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Review: ‘Outlander’ Gets Brutal, Because Nobody’s Safe During Wartime

In Season 2 Episode 10, "Prestonpans," casualties pile up as Prince Charles presses on.

Andrew Gower and Sam Heughan in "Outlander."

Andrew Gower and Sam Heughan in “Outlander.”


LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Outlander’ Witnesses Worlds and Wars Collide

That’s What She Said

Given that an unwanted war is about to be waged in earnest, Claire has resigned herself to the fact and started stocking up her makeshift hospital to at least minimize the damage. Her preparations are a stark reminder of just how uninformed people were about infection and the importance of sterilization back then, but it also showed that even Claire can’t save everyone from the brutal realities of war. Angus’s sad demise thanks to his internal bleeding proved as much by the episode’s end, and that was following a battle Claire knew historically the Jacobites would win. One can’t even begin to imagine her mindset heading into the upcoming battle at Culloden, in which she knows that this time, everyone will be wiped out.

That’s What He Said

Jamie, meanwhile, is experiencing the other side of war as one of the prince’s right hand men. Yet again Charles proved that he has zero leadership skills or the know-how to bring this war to a satisfying conclusion for the rebels, by insisting that Claire’s team tend to the wounded Red Coats before the hurt Jacobites. Jamie’s face at this revelation should have echoed viewers’ thoughts: Why would anyone would fight for this man in the first place? Making matters worse is the ongoing conflict between the advisors on how to press on, something that gives a simple but clever man like Jamie plenty of headaches along the way.

Haggis and Kilts

Before the actual battle, the Jacobite men continued demonstrating severe ignorance of the events to come — Angus and Rupert in particular. Sloshing around whiskey and joking about their demises or successes could be seen as a coping mechanism, sure. Unfortunately the reality played out a little too harshly in the end, with both men severely wounded and Angus dying unexpectedly in the closing moments. It’s those turns that gave the episode a little more weight and reminded viewers of the high stakes. When the guy meant to be comedic relief doesn’t make it through, that’s a sure sign things are about to get much worse in the coming weeks.

Dougal Does It

Dougal MacKenzie is a hot-blooded Scotsman through and through, something he proved early on in the episode by riding out to test the field conditions separating the Jacobites from the Red Coats. At first the move impressed Prince Charles, whose praise resulted in MacKenzie’s chest puffing out a little harder heading into battle. But it quickly became evident that these two were meant to clash when Dougal took liberties with the Red Coat lives and went on a bit of a killing spree following the battle itself. As such there really was no other reaction than for Dougal to freak out upon learning that Claire’s team had been tasked with healing the enemies as well as the Jacobites. The fact that Dougal was left alive (and was even promoted) after lashing out at the prince is surprising though, and means that he owes his life to Jamie for saving him with quick thinking. Unfortunately Dougal doesn’t seem to repay those types of favors too kindly — at least that’s the character assumption one can make, following the scene in which Dougal killed the Red Coat who helped him and Claire back in Season 1. Dougal is clearly a man who puts the cause first; if Jamie happens to get in the way of that, it seems as though there will be blood going forward.

Caitriona Balfe in "Outlander."

Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander.”


Forgetting Fergus

Claire and Jamie may have lost a child when Claire gave birth to a stillborn, but they have surely adopted Fergus as their own at this point. There was no clearer indication of that than when they refused to let Fergus out onto the battlefield. And when he went anyhow, Claire reacted exactly as a loving mother would. Hopefully Fergus’s first kill won’t tarnish the light that was this little boy for the remaining episodes, but at the same time when a child makes his first kill in wartime, there are bound to be dark consequences. Couple that with what happened to Fergus at the brothel with Black Jack, and he’s going to be one messed up little fellow.

READ MORE: ‘Outlander’ Cast and Crew Reveal What Makes Season 2 So Magical

A Pissing Contest

As far as “lighter” moments go, Jamie trying to pee into a cup angled slightly away from him for six pence didn’t quite do it. It just goes to show you that even romantic leads can act like little boys as soon as they get into the locker room with their buddies.

An Existential Crisis

Just when we thought Murtagh was a surface character came the dark speech he gave Jamie about 250 lives versus 1,000, and whether his death would actually have meaning in the end. It’s an existential crisis many people who have been through war must surely face, and it raises questions that don’t have any easy answers. The fact that Murtagh was the one to bring it up proves just how dark things are becoming; in France, the heavy subject-matter was balanced by characters like Murtagh, who delivered bits of comedy in between. Now that everyone is back in Scotland and war has started, it’s getting harder to find those lighter moments to balance it all out.

A Revolutionary Cause

With one battle down and two other towns surrendered to Charles with relative ease, the prince will inevitably begin to suffer from a swollen sense of pride and start taking bigger risks — as one does, when they perceive themselves to be winning and on top. Unfortunately, everyone can see Charles’s flaws and ego but him, and so those gambles will begin to lead to greater losses in the very near future. Claire’s history book says so.

By the Book

When Angus first appeared on screen, he was one of the few characters to differ from how he was written in the books. Rather than being a massively built man who protected Colum and doled out punishment, he and Rupert quickly became a comedic duo —especially in relation to Claire’s early arc. That character shift made his loss this week a little harder to swallow, especially given how brutal and sudden it was. The message? Flowery, sugar-coated deaths won’t be a thing during this war, even if it’s for a fan favorite.

Grade: B

“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.

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