition to being, in my opinion, the most complete, adrenaline and touching episode of the season. History, action, love, family, pain, anxiety, anger, adrenaline, shock, memories, anticipations from the future and also a dash of irony and musicality. We can immediately recognize the moving and profound writing of Toni Graphia, whose dialogues have been able to recreate in the best way the unforgettable scenes of Diana gabaldon’s novel, not to mention the sublime direction of Stephen Woolfenden who has been able to keep us glued to the screen with a pressing rhythm and various montages that show the cruelty and coldness of the war in contrast with Jamie’s internal suffering, Roger Mac’s suicide mission sent to warn Murtagh of the outcome of the battle of Alamance, Brianna and Claire’s anxiety while in constant waiting at the camp. All the feelings aroused by this episode’s themes and plot are intensified to the maximum by the accompaniment of a thrilling soundtrack like that of Bear McCreary, always managing to strike the strings of our heart, evoking memories and emotions in memory of the past, as well as arousing new ones. It seems that the goal of this season is precisely the creation of something new but that terribly reminds the past, not only with regard to the plot or themes but also suffice to see the reintroduction of old elements such as flashbacks, monologues off the field, or even just some fun little stunt between Jamie and Claire. From the acting point of view, we witnessed breathtaking performances by the whole cast, also a special mention should be made towards Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser), Duncan Lacroix (Murtagh Fitzgibbons) and Tim Downie (Governor Tryon) whose scenes have torn my heart, provoked anger and made me tremble with anxiety but also Richard Rankin (Roger MacKenzie), whose expressiveness and power in acting allowed me to feel closer to the character and feel an extreme pain for the misadventures of the young captain. Inside this episode we also see an unexpected and bizarre return of Graham McTavish, to interpret however not his original character, Dougal MacKenzie, but the illegitimate son had with the witch Geillis Duncan, William Buccleigh.
I admit that this will be one of the most difficult reviews for me to write, given the swirl of emotions and thoughts that gave me this episode, but let’s see in detail the highlights…
The episode opens with our Roger Mac who sings a last song to his son Jemmy, promising to return soon to sing for him and greets his Brianna before leaving for the battlefield. A sweet scene and tremendously melancholy inside weather quite tense. Both Roger and Brianna are well aware of how risky it is for him to fight this battle, but with Jamie at his side, he still has a bit of hope of saving himself or at least the Governor gives in and gives up the war. The MacKenzies can wear us down and tear up our hearts like no other. Meanwhile at the Hillisborough camp, Jamie and Claire indulge in a small moment of private celebration because look, look, our Colonel Fraser turns half a century!!! With a special Happy birthday in perfect Marylin style as a gift and the usual inventory ritual, Jamie reflects on how his father has never seen the dawn of this day, dead at 49 years, and how grateful he feels for what every day life reserves him. As I mentioned before, it is very nice to see, in addition to the usual romantic and passionate scenes, also those humorous scenes that so characterized the origins of the story of Jamie and Claire, as in the case of the birthday stock.
It’s time to gather the armies and go down to the battlefield, Governor Tryon and his troops call in Fraser’s Ridge militia to explain the plan and Jamie once again tries to dissuade Tryon from fighting, But there’s no escape now. Just because the coming war is not a big enough problem for Fraser, when the militia is called to appeal we see it resurface as if nothing was dear Isaiah Morton, determined to repay the Colonel for helping him escape with his beloved [in episode 5]. This will create many problems with the Brown brothers, father and uncle of the girl who escaped with him, who want Morton dead as revenge for disgracing Alicia and will come, during the battle, to shoot him to death, And once he realized that Claire would save him with her “secret weapon” (a.k.a penicillin), one of the Browns destroys the syringe with the dose of medicine, thus condemning the boy to death. I’m terribly concerned about the looks and the continuing curiosity that the Browns show towards Claire and her medical practice, I don’t want it to end badly, Not to mention the phrases that Richard Brown made to her about never letting a woman talk to him like that. All this is possible thanks to the terrifying performance of Ned Dennehy, as Lionel Brown, who manages to convey how slimy a man can be at that time, but also Jon Tarcy, the actor who plays Isaiah Morton, who could demonstrate the determination of a young man who knows he fought for what he loves.
The real focus of the plot, however, begins with Brianna, who decides to move momentarily with Jemmy to Hillsborough to stay closer to Roger, and finds out, thanks to an indiscretion heard by Mr Sheraton at the inn that the battle that’s coming will be the historical battle of Alamance, which is considered the spark of the American Revolution, as the victory of the British troops unleashes the tempers of the independence rebels. The girl runs to warn her parents and her husband, and from there the action will develop on two distinct fronts. On the one side, we see Roger offering (also given his inability to fight) to cross the enemy line, despite Brianna and his in-laws’ protests, to warn Murtagh of the thing, contemplating the fact that the rebel knows him and knows that he comes from the future so he will believe him. A bold move, but it shows all the courage that Roger Mac has, not to mention the esteem he feels for Jamie and the will to help him in this complicated situation, and that will lead to a series of events that will compose the so-called “Ballad of Roger Mac”. On the enemy front, Roger has a pleasant meeting with the past, there with her husband who is part of the Regulators’ army, he meets nothing less than Morag MacKenzie, his six-time great-grandmother met for the first time a year earlier on the Gloriana travelling from Scotland, who, with her child, little Jemmy, risked to die by the Stephen Bonnet’s clutches. A very touching meeting, during which you can feel the affection and recognition that the girl feels towards Roger, but that is ruined by an unexpected raid of William Buccleigh MacKenzie, Morag’s husband and Roger Mac’s direct ancestor, and Dougal and the witch Geillis Duncan’s illegitimate son. The man exchanged a loving embrace between the two for something more and despite the boy struggled to assert his story, Buck decided to knock around poor Roger Mac, also considering the discovery of his involvement with the militia. The events are so surreal in their misfortune that they leave everyone speechless, also thanks to the great expressiveness of Richard Rankin (Roger), Elysia Welch (Morag) and… hear yee, hear yee, Graham McTavish, whose appearance was a pleasant surprise for everybody.
On the other side, instead, Jamie is facing a situation bigger than him and Sam Heughan in this episode gave us for real the performance of a lifetime, expressing in an extremely stinging, consuming and realistic way this interior conflict that his character is experiencing. After what Brianna told him about the outcome of the war, he tries in every way to convince the Governor to end this situation without bloodshed unnecessarily, but on the contrary to what hoped, Tryon is quite sure of his decision and indeed, forces Jamie to “do him the honor” to wear the uniform in battle, the dreaded Red Coat. This is a cause of great psychological suffering for Jamie, because of his painful past and what the British did against his will, and it is also the final round of a story that has haunted him for 25 years. Claire’s expression at seeing him in uniform is the most similar to mine at that very moment. Pure frost, it seems almost a nightmare. It tightened my heart further to see them greet each other before the battle. “‘Good luck’ can go, ‘I love you’ is much better. There might come a day when we shall part again, but that day will not be today” Very significant is also the moment when we see our King of Men immersed in the river invoking in a prayer his uncle and master of arms, as well as shoulder in numerous battles, Dougal MacKenzie, to stay close to him and guide him in this difficult moment, Even more than you could ever have imagined, considering that on the other side is your godfather.
With the beginning of the actual battle, we are witnessing a succession of crude, chilling, barbaric images almost as barbaric as the reality of which they are part. Men are beaten, hanged, dragged like mules attached to a horse, slammed into trees, stabbed.. and this would be justice? An unacceptable reality in a world that should be new and where . It seems to live a huge reverse flashback. What was done to the clans in Culloden’s day now repeats itself, with the difference that Jamie now finds himself holding the key, and once he seems to have escaped the climax of the battle, He faces what is perhaps the greatest battle: a face-to-face with his rebel godfather.
And it is here, right in the middle of this intense episode, that we receive literally the first stab because just the moment Murtagh approaches Jamie to hug him, one of the young militia shoots in their direction and the rebel launches to save his godson. A somewhat predictable death considering the tones of the season (and also Gabaldon’s comments on the change made on the fate of the character in the past seasons of the series) and recalling his death in novels to protect Jamie during the Battle of Culloden, but equally heartbreaking and devastating for all of us. Murtagh is a character that we all carry in our hearts from the beginning of the series, he has looked back to our protagonists on so many occasions, and seeing him leaving us forever turning his last words to his godson of the heart was like a stab to the heart. Sam Heughan and Duncan Lacroix, but not least also Caitriona Balfe, with their devastating interpretation made me feel literally the pain of loss, the sense of instant emptiness, when everything loses its meaning.
Of as much acting intensity and importance in the plot is the moment when Jamie, now tired of all the barbarities he witnessed and for other Murtagh’s death, the proposal of Tryon to celebrate, decides once and for all to settle accounts with his past and close his relationship with the Crown once and for all. Seeing Sam Heughan in Jamie’s shoes blazing in the Governor’s face the truth of his actions and slamming the Red Coat to the ground with all the frustration and anger of the case was a unique satisfaction for us viewers at least as much as it was for him. JAMMF 1 – British 0. Praise and credit also to Tim Downie for giving us a great interpretation of Governor Tryon in all his arrogance as a good law-abiding English and fine debater.
In a classic Outlander style, past one drama there is another one just around the corner. Roger’s nowhere to be found, he hasn’t been back to camp, and no one’s seen him. This arouses great concern both in Brianna’s soul and in that of us viewers who have seen him for the last time beaten, groggy and dragged into the woods by William Buck MacKenzie and his men. This episode leaves us with one of the most terrifying and enigmatic endings of recent times in the series. The Frasers go looking for young MacKenzie until find themselves in front of a view that leaves them speechless. Hanged by the neck of a tree, there are the bodies of three men, whom the Governor’s army had executed as rebels, including one with the same coat worn by Roger, and the white handkerchief in his pocket, identical to what Jamie had given him as a sign of peace… I think there is no more plausible reaction than the frowning and grieving expression of Brianna and Claire, even though Jamie who, just as speechless, makes the sign of the cross comes very close. But is it really him? Is it over for poor Roger? We’ll only find out about this with the new episode in two weeks!
See you to the next episode!
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