The 2nd season of Outlander is almost over (sob). I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 212: “The Hail Mary”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
As Jamie puts all of his efforts into turning the Jacobite army away from the impending slaughter, Claire attempts to comfort the sick Alex Randall. Alex reveals an outrageous plan to save the mother of his child.
Last episode before the season finale…
Major plot points:
- The Jacobite army is miserable and starving.
- The Prince is as clueless as ever.
- As of the start of the episode, the Battle of Culloden is only three days away. Jamie is still trying his damnedest to avert catastrophe, but it’s not looking good.
- When Claire goes into Inverness to restock her medical supplies, she runs into Mary Hawkins. Mary is living with Alex Randall, and tells Claire they plan to marry. However, Alex is clearly dying.
- Jonathan Randall turns up, out of uniform, to tend to his brother. In exchange for Claire’s medical assistance, he gives Claire information on the whereabouts of Cumberland’s army.
- Jamie hatches a plan to sneak up on Cumberland and launch a surprise attack, but Prince Charles mucks it up, as expected. Now Culloden seems inevitable.
- Alex’s dying wish is for BJR to marry Mary, so that she and her (Alex’s) unborn child will have legitimacy and protection.
- Colum is dying too, and names his son Hamish as the next clan leader, with Jamie to serve as guardian until Hamish comes of age.
- Two men witness their brothers’ deaths — Jonathan Randall and Dougal MacKenzie — and are left to pick up the pieces.
The season is hurtling toward the end, which means the action is hurtling toward Culloden. No matter what Jamie and Claire try, it can’t be stopped. Jamie fails to convince the Prince that Culloden Moor is the absolutely wrong choice for a place to fight the British. Charles doesn’t listen. Jamie plans a potentially powerful sneak attack on Cumberland, and Charles screws it up. Is the lesson here that fate can’t be tampered with? That Culloden will happen, because it’s a fixed point in history that was always going to happen?
The Jacobites are wet, tired, and hungry. If Charles is looking for a strong fighting force to take a stand for his cause — well, this isn’t it. Sadly, the men seem to know it too. They’re surviving on broth made from what looks like a bunch of weeds. Even at full strength, they’d stand little chance against British cannons, but as is, it’s so clear that the battle will be a slaughter.
Meanwhile, the Mary/Alex/BJR storyline is quite well done. We’re used to seeing Black Jack Randall as pure monster, but here at last we see that he has some shred of humanity that’s manifested in his love for his brother. He initially refuses Alex’s plea for him to marry Mary. He promises to look after Mary and the child, and urges Alex to marry her before he dies. But Alex has no estate or fortune to leave her. Claire reminds BJR of the curse she put on him at Wentworth, telling him the day of his death — April 16, 1746, the day of the battle at Culloden. If BJR marries Mary and then dies, she’ll be left a wealthy and respectable widow with the captain’s pension to support her for the rest of her days.
Claire and Murtagh witness the marriage of BJR and Mary, with the ceremony conducted at the foot of Alex’s bed as he lays dying. In the book, Claire and Jamie are there, but I think it’s actually a wise choice to leave Jamie out of the scenes with BJR. There just isn’t enough time left in the episode or in the season to delve into Jamie and BJR’s complex relationship and the emotional fall-out Jamie would suffer from being in the same room as him. Alex’s death and Mary’s marriage worked just fine as it was presented.
Colum’s arrival was well played as well. He’s also dying, but first makes sure to announce his plans for the clan succession. Dougal is devastated — why wasn’t he chosen to be the next laird? But Colum points out that the men of the clan won’t follow Dougal; if it were otherwise, Dougal would have men with him at the Jacobite camp (which he doesn’t). Further, Colum knows that Jamie will always put his men before the cause, but Dougal can’t say the same — he’d sacrifice himself and all of the MacKenzies for the rightful king. Colum dies after taking the medicine Claire has left him with, allowing him to die quickly and painlessly… and dying before he can hear Dougal’s pained speech about his love — and resentment — for his brother.
Two deaths, two brothers — interesting contrasts with the dying men’s last wishes and the willingness of those left behind to carry them out.
Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie are out of time. By the end of the episode, all efforts have failed. Culloden is the next day, and nothing will stop it.
What is there to say? We’ve been building to this moment all season. All of the plotting and scheming that Claire and Jamie have done — and it’s all led back to the same outcome. Claire looks hopeless throughout much of the episode. She’s not one to give up, but she sees that there’s no way out of what’s to come. It’s heartbreaking.
One sweet and unexpected moment is thanks to Murtagh. Rather than see Mary marry a monster like Jonathan Randall, Murtagh tells Claire he’ll marry Mary himself. It’s a sweet little speech he makes, about never having married or had children, but how he’s been a good godfather to Jamie and how he’ll protect Mary and the child as his own family. You can see that as Murtagh talks, he actually kind of likes the idea. Not that he loves Mary, but I think he’s taken up by the sweet little picture he’s created of himself with a pretty little wife and a child to raise. Claire brings him back down to earth, of course, pointing out that none of them may survive Culloden, and only by marrying BJR will Mary be provided for as a widow.
Still, bless Murtagh and his big, gruff heart!
… which makes me even more apprehensive about watching the season finale. Please, please, please don’t stick to the book when it comes to who lives and who dies! I don’t think my heart can take losing Murtagh. (Sob, sob, sob)