Outlander 5×07 “The Ballad of Roger Mac” is an emotional gut-punch, from beginning to end. It builds up and builds up to what you think is the punch, the moment that leaves you gasping for breath, tears streaming down your face, and then that’s not it, because the show still has the time and inclination to hit you again, perhaps, even harder than the first time.
We all, in many ways, after all, expected Murtagh to die soon. He was living on borrowed time already, and I’d already reconciled myself to the idea of losing him. I told myself I was just glad he’d gotten more time with Jamie, with Claire, that he’d gotten to meet Bree, see her baby. That he’d gotten to be part of the family.
And yet, of course, it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough. You always want more time with the people you love.
Of course, I haven’t even gone into that terrible, awful, gut-wrenching ending, which is now punctuated by the fact that there’s no new episode airing next week, because of course there isn’t. Now, Roger is not like Murtagh, this isn’t …can’t be the end for him. We all understand that, rationally. And yet, that doesn’t mean the cliffhanger isn’t terrible, and that I didn’t sit there, after the scene faded to black, with tears in my eyes.
This was a hell of an episode, and I mean that in the compliment way, and in the this was hell to watch way. It hurts. It will continue to hurt for a while. And so I write, to try to come to terms with what I’m feeling, and hopefully, help you understand what you are feeling.
Join me as I go into Murtagh, Roger, and the Fraser family as we discuss Outlander 5×07 “The Ballad of Roger Mac”:
MURTAGH FITZGIBBONS FRASER
Ah, Murtagh. We had you longer than we were meant to, and still, losing you right now feels like the kind of gut-punch this show is likely to never recover from. Not because the show cannot be good again, but because people like you, characters like you, leave a mark on those that have known you, and your mark on Jamie is something he will carry forever.
In many ways, it feels like we will too.
There are many things that stand out about our Murtagh, but perhaps the one that should be brought to the forefront now is not just that he was always a man of conviction, a man of ideals, but that he was always a man who clearly understood – despite what Jocasta implied – what the most important thing in life was: family. Yes, he was always willing and more than ready to fight for his convictions, but if those ever came in conflict with the people he loved, Murtagh always chose his family – and especially, above all things, Jamie.
He would like to say – and he died saying – that this is all borne out of a sense of loyalty to Jamie’s mother, and I don’t doubt that it was, I don’t doubt that there’s a part of him that will always honor that, but the truth is that Murtagh has long loved Jamie for Jamie, not for his mother, and has protected him not out of duty, but out of that love he feels for Jamie.
Murtagh never had a son. Jamie lost his father a long time ago. And yet, Murtagh was as much Jamie’s father as he was anything in this life, and that’s why it hurts so much to see him go, and in the way he did. Maybe he’d argue that, if he had to go, it was fitting that he did it after saving Jamie, but like anyone who’s lost a parent, we really just wish he didn’t have to go.
But make no mistake about it, Jamie Fraser is who he is in great part because of the influence of one Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser in his life. And that kind of influence, that kind of love never fades.
Not that the knowledge helps our pain now, no. Nothing can.
Jamie spends some time in this episode reflecting about the past – especially in light of it being his birthday, and thinking about his father, and how much Jamie would have liked that father to be there for him that day, and many other days. But Jamie had a father, one he never saw as that but merely as a Godfather, and that man was there, on Jamie’s birthday, even if Jamie would have rather he weren’t.
I already went on and on about Murtagh, but it’s important to highlight Jamie too, because Jamie is the one that has to go on, to process the anger and the grief, and to find a way to both protect his family and stay true to himself, in the face of a world – a country – that’s soon going to be involved in even bigger battles.
He will, of course, go on, because he has to, but it’s easy to see that he cannot, will not, go on the way he was going on before. His confrontation with Tryon is proof of that.
And yes, that was grief and impotence talking, but it was also, in many ways, Jamie taking a stand – one that feels a little silly, all things considered, but that is very much in line with the person he is, with the person Murtagh taught him to be. What better way to honor is Godfather than that?
This season has been all about Roger finding his footing, finding what he can do in this time that’s so unfamiliar to him, finding a way to be useful, and more importantly, a way to gain everyone’s respect after the mistakes of past-Roger. In many ways, this is why he volunteers to go behind enemy lines, because he feels he can help, but also because he feels like he has to help.
It’s hard for a man with no real fighting skills to be useful in the time of the American Revolution, but talking? That’s something Roger can do. Especially talking history. So he takes the assignment, and to his credit, carries it out as well as possible, considering it is Murtagh he was dealing with.
What ends up damming him is, ironically, his good heart, and the fact that, he is a modern man. Jealousy and anger are bad advisors, and Roger ends up paying the price for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Now, as someone who has read the books, I know what’s coming next. Even if you haven’t read them, I can’t imagine you not googling what happens after this, because we live in the age of Google, and I wouldn’t be able to just …wait, especially with next week being a skip week.
I won’t go into details of something we’re certain to discuss next week, but I do want to say this: Whatever it is Roger Mac needed to prove to Jamie and to the world (and I’ll argue the only one he ever needed to make amends to was Bree, and no one else), he’s certainly gone far and beyond now, and I hope in the future this family can go on as an unit, no fractures, no doubts, no resentments.
Things I think I think:
- Roger singing to Jeremiah is the best Roger, by far.
- This is a good scene for Roger and Brianna, a quiet, loving scene that makes them feel as real as they’ve ever felt.
- We’ve seen precious little of Jamie and Brianna this season. Even in the moments where we expected some words, or a glance, or just a hug, we’ve gotten nothing since the wedding. This feels like a grave oversight. We’re not asking for them to have long talks every episode, but come on, let them show affection.
- Scenes like this one is why we fell in love with this show, with Jamie and Claire.
- It’s both intimate in the physical sense, and the emotional one.
- And all the callbacks to the past, to his father, are spot on for the moment, for the mindset.
- War sucks either way, and it especially sucks Jamie has to give young boys such as these lessons in what to do.
- I love that Claire is there. I mean, certainly, it’s useful to have her there, and the Regulators are not likely to harm her, if Murtagh has anything to say about that, but it’s still atypical.
- Tryon is getting on my last nerve, and I didn’t think there were more nerves for him to get on.
- You people should really try to write down ALL you remember about the future, just in case.
- Duuuuuuuuuuude this Jamie scene.
- No words.
- Let me save that mental image in my head.
- NO, DON’T PUT THE SHIRT BACK ON.
- Yay family reunion!
- I mean, no, Roger, you aren’t the only one, this is dumb AF.
- Oh, the shot from the credits.
- The red coat made me throw up a little in my mouth, I’m not gonna lie.
- “Roger, I know you’re right, I KNOW, but …”
- Ugh, Isaiah, you’re a dumbass.
- Murtagh was never not gonna save you, Jamie.
- We knew that.
- How come you didn’t?
- Also, how come I can’t see the screen in account of the tears.
- Okay, let’s all take a moment to sob.
- “I’d never betray your mother, no matter who asks.”
- Another, extra-long moment.
- Oh, Murtagh.
- Oh, Jamie.
- Oh, Claire.
- Oh, Jamie …now you’re gonna get in trouble, and I do not even care.
- Oh, fuck.
- Yes, tons of oh.
- I figured this was coming but …
- I didn’t want it to.
- And no, don’t tell me it ends there.
- DON’T TELL ME.
- Can you see your tears in the reflection on the TV?
- I can.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think about “The Ballad of Roger Mac”? Share with us in the comments below!
Outlander airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.