Back to IndieWire

Review: ‘Outlander’ Says a ‘Hail Mary’ and Prepares for the End

The Jacobites face new lows and we finally get another wedding.

Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in "Outlander."

Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander.”


LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Outlander’ Brings Revenge After Some Key Reveals

That’s What She Said

Despite the mini-victories Claire has been able to land along the way in her attempts to change history, the bloody battle of Culloden was only days away when the episode picked up this week. With the knowledge of history under her belt, Claire’s only move was to replenish her medical supplies and hope for a small miracle or “hail Mary,” as the episode titled suggests. So the character did what she does best, which is to find a greater meaning for herself in the face of disaster. This week that meant helping Mary take care of her dying fiancé Alex, despite the fact that doing so brought Black Jack back into her life. As the rest of the clans waited for their death orders, this at least allowed Claire the small satisfaction of knowing that Frank will still be born with the Randall name.

That’s What He Said

Somewhere outside of Inverness, Jamie witnessed the sad state of the fighters firsthand as they dealt with bad weather, poor rations and a booze-guzzling prince who refused to even walk the grounds and visit with the men who are giving up everything to fight for him. Each time Jamie has attempted to speak logically to Charles this season he has failed, so it came as no surprise that his urging the leader to give up the battle of Culloden was also ignored. In a small twist, it did seem as though Jamie’s backup surprise attack would be considered instead, but even that was botched thanks to a prince who proves time and time again that he’s clearly not cut out for this. Heading into the season finale, it seems as though there’s no other possibility than history finally playing out. What that means is that we’d all better stock up on our tissues.

Andrew Gower and Sam Heughan in "Outlander."

Andrew Gower and Sam Heughan in “Outlander.”

Jack is Back

Given Black Jack’s connection to Frank, it was only a matter of time before he resurfaced in Scotland after his arc in France. Although there’s nothing the character could do at this point to redeem himself for the heinous things he’s already done, displaying his softer side gave him some much-needed depth and proved that even villains have morals when it comes to the people they love. Had Claire thought Jack would live longer than the battle, perhaps she wouldn’t have been so quick to endorse Alex’s plan of having his brother take his place in the wedding. But with Frank’s future in jeopardy and Claire’s emotional connections to Mary, the brother’s marriage drama actually made perfect sense in this particular situation.

Anger Management

Mind you, this is Black Jack we’re talking about here, and before audiences could soften up too much to the character in the wake of Alex’s death, he went and beat his brother’s fresh corpse out of anger… right in front of a grieving Mary. We would have been surprised, but at this point it’s so in form with the man’s character that it would have been more shocking had he grieved like a normal person with tears or something a little more tame.

READ MORE: How ‘Outlander’ Showrunner Ronald D. Moore Brought Women’s Voices to the Sexy Bodice-Ripper (Emmy Video)

Muttering Murtagh

If you didn’t love Murtagh before, you certainly had to after he offered to marry Mary so that Frank’s future was secure. Naturally that plan would never work, given the fact that everyone is pretty much on track to lose their lives in the next three days, but it was oh-so-gentlemanly and sweet of him to put himself out there like that.

MacKenzie Reunions

We’ve seen lots of Dougal MacKenzie so far this season, but very little of his bow-legged brother Colum. That changed with this episode, when the latter showed up nearly dead and reignited the thread of the brothers’ opposing political views. Given their history, a final meeting between the two wasn’t bound to go very well, although Colum awarding Jamie power of his clan over Dougal had to have been a hard moment for the younger brother. As we’ve seen this season, Dougal has always led with his emotions rather than his head, and the fact that so few men followed him to the war in the first place made Colum’s decision easier when it came to figuring out a successor.

Of course, he had much more faith in Jamie pulling his men out rather than leading them into a hopeless situation, even though that’s exactly what Jamie is presently doing, given his foresight of the war. Colum had no way of knowing that though, and perhaps his little speech comes just in time for Jamie to figure out an escape plan before everyone reaches Culloden. Sadly at this point it wouldn’t do Jamie or Claire any good though; he’ll always be a marked traitor thanks to the Prince forging his signature back at the beginning of all this.

As for Colum, well he exited the series as gracefully as possible while not allowing his brother to have the final word. It was an emotional farewell, and one that readers of the novels never really got to experience.

Caitriona Balfe in "Outlander."

Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander.”


Secret Connections

It was a small reveal, but Colum’s return was more than just a device to get Jamie to reconsider his stance on Culloden. During his conversation with Claire he made amends of sorts when he revealed that Geillis Duncan’s baby boy made it out of that burn-hole alive after all, meaning the MacDougal name could very well surface in the future.

A Revolutionary Cause

Just when things were looking up and Jamie believed the Jacobites could actually win this thing thanks to a new plan, Prince Charles went and messed it up again when he got lost and turned back rather than meeting the first group as planned. (If he even actually left in the first place is open to interpretation.) It was an infuriating and heartbreaking moment for audiences because they knew just how much was at stake with that surprise attack, but it also proved once again just how incompetent a leader these men are dealing with.

Viewers should have seen it coming, given the fact that Charles was more concerned about bringing a fine bottle of wine to the attack as an ironic birthday present than actually winning. Unfortunately the best retribution audiences can hope for now is that Charles marches out with his men at Culloden and realizes too late just what an ass he’s been. Before his head gets chopped off or something epic, of course. Princes rarely have run-of-the-mill deaths on dramas such as these.

By the Book

Some more big changes from the novel were featured in this week’s episode, mostly revolving around the quick Alex death and the way Claire came to help him. As book readers know, it was Jack who sought out Claire’s help in the first place and when she agreed, it was a secret she kept from Jamie as long as possible. Given her earlier secrets regarding Randall this season, that particular plot had already played out though, so it was quicker to get Jamie in on the action and “give his permission,” so to speak, for Claire to help. Alex’s death was also a lot more drawn out and came earlier in the book, but given everything that still needs to be dealt with in the show before it wraps up, this condensed version made more sense.

Unfortunately this new turn also meant that Jamie wasn’t the “best man” at the wedding; Murtagh took his place for that particular storyline. It was a move that fit the character slightly more, as it’s hard to picture Jamie putting everything aside once again to help his biggest enemy – especially now that Mary is pregnant and Future Frank is once again safe.

Grade: A

“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz.

Stay on top of the latest TV news! Sign up for our TV email newsletter here.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox